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Follow up to "rocket science" post...

I guess there are two things I failed to make clear in that post, and I'd like to explain here.

1 - The thing that made me angry was that the student didn't even try to think about the question I posed, and immediately assumed that any question related to math was too complicated for that student to answer.

2 - I understand that people are afraid of math. In fact, when I was homeschooling my older one, I vowed to make sure that he would come out with an intuitive sense for math (and thus not fearing it), even if he doesn't like it all that much (which he doesn't). He still needs to know math, though.

Number 2 is an issue I have with schools in general. Most of the people who teach elementary school are just like my student. I remember that two or three of my friends in high school, who were very sweet people, wanted to go into teaching because they liked the idea of working with kids. However, these individuals, despite their wonderful personalities, struggled academically. I spent a lot of time helping them with their math and physics classes because they wouldn't have passed otherwise.

When I went to take my GRE, there was a young woman there who was taking her PRAXIS for the 3rd time because she kept failing the math portion.

So the people who are math-phobic (or, dare I say it, math incompetent) are the ones who seem drawn, in my experience, to teach elementary school.

For the record, I understand why it happens this way. Personally, I would probably go absolutely batshit insane working with 25 seven-year-olds because I don't have the patience. However, this is a genuine problem because these people are NOT going to give kids a good, intuitive approach to math because they often do not understand it themselves.

Compounding the problem are elementary school textbooks. Most focus on just following processes but don't, in my opinion, give clear explanations of how some of this works.

When I was homeschooling, I chose to use the Singapore Math because it was one of the few books I looked at that I thought was worthwhile. Rather than bogging students down with endless (and mindless) calculation, it focused strongly on mental math: how can you do a calculation just by thinking about it. (These are things it took me years to figure out on my own.) The reason it is useful is because it gives you a strong number sense or a way to think about math, numbers, and quantities.

This is why I asked the question, "If you're dividing a larger by a smaller number, would your answer be larger than one or smaller than one?"

My older son would have understood immediately that dividing by a number means to see how many times you can take the smaller number out of the larger number and that a smaller will go into a larger number at least once (but in this case, many more times).

Even though I think people should have this basic number sense, I realize many do not, and it isn't entirely their fault. On the other hand, when you try to ask them questions to help them develop that sense and they immediately wall up, they will never learn it, either.


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Comments

( 4 Transmissions — Comment )
ext_93272
Apr. 3rd, 2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
Exactly.
oddprofessor
Apr. 3rd, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
Yep. I have seen far too many people (sadly, it seems to skew female, but I don't know of actual statistics) who laughingly share that they can't balance a checkbook or figure out what, exactly, a 30% off sale means to the bottom line. I decided very early on that my daughters would never be scared of math. They didn't have to take it up recreationally or professionally, but they would be competent, and by God, they are. But we played math games constantly when they were little, and we introduced math concepts very early on. I remember my little daughter helping me buy cookies for her day care class, counting them off backwards as she put them in the bag. She helped me figure out how many bags of mulch to buy for the garden when she was in about 3rd grade, with the aid of diagrams to talk about volume (bags of mulch) and area (garden bed). It was fun for all of us, and both of them are very good in math.

It's a matter of literacy.
crayonbreakygal
Apr. 3rd, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
My boys are definitely not scared of math. My younger one is a wiz at the mental math. I do keep telling him though when he starts doing difficult algebra, that he'll have to show the steps. My oldest always has a math error when he does mental math. I actually love numbers, loved algebra in school. My niece is studying to be a math teacher! I think she wants to teach either middle or high school level. Yay for her. She's a terrific student too.
tomysky
Apr. 6th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
Great observations!

~Luke
( 4 Transmissions — Comment )

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