Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rethinking Math Curriculum

by Olga LaPlante

I am very interested in math, I love it, in fact, but have no intimate knowledge of the ways it's taught in the US. What I have seen - quite superfluously - has done little to excite me (for one thing, your long division order is backwards, and ever more confusing) about the prospect of my son getting excited about it either. I have heard many a time from people of various levels of education that they "hate" math - around the world, not just in US - and have always been perplexed by it.

The talk I have highlighted here appeals to me - and resurrects the appeal of math to a wider audience. Given that in many schools, the wise solution to "raise test scores" is simply longer hours of teaching math using the same textbook in the same classroom of kids with the same teacher using the same strategies, I wonder if the success is guaranteed.

I have also read a number of posts on this blog about the math curriculum (Everyday Math being one of the most memorable) and math core standards (somehow, Everyday Math was mentioned in that post, too, hmmmm...) and wonder if the more experienced and knowledgeable persons would kindly offer their insight about Dan Meyer's attempt to teach kids about math.


Becky Ranks said...

Thanks Olga, here are my thoughts: In order for change to happen there has to be a paradigm shift in math education. I agree with most of what he says. As a long time teacher of Investigations Math, a controversial program at the time that shifted our instruction to a constructivist math approach,I feel there is a big need for a commitment to extensive professional development for teachers if expected to change instructional practices. Often times math teachers are math phobic as well, and are thrown into new ways of teaching without the necessary lifelines needed to support them in this endeavor. Parents also need to be part of the conversation as all we know is how we were taught with great emphasis on the importance traditional formulas and algorithms. I think he was also saying math should be fun. Good teaching and fun should not be antonyms. Thanks for the heads up.

Dawn Fernandez said...

Perhaps the comment that stood out for me was that we help too much. I think in the effort to squeeze so much into so little time, we don't let students take the time to explore and come up with the answers on their own. We are so worried about getting them to memorize the equations or theories that we don't let them explore how to get to those equations on their own. We lower the bar. I am all for raising the bar and letting them explore and think!

Beth said...

What stands out to me is that his students come to him with "remedial needs". How much more would they get out of an inquiry based lesson if they were not remedial? I’d imagine that he could take them even farther with mathematics if they arrived with a solid foundation. I’ve seen this same video on the following blog:

(Warning....there are some skeptics of the video on the blog)

Personally, I’m all for engaging activities, but feel that you must balance it with practicing the right things that will lead to mastery. His excitement will certainly ignite a spark in many kids, but they’ll need to be solid in such things as factoring and manipulating equations to move onto college level mathematics with success.

I hope that the new Common Core standards will provide more students with stronger elementary skills. I'm happy that the new standards require mastery of the STANDARD algorithms and I wonder how schools that use EDM will handle this requirement?