Apr 11, 2012

ARTICLE: Making Math Fun

Math Education In America: Educators And Entrepreneurs Have Ideas To Make It Fun 

I love the introduction of this article: "In the American drive to boost science and math education, it's science that has all the kid-friendly sizzle: Robots and roller coasters, foaming chemical reactions, marshmallow air cannons. Math has... well, numbers."

"Educators acknowledge part of the problem is the traditional approach to teaching math. Despite periodic stabs at reform, teachers say math classes are often far too heavy on computation drills and formulas, leaving little time for creative problem solving."

Are they mutually exclusive?

Comment from xirdneh132: I taught high school math for 8 years and the biggest problem I saw wasn't that it's not fun, math isn't really of that fun, it's math curriculum is often a mile wide and an inch deep. You have to hit so many different topics in a semester or year, in some cases the scope and sequence make no sense, you end up leaving kids who were already behind before they started even further behind. College professors blame high school teachers, high school teachers blame elementary school teachers, but the problem is elementary schools have their curriculum to teach, high schools have their own and too often they don't build upon one another. Math education is lacking cohesiveness and teachers are often relegated to hitting a subject a day with almost no time for mastery. 

Agreed. It's true that the people making decisions have no idea what they're doing. At all. But, that shouldn't keep us from doing what needs to be done. Spiraling throughout the year is absolutely necessary. Teachers must take it upon themselves to communicate and vertically align themselves. Discovery and creative problem solving must be the priorities. I know it's not easy. It takes a ridiculous amount of time--unless I'm just inefficient and slow--to create lessons that go beyond lecture and practice.

Comment from XV8 Crisis Suit: Math isn't fun. The important things in life aren't fun. If we tell kids that math is fun and try to use that to make them learn, then we are lying to them. 

I only included this post to prove that not everything you read on the Interwebs is correct.

Comment from alastingwill: I echo the heart behind the article. Math education has been reduced to low-level questioning, memorizing formulas, and plug and chug. In the international study quoted in The Learning Gap, the authors learned that teachers in the United States often asked low level questions and STATED concepts instead of DEVELOPING concepts. There's also a gross omission of creative problem solving...

The Learning Gap was a fascinating read. I used it and The Teaching Gap to change my approach this year. As much as possible, I use discovery and higher-order questions. The process is frustrating for everyone, time-consuming, misunderstood by parents, and exhausting. I don't care. Now, when I'm crazy enough to teach a traditional lesson, I feel the room die and watch eyes roll back into anesthetized heads. Using activities and discussion, we have to trick students into learning.

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