The past couple mornings I have awoken to Sheila Coles on CBC radio talking about “new” math. The discussion seemed to be about the four West provinces and their use of the Math Makes Sense program. There were a lot of negative comments regarding this program from students, parents, teachers, and community members. I have attached a few of the articles and comments here. I personally use the translated version of this program and this it is great. This program focusses on a deeper understanding of how, why and where we do math BEFORE drill and practice. Having been a learner in the “old” math system, I knew my multiplication tables and studied my formulas like mad. Result? I was “good” at math. However, I had absolutely no concept of where to apply the formulas, when to multiply, when to divide etc. As a learner the understanding just wasn’t there. I believe this program helps learners to gain knowledge of why we do math. Teachers must, as in all subject areas, add more resources if there is a bigger need for things such as drill and practice once the concept has been understood. This is not a new concept to teachers- haven’t we always looked at the needs of our students and made adaptations based on their knowledge and need?
In this next link, there are many comments based on my previous link. What I find a little ridiculous is the public’s opposition to calculators in the classroom. I am a firm believer that we should teach our students to use whatever strategies and tools they have at their fingertips. Does this mean that I don’t think they should master their multiplication tables and formulas? No. But let’s be realistic, as adults we use our calculators and Iphones etc whenever we need to do math.
I also do not agree with one comment on this page where the writer posts: “I do not care how technological our society has become…without basics, society will not be able to use the technology.” I just do not believe this statement to be true. My two sons, ages four and two, do not know basic math beyond counting, yet both can work the TV, DVD player, Leapster, computer, Iphone, and Ipad. It seems to be that younger kids are quite capable of using technology without basic knowledge. Again, does this mean that I will not be helping my children and my students to master basic skills? No. But I will ALSO make sure that their understanding of math language and concepts is in place.
This morning, again on CBC radio, there was more talk about new math. However, now we have a university prof saying that the reason our students are not being well taught is because our education students are receiving “abysmal training.” I really don’t feel this way about my training. I remember the many hours spent in my undergrad degree learning how to teach math using different strategies and methods as well as leaning how to “parler mathématiques” (speak math). However, teachers are also expected to partake in professional development. When I was handed this new program, I took it upon myself to read through it and go to four professional development sessions offered by one of the authors of the program. Now that I understand it, I love it! One thing I do remember the author saying is “this isn’t new math, they have been doing this in Asia for hundreds of years!”
Lastly, I just feel like people are afraid to adapt and change. My advice? Jump in and try it!
Cute youtube clip about math…