Teaching Math: What We Believe
- Children Learn Math in a Progression from Concrete to Pictorial to Abstract. Historically, US schools have for too long ignored the Concrete/Pictorial components of math. We move too quickly to the abstract, which leaves about a third of our students behind. These students tend to learn visually, not abstractly, but by 3rd grade, they are convinced that they “stink at math” and clam up. Scientific studies internationally (see one here) have confirmed this, as have test scores from countries (like Singapore – see this article) adopting this approach. Dr. Yeap Ban Har, the leading global expert on Singapore Math, defends C>P>A in this video.
- Math is about THINKING. Math is about so much more than calculation. It teaches us the logical, sequential thinking skills that we need daily – for decisions both large and small. Our goal as teachers is to graduate students who can think, accept struggle, advocate for themselves, and understand how they best learn math. Memorization is not the long-term access to these skills. Read how this eloquent blogger describes the coming changes in math education.
Math is not about SPEED.Dan Meyer calls our focus on speed in mathematics ‘impatience with irresolution’- Give me a quick answer or I quit. And this Australian teacher lists activities that can increase number sense while decreasing the anxiety created by time tests. Sunil Singh points out that “The entire history of mathematics is about being slow and failing repeatedly.” Real mathematicians are DEEP thinkers, not fast thinkers.
Math is VISUAL.Dr. Yeap Ban Har, the leading global expert on Singapore Math, talks about the merits of visualization, and how it connects to their famous bar model approach to word problems. For many children, a visual approach is the ONLY way they learn, and ignoring that fact is a huge waste of human potential.
Ask Don’t Tell.None of us learn well on command. Instead, we respond best to questions that intrigue and challenge us. We teachers must learn to respect students’ intelligence enough to allow them the time and space to figure things out. This results in learning that has more depth, permanence and confidence.
S-L-O-W Down.What do students really need to know to succeed in high school? Ask any Algebra I teacher. “Number Sense, Word Problems and Fractions” is your probable answer. Given we have 8 years, we should be able to teach that to all students.
Challenge = Fun, Not FearOne great accomplishment of Singapore teachers is the level of challenge they make accessible to all students. Our lessons include challenge on a daily basis, and much of it is visual – therefore more accessible to all.
- What is EQUITY all about? Teaching math So ALL children learn. We have found some wonderful textbooks – matching our own backgrounds, they are from Singapore, Germany, Canada and the US. But none of them alone meets everyone’s needs, so we’ve developed this curriculum as the “Thinking Classroom” Alternative. This website will give you a whole school year full of lessons and activities to help you do just that!