# Read Liping Ma's book and I was disappointed

### #1

Posted 02 May 2012 - 07:30 AM

I think I was reading it with the expectation of a radical way of looking at math and it was not or maybe it was but since I read the math threads here it was not a WOW moment for me.

Maybe I'm just making excuses, either way...

I waited months for this book and now, well, I'm bummed.

### #2

Posted 02 May 2012 - 07:43 AM

You may want to see if you can find Aharoni's Arithmetic for Parents.

### #3

Posted 02 May 2012 - 07:53 AM

### #4

Posted 02 May 2012 - 08:27 AM

Yeah, this was sort of how I felt. There were no WOW moments here either, but I have suggested it to others who I thought maybe had not thought much about elementary math or read as many math threads.Maybe it was all the hype I read here that by the time I read it it was anticlimactic.

I think I was reading it with the expectation of a radical way of looking at math and it was not or maybe it was but since I read the math threads here it was not a WOW moment for me.

Maybe I'm just making excuses, either way...

I waited months for this book and now, well, I'm bummed.

Mandy

### #5

Posted 02 May 2012 - 09:22 AM

I'm with the previous poster, more shocked than anything that some educators can't verbally express their methods or reasonings for those methods. That children are being taught math procedures because "that's the way I was taught, I don't know why". Well, gee...that's helpful.

(...says the woman who grad. w/ a Elem. Ed. degree & taught 5 yrs in low-performance public schools....there's not much I haven't seen when it comes to incompetency.)

### #6

Posted 02 May 2012 - 09:32 AM

So, though the book didn't teach me how to teach, I am enthusiastic about it because it gave me motivation to pursue a better avenue of teaching and learning.

### #7

Posted 02 May 2012 - 09:33 AM

I think about how I am teaching math at a much deeper level. I am more willing to acknowledge my limitations and seek outside assistance. I think my language has become more precise when I teach math. I have better ways of expressing myself. I challenge myself to create word problems in order to test understanding and, I do the same with my kids. I am quicker to use manipulatives and I think I use them more effectively.

So, no wow moment, but I think I am a better teacher now that I am on the other side of the book.

### #8

Posted 02 May 2012 - 09:56 AM

I am reading it now, and I'm kind of in the same boat. Glad I rented it for my Kindle, instead of purchasing.

How did you rent it? Through the library, or is there another option? This book is one my reading list and renting it sounds like a good idea now.

### #9

Posted 02 May 2012 - 10:35 AM

How did you rent it? Through the library, or is there another option? This book is one my reading list and renting it sounds like a good idea now.

It was a paid rental with Amazon Kindle ... it had an option to buy or an option to rent it (price dependent on length of rental). Still pricey for a 30-day rental ($9, shortest amt. of time available) but cheaper than any buying options I could find...(my library didn't have it, etc).

### #10

Posted 02 May 2012 - 10:49 AM

I spent money to learn nothing except that the author found some spectacularly horrid math teachers here in the US and I should be thankful that they aren't teaching my children math.

### #11

Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:15 PM

Yes, I think it has made me more carefully with terminology, and I also try to be sure to discuss alternative solutions, but reading the Let's Play Math blog pointed out those same ideas.

I was disappointed to find it relying so heavily on anecdotal experiences. I couldn't take it too seriously after a while. While I like anecdotes for illustration I was hoping for some more actual studies to flesh out the ideas. Perhaps the author could have found competent and incompetent teachers from the same cultural background? I realize that a side point was that China does a better job teaching and screening teachers, but it seemed that the main goal was to discuss better approaches to teaching children (including using better teachers) and that the cultural aspect distracting. Maybe this is just because I was reading it with an eye to improve my teaching of children

### #12

Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:24 PM

I recognized where most (if not all) of my elementary teachers were clearly solely depending on rote methods to communicate math concepts after reading the book.

I've recommended it to several of my friends who teach elementary math, none of whom had heard of it.

### #13

Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:44 PM

My big take-away from the book was the personal realization that my math skills were 100% algorithm driven. The book gave me an awakening to realize that there was great value in understanding what I was teaching.

So, though the book didn't teach me how to teach, I am enthusiastic about it because it gave me motivation to pursue a better avenue of teaching and learning.

I completely agree. It has made me especially careful about the math curricula I choose. I also realized that *I* (maybe not true for everyone) need to use the HIG for SM to get the full benefit of the program.I had no 'wow' moment, but it did make me a better math teacher.

I think about how I am teaching math at a much deeper level. I am more willing to acknowledge my limitations and seek outside assistance. I think my language has become more precise when I teach math. I have better ways of expressing myself. I challenge myself to create word problems in order to test understanding and, I do the same with my kids. I am quicker to use manipulatives and I think I use them more effectively.

So, no wow moment, but I think I am a better teacher now that I am on the other side of the book.

### #14

Posted 02 May 2012 - 03:44 PM

### #15

Posted 02 May 2012 - 06:53 PM

### #16

Posted 02 May 2012 - 06:55 PM

### #17

Posted 02 May 2012 - 06:58 PM

I will say that, to be fair, the book was never intended to be a handbook to help parents and teachers learn how to teach math; it was a research study for her doctorate, if I remember correctly. I found the book a good primer into why Asian math methods are considered superior by many, but wouldn't recommend it to parents as the book you need to learn how to teach your kids. It seems to be an investigation into the relative weaknesses and strengths of math educators.

I recognized where most (if not all) of my elementary teachers were clearly solely depending on rote methods to communicate math concepts after reading the book.

I've recommended it to several of my friends who teach elementary math, none of whom had heard of it.

I believe it was her doctoral thesis and was never intended to be a resource for math teachers and homeschooling parents. I think I read an interview where she was surprised about the interest in the book outside the academic world.

I found it enlightening because it was very different from how I was taught math. I didn't understand the reason behind many math algorithms I used regularly until I read her book. I don't consider Liping Ma an "Aha!" moment so much as, "Why aren't math teachers teaching like this in elementary schools?"

### #18

Posted 02 May 2012 - 07:20 PM

### #19

Posted 02 May 2012 - 07:46 PM

I'll admit I wasn't staying up late reading it because it was just too good to put down - but I found it helpful in reminding me to teach more conceptually and from several different angles.

It also inspired me to take a look at the teacher's manual a bit more often.

### #20

Posted 02 May 2012 - 08:07 PM

### #21

Posted 02 May 2012 - 08:43 PM

### #22

Posted 02 May 2012 - 08:53 PM

I had no 'wow' moment, but it did make me a better math teacher.

I think about how I am teaching math at a much deeper level. I am more willing to acknowledge my limitations and seek outside assistance. I think my language has become more precise when I teach math. I have better ways of expressing myself. I challenge myself to create word problems in order to test understanding and, I do the same with my kids. I am quicker to use manipulatives and I think I use them more effectively.

So, no wow moment, but I think I am a better teacher now that I am on the other side of the book.

The points above have been my experience as well.

The Let's Play Math blog has a study/discussion going on right now based on a teacher's book that uses Singapore math. Liping Ma was involved in the creation of the book. (Sorry, I don't have it in front of me and am on my phone so I can't link it). I think the book being used in the study is much better at teaching how to teach math. It is worth a look.

### #23

Posted 02 May 2012 - 10:41 PM

### #24

Posted 03 May 2012 - 12:24 AM

### #25

Posted 03 May 2012 - 05:46 AM

### #26

Posted 03 May 2012 - 07:42 AM

I checked mine out from the library (through interlibrary loan).

I'll admit I wasn't staying up late reading it because it was just too good to put down - but I found it helpful in reminding me to teach more conceptually and from several different angles.

It also inspired me to take a look at the teacher's manual a bit more often.

I did this. However, I never read it from cover to cover, I skimmed and read parts I needed to read a few times. I finally understood regrouping conceptually, and why it is not borrowing I was happy to discover that I had the right program with Math Mammoth, and left it at that.

### #27

Posted 03 May 2012 - 08:57 AM

Dr Ma does an outstanding job in her book contrasting rich and intellectually robust mathematical educations with ones that are shallow and limited to procedural-only, algorithm-only, plug-and-chug only type math knowledge.

I think she paints a bright line alternative, and that her book can be most helpful to parents who aspire to make mathematics (starting in elementary school) a deeper subject for their children that is often the case.

My appreciation for Dr Ma's book could not be more different that some of the opinions expressed in this thread. I know I'm hardly alone on this forum in my appreciation for her book, and how is has given many of us a goal-post to aim for. It is not a "how to" book. One will not read this and have all the answers for how to teach math. But ones eyes might be opened if they think "math" is just a bunch of facts and procedures.

Some threads are painful to read.

Bill

**Edited by Spy Car, 03 May 2012 - 10:18 AM.**

### #28

Posted 03 May 2012 - 09:06 AM

Would love to have the name of this book.The points above have been my experience as well.

The Let's Play Math blog has a study/discussion going on right now based on a teacher's book that uses Singapore math. Liping Ma was involved in the creation of the book. (Sorry, I don't have it in front of me and am on my phone so I can't link it). I think the book being used in the study is much better at teaching how to teach math. It is worth a look.

### #29

Posted 03 May 2012 - 09:11 AM

Yup, I thought the book was a huge disappointment! I was also not too impressed with all the comparisons between China/ US. We live in China and have many friends who teach math here, and they are all surprised whenever I explain that book to them. They keep telling me that there is more rote memorization/ algorithm based learning here than in than in the west. I'm pretty confused...

I'd also like to think the U.S.A. teachers weren't a random sample. I attended two elementary schools. One was fabulous. One was mediocre at best. Not one of my teachers was like that. I wondered why there were so many more Chinese teachers interviewed than American ones.

I read the book. I found it interesting. I think it has made me more purposeful in teaching the kids. I still call it borrowing. I understood what that meant as a kid. My kids understand it now.

### #30

Posted 03 May 2012 - 09:34 AM

And I will say that my experience with math teachers was along the lines of the American ones in the book. This book really rocked my world. It showed me all of the things I taught myself through trial and error over years of poor math instruction. Reading this book and implementing the strategies jumped my kids up multiple grade levels just in the past year. And now they LOVE math because they understand it. I just last night posted a thank you to Singapore thread and really half of the credit goes to Liping Ma. Until I read this book, I felt overwhelmed and stupid. Now it's a favorite subject for all of us here.The benefits of teaching for deep understanding of mathematical concepts and fostering mathematical reasoning are hardly "hype."

Dr Ma does an outstanding job in her book contrasting rich and intellectually robust mathematical educations with ones that are shallow and limited to procedural-only, algorithm-only, plug-and-chug only type math knowledge.

I think she paints a bright line alternative, and that her book can be most helpful to parents who aspire to make mathematics (starting in elementary school) a deeper subject for their children that is often the case.

My appreciation for Dr Ma's book could not be more different that some of the opinions expressed in this thread. I know I'm harpy alone on this forum in my appreciation for her book, and how is has given many of us a goal-post to aim for. It is not a "how to" book. One will not read this and have all the answers for how to teach math. But ones eyes might be opened if they think "math" is just a bunch of facts and procedures.

Some threads are painful to read.

Bill

### #31

Posted 03 May 2012 - 09:35 AM

The benefits of teaching for deep understanding of mathematical concepts and fostering mathematical reasoning are hardly "hype."

Dr Ma does an outstanding job in her book contrasting rich and intellectually robust mathematical educations with ones that are shallow and limited to procedural-only, algorithm-only, plug-and-chug only type math knowledge.

I think she paints a bright line alternative, and that her book can be most helpful to parents who aspire to make mathematics (starting in elementary school) a deeper subject for their children that is often the case.

My appreciation for Dr Ma's book could not be more different that some of the opinions expressed in this thread. I know I'm harpy alone on this forum in my appreciation for her book, and how is has given many of us a goal-post to aim for. It is not a "how to" book. One will not read this and have all the answers for how to teach math. But ones eyes might be opened if they think "math" is just a bunch of facts and procedures.

Some threads are painful to read.

Bill

I believe the issue for some of us is not that the book failed in some way but that we simply weren't coming from the same procedural-only background so the influence wasn't what we were expecting based on how greatly it seems to have influenced others. I simply can't conceive of "doing" math without conceptual understanding and I don't know if that was from my education or just how I think but I already have a natural tendency to go for the understanding. I can't grasp any other goal so this is all very foreign to me. There is no problem with the book, it's just not needed by everyone in the same way or to the same degree.

The problem is, I'm not sure one would know for certain where they are in this matter until they do read it (which is why I bought it).

### #32

Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:08 AM

I believe the issue for some of us is not that the book failed in some way but that we simply weren't coming from the same procedural-only background so the influence wasn't what we were expecting based on how greatly it seems to have influenced others. I simply can't conceive of "doing" math without conceptual understanding and I don't know if that was from my education or just how I think but I already have a natural tendency to go for the understanding. I can't grasp any other goal so this is all very foreign to me. There is no problem with the book, it's just not needed by everyone in the same way or to the same degree.

The problem is, I'm not sure one would know for certain where they are in this matter until they do read it (which is why I bought it).

I've been thinking along these same lines. The only thing surprising about the book to me was how troubled some elementary teachers are when it comes to mathematical understanding. Lately, I can pick out a "mathy" (for shorthand) vs a "non-mathy" elementary teacher from a mile away, and I find "math friends" in the most unexpected places.

FWIW, as for the language of "borrowing" vs. "regrouping", that doesn't bother me as much as how the concept is taught. It's quite likely I was taught using the term borrowing as it sounds so familiar, but I always understood the actual concept. As I was no language star back in elementary school, I paid little attention to words - it was all about the pictures (or movies) in my mind.

eta, I'm not sorry I bought the book, a nice addition to my growing math library. I did lend the book out to a friend, but then told her to skim it. She had a good math education (in Russia) but I wanted her to be aware of the potential pitfalls of elementary schools in the US.

**Edited by wapiti, 03 May 2012 - 10:13 AM.**

### #33

Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:44 AM

I believe the issue for some of us is not that the book failed in some way but that we simply weren't coming from the same procedural-only background so the influence wasn't what we were expecting based on how greatly it seems to have influenced others. I simply can't conceive of "doing" math without conceptual understanding and I don't know if that was from my education or just how I think but I already have a natural tendency to go for the understanding. I can't grasp any other goal so this is all very foreign to me. There is no problem with the book, it's just not needed by everyone in the same way or to the same degree.

The problem is, I'm not sure one would know for certain where they are in this matter until they do read it (which is why I bought it).

I can well imagine that a person who was raised and educated in a culture where math was a subject that is taught with depth might read Dr Ma's book and wonder why math would be taught in a fashion other than with the aim of deep understanding. But that has not always been the case in the USA (understatement alert). For too long the public schools taught math in very shallow ways (which Dr Ma demonstrates with examples).

Unfortunately some of the reform efforts have led to "fuzzy math" programs in the schools and a counter-reaction among many (not all) home-school parent who decide the answer is to return to "traditional" algorithm-only math educations that are exactly like what Dr Ma demonstrates are shallow.

So books that point people to a better alternative (and away from two bad alternatives) is especially valuable for people who care about math education and who need the consciousness-raising of seeing demonstrably different approaches to seeing the same topics covered in shallow vs deep ways.

On that from I think Dr Ma's book is a huge success. Those who are already convinced that teaching for mathematical reason is an imperative and have a good sense of what that involves may not find their world rocked by reading Dr Ma. I can imagine one in such a position thinking, "why would someone choose anything less."

But people do choose less. And this book is a good argument to those who just don't recognize that ere is a problem with procedure-only type math education.

Bill

### #34

Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:53 AM

Unfortunately some of the reform efforts have led to "fuzzy math" programs in the schools and a counter-reaction among many (not all) home-school parent who decide the answer is to return to "traditional" algorithm-only math educations that are exactly like what Dr Ma demonstrates are shallow.

So books that point people to a better alternative (and away from two bad alternatives) is especially valuable for people who care about math education and who need the consciousness-raising of seeing demonstrably different approaches to seeing the same topics covered in shallow vs deep ways.

Bill, on the fuzzy angle, by any chance do you recall there being anything in Ma's book about this? I don't have the book at my fingertips (lent it out) but I am at a point in certain school discussions where I might need to articulate the difference between fuzzy, so-called "real world" problem-solving and aops-style problem-solving and I find myself lacking the language to do so.

### #35

Posted 03 May 2012 - 10:59 AM

I believe the issue for some of us is not that the book failed in some way but that we simply weren't coming from the same procedural-only background so the influence wasn't what we were expecting based on how greatly it seems to have influenced others. I simply can't conceive of "doing" math without conceptual understanding and I don't know if that was from my education or just how I think but I already have a natural tendency to go for the understanding. I can't grasp any other goal so this is all very foreign to me. There is no problem with the book, it's just not needed by everyone in the same way or to the same degree.

The problem is, I'm not sure one would know for certain where they are in this matter until they do read it (which is why I bought it).

All of the "hype" about the book came from the very people that have classified the program I was taught with (Abeka) and the program I teach with (R&S) as "procedural-only, algorithm-only, plug-and-chug only," so I read the book prepared to find what I had been missing conceptually. Errr...nothing. So I think the real issue is not what curriculum we use, but how we teach.

I can sleep much better now knowing that I am doing a fine job teaching math to my children without the Singapore curriculum.

### #36

Posted 03 May 2012 - 12:44 PM

I had no 'wow' moment, but it did make me a better math teacher.

I think about how I am teaching math at a much deeper level. I am more willing to acknowledge my limitations and seek outside assistance. I think my language has become more precise when I teach math. I have better ways of expressing myself. I challenge myself to create word problems in order to test understanding and, I do the same with my kids. I am quicker to use manipulatives and I think I use them more effectively.

So, no wow moment, butI think I am a better teacher now that I am on the other side of the book.

I will say that, to be fair, the book was never intended to be a handbook to help parents and teachers learn how to teach math; it was a research study for her doctorate, if I remember correctly. I found the book a good primer into why Asian math methods are considered superior by many, but wouldn't recommend it to parents as the book you need to learn how to teach your kids. It seems to be an investigation into the relative weaknesses and strengths of math educators.

I recognized where most (if not all) of my elementary teachers were clearly solely depending on rote methods to communicate math concepts after reading the book.

I've recommended it to several of my friends who teach elementary math, none of whom had heard of it.

I always did well in math in school, but my education was COMPLETELY algorithm based and so when I reached calculus and to some extent statistics and physics, I hit a wall. I *knew* I was missing something, and wanted something different for my own children, but did not really understand what that was. The conceptual math threads here on the boards helped somewhat, but I didn't really get it until I read Liping Ma's book.

However, I can appreciate that someone with a more conceptual background in math would find the book less revolutionary. I was also a bit surprised to find the book to be only an academic study and not more of a how-to book, considering all the recommendations for it. But I persevered through, and came away with a better understanding of the true shortcomings of my own education and a firm resolve to teach my children better. Math Mammoth, along with other math supplements has been amazing for my family, and I am frequently amazed at the concepts I am teaching my boys at their young ages that were NEVER taught to me at any age. Now, finally, I understand why I had to use a full page of scrap paper to answer some SAT problems, knowing there *had* to be an easier way to come to the correct answers.

### #37

Posted 03 May 2012 - 01:32 PM

Bill, on the fuzzy angle, by any chance do you recall there being anything in Ma's book about this? I don't have the book at my fingertips (lent it out) but I am at a point in certain school discussions where I might need to articulate the difference between fuzzy, so-called "real world" problem-solving and aops-style problem-solving and I find myself lacking the language to do so.

It has been some time since I last read the book, so my memory could fail on this point, but I recall nothing that would serve as "ammo" against so-called fuzzy math programs. The results of Dr Ma's book are no doubt somewhat dated (it has been 10+ years since it was first published). I know the head of the University of Chicago Mathematics Project commented to me in a conversation that the economic boom in China has pulled many of the best math teachers out of that profession and into the private sector where there is more money to be made, and that math education standards there have declined. So things are not static.

The underlying point Dr Ma made in the book—which you know well—is that it is the depth of mathematical knowledge of the instructor that is the biggest factor in educational success. Unprepared teachers using "fuzzy math" programs are likely to fail. Teachers using "good" math programs can fail if they don't have the chops to teach it properly, and a great (and highly knowledgable) teacher has the potential to make a cheap-workbook from the dollar store come alive. I'm preaching to the choir (as I know we are on the same page) but for us as parents teaching our children one of the critical aspects of choosing a math program is asking what it brings to the table in terms of making us more knowledgable and effective teachers.

Dr Ma is spot-on in seeing the problems and the solutions IMO.

Bill

**Edited by Spy Car, 03 May 2012 - 05:42 PM.**

### #38

Posted 03 May 2012 - 02:02 PM

I can sleep much better now knowing that I am doing a fine job teaching math to my children without the Singapore curriculum.

Good.

But I don't think Ma endorses Singaporean curricula or has any affiliation with Primary Mathematics, nor did she study Singaporean education.

The most interesting question for me was why Chinese teachers, who appear to be much less educated than US teachers, understand math so much better.

### #39

Posted 03 May 2012 - 02:02 PM

we simply weren't coming from the same procedural-only background so the influence wasn't what we were expecting based on how greatly it seems to have influenced others.

A friend of mine bought the book and raved about how it changed everything for her, so with that in mind plus all the talk about it here I borrowed the book, read through it and then was left feeling like . I kind of wish I had that time back. There was pretty much nothing "new" to me in it. Even the woeful state of some ps "math" teachers.

After speaking to her again about it I realized that she had been taught and was teaching algorithmic math...just memorize the formula\procedure...doesn't matter why the numbers work that way together, just get the answer right and move on. No wonder a light bulb went on for her. I'm happy for her and still think the book is a great resource for those who are just beginning the journey to self educate in math and become better teachers.

### #40

Posted 03 May 2012 - 04:07 PM

The underlying point Dr Ma made in the book—which you know well—is that it is the depth of mathematical knowledge of the instructor that is the biggest factor in educational success. Unprepared teachers using "fuzzy math" programs are likely to fail. Teachers using "good" math programs can fail if they don't have the chops to teach it properly, and a great (and highly knowledgable) teacher has the potential to make a cheap-workbook from the dollar store come alive. I'm preaching to the choir (as I know we are on the same page) but for us as parents teaching our children one of the critical aspects of choosing a math program is asking what it brings to the table in terms of making us more knowledgable and effective teachers.

Thanks, Bill. Thinking out loud, I wonder how one can help certain teachers to realize the shallowness of their own understanding (though that's not why I brought this up).

### #41

Posted 03 May 2012 - 05:41 PM

Thanks, Bill. Thinking out loud, I wonder how one can help certain teachers to realize the shallowness of their own understanding (though that's not why I brought this up).

Well...were it up to me I'd give them a copy of the Liping Ma book

Bill

### #42

Posted 03 May 2012 - 05:51 PM

The points above have been my experience as well.

The Let's Play Math blog has a study/discussion going on right now based on a teacher's book that uses Singapore math. Liping Ma was involved in the creation of the book. (Sorry, I don't have it in front of me and am on my phone so I can't link it). I think the book being used in the study is much better at teaching how to teach math. It is worth a look.

Most of what I saw on the Let's Play Math blog was about Liping Ma's book and Profound Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics PUFM 1.0, PUFM 1.1 etc). They did take some quotes from a book used to teach education majors how to teach math and relies on the Singapore books - Elementary Mathematics for Teachers. There is also Elementary Geometry for Teachers. They are good books about the basics of understanding and teaching math.

If that isn't what you were referring to, I would love to find out what it was.

And, for anyone looking for a more in depth book about teaching math to elementary students, I would recommend Understanding Numbers in Elementary School Mathematics by Hung-Hsi Wu or articles from his website - http://math.berkeley.edu/~wu/

### #43

Posted 04 May 2012 - 12:16 PM

Well...were it up to me I'd give them a copy of the Liping Ma book

Bill

You can lead a horse to water ...

### #44

Posted 04 May 2012 - 03:56 PM

Well...were it up to me I'd give them a copy of the Liping Ma book

Bill

Here's the thing. We started out with Saxon Math K as our K4 math program, and while it was a fine start... I soon began to see (looking ahead in the next levels) that I was wanting something more but didn't exactly know what. You were among others to point out reasons why I was dissatisfied... and shared about Dr. Ma's book. We ended up switching to RightStart Math and I invested in the book. One of the first things in the book that rang true for me and made complete sense was the understanding and usage of correct terminology when presenting concepts (e.g., "borrowing" which is incorrect vs "regrouping" - whether composing or decomposing). This book made a huge impact on how I presented and taught these concepts to my little man from the start, regardless of which program I use.

The long and short of it is that if you were able to glean anything from this book, then it was a worthwhile read. I'm truly thankful for the knowledge shared within the pages, and those who suggested it.

### #45

Posted 04 May 2012 - 06:03 PM

The underlying point Dr Ma made in the book—which you know well—is that it is the depth of mathematical knowledge of the instructor that is the biggest factor in educational success.

This terrifies me. I am not mathy, and my DD is not mathy, either. We made it through Level A of RS pretty successfully. I'm wondering if I need to hand her over to DH for Level B. He is totally mathy and I think he would do a better job than I can. Ugh. So can this Liping Ma book help me, or not??

### #46

Posted 04 May 2012 - 06:31 PM

I always did well in math in school, but my education was COMPLETELY algorithm based and so when I reached calculus and to some extent statistics and physics, I hit a wall. I *knew* I was missing something, and wanted something different for my own children, but did not really understand what that was. The conceptual math threads here on the boards helped somewhat, but I didn't really get it until I read Liping Ma's book.

However, I can appreciate that someone with a more conceptual background in math would find the book less revolutionary. I was also a bit surprised to find the book to be only an academic study and not more of a how-to book, considering all the recommendations for it. But I persevered through, and came away with a better understanding of the true shortcomings of my own education and a firm resolve to teach my children better. Math Mammoth, along with other math supplements has been amazing for my family, and I am frequently amazed at the concepts I am teaching my boys at their young ages that were NEVER taught to me at any age. Now, finally, I understand why I had to use a full page of scrap paper to answer some SAT problems, knowing there *had* to be an easier way to come to the correct answers.

When I read comments like this, I would love to see an example of what you are referring to! Sat math is simple algebra and geometry. How does how you are teaching your elementary children make solving an Sat question easier?

### #47

Posted 04 May 2012 - 09:00 PM

Here's the thing. We started out with Saxon Math K as our K4 math program, and while it was a fine start... I soon began to see (looking ahead in the next levels) that I was wanting something more but didn't exactly know what. You were among others to point out reasons why I was dissatisfied... and shared about Dr. Ma's book. We ended up switching to RightStart Math and I invested in the book. One of the first things in the book that rang true for me and made complete sense was the understanding and usage of correct terminology when presenting concepts (e.g., "borrowing" which is incorrect vs "regrouping" - whether composing or decomposing). This book made a huge impact on how I presented and taught these concepts to my little man from the start, regardless of which program I use.

The long and short of it is that if you were able to glean anything from this book, then it was a worthwhile read. I'm truly thankful for the knowledge shared within the pages, and those who suggested it.

Your experience was like mine and many dozens of others on this forum who gained a great deal from reading Liping Ma's book. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Bill

### #48

Posted 04 May 2012 - 09:04 PM

You can lead a horse to water ...

You took the words right out of my mouth

Bill

### #49

Posted 04 May 2012 - 09:32 PM

This terrifies me. I am not mathy, and my DD is not mathy, either. We made it through Level A of RS pretty successfully. I'm wondering if I need to hand her over to DH for Level B. He is totally mathy and I think he would do a better job than I can. Ugh. So can this Liping Ma book help me, or not??

I know it helped me. I also know how many other people on this forum consider it among the most important books they have read on education. This thread is obviously dominated my those who feel "disappointed," so I don't know what to say about that.

Ma's book is not a "how to" that is aimed at parents, but rather a scholarly work based on her doctoral dissertation that compared Chinese and American elementary math education, particularly how teachers there understood and taught math topics vs teacher here.

While Ma is anything but a polemicist the work is a pretty through incitement of the shallowness of "procedure only" type math education, where students and teacher might get the correct answer by plugging given numbers into a given formula, but with no real or at least deep understanding of what the heck they are doing. She shows this with in depth looks at a number of example topics.

By looking at the differences, and being able to see how teachers with a greater understanding of mathematical reasoning teach, many WTMers have found both ideas for particular ways to teach (and things to avoid) and have also been nephews to deepen their own math educations beyond a simple ability to do procedural math.

*I* would urge anyone embarking on teaching elementary math to read the book, and most especially anyone who was insecure about their ability but had the desire to do better for their children than the math education they received as children. The cool thing about math is that when you understand the reasoning in a deeper way it is fun. And it is not to late to learn (or re-learn) 2nd Grade math.

I would not despair that you can't do this. I would read the book. Then if you are feeling inspired (which I would hope might be the case) there are many resources people on this forum can point you to deepen your math education.

RS is a favorite program of many whose thinking is in line with Liping Ma's. Curriculum exists for those of us who need it. RS is one of those that requires an active involved parent, which is a good thing, as there is nothing wrong with learning along with you children.

See if you can get the book fro the library, inter-library loan, or if not try for a used hardcover of the original edition (as the content is basically the same) which can often the found inexpensively on Amazon.

Best wishes.

Bill

### #50

Posted 04 May 2012 - 09:57 PM

And, for anyone looking for a more in depth book about teaching math to elementary students, I would recommend Understanding Numbers in Elementary School Mathematics by Hung-Hsi Wu or articles from his website - http://math.berkeley.edu/~wu/

I am really enjoying Hung-Hsi Wu's articles - thank you. He is making me realize how little I really know about numbers, but at the same time I feel compelled to learn more about overcoming my deficiencies. It's been a gradual change for me but I'm ready to start seeing the beauty in math.