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MistyMountain

Outrage over the area method on social media

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I have seen lots of outrage over any math that is not the traditional right to left carrying method on social media always using one sample out of context and with someone who is not aware of the big picture of where the curriculum is going. I am sure there are some curriculums that do a poor job especially if they are skipping the concrete step but it is always just one example of a problem which does not tell you much about a curriculum.

The latest is there was a video floating around of a teacher slowly teaching and explaining the area method of multiplying two digit by two digit numbers and someone posted a video of them solving it faster the traditional way because they are just solving it not trying to explain a concept and then they start coffee and show the coffee being made while the teacher explaining the area method is still teaching the method. The problem is easy to solve mentally which I can do faster then the person solving it the traditional way but people are missing the point that it is about teaching a kid to understand what is happening not to solve it as fast as possible which if you are teaching the other way would not be as fast as you solve it anyway. I see this video shared by lots of people people saying how dumb it is and decrying 'common core math'. Most comments are how outrageous it is to teach the area method rather then the right to left procedure. I have seen hyperbole over breaking problems up into hundreds of parts in second grade math. It is fine if people want to teach only the 'traditional' method which teaching the process by carrying numbers but it drives me crazy they do not even know much about any other ways of doing things or why it is done or about number sense and why kids who do not have an innate number sense benefit from being able to break apart numbers. 

Edited by MistyMountain
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Yeah, I'm sick of seeing this too. And I pulled my kid out of school years ago over the math teaching (among other reasons). 

I saw on a local neighborhood Facebook group the other day a parent complaining about a problem that was something like:

"What number is 658 less than 36,879?"

People were going NUTS! You would not believe the number of grown, presumably educated, adults who could not understand this 4th grade subtraction problem. And the ranting over Common Core. It was insane.

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I haven;t seen it probably because my facebook friends tend to fall in certain groups- people my age who do not have kids young enough for this to concern, homeschoolers who do not care, people older than me who aren't involved in what happens in math ed, and a lot of young people too who do not have school-aged children.  

But as a mathy person coming from a mathy family, I hate the new math and the old math because I hate rigidity.  Two out of three of my children plus my own father (who got beat for doing math differently but that was in 1920's Warsaw) ended up doing math in various ways, not necessarily in the way a book taught but correctly anyway.  

But what really, really irritates me is when people I know are supposedly mathy people- like engineers or econ majors and they either do not put math knowledge to use or are so blinded by politics or social causes or plain greed that they through all math knowledge out the window. I know several of these people and my one dd is always complaining about someone she knows who while an engineer who went to a good school, seems to have absolutely no math sense or common sense.  

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Our local schools do such a horrible job teaching math that anyone who does well in math uses outside tutors and classes.

 

My son came home with a problem written exactly like this and the teacher could not help him and told him to just look at the videos.   m>1=m>3, m>2=m>4. I went through the answer key to figure out that the inequality sign was supposed to be an angle sign but the teacher was so unfamiliar with what she was even assigning the kids that she did not know this. It did not take me a long time to figure out the lazy "typo" so makes me wonder what the teachers are doing. But this is typical of our schools. At the lower level, a typical assignment includes writing a paragraph about how something makes them feel or what they can do to pay back society for all they have, etc etc etc.

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42 minutes ago, Janeway said:

Our local schools do such a horrible job teaching math that anyone who does well in math uses outside tutors and classes.

 

My son came home with a problem written exactly like this and the teacher could not help him and told him to just look at the videos.   m>1=m>3, m>2=m>4. I went through the answer key to figure out that the inequality sign was supposed to be an angle sign but the teacher was so unfamiliar with what she was even assigning the kids that she did not know this. It did not take me a long time to figure out the lazy "typo" so makes me wonder what the teachers are doing. But this is typical of our schools. At the lower level, a typical assignment includes writing a paragraph about how something makes them feel or what they can do to pay back society for all they have, etc etc etc.

 

This.  This is so anti-mathy.   I absolutely hate this with a passion.  Write about math and switch the alphabet to symbolic language are two issues that really raise my BP.

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2 hours ago, MistyMountain said:

I have seen lots of outrage over any math that is not the traditional right to left carrying method on social media always using one sample out if context and with someone who is not aware of the big picture of where the curriculum is going. I am sure there are some curriculums that do a poor job especially if they are skipping the concrete step but it is always just one example of a problem which does not tell you much about a curriculum.

The latest is there was a video floating around of a teacher slowly teaching and explaining the area method of multiplying two digit by two digit numbers and someone posted a video of them solving it faster the traditional way because they are just solving it not trying to explain a concept and then they start coffee and show the coffee being made while the teacher explaining the area method is still teaching the method. The problem is easy to solve mentally which I can do faster then the person solving it the traditional way but people are missing the point that it is about teaching a kid to understand what us happening not to solve it as fast as possible which if you are teaching the other way would not be as fast as you solve it anyway. I see this video shared by lots of people people saying how dumb it is and decrying 'common core math'. Most comments are how outrageous it is to teach the area method rather then the right to left procedure. I have seen hyperbole over breaking problems up into hundreds of parts in second grade math. It is fine if people want to teach only the 'traditional' method which teaching the process by carrying numbers but it drives me crazy they do not even know much about any other ways of doing things or why it is done or about number sense and why kids who do not have an innate number sense benefit from being able to break apart numbers. 

7

(emphasis mine)  It is NOT fine, and America's math scores will prove it.  

I completely agree with you, and while I hate to be judgy about people, videos like that and all the "likes" they generate just make me assume all those people are stupid.  This is why I don't do social media (aside from the Hive)... I don't like thinking such ugly things about humanity, but there it is.  If you truly cannot grasp that DEEP understanding of math (grammar, language... name the topic) is a worthy pursuit in education, then you are shortchanging kids. 

Knowing deep down in your toes what multiplication IS is so much more important than doing a problem quickly and then making yourself a coffee and then sharing it on FB in order to insult a teacher.  There was another similar video going around where a child had been taught to use symbols for unit blocks- a square for 100, a line for 10, a dot for 1- the parent was saying how utterly stupid it was because "look, stacking and carrying!".  And I just have to shake my head.  I'd bet $1000 that parent could not explain what the heck "carrying" means, mathematically.  But I'll bet the child learning with the unit blocks could.  

I don't have a horse in the game over common core.  I think it gets taught badly because good teachers are being asked to teach in ways they have no experience with, after 30 years of doing things a certain way.  I think spending any time at all in math class doing writing assignments is stupid.  But I appreciate the common core DOES appear to be trying to pull away from the blind algorithm learning method.  I'm glad I homeschool so that I don't have to wade into that mess.  

 

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As I said, I have not seen the videos.  And I totally agree that blind algorithmic method is horrible.  I find the traditional way to multiple to be useful if I am doing a written problem but orally I do it left to right or rounding and subtracting.  

 

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You can teach the carrying method and also be teaching what it means conceptually.  I don't think it's rocket science.  It just involves understanding place value, which is how we were taught it in 2nd grade and how I taught it.

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1 hour ago, Monica_in_Switzerland said:

(emphasis mine)  It is NOT fine, and America's math scores will prove it.  

I completely agree with you, and while I hate to be judgy about people, videos like that and all the "likes" they generate just make me assume all those people are stupid.  This is why I don't do social media (aside from the Hive)... I don't like thinking such ugly things about humanity, but there it is.  If you truly cannot grasp that DEEP understanding of math (grammar, language... name the topic) is a worthy pursuit in education, then you are shortchanging kids. 

Knowing deep down in your toes what multiplication IS is so much more important than doing a problem quickly and then making yourself a coffee and then sharing it on FB in order to insult a teacher.  There was another similar video going around where a child had been taught to use symbols for unit blocks- a square for 100, a line for 10, a dot for 1- the parent was saying how utterly stupid it was because "look, stacking and carrying!".  And I just have to shake my head.  I'd bet $1000 that parent could not explain what the heck "carrying" means, mathematically.  But I'll bet the child learning with the unit blocks could.  

I don't have a horse in the game over common core.  I think it gets taught badly because good teachers are being asked to teach in ways they have no experience with, after 30 years of doing things a certain way.  I think spending any time at all in math class doing writing assignments is stupid.  But I appreciate the common core DOES appear to be trying to pull away from the blind algorithm learning method.  I'm glad I homeschool so that I don't have to wade into that mess.  

 

Jumping off of this - 

But, let us be clear with terms, traditional math was not blindly algorithmic either.  That nonsense, where number sense and the language of mathematics was divorced from math, was the first ‘new math’ wave.  Complaints about it came in the 50’s and 60’s.   And even math programs that get so much hate around here (coughSaxoncough) are shockingly similar to Singapore to teach, in having children understand what they are doing and why.  Like, I really genuinely thought I’d experience more discrepancy between a cuisensaire/manipulative/abstract/partwhole/conceptual/whatever you want to call it curricula and classics like Strayer Upton, Ray’s, or Saxon, but that was not where the breakdown was AT ALL.  I actually switch my kids from Rightstart and Beast Academy TO Saxon and they have almost zero culture shock.  

 

The best illustration of the differences isn’t conceptual understanding of the language and manipulation of quantities so much as repetition and mastery - I switch my kids because they require more practice and reinforcing and skill building than is provided in some of the more mastery based programs, more of a spiral.  The math is actually remarkably similar even in ‘tricks’.  

 

Color me as shocked as anyone that this was the case, but pedagogy was only slightly different and in practice more than content.  The math complaints I am hearing stem from a lack of repetition and deep understanding, yes, but that isn’t a feature or so-called traditional math so much as a deep failure in teaching and achieving mastery of the concepts.  Common Core is trying to address that, but newer math programs aren’t the ticket if the teachers don’t understand what they’re teaching, children are still achieving answers by mystery or incomplete application of a method that ‘works’ for a lesson before being dropped, or worst of all - material simply isn’t being covered sufficiently due to a lack of time.

 

I could stump and snarl about this all day - it is no more the fault of the parents than their children when math is mysterious and frustrating.  The failures are not even the material - MANY programs are good or excellent, I have rarely seen one I’d consider completely poo.  But the current math programs are serving the students no better than the older ones did their parents if the children can’t explain the why or what they are doing, even to the point of dissecting and working back to where their parents are.  That sort of deep mastery of the mathematics is what we want and unfortunately it is difficult for the average student or teacher to get there in the time and training allotted.  

 

And not for lack of trying 😞

Edited by Arctic Mama
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14 minutes ago, Arctic Mama said:

Jumping off of this - 

But, let us be clear with terms, traditional math was not blindly algorithmic either.  That nonsense, where number sense and the language of mathematics was divorced from math, was the first ‘new math’ wave.  Complaints about it came in the 50’s and 60’s.   And even math programs that get so much hate around here (coughSaxoncough) are shockingly similar to Singapore to teach, in having children understand what they are doing and why.  Like, I really genuinely thought I’d experience more discrepancy between a cuisensaire/manipulative/abstract/partwhole/conceptual/whatever you want to call it curricula and classics like Strayer Upton, Ray’s, or Saxon, but that was not where the breakdown was AT ALL.  I actually switch my kids from Rightstart and Beast Academy TO Saxon and they have almost zero culture shock.  

 

The best illustration of the differences isn’t conceptual understanding of the language and manipulation of quantities so much as repetition and mastery - I switch my kids because they require more practice and reinforcing and skill building than is provided in some of the more mastery based programs, more of a spiral.  The math is actually remarkably similar even in ‘tricks’.  

 

Color me as shocked as anyone that this was the case, but pedagogy was only slightly different and in practice more than content.  The math complaints I am hearing stem from a lack of repetition and deep understanding, yes, but that isn’t a feature or so-called traditional math so much as a deep failure in teaching and achieving mastery of the concepts.  Common Core is trying to address that, but newer math programs aren’t the ticket if the teachers don’t understand what they’re teaching, children are still achieving answers by mystery or incomplete application of a method that ‘works’ for a lesson before being dropped, or worst of all - material simply isn’t being covered sufficiently due to a lack of time.

 

I could stump and snarl about this all day - it is no more the fault of the parents than their children when math is mysterious and frustrating.  The failures are not even the material - MANY programs are good or excellent, I have rarely seen one I’d consider completely poo.  But the current math programs are serving the students no better than the older ones did their parents if the children can’t explain the why or what they are doing, even to the point of dissecting and working back to where their parents are.  That sort of deep mastery of the mathematics is what we want and unfortunately it is difficult for the average student or teacher to get there in the time and training allotted.  

 

And not for lack of trying 😞

See, if I just wait for others to respond, they say what I am thinking in much better ways than I could.

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Also, can I add that while non mathy people have a hard time teaching math (note how many b+M teachers do not seem to understand either method truely), mathy people have issues teaching non mathy too.  I remember being assigned in 6th grade to teach another student about decimals.  I tried to relate it to money.  She still had problems and I had problems understanding why she didn't understand.  I mean, to me - decimals are so intuitive unlike working with fractions.  

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I saw that video posted in a homeschooling FB group, and people were talking about how stupid it is and how it doesn't make any sense. I tried to explain the concepts behind it, and they STILL couldn't/wouldn't understand it. Some of them actually said things like, "My kids are never going to need much math, anyway." 

And these are homeschoolers! Stuff like this is why homeschooling is going to end up illegal.

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29 minutes ago, TravelingChris said:

Also, can I add that while non mathy people have a hard time teaching math (note how many b+M teachers do not seem to understand either method truely), mathy people have issues teaching non mathy too.  I remember being assigned in 6th grade to teach another student about decimals.  I tried to relate it to money.  She still had problems and I had problems understanding why she didn't understand.  I mean, to me - decimals are so intuitive unlike working with fractions.  

My husband and I complain to one another about this very thing!  People too talented at math can be very poor teachers because they struggle to break down what is, to them, intuitive.  

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26 minutes ago, Mergath said:

I saw that video posted in a homeschooling FB group, and people were talking about how stupid it is and how it doesn't make any sense. I tried to explain the concepts behind it, and they STILL couldn't/wouldn't understand it. Some of them actually said things like, "My kids are never going to need much math, anyway." 

And these are homeschoolers! Stuff like this is why homeschooling is going to end up illegal.

Okay now this makes me throw up in my mouth.

 

I was NOT a math person for years, too many holes and struggles that took a long time to plug and hurt my confidence.  But I taught myself what I was missing and then learned the undergirding principles and pedagogical methods to impart to my kids what never made it to me.  Because that’s what I SIGNED ON TO DO AS A HOME EDUCATOR???

Sheesh.  And there is no excuse when plenty of programs literally teach you how to teach them, scripting and all.  You do them consistently in the way they’re intended and you can’t not learn with your children.  It boggles.  That’s not ignorance, it’s laziness.

 

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I am intrigued with the whole subject of math instruction, which just can't seem to go right. My DS is very mathy and in public school, but we doubled up with after school programs and I made sure he had mastery. I do homework help with  at risk 2nd-5th graders and I am blown away by the homework problems they bring. Before Christmas, a third grader brought in a three step word problem with a multiplication problem  (8*9) as the middle part. These 3rd graders are just learning multiplication, they draw the groups out in order to solve. The 3 parts combined into one problem was so convoluted I had to read it 3 times just to understand what they were trying to ask, let alone start explaining the math to get them to the answer. I like the different approaches and I have seen kids use different ones depending on which one clicks with them, but when you make math so wordy and confusing and then throw in a difficult multiplication problem they are just now learning, it overwhelms these kids, Then they keep moving on without ever mastering the multiplication facts they need to know in future years. 

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Well, as someone in the process of getting my elementary teaching license, with very few exceptions, elementary Ed is not attracting the best and the brightest.  Easily 90% of my classmates are math phobic.  I’d say 97% of them lack any conceptual understanding of arithmetic and about 50% cannot do arithmetic in any form.  They do not know any of their facts.  The professors are experts in education, not math.  They are...inefficient at explaining why things might be done a certain way.  So we get a lot of writing in math class, because teachers are more comfortable with writing than with math.  I really kinda despair for the kids. 

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I know some of it is a reactionary response to anything different.  But some of it is from frustration with teaching that just confuses kids and makes them feel stupid.  This happens because the teachers don't understand the "method" themselves.

And as a parent, at least I can help my kids at home if the methods are fairly recognizable.  Kuz some years, they sure weren't getting the help they needed at school.

Edited by SKL
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Dh told me about this -  a friend of his had forwarded it to him.  I got a slightly garbled version, recognized the area method and told DH that's exactly how I've been teaching multiplication to our kids.  TI explained the area method and then built the problem with c-rods.  And showed how the standard algorithm is actually exactly the same thing minus the picture/manipulatives.

Then I watched the video myself.  I do understand some of the criticism.  The video shows the teacher going through the motions of solving by the area method, but doesn't actually explain it.  Or use the word area.  And uses short cuts without explaining (Put a plus sign in your rectangle under the plus sign.  When multiplying numbers with lots of zeros, multiply as though the zeros aren't there, then count up and add the zeros).  If you don't already understand the concept of solving a multiplication by finding and area, you would have no idea what is going on.  So it ends up looking like a ridiculously complicated way to get an answer without any more understanding than the traditional algorithm.

 

ETA: Maybe the teacher thoroughly explained the concept in a previous lesson and this video clip is lacking context - but as presented I was underwhelmed.

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5 hours ago, moonflower said:

You can teach the carrying method and also be teaching what it means conceptually.  I don't think it's rocket science.  It just involves understanding place value, which is how we were taught it in 2nd grade and how I taught it.

I did this with my older girls naturally when we homeschooled... Place value was taught right away-- beginning in K and 1st...  My oldest (and and aspie) was doing traditional addition with carrying when she was 4 yrs old (she used number stickers as she could not write yet).  I clearly remember her showing off to her grandparents and then their surprise when she then explained CLEARLY what she was doing in each step and why.

We used a lot of Popsicle stick bundles and loose change (a huge jar of it!) to teach place value in a fun, matter-of-fact way.  Subtraction, multiplication and division were also easier (and worked the 'traditional' way) without issue.

However, as a classroom teacher I would NEVER teach a group of 25 younger students multiple ways/methods to do basic math such as multiplication.  That would be asking for confusion!  What I would do (and what I did do) is to teach the method I felt would reach the majority of the students (traditional math as that is what I'm most comfortable with) and then I worked individually with students if the method needed to be tweaked or changed for their learning style.  As an Algebra teacher I really want my students to work problems the way I demonstrate-- but I do allow them to do them differently if they can prove to me that they understand their method of choice and that they can consistently get the correct answer with it.  Again, I do not teach the whole class multiple ways to work problems (especially if this is the first exposure)...

I'm personally tired of the 'traditional' way being seen as out-dated and 'incorrect'.  It is totally correct and mathematically sound-- but I also agree that it is just a method and not the only correct method!  

 

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5 hours ago, Terabith said:

Well, as someone in the process of getting my elementary teaching license, with very few exceptions, elementary Ed is not attracting the best and the brightest.  Easily 90% of my classmates are math phobic.  I’d say 97% of them lack any conceptual understanding of arithmetic and about 50% cannot do arithmetic in any form.  They do not know any of their facts.  The professors are experts in education, not math.  They are...inefficient at explaining why things might be done a certain way.  So we get a lot of writing in math class, because teachers are more comfortable with writing than with math.  I really kinda despair for the kids. 

In general, countries that have excellent math teaching have math teachers teaching math, not general education teachers. I’m not sure that would work here, given how undesirable teaching as a career has become in some places. Some high schools can’t find qualified math teachers and quite a large percentage don’t even offer physics. 

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I can clearly remember sitting at swim with a mom who was a third grade teacher who told me it was too hard to teach all that place value stuff....she just taught them how to borrow and carry.

i wasnt taught math properly.  Just as an example, when I once took a test to get  into college.....I was about 37.  I scored 98% in language and 27% in math.  How can that be possible? I don’t have a learning disability.  I just wasn’t taught math.  I learned math by teaching my son.  And my mom, who by then was an expert in teaching math to the very young...she walked me through all the concepts and my son grasped them rapidly ( as did I ). 

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teaching how to borrow and carry is teaching place value!  Unless the teacher is really not teaching that you are borrowing a 10 (or a 100, or whatever) from the next number over because that digit stands for the number of 10s or the number of 100s or whatever.

I just - we were taught borrow and carry and I have taught borrow and carry.  I don't teach it as just some magical thing to do, though, without explaining why you do it that way - that would be so much harder!  It would be like memorizing rules of a nonsense language and never being taught the meaning of the words, or something.  

I must have had decent 2nd and 3rd grade math teachers, is my only theory.  How can you teach borrow and carry without teaching place value????

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3 minutes ago, moonflower said:

teaching how to borrow and carry is teaching place value!  Unless the teacher is really not teaching that you are borrowing a 10 (or a 100, or whatever) from the next number over because that digit stands for the number of 10s or the number of 100s or whatever.

I just - we were taught borrow and carry and I have taught borrow and carry.  I don't teach it as just some magical thing to do, though, without explaining why you do it that way - that would be so much harder!  It would be like memorizing rules of a nonsense language and never being taught the meaning of the words, or something.  

I must have had decent 2nd and 3rd grade math teachers, is my only theory.  How can you teach borrow and carry without teaching place value????

You just teach the algorithm. No explanation 

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Well, the problem with teachers in elementary school (and sometimes even further) who are math phobic and never learned math themselves but did learn educational theories is why I think teacher ed programs are totally stupid.  And although I hardly ever was questioned about how I can teach my children, the few times I did, I answered that I actually knew the subjects rather than idiotic teacher ed theories.

I was in grad school and for some weird reason, they stuck the criminal justice department in the School of education.  In CJ. in masters and doctorate levels, you needed to know math- specifically stat.  Apparently, the teachers were supposed to have a stat class too so sometimes they would enroll in one of ours. (We had to have several) Then they would quickly disenroll because we actually required mathematical understanding and they didn't have it.  

 

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7 hours ago, Mergath said:

I saw that video posted in a homeschooling FB group, and people were talking about how stupid it is and how it doesn't make any sense. I tried to explain the concepts behind it, and they STILL couldn't/wouldn't understand it. Some of them actually said things like, "My kids are never going to need much math, anyway." 

And these are homeschoolers! Stuff like this is why homeschooling is going to end up illegal.

I saw it in a fb homeschool group too, and tried to explain that it was teaching instead of doing the problem. 

I often see CC bashed with one problem on fb homeschool groups. I tried for a while to explain it. I have given up so many people think all math is CC and it is all evil. They don't use any logical thought! 

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Our society has largely devolved into people of all stripes doing nothing but posting/sharing sh*t on social media with zero interest or concern whether it is factual or represents the whole picture. The point is to feel superior to whomever/whatever is deemed "Other" (aka "inferior"). There is no interest (nor is value seen) in thinking, be truthful, having integrity, or delving beyond the initial presentation in order to truly understand the situation or people on the other side. 

I have been saddened to see (IMHO) many in homeschooling willingly fall into this same trap, rather than holding the line with truly "well-trained minds". Honestly, I don't see a lot of difference between homeschoolers and the general public anymore (in terms of what is deemed acceptable behavior). 

But to return to math, it's a great mistake for people to assume that public schools are some sort of monolith where all schools are the same. Our local school district is excellent, with many elementary schools having 95%+ of the kids passing nationwide tests with scores at 50%ile or above. There were other reasons I homeschooled and other complaints I had about the education, but math wasn't one of them. And I know of several other districts that have also really risen to the challenge, CC or no, so (unfortunately), a lot depends on where you live. 

ETA: I don't mean to sound necessarily positive about public school/math there. I also have a M.Ed., which I finished about 7 years ago, and it was a real mish-mash of information and not particularly valuable (but also a cubic butt-ton of work....). Part of NCLB was a requirement to teach "evidence-based strategies" - teaching strategies that have/had been proven in research to work in the classroom(s) at some point in time. Sounds great, right? Well, by the end of my Master's, I had a notebook of probably 1,300 strategies. A lot of textbooks were just strategy after strategy. It really wasn't helpful. At. All. And teaching is a grunt job. Yes, a few states pay very well. Most don't. And the stress level and the level of expectations and the lack of parental and societal support (including viral videos basically mocking what teachers are trying to do). Well....it just isn't worth it. The best and brightest definitely ain't interested and they are not the ones showing up in teaching ed programs.

Edited by Happy2BaMom
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As far as I can tell, I am the only person pursuing elementary education who took any math electives, especially of calculus or above.  Not that calculus is necessary for teaching elementary school math.  But they genuinely looked at me like a witch for knowing my multiplication facts and being able to add two digit numbers mentally.  Or able to use a protractor, know the formula for the area of a triangle, or how many feet are in a mile.  And we won’t even get into being able to write in cursive.  

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5 hours ago, Terabith said:

As far as I can tell, I am the only person pursuing elementary education who took any math electives, especially of calculus or above.  Not that calculus is necessary for teaching elementary school math.  But they genuinely looked at me like a witch for knowing my multiplication facts and being able to add two digit numbers mentally.  Or able to use a protractor, know the formula for the area of a triangle, or how many feet are in a mile.  And we won’t even get into being able to write in cursive.  

I was an elementary ed major.  Even in the early 1980's there was a shortage of math and science teachers so I wanted to up my chances of getting a teaching job and took math and sciences for all of my electives.  I was the ONLY elementary ed major at my university to take calculus... even my advisor was baffled when I took Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Physics-- there were 'for-teachers' versions of those that satisfied the science requirements (well- I took those too and they were JOKES!).

After graduation when it came time to apply for jobs I did not receive a single call for an interview.  ZERO.  I finally called the HR department of the district where I did my student teaching (one of the largest districts in the state with a zillion teacher openings)-- the HR guy told me my application was denied--because I was OVERQUALIFIED to teach elementary-- but I did not have the secondary ed 'specific' courses to teach at the secondary level.... if I would have taken electives in 'creative use of construction paper' or maybe aerobics then I would have been a top candidate... after all I had a great resume and awesome letters of recommendation!

One of my college roommates had a serious math learning disability-- she took 'Arithmetic For Teachers' THREE times to pass-- and 'passed' with a 69% the last time... She could not do simple problems such as-- "If you had 15 apples and 5 students, how many apples would each student get?"  Seriously.  She had NO TROUBLE getting a position as a 3rd grade teacher in a self-contained classroom in a 'top' district.   When I asked what she was going to do about teaching math she said she would copy the examples from the TE onto the board then assign 'group work' so the students could teach themselves--- and all word problems would be for homework so the parents could teach their students-- and then the group work would work for students without parental help.... Well-- at least she had thought about it!

I ended up taking an emergency position as a special ed teacher and then teaching Jr. High science... when I started working with homeschoolers (after having my first child-- I wanted to say home and I liked the homeschooler's hours!) I moved into teaching secondary math (and now wish I had started there).  I did teach secondary math and science at a private school (so my dds could get free tuition!)-- that is when I discovered I really liked the older students!

When I was in high school I looked like a college student-- and I dated college guys too...  When I graduated from college I looked 13.  Seriously.  I subbed for a year and got stopped for hall passes all.the.time.  While I really enjoyed teaching elementary ages (preference to 4th -5th grade) I was actually a bit scared to teach high school...--- now I LOVE LOVE LOVE working with my young adults (teaching high school math).

*Arithmetic for Teachers covered K-4th grade BASIC math...  The class was not a teaching-methods course-- it was HOW TO DO THE MATH!  I was amazed at how many of my classmates thought that 1/3 + 2/5 was 3/8.  I took this class at 8am and took Calculus and Analytical Geometry the same night... two completely different worlds!

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6 hours ago, Terabith said:

As far as I can tell, I am the only person pursuing elementary education who took any math electives, especially of calculus or above.  Not that calculus is necessary for teaching elementary school math.  But they genuinely looked at me like a witch for knowing my multiplication facts and being able to add two digit numbers mentally.  Or able to use a protractor, know the formula for the area of a triangle, or how many feet are in a mile.  And we won’t even get into being able to write in cursive.  

This was a long time ago (1983), but when I went to college to be a teacher, I bought the text for the required math course and looked through it.  It was so lame (to me) that I knew I just couldn't do it.  I would not be able to sit through that for a year.  I went to my advisor and got permission to sub algebra / trig & calculus / analytic geometry (a one-year sequence with no pre-requisites).  I had only gone through 11th grade / Algebra II in high school, so I didn't think I was advanced in math, but apparently compared to other education students, I was a wiz.

To be fair, when I later went to law school, it was the same - most of the students had absolutely no clue about math.

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And as a parent, I love that sinking feeling when your math-challenged kid's teacher chirps, "oh I am terrible at math."

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8 hours ago, Happy2BaMom said:

Our society has largely devolved into people of all stripes doing nothing but posting/sharing sh*t on social media with zero interest or concern whether it is factual or represents the whole picture. The point is to feel superior to whomever/whatever is deemed "Other" (aka "inferior"). There is no interest (nor is value seen) in thinking, be truthful, having integrity, or delving beyond the initial presentation in order to truly understand the situation or people on the other side. 

I have been saddened to see (IMHO) many in homeschooling willingly fall into this same trap, rather than holding the line with truly "well-trained minds". Honestly, I don't see a lot of difference between homeschoolers and the general public anymore (in terms of what is deemed acceptable behavior). 

 

 

 

I agree and while I don't want to jump off the deep end, I think an analogy could be drawn between generational poverty and generational math phobia (Note, I'm not saying people experiencing poverty are also math-phobic, I'm saying both "trends" are passed from generation to generation through a number of mechanisms, so the situations are analogous)

A math phobic parent will struggle either to assist or supplement school work or to teach/administer homeschool curricula.  They will undervalue math ("I never used that stuff, so it can't be that important") and create a situation where a child cannot escape math-phobia.  They will not know what to look for or how to fight for good math teachers or books.  

As you said, it is as prevalent in homeschooling as public schooling. 

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17 hours ago, Arctic Mama said:

My husband and I complain to one another about this very thing!  People too talented at math can be very poor teachers because they struggle to break down what is, to them, intuitive.  

 

THis is my dh.  He is good at math and does a lot of it at work, so he is very up on it and generally understands what dd14's book is trying to get at.

I was a poor math student - I was fine conceptually, but lazy, and didn't do the work, so at a certain point I just couldn't really go on.  I skated through high school math.  I have improved a lot by homeschooling, but since dd came back from public school, I am mostly unable to help her with her work.

And yet in some ways she still finds me better to help her than dh.  He seems to assume she knows certain things, doesn't help her see how to do things like notate in a way that would be helpful.  He didn't catch on that she didn't realise that working through the solutions given was actually really important.  I often hear him explaining something and just want to jump in and say - no, you need to break that down, you need to make it clearer through some explanation or metaphor or simpler example, or as a question that leads he to the answer.

I've actually thought we might have to get a tutor, which seems crazy since dd is a good math student and dh should be able to do it.

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11 hours ago, Frances said:

In general, countries that have excellent math teaching have math teachers teaching math, not general education teachers. I’m not sure that would work here, given how undesirable teaching as a career has become in some places. Some high schools can’t find qualified math teachers and quite a large percentage don’t even offer physics. 

 

Is that true at the elementary level?  They have specialist math teachers, rather than the regular classroom teacher?

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On 1/23/2019 at 7:41 AM, Bluegoat said:

 

Is that true at the elementary level?  They have specialist math teachers, rather than the regular classroom teacher?

Yes, in many of the top performing countries that have to at least minor in mathematics. Their education programs or teacher’s colleges are also much more selective, so the overall level of math competency is much higher.

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I'm tutoring a 5th grader who is struggling with common core, and sadly, as far as I can tell, the problem is that her teacher doesn't understand the methods and videos anyway. So, the kids watch a Khan Academy video, and then attempt to do the problems largely on their own, but the teacher cannot explain it. I asked my student's parent to have them do the ADAM, and she has significant gaps for the last three years-which is when she returned to PS after homeschooling.

 

When I was in grad school to get my teaching license, the fact that I had strong math scores and a solid math background earned me a significant scholarship if I'd do a math endorsement on my elementary/middle license. And I was able to take graduate classes in math/math ed in a different state at a different university for free under a similar program.  As a music teacher, usually it was my math certification and training that got me hired, because they could use me to pull out and remediate or do enrichment-something that another specialist music teacher would be unable to do. And honestly, math tutoring pays for my music teaching habit now as a homeschool mom trying to bring in a little extra money around DD's schedule-because math tutoring pays FAR more than music lessons, so I can mix the two and still end up with a pretty good hourly rate.

When I was teaching at the state U in music ed, I often encouraged students who came in with a strong math background to consider getting a math endorsement as well for similar reasons-there is such a need for math teachers that not only is there funding for students to study it, but it is significant job security. I am encouraging DD to get a teaching license as well-she has the kind of math/science background that is needed, and ecology isn't necessarily the most stable job field. But someone who can teach math will never starve.

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36 minutes ago, Frances said:

Yes, in many of the top performing countries that have to at least minor in mathematics. Their education programs or teacher’s colleges are also much more selective, so the overall level of math competency is much higher.

Edited to add that my niece did three years of elementary school at one of the top rated school districts in the US after they moved here from overseas, and this was true for her school. Her regular teacher did not teach math. A different math specialist came in to the classroom to teach math. My sister asked and that teacher had a math minor in addition to an education degree. Guess what my niece plans to teach at the middle or high school level? Math and science. She already has degrees in both areas and is teaching overseas before she comes back to get her Master’s in education. I’m not sure how much her strong elementary school foundation in math had to do with it, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt.

 

Ok, this is a little different to me than having math specialists in elementary - it's more, elementary teachers - even if they were English majors or whatever, have to be really competent at math, at least to a basic university level.  

It's a different approach than saying, get math majors to be specialists in elementary that come into the classroom for just math, just like a music or guy teacher might be a specialist.

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I am also taking classes right now for an alternative teaching certification. I have a good full time job, so changing careers would result in a significant pay reduction, but I feel called to teach math. Mostly from discussions on this board. DS had always been mathy and has always been in public school. Thanks to learning about what a good math education consists of from reading this forum, and books recommended on this forum, we went above and beyond to make sure he had mastery and a complete math curriculum. 

As an aside, in my state, AFAIK, there is currently no program available to become a math teacher at any university in our state. I will be certified in social studies and then see if I can find a way in, which given our shortage of math teachers, I think will be possible when the time comes. Right now the plan is to take all my math classes independently and pass the math praxis in addition to the SS praxis I will be certified in. Makes total sense, huh? We're definitely headed to a math education crisis in our state. 

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Yea I think the average SAT for students in the teaching program in the US is lower then for all other majors if I remember correctly. In the book the Smartest Kids in the World what some of the countries did that improved their stats was that it was actually very selective to get into the teaching program then they had a very good training program afterwards where the new teacher trains with an older one. I do think we need to revamp the programs themselves too. There are teachers who have a masters in special education who have no idea about testing for dyslexia or how to remediate never mind about dyscalculia which is an area they are usually weaker in themselves.

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22 hours ago, TravelingChris said:

But as a mathy person coming from a mathy family, I hate the new math and the old math because I hate rigidity.  Two out of three of my children plus my own father (who got beat for doing math differently but that was in 1920's Warsaw) ended up doing math in various ways, not necessarily in the way a book taught but correctly anyway.  

 

This is my issue. I have no problem with the teacher showing multiple ways to do the problem - but that's because I recognize that different people will find different ways easier or more confusing. So let the kids pick whichever way works for them, whichever way they GET it. 

But instead of that, they went bonkers and now require each student to USE each way. And if they don't demonstrate (or even worse, write an short essay about each way) than they get it wrong. So they can have perfectly adequate math skills, know a reasonable and proper method to solve the problem, solve it, get the correct answer, and that's not enough. Each student needs to know three or more ways to do the problem, and be equally adept at all of them, or they are "bad at math". Drives me bonkers as it completely and totally misses the entire POINT of having multiple methods. Also, some of the methods, like say lattice multiplication, have a lot more ways to mess up if you are prone to careless mistakes. And involve going in multiple directions within the same problem. For people with working memory issues it can be a nightmare. Right to left, top to bottom, always and forever is my preference, personally, because otherwise I'm going to get confused and mix things up. I hate that I would be MADE to use the lattice method anyway if I were in school now. Back in "my day" it was taught as a fun thing you COULD do, not HAD to do. 

22 hours ago, TravelingChris said:

This.  This is so anti-mathy.   I absolutely hate this with a passion.  Write about math and switch the alphabet to symbolic language are two issues that really raise my BP.

As the parent of a dyslexic student who is good at math it makes me really angry that her math scores, were she in public school, would be at least partly determined by her composition skills, not her math skills. I've seen my nieces worksheets (same school district we'd be in) and there are maybe 3-5 problems, max, and most of the page is writing out by hand, in full sentences, how do do the problem. Not only does that NOT produce mastery of math facts (and no, they don't practice math facts separately...the only rote memorization is the zillion sight words they have to learn...sigh) but it penalizes those who are good at math but bad at language arts. All grades end up being language arts grades. Science is about writing. Social studies is about writing. Even math is about writing. I get that when you hit a certain level yes, a good portion of say, a bachelors degree in history is writing. But 2nd grade math shouldn't require composition skills!!! 

20 hours ago, moonflower said:

You can teach the carrying method and also be teaching what it means conceptually.  I don't think it's rocket science.  It just involves understanding place value, which is how we were taught it in 2nd grade and how I taught it.

Right. By the time we hit carrying and borrowing we've already covered place value well, and we talk about borrowing a ten, etc. We use CLE, which is as "old fashioned" as you can get with math, and they still say to use bundles of toothpicks or whatever to demonstrate this stuff. 

19 hours ago, Arctic Mama said:

My husband and I complain to one another about this very thing!  People too talented at math can be very poor teachers because they struggle to break down what is, to them, intuitive.  

This is my husband. He's lousy at teaching certain things because he does it so instinctually that he doesn't know how to verbalize the steps he takes. I've watched him explain how to do something, and then demonstrate that thing. And seen that what he thinks he does, and what he says he does, are NOT how he does it! So he's giving entirely the wrong directions, without knowing it. (to be fair, I'm bad about this too with some stuff - ask my son what it was like when I tried to teach him to cook! "mom, how do you know when it's done?" "when it's done." 

19 hours ago, Toocrazy!! said:

I am intrigued with the whole subject of math instruction, which just can't seem to go right. My DS is very mathy and in public school, but we doubled up with after school programs and I made sure he had mastery. I do homework help with  at risk 2nd-5th graders and I am blown away by the homework problems they bring. Before Christmas, a third grader brought in a three step word problem with a multiplication problem  (8*9) as the middle part. These 3rd graders are just learning multiplication, they draw the groups out in order to solve. The 3 parts combined into one problem was so convoluted I had to read it 3 times just to understand what they were trying to ask, let alone start explaining the math to get them to the answer. I like the different approaches and I have seen kids use different ones depending on which one clicks with them, but when you make math so wordy and confusing and then throw in a difficult multiplication problem they are just now learning, it overwhelms these kids, Then they keep moving on without ever mastering the multiplication facts they need to know in future years. 

UGH!!!! There is NO concept in education these days of building a strong foundation and gradually ramping up. Same in writing instruction. They never learn how to write a proper sentence but are expected to write three paragraph essays in 3rd grade or before. And I've seen the results...it's ugly. 

13 hours ago, moonflower said:

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

This is my issue. I have no problem with the teacher showing multiple ways to do the problem - but that's because I recognize that different people will find different ways easier or more confusing. So let the kids pick whichever way works for them, whichever way they GET it. 

But instead of that, they went bonkers and now require each student to USE each way. And if they don't demonstrate (or even worse, write an short essay about each way) than they get it wrong. So they can have perfectly adequate math skills, know a reasonable and proper method to solve the problem, solve it, get the correct answer, and that's not enough. Each student needs to know three or more ways to do the problem, and be equally adept at all of them, or they are "bad at math". Drives me bonkers as it completely and totally misses the entire POINT of having multiple methods. Also, some of the methods, like say lattice multiplication, have a lot more ways to mess up if you are prone to careless mistakes. And involve going in multiple directions within the same problem. For people with working memory issues it can be a nightmare. Right to left, top to bottom, always and forever is my preference, personally, because otherwise I'm going to get confused and mix things up. I hate that I would be MADE to use the lattice method anyway if I were in school now. Back in "my day" it was taught as a fun thing you COULD do, not HAD to do. 

TOTALLY agree with this! 

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2 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

 

Is that true at the elementary level?  They have specialist math teachers, rather than the regular classroom teacher?

 

Our school does some math in the classroom. But the kids are also pulled out in groups that are at a similar level twice a week to work on improving their math skills within that narrow focus. I don't know if the pull out teacher is a specialist in math or not. But it is all they do every day. (except help in the cafeteria at lunch)

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There is no concept or method so simple that it can't be obscured with a poor explanation.

I love the box method for multiplication and wish I'd seen it before 9th grade. FOIL is ugly.

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4 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

 

As the parent of a dyslexic student who is good at math it makes me really angry that her math scores, were she in public school, would be at least partly determined by her composition skills, not her math skills. I've seen my nieces worksheets (same school district we'd be in) and there are maybe 3-5 problems, max, and most of the page is writing out by hand, in full sentences, how do do the problem. Not only does that NOT produce mastery of math facts (and no, they don't practice math facts separately...the only rote memorization is the zillion sight words they have to learn...sigh) but it penalizes those who are good at math but bad at language arts. All grades end up being language arts grades. Science is about writing.

 

Hear, hear!

 

Really the difficulty lies in testing understanding. As a mom it's easy. I can see if a child understands in a myriad of ways. How did I know my first child had a great grasp of place value? Because it took about 30 seconds to learn binary. I helped my little brother with binary because it completely confused my homeschooling step mom. My guess is she did not have as good a grasp of place value or simply was stuck in base 10 having used it so long.

 

I watch my children solve real life problems. I watch them transfer the concepts to new types of problems. I watch them solving problems in multiple ways and understanding there are multiple ways. It takes observation though and how would you do that with 25-30 kids?! 

I don't see the explanations in English a good replacement though. I teach math and it is HARD to actually put into words things that really do make sense. I love how Mammoth shows through patterns rather than just English explainations.

Examples are one way of course, proofs are another, pictures are another but most children can understand something long before they can write an English sentence explaining it. So I think most kids memorize (those who can) the right answer. The sentence or example the teacher used and parrot it.

Teaching and evaluating understanding is just so much harder than memorization.

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26 minutes ago, frogger said:

 

Hear, hear!

 

Really the difficulty lies in testing understanding. As a mom it's easy. I can see if a child understands in a myriad of ways. How did I know my first child had a great grasp of place value? Because it took about 30 seconds to learn binary. I helped my little brother with binary because it completely confused my homeschooling step mom. My guess is she did not have as good a grasp of place value or simply was stuck in base 10 having used it so long.

 

I watch my children solve real life problems. I watch them transfer the concepts to new types of problems. I watch them solving problems in multiple ways and understanding there are multiple ways. It takes observation though and how would you do that with 25-30 kids?! 

I don't see the explanations in English a good replacement though. I teach math and it is HARD to actually put into words things that really do make sense. I love how Mammoth shows through patterns rather than just English explainations.

Examples are one way of course, proofs are another, pictures are another but most children can understand something long before they can write an English sentence explaining it. So I think most kids memorize (those who can) the right answer. The sentence or example the teacher used and parrot it.

Teaching and evaluating understanding is just so much harder than memorization.

 

to the bolded: we were taught binary in 2nd grade as we were being taught place value.  I distinctly remember that feeling of understanding and awe that you get as a child with a new math concept.  I never thought about teaching binary as being integral to the understanding of place value (although, duh, of course that is why they taught it).  I did have good math teachers! lucky me.

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6 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

 

Ok, this is a little different to me than having math specialists in elementary - it's more, elementary teachers - even if they were English majors or whatever, have to be really competent at math, at least to a basic university level.  

It's a different approach than saying, get math majors to be specialists in elementary that come into the classroom for just math, just like a music or guy teacher might be a specialist.

I guess I don’t really see the difference. If someone gets a math minor (or major, a minor is just the minimum qualification) and also an elementary education degree and their primary job is to teach elementary school math, not all subjects, I’m not sure how that would be different than a math major specializing in elementary teaching who also primarily teaches math.

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Also, the writing/composition in my niece's class isn't particularly deep on "understanding" anyway. I saw two problems where she just wrote, "I put the first number on the top. Then I wrote the second number underneath. Then I subtracted the first one from the second one." 

WHY doe they have to write that out - you can SEE that they did that!!!!!!!!! Made me instantly glad my kid wasn't in school. My sister (a principal) tried to say, well....your daughter has dyslexia so she'd get an IEP and not have to do it...but what about the non dyslexic kids who just aren't great at writing yet in the 2nd grade? Are they gong to get penalized for spelling in math class? Handwriting? It's bonkers. Plus, they write so slowly at that age that they could have done 5 problems in the time they wrote that sentence out. They get plenty of practice writing yet almost no practice doing MATH in math class. Seriously, fewer than 6 problems to do, most of the page was her handwritten descriptions, not math. 

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18 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

Also, the writing/composition in my niece's class isn't particularly deep on "understanding" anyway. I saw two problems where she just wrote, "I put the first number on the top. Then I wrote the second number underneath. Then I subtracted the first one from the second one." 

WHY doe they have to write that out - you can SEE that they did that!!!!!!!!! Made me instantly glad my kid wasn't in school. My sister (a principal) tried to say, well....your daughter has dyslexia so she'd get an IEP and not have to do it...but what about the non dyslexic kids who just aren't great at writing yet in the 2nd grade? Are they gong to get penalized for spelling in math class? Handwriting? It's bonkers. Plus, they write so slowly at that age that they could have done 5 problems in the time they wrote that sentence out. They get plenty of practice writing yet almost no practice doing MATH in math class. Seriously, fewer than 6 problems to do, most of the page was her handwritten descriptions, not math. 

 

Or they have to draw 20 little bananas minus 14 little bananas equals 6 little bananas.

That's 40 bananas!  For a kid like DS for whom handwriting was laborious, it was insane.  He knows 20-14=6, he knows why it equals 6, he does not need to draw 40 bananas to prove he understands the concept of subtraction (5 times on a worksheet, or whatever).

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I don't ever want to go back to my kids' 2nd grade year, LOL.  They somehow felt they needed to do both Singapore math AND some Common Core worksheets that required the kids to draw a million little pictures and write words to, for example, "show 3 ways to find 3 x 5."  Meanwhile there was no time to practice the challenging skills or the math facts.

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50 minutes ago, Frances said:

I guess I don’t really see the difference. If someone gets a math minor (or major, a minor is just the minimum qualification) and also an elementary education degree and their primary job is to teach elementary school math, not all subjects, I’m not sure how that would be different than a math major specializing in elementary teaching who also primarily teaches math.

 

It makes a difference to the people setting up the school, and to how the school is run, and I suppose to the teachers.

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