The Prime Directive in Education

The Prime Directive in Star Trek is to not interfere with other cultures.

The Prime Directive in medicine is do no harm.

The Prime Directive in parenting is to keep the child alive.

There’s a Prime Directive in Education too!

Through all my suggestions, recommendations and ideas about math education, the one thing that trumps everything else is the Prime Directive in education:

If it works for your child, do it.

If a method, book, course or person helps your child do better in math, then stick with it!

Everyone has an idea of what great teaching looks like.

Proponents of Khan Academy like that lectures can be available to everyone, everywhere for free. Opponents say that Khan Academy is still just lectures.

Proponents of education methods popularized by Dan Meyer say that children need to connect with the math. They need to see it in action.

Opponents (and there aren’t many) say that sometimes kids just want to do the steps.

It’s not about great teaching, though – it’s about great learning.

Only your child knows what great learning looks like.

Children know how they learn best. They can’t always articulate it, thought, so they need us to watch them and figure it out for them.

If your child needs more of a top-down understanding of what’s going on in math, then the teacher (you or the classroom teacher) should work to give him that.

If he needs a to thoroughly practice the basics in math before moving on to something more – then that’s what he should have.

Even alternative learning methods can be used.

A friend of mine told me her child needs to practice his cursive writing. Because he thinks cussing and swearing is fun, she’s entertaining the idea of having him write sentences using a swear word. She worried that it might make her a bad parent.

Enter the Prime Directive in Education. If he improves with his cursive writing, and she explains that swearing is still not appropriate out loud, why shouldn’t he write the bad words?

If it works for your child, do it!

Some kids need rote memorization before understanding. Some need understanding first. And some need bizarre means to connect with the task at hand.

So if you find something that works – by golly, do it!

What does your child need? How can you make sure he or she gets it?

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