How to Step Things Up in Math Teaching

I found this EdReach article through The Republic of Math‘s site and was so relieved. I’ve been hearing so much about the Khan Academy. Everytime I look at it, I can’t help but think, “Same stuff, different medium.”

Math teaching is about connecting math with people in a way that works for them. If the Khan Academy helps a kid get it, then great. But if that’s the case, then it’s likely that they’ll get it regardless of the medium.

It’s time to step it up.

I’ve been hearing about experience selling for a while. You don’t sell a product, you sell an experience. I’m not typing on a Mac right now because it’s a better computer than a PC. I’m typing on a Mac right now because if I have a problem, the cute purple-haired kid at the Apple store 3.2 miles from here will help me fix it.

The same holds with math. We need the experience. Kids need the experience. It no longer works to sell “you’ll need this in life.” You have to sell the emotion behind it. The “what’s in it for me?”

And that’s easy – if we just step it up a bit.

This ain’t your daddy’s math class.

Nope – not anymore. Once kids are old enough to get it, they need to be allowed to get it. Until then, we can sell them the algorithms and the memorization. But once they hit that threshold (which is different for every kid), they have to be allowed to do it their way.

Which means no more rules. Math teaching is now about facilitation of learning. No more, “You must do it this way.” We’re losing them with forcing them to rationalize the denominator, simplify the fractions and write polynomials in descending order “because they’re supposed to.”

They should rationalize the denominator because it compares better when put next to another number. They should simplify fractions because it’s easier to wrap your brain around 1/4 instead of 13/52 (unless you play ). And polynomials add easier when you write them in some designated order.

They have to know why.

Just like grown-ups.

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3 Responses to How to Step Things Up in Math Teaching

    • Great to hear, Earl! I’ve heard of plenty of classes where students weren’t given the benefit of exploration, discovery or explanation.

      Makes me sad.

      Thanks for the comment!

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