The Way I Learned Math

Math LectureWhat’s wrong with the way I learned math?” Seriously, we all made it through school, a few of us even did well, and some even liked math. So, what’s wrong with the way math has been taught for years? The Common Core Standards have focused national attention again on math education. But the truth is the way I learned, you learned, we all learned math should be questioned. What’s wrong with the way I learned high school math was addressed recently by Matt Larson, President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

“For far too long high school mathematics has not worked for far too many students: too many students leave high school unprepared for college or a career, particularly a STEM career; too many students do not see how math is useful in their lives; too many students leave high school without an affinity for doing math; too many students leave high school without the quantitative skills necessary to make sound decisions in their personal life and in our society which is increasingly quantitative in nature….” (NCTM Newsletter, October 2016).

This does not begin or end with high school mathematics, rather this is true for mathematics education in general.

After years of “math wars” and swings from a focus on basic skills or “traditional” mathematics to a focus on process, or “reform” mathematics, the reality is that whether we are talking about the way you learned math or the way I learned math or the way our children are learning math, there has been no substantial change in how math is taught and no substantial difference in how students perform.

What’s wrong with the way I learned math?

When two-thirds of students in math classes are not successful (according to class grades);
When the United States sits at 35th among 64 countries;
When, as a nation, we have a math phobia…

there is something wrong with “the way I learned math”.

Now, imagine a teacher who actually knows what their students should learn – the “math for students,” and a teacher who is able to recognize their students’ math thinking – the “math of students.” Imagine a teacher who understands the progression a student moves through in their journey towards a deep understanding of mathematics, and how to effectively and efficiently guide their students through this progression. Imagine mathematics becoming a living subject within each child, not a subject being imposed upon the child. A change in mathematics education is needed if we are serious about improving the education of children. Dr. Leslie Steffe from the University of Georgia states, “Affirmation of the equity principle (PSSM; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 1998) that mathematics instructional programs should promote the learning of mathematics by all students is not only necessary but also critical in the mathematics education of children.” (Steffe 2000, p. 221). Using the research of Les Steffe, the AIMS Center is ready to start the revolution that will provide the support for teachers to begin to improve mathematics education for our children and for their futures. Join me again and find out more on this revolution!

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