Although the ingredients of age-appropriate informal math education are becoming clearer, little is yet known about what constitutes age-appropriate formal math education. As the National Mathematics Advisory Panel noted, in their 2008 report, no scientific data yet support one curriculum over another. Moreover, there has been little scientific evaluation of mathematical pedagogy.
|Lids for bent wood boxes|
Since schooling is in part a sorting operation in which some students are pushed into the sciences, some into academia, and some into trades, from a societal standpoint, it may not have made much difference before whether all students were brought to a proficiency in math. But why should some students be left behind if there is some means through which all might be brought to a higher level of interest and confidence?
We have adopted a new curriculum at Clear Spring School that helps us to make certain that no child is bored and that no child is left behind. To top it all off, it's hands-on. (Which should come as no surprise, for that is truly how we learn best.) The results of using Math-u-see have been good on two levels. First students are enjoying math, and secondly, their progress and confidence are showing up in other classes, for instance, science and wood shop.
A third point that should be considered it that if students have been taught in various methods, it is difficult to determine whether math difficulties are the result of poor teaching, or of some other kind of actual disability, that would be easier to diagnose and treat if teaching methodology as the cause could be ruled out.
In my primary school wood shop class on Tuesday, we were using a tape measure and pencil to mark wood to length. In the past I had trouble getting first and second graders to recognize fractions on the tape measure. On Tuesday they immediately understood the position 5 1/2 in. on the tape. I was surprised and asked our lead math teacher why. I learned that they had been studying odd and even numbers and had learned that you could divide even numbers into two equal groups, but that in dividing odd numbers one would be left over and needed to be cut in half.
So without understanding fractions yet, they understood the half inch mark on the tape.
By having a consistent approach, at least within our school, as students progress from one math level to the next, independent of grade level we allow students to move freely at their own pace and in conformity to their level of development. This can be accomplished by having all students do math at the same time, taught by every available member of staff. Would that work in a public school setting as well?
As a woodworker, I ask, how many wood working errors are math errors that could be avoided if we each had greater confidence in math? In the wood shop, I've begun putting lids and hinges on bent wood boxes.
Make, fix and create...