Banished From the Math Classroom

Some of the things that have been long accepted in the mathematics classroom, need to GO!  They do nothing to help a student understand mathematics from a conceptual viewpoint.  In this series, I will be talking about some of my pet peeves and things I would have outlawed if I was the “Queen of the Elementary/Middle School Math Universe”.  (This is an imaginary title.  Only a twisted math teacher would come up with or desire said title!)

In my opinion, the word “times” should no longer be used when teaching multiplication.  It is eloquent when used in this opening sentence, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”.  It works well as the title for one of the world’s largest daily publications, “The New York Times”.  It even has a place in the math classroom when we are teaching about its passage or how to read a clock.  However, the word, “times” when it relates to multiplication,  does not reflect any specific action and needs to be replaced with the phrase “groups of“.   Students, especially those in the primary grades,  are perfectly capable of multiplying, but are usually direct modelers.  It helps them learn if they have an action to model.  If we tell them they are putting candy into five groups of four, they can tell you that there would be 20 pieces of candy.  If we tell them to take five times four, they have no idea what we are asking them to do.

The same can be said for division.  If we ask students to take the 20 pieces of candy and break them into groups of four to share with their friends and we want to know how many children will receive candy, young children can model that action.  However, if we merely ask them to do the problem 20 divided by four, we may or may not get the correct result.

Just “Sum”thing to think about!

Hi, I am Renee' Smith and I began teaching math in, of all places, a maximum security prison. “I was 21 years old and 99 lbs. soaking wet. Some of my students were convicted murderers and as scary as it sounds, it was incredibly sad. Many of those men had failed in the school system and then turned to crime.” That early experience with public school dropouts, cemented my resolve to help future students understand and succeed in the area of mathematics. To that end I dedicated 16 years to the classroom, teaching 5th grade math through algebra. After obtaining my Masters in Education from Baker University, I joined the ESSDACK team in 2007. I have presented at the local, state, and national levels but my most worthwhile experience at ESSDACK has been working to take the fear out of math for teachers and students alike. Although my primary focus has been providing professional development in mathematics, I also devote time to podcasting and creating materials for teachers to use in their classrooms. My podcasts include, By the Numbers, Just Desserts and Math Snacks. Working at ESSDACK has provided me the opportunity to do many of the things I love. “I have the time to research current educational practices, I get to be creative, collaborative, and I meet tons of new people."

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