Sunday, March 13, 2011

Arithmetic versus Mathematics

Math is commonly taught sequentially, which seems logical for such a logic-based subject.
Students begin with numbers, move to addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and so on, with much repetition in order to drum in the facts.
At the end of all the years of worksheets, quizzes, tests, and regurgitation, what remains? Too many children turned off of one of the most important aspects of our lives: math.
How many future astronomers, doctors, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, and architects have we lost because math basics were turned into one of the most boring, humdrum, tedious subjects?
Many children cannot learn math in the traditional way. They balk at learning the multiplication tables, yet can clearly and excitedly explain factorials and irrational numbers. What do we do with these children? Kill their love of numbers through endless drills, or let their numerical minds soar, knowing that the basics will come as needed?

A terrific blog post by Mark C. Chu-Carroll, "What is math?: Good math, bad math," addresses this question. He discusses the beauty of math, the pervasiveness of mathematical structure, and the necessity of understanding math.

As homeschoolers, we can break the cycle of "drill-and-kill." We can adapt our math lessons to fit the student. Worksheets may work for some concepts, hands-on activities for others. Showing real-life applications will make the math concepts more accessible. Math story books, such as The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure, the Math Adventure Series, math poetry books, et cetera) introduce math concepts in an engaging, non-threatening format. Math games (Equate: The Equation Thinking Game, Pizza Fraction Fun Game, and many more) make learning math an interactive experience, instead of a solo endeavor. Computer games (Zoombinis, Reader Rabbit, and more) teaching math concepts in a progressive and entertaining fashion.

Take a moment to read Mark Chu-Carroll's post, and then take a look at how you are approaching math with your children. Remember, the first rule of teaching must be "Do no harm."

Article by Sarah J. Wilson

1 comment:

  1. They dealt with this issue on Horizon: Alan and Marcus go forth and multiply - great documentary!