Odn any given week parents will come in seeking my advice about their struggling child. Invariably they bring in work samples from the child’s school work.
As they tell the stories and show me what’s being asked of their child, I can literally feel my “CM” (Cranky Meter) rising and I think to myself, “It’s a good thing I meditate.”
One of the things that makes me particularly cranky is the way mathematics is taught.
Having never been a particularly good mathematics student myself, I think I would be in a state of total panic the way children are asked to manage math.
Not sure when the reverence for word problems emerged, but it seems that children are almost exclusively taught math through math word problems. I believe it’s linked to the theory promulgated about 20 or so years ago that math should always be enhancing “higher order thinking,” which is embodied in the word problems.
Let’s look at, Chris age 7, a second grader who is a given a worksheet with 10 problems like:
“Winnie counts the oranges she picks. Winnie counted between 400 and 500 oranges. The number of of oranges is an odd number. The number of oranges is the sum of two of the numbers below. (Show your work.”)
137 258 114 164 281
After Chris muddled through the ten problems with no idea what he was doing, at the top of the page was a grade of “56% – F”.
Keeping in mind the fact that Christ doesn’t know what a percent is or what the % sign means or even what an “F” represents, there’s also another point to consider just using this problem as an example.
Within this particular problem above, Chris also had no idea what an “odd number” was or the meaning of the word “sum.”
These words meant nothing to him.
Beside the math word problems, Chris has very limited reading skills. So, giving him one math word problem after another is doing nothing for his “higher-order thinking or his basic math skills.
My “CM” is ringing off the hook.
I need to meditate more.
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