Math instruction is currently a huge concern for the education world. With the US trailing other developed countries in math achievement scores, there’s increased scrutiny on math education and math teachers. Here’s seven things we know that don’t hold true in the world of math education.
Students Learn Math Best Individually
Math has traditionally been approached in an isolated manner for the student. Teachers would lecture, students would take notes and then students would do their practice work individually. While students might ask each other to confirm their answers, there was very little collaboration in thinking. We now know that small group instruction works just as well in math classes as in humanities classes. When students are allowed to work in structured small groups, the collaboration and discussion helps support student learning. Students struggling to grasp the concepts can be supported by students who are understanding well, eliminating the problem of the teacher not having enough time to reach everyone struggling with the material
Complicated Concepts Aren’t Appropriate for Young Students
Math teachers have long had specific ages when they introduced certain subjects. Basic Geometry would come around 4th grade, Multiplication tables in 3rd grade and Algebra in 9th grade was the standard for a long time, born out of the belief that students were not ready for these concepts before these specific ages. Of course, by not introducing these concepts earlier in age-appropriate ways, math teachers were missing an important opportunity to build skills sequentially and to provide a solid foundation of basic skills before introducing complex ideas.
Math Textbooks are the Best Resource for Math Teachers
Most adults remember simply following the sequence of their math textbook in math classes. At the beginning of the year, the class started at chapter one and continued until the textbook was finished. There’s been an attitude in education that any teacher with a college education and a math textbook was teaching math the best way possible. Instead, it’s been shown that teachers who plan their own units, often in planning groups that are subject-specific, plan better and more engaging lessons. It opens up opportunities for teachers to bring in resources like internet games, videos, and articles. Websites like Gynzy offer resources for interactive whiteboards that can expand a math teacher’s repertoire.
All Students need Constant Repeated Practice to Learn Math Concepts
Don’t misunderstand — We’re not saying that students should never have math practice, or that teachers should abolish math homework. Instead, we’re suggesting that not all students will need the same amount of practice to learn the concepts. Some students will grasp concepts quick and easily, while others will need continued practice and support to grasp the same concepts. Allowing for different rates of student learning by continually assessing student progress and allowing different rates of progress creates a learning environment where students feel supported and understood by their math teacher.
Pencil and Paper is the Only Way to Do Math Work
Math homework that looks the same every night teaches students that math is a strictly academic activity, limited to their thirty homework problems each night. There are many different activities that require the use of embedded mathematics skill. Having students use computers to make graphs or charts, do surveys of family members, or calculate discounts at their local grocery store has students using their math skills in a real-world context.
Some Students just aren’t Mathematically Talented
Popular opinion thought for a long time that some students just weren’t mathematically-minded, and that it was okay for them to achieve a basic level of math functioning and then go no further. As a result, we have lower mathematics achievement countries than many other developed nations. All students should be expected to achieve high mathematics skills levels, even if it requires teachers to become more flexible in their teaching.
Anyone Can Teach Math in the Schools
Highly educated individuals with strong mathematics skills have many high-paying career opportunities available to them. For this reason, as well as others, there is a lack of highly educated and skilled mathematicians entering K-12 education. While anyone with a college degree and a math textbook can provide math instruction, it will by no means be as well-designed and comprehensive an education as that designed by a mathematics expert.