Nothing to see here, Dept.

Right; not much to see here:

How do teachers prepare students for a world they do not know?

Well, for starters, learning foundational facts and procedures so that they are second nature. But that’s been deemed old school and blamed for failing “thousands of students”.

Graham Fletcher, former classroom teacher and math specialist, led of series of workshops for educators at Greenwich Country Day School on Monday and Tuesday aimed at rebuilding math education for that future.  “Math is so much more than just answer-getting,” said Fletcher. “When a student has self-intrinsic motivation to do something, they’re going to go far and above what you want them to do.”

“Certainly, the way we were learning when we were in school was very procedurally-focused, very answer-driven,” she said. “It wasn’t really supported by a lot of conceptual understanding, so the shift in mathematics education now is to develop student mathematicians who understand why algorithms work, why they are executing a particular formula in the way that they are.”

Of course; teachers never taught understanding, everything was done by rote, and the only students who succeeded, were gifted who would have learned under any method. Heard it before.  And how has the “understanding before procedure” regimet been working out for the last 30 years?  Freshmen at high school using calculators for the simplest of computations, and having difficulty with fractions, decimals and percents. But if you repeat something long enough, it gets taken as gospel, as evidenced by the plethora of news stories like this and conversations one hears at edu-conferences and PD sessions.



3 thoughts on “Nothing to see here, Dept.

  1. It’s ironic how they all have the same rote explanations. When they do talk to us STEM parents, they think we just want what we had when we were growing up or that our kids are somehow different than others. When my son’s Kindergarten teacher found out that I used worksheets, I thought she would turn me in to DCYF.


  2. Funny how myths persist among educators. Like the idea that practice isn’t important but students will retain information better if they “understand it”. Now that probably has a lot of truth in it — isn’t every good myth based upon a partial truth? But the way it is understood by many is that you can just ditch the idea of practice and spend all one’s classroom time on “building understanding”. Problem is the approaches this idea generally fosters don’t, in my view, provide any kind of actual understanding as the students have too little direct hands-on exposure to the think they are supposedly understanding “deeply” to even understand properly “shallowly”. And in some cases I think educators get enamoured by something that looks to them like understanding but isn’t, really, or isn’t any kind of lasting or properly connected understanding. That cannot help retention. Matt O’s latest question about how to instruct parents to help avoid the “summer slide” likely has behind it a growing realisation that students under this approach are having real trouble retaining what they’ve learned after a 2 month break. While this bad idea is clearly not the only cause of the summer slide, and that’s always been with us, it is surely a big factor.


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