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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some parents left behind

My daughter collapses under the pressure of her math homework, in tears and aggravated. I try not to help, as it is her homework and I want her to become independent. I also try not to help because I don't understand what the hell she is doing.

Before I gather a mob and light the torches, please know that I embrace progress and like innovation. Most of the time. I'm certain teaching her multiplication and division by sketching a trillion dots on paper stretches her brain. She will master what I call bar math, able to calculate cocktail tabs quickly to the sounds of grungy rock. Her ability to do long division in her head will help her someday. But when did it become bad form to learn what Lexi refers to 'old-fashion' math?

(Because as she put it: "Sometimes old-fashioned times were better. Like they didn't have drunk drivers." What?)

'Scuse me while I yank up my support hose.

Doing two and three digit math problems, without a firm grip on the times tables, strikes me odd. She doesn't know how to 'carry'; she doesn't know what dropping a number means. She speaks another math language.

This summer, I plan on opening the Milton Math Academy. I, Mrs. Milton, will teach my kids some fundamental math skills because I can't imagine being without a calculator and unable to solve a problem without making figures on my handy-dandy cave wall.

But it irks me; it really does. In the race to meet test requirements, we seem to have thrown that dirty ol' fashioned baby out with the bath water. Or maybe I blew my last braincells out my nose this afternoon and am overreacting.

It could go either way.


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8 comments:

serial commenter said...

I just show Mason and Paige the 'old school' method then relate it to what they are being taught. 7 divided by 2 is 3.5, not "more than 3 and almost 4"! I don't need a hundred pictures. Sometimes a simple answer does not need explanation, it just IS. Like when my parents would reply "because I said so". It just is, and that is that. Good luck with the reprogramming ;)

-Stu

PS: thanks for my spellcheckable comment window (sheepish grin)

Lisa Milton said...

And the serial commenter is an engineer, ladies and gentleman. They know number-y type things.

Thank you SC. I feel better now.

-Stu said...

Math can't be all touchy-feely, just like art can't be by the numbers. Yes, it is the engineer in me. Although I still can't stand calculus; who cares what the area of a doughnut is in the 4th dimension?

Irene said...

I don't get it either. When Chris had to learn this way of doing math in order to teach it, I couldn't understand it either. He swears that it IS the better way to do it and if he would have learned it earlier, he wouldn't have had so much trouble later in life. Hmmmm, still don't get it, but it sounds like I will have to buckle down and get it soon since I will have to help my kids as well. Man, I hate school!

Lisa Milton said...

Stu - you captured my thoughts completely, until you said something about a 4th dimension and a donut. Then I was lost. (I am a language arts kinda girl.)

Irene - I think you will be ok for a couple of years. I liked some of the precepts early on, until recently. Even though I understand what they are doing, for the most part, I just think it is DUMB.

I have a bad attitude.

sognatrice said...

I shudder to think about how they teach math in Italy; since so little of their "normal" activities here make sense to me, I have a feeling I'm going to be in for some re-programming myself ;)

SusieJ said...

I hear you. Our math in our school is pretty good -- they do "Everday Math", which I like. However, the testing, and the time it takes away from learning to prepare, and actually take the test breaks my heart. I think there is a test now in every grade -- even first graders have one. And the anxiety it creates in the students!! Is it worth it? Aren't the "grades" in the class enough of a barometer that they're learning?

This Eclectic Life said...

I don't have small kids, so I don't know what they are learning these days. But, I know my teenager can't balance a checkbook and has trouble calculating a tip. And, he makes As in math? Go figure, so to speak.