Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's the point of math anyway?

'To get the right answer, of course!"

Well, not really but our students seem to think so. Unfortunately, our students have lot of misconceptions about Math. Here are a few:

- just add/subtract/multiply/divide and you'll get the right answer.

- the problem is too hard if you can't get the answer right away.

- some people are just good at Math.

Algorithms feed into these misconceptions. Just follow these steps and you'll always get the answer. Yeah right! Is it really that easy? Try to follow along in the video:

"We learned this stuff so why can't they?"
"I've told them the steps so many times so why can't they remember it?"

Students struggle because they're taught to memorize these 'rules' without developing any conceptually understanding of why they're 'borrowing' or 'changing' etc.

One of the goals of Mathematics is to develop flexible thinkers. Teachers also need to be flexible thinkers. Are you a flexible thinker when it comes to the operations? Try the question in the video:

342 - 173 = ?

How many of you did the traditional algorithm? That's one way. Try another strategy.

Here's an example:

7+20+100+42= 169

Too long? Too confusing? How about this:

200-173= 27

Still confusing? How about this:


These are just a few examples. Your students will come up with the rest.

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