Magnificent Math

I’ve been finding so many wonderful articles/posts about Math and felt a need to make a post on math – my favorite subject growing up and still is to this day!  After undergrad, I went back for my Masters in Middle School Mathematics (Montclair State University, great program).  I learned and ENJOYED learning so much from my professors.  They made me realize that the “drill and kill” days need to come to an end.  This was 3 years ago, and the push towards more understanding in mathematics is pressing.

We can no longer have children divide fractions by saying “keep the first, change to multiplication and flip the second”. (Yours is not to question why, just flip and multiply… a colleague told me that one!)  They need to UNDERSTAND why you are doing that!  That you are using the inverse and seeing how many of those fit into 1… the whole shebang!

In New Jersey, we are moving towards the PARCC testing, and with the new Common Core standards, we see that students do need to know the why AND the how.  But, honestly, why wouldn’t we want them to know both?  I know SO much more about math now than I did growing up, granted that comes with age, but things were explained to me in my Masters program, as never before.  We used Algebra Tiles, I found patterns in triangular numbers, I made string art to see that enough straight lines can make a curve! (See my project below — yes, I made it with string, and nailed the nails into the wood – took a while, but SO worth it).

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One professor told me that if you want to teach middle school math, you need to know high school math; if you want to teach high school math, you need to know college math… any way she put it, she is saying that you, as the teacher, need to know where you’re kids are going!  How can you prepare them for something you, yourself don’t know?

I suppose what it comes down to is that I LOVE math and I want to instill that into my students.  I don’t want them to be afraid of graphs or fractions (I always ask them, are the fractions going to bite you?!), I want them to feel comfortable in any topic we are discovering (not covering).  And above all, I want them to persevere through problems, trying multiple strategies to arrive at an answer, even if it’s wrong!  Problem solving strategies aren’t just for math — they’re for LIFE!

Here are some more pictures of a project I had to do for that program – make posters showing relationships between US Customary System and Metric.  Some parts have been worn, but I’m fixing them this summer to use in my class!

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8 thoughts on “Magnificent Math

  1. You rock, Elyse! Loved reading your insights about the importance of students understanding math rather than just “doing” math. Keep it up!

  2. Love the blog and love the posters! I’m teaching my class TinkerCad, this year, and the opportunities to utilize 5th grade math skills are amazing. Especially volume, geometry, measurement–wow, just wow. We are switching over to the Smarter Balanced tests (similar to PAARC). I wholly support the Common Core standards and the switch led me to research the international tests we see in the news. When Finland was named #1, an article came out explaining the international tests. There are two tests given around the world–one is more computational, the other similar to PAARC and Smarter Balanced (problem solving oriented). Finland excelled in problem solving but univ profs found they struggled with computation on the matriculation exams. Reminded me of whole language vs phonics…I want to be careful not to swing too far into the problem solving realm and leave computation behind.

    • Thanks, Liz! That is really interesting information relating to Finland – computation is so important – where I am we do a LOT of it. That’s why I need to put more focus on problem solving. Your students are lucky to have you!
      So glad to have connected with you on Twitter – learning so much from your tweets & posts!

    • Thanks, Ellen! Going to try to keep up with it – posting about things I really want to write about… must be the Writing teacher in me showing! Hah (Don’t tell Kim!)

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