Back Seat Mathematics

I enjoy every opportunity that I have to spend quality time with my kids. Sometimes it is just for a few minutes in the car going from place to place. My oldest daughter is in 2nd grade. She’s an awesome little girl – loves puppies, playing with her friends, and even going to school.

On the way home from one of her activities I struck up a conversation as any dad might do.  It went something like this:

“How was school today?”

“Good” (typical 2nd grader response)
puppies for sale

Just as I was about to ask my follow up question we passed a sign that said “Puppy Sale”. She perked right up and half-jokingly asked if we could get one. (I used mom as the excuse – “she wouldn’t be happy if we brought home another dog.”)

Then I asked – “Sometimes stores have sales that are buy one get one for free. Other times they simply say ‘half-off’.”

“If we were going to buy two puppies, would it be better if the sale was buy one get one free or all puppies half off?”

She said “they would be the same” and then proceeded to explain her reasoning. (At this point I thought about how thankful I was for her teachers.)
Then I asked the next question, just to challenge her a bit.

“Same deal, BOGO…if each puppy costs $10 how much would it cost us to get three puppies?”

Her answer was eye-opening – “I would need to know the rules, like do you get half off of two puppies or only one.” (Once again, thank you to her teachers.)

My dad asked me math questions when I was young. The key difference was in the questions – he asked math facts and I was asking math reasoning and thinking questions.
Therein is the significance of the Common Core Standards and the changes in the world that our students and children need to be ready for.

Math facts have their place, please don’t misunderstand me. I am thankful that my dad practiced those facts with me. I found myself perfectly prepared for a world that required those facts at the ready. That world however didn’t have cell phones with calculators, didn’t have Wolfram Alpha, and certainly didn’t have the expectations of College and Career Readiness for ALL.

Now, in 2013, we need to ensure that students have a strong understanding of Math Reasoning, Critical Thinking, Logic, and Analysis – hence the CCSS Math Practice Standards.

What do you think?

  • In our schools, is the focus on the teaching and learning of critical thinking and problem solving or simply facts and recitation?
  • What do we assess and how do we do it?
  • How can you make a difference in moving education from memorization of facts to the developing of learners?

One Final Thought:
In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” –Eric Hoffer

I am once again thankful for the shift that my daughter’s teacher has made in her philosophy on math instruction – I am hopeful that she will experience future classrooms that have a similar philosophy.

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