What’s Wrong with Math Instruction?

math-1547018_960_720The United States Department of Education awarded $2.75 million grant to Canadian researchers to study implementation and effectiveness of JUMP Math (Canadian remedial math program that focuses on math fundamentals). The study took place in rural Ontario (rural Canada). The researchers found that math achievement improved and every child can learn math. Money well spent!

Of course every child can learn math. You can ask any teachers in the U.S. and they would have told you the same, saving you time and money. Plus, how does this study translates to the U.S. schools? Our curriculum is very different from Canadian. Our demographic is much different from rural Canada. The math concepts we cover do not parallel each other. The U.S. curriculum and benchmarks are substantially more advanced than Canadian. Thankfully, the obvious questions was answered. A huge number of the U.S. schools lack sufficient textbooks yet we fund studies that are completely irrelevant to every day classroom.

The question is not if our kids can learn math. The question is how we go about teaching math. We have also learned years ago that the discovery method of math instruction is not effective. Again, nothing new here. We need to stop answering the same question, and start asking questions that actually make a difference.

Why do kids have such hard time with high school math? Why do we have so many high school drop outs? In Canada, math is optional in the last two years of high school, otherwise students would not graduate high school. Instead of lowering graduating standards, we need to look at what makes the difference in math instruction. While programs like JUMP Math that focus on math fundamentals do make a difference, they don’t come close to answering the important question of building a math foundation that will carry students through middle, high school and university, successfully.

So, what works? Singapore math curriculum woks. Why? As successful European math instruction, Singapore math is visual, developmentally appropriate, it builds step by step, and even more importantly, it implements the elements of geometry throughout its K-12 curriculum. NY Eureka Math incorporates Singapore math and is completely free for individual use online. The reason most students find math difficult in high school isn’t the arithmetic (number sense), it is geometry. As someone who taught both elementary and high school math, I find that students truly struggle with geometry, and the problem is two fold. We don’t focus on geometry enough, and by the time students reach high school the gaps in knowledge of geometry are so large that most students simply don’t have the time to catch up. Asian and European students don’t struggle with math as their North American counterparts and it is all the result of learning gains accumulation.

Our shortsighted educational goals that only see the end of the year test score, undermine the best interest of students, schools, and our society.

Lets get serious.
Mrs. Lena, M.Ed.




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