Knowing that school is starting up, I know I will have parental concerns that I need to address. I need to know what is the current thinking out there and what is the research behind what I do. I think this bit of proactive reading helps me establish myself (gulp, do I really want this role) as the expert on how children in my classroom will be taught math.
Now before everyone gasps, I am an expert. But it's just the title that's hard. Teachers in general struggle with saying things like this outloud, although they believe them. And more importantly, if everyone in the room doesn't agree with with this typically unstated belief, they get mad. So I've read this paper.
We tried to bring clarity to key perspectives on K-12 mathematics education.
I liked the part where it discusses the 3 underlying assumptions... All students should know basic skills (can't argue with that), math requires critical/logical thinking (I'm nodding my head on that one too) and that students need to be able to use their math to solve problems. Preferrably ones that the might actually encounter in their "real", outside of school lives!!!
Then this report goes on to say that areas of agreement between math camps include knowing your math facts, not using calculators so much that you can't do it in your head/pencil/paper, learning important algorithms' ins and outs, understanding how fractions can represent several ways of knowing different kinds of information and that teacher understanding (don't you love that phrase?) is vital to being an effective teacher. My favorite agreement point is that...too much of any single method is too much. So if all you do is plug/chug, then that's all they'll probably be able to do. If all you do is discovery math, they probably won't be so good at calculations. A little balance if you please all math teachers out there.
Well I'm glad I'm reading all this cutting edge reports. I know it will help me on Back to School Night when I get zinged with all the skeptical questions that most parents fire at you.
Fire away I say, now I know all the important stuff.