Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For Some, Understanding Math May Always Be Distant Target!

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For some teachers, even some "good" teachers, understanding mathematics will always be a distant target within a warren of incomprehensible facts and rules. You've heard teachers make statements like: "I never liked Math!" "I just don't understand why this math skill has to be in the curriculum!" "Is this too advanced?".

In trying to understand those who teach mathematics, valid research is available that seeks to interpret elementary school teachers' math teaching success, especially as it relates to their attitudes and capabilities. Take your pick of any of this research on Teacher's Attitudes Towards Mathematics. The idea that many of our peers have a fear of math and lack the basic understanding of what they are trying to teach should not be a surprise.

Therefore, it is easy to understand that teachers who do like and understand mathematics and its place in the school curriculum make up the minority of teachers. Most likely, there will be a gulf between their ideas about teaching math and those of the teachers who are weak in math. Those who "get it" tend to be more organized in their approach to teaching the children, while those who don't get it tend to look for a fluffy way to teach something that is NOT ephemeral. Math has organization, boundaries, rules....

In the elementary school, teachers must understand that all this logic of math is based on the Real Number System. Although it's NOT ROCKET SCIENCE, it's NOT FLUFFY either.

In mathematics, we look for ways to talk about how to solve a problem, but we also MUST support a system of understanding for students. That's where the organization comes into play. The more the teacher understands and feels comfortable with the ideas and facts of math, the easier it is for students to do the same. Then this teacher will help the students, in a concrete way, develop a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. This teacher will use any and all available data provided through testing in the class or the school to bring success in math to all students.


Glyphrunner said...

One of the difficulties I have with elementary education is the expectation for a single teacher to be knowledgeable and capable of teaching all subjects. By spreading so thin, you generally do not manage a high level of education in all areas, rather you teach to your strengths, which mathematics is often not the case in elementary schools. Having a daughter in elementary school right now only accentuates this concept. Her teacher is much more interested in biology and zoology, and she very rarely makes great effort in mathematics, arts, or language skills. She focuses quite heavily on insects and plants.

I've always wondered why elementary programs don't do a modified version of the high school concept of "master teachers." At designated times of the day, rotate teachers (not the kids, that'd get far too unruly at this age) into various rooms to cover strengths. Identify the strong math, arts, biology, language, etc. teachers and have them rotate around to the different classes per grade level so the students have the opportunity to learn multiple subjects from knowledgeable and often passionate teachers.

LSBF consultant said...

You have some interesting thoughts! Perhaps we should contemplate about
attempting this myself.

Anonymous said...

I really agree with the facts that you have shared on this post. An interesting topic like this really enhances reader's mind to have more effective decisions over a certain issue.

UK Education Consultants

samccoy said...

Thanks for your insightful comments. Rotating teachers, not students would be an effective approach to try.

While math is as important as reading, it sometimes appears that we don't seem to be able to put the same emphasis on instructional analysis.

In an effective school environment, the teachers and administration would evaluate their available data on mathematics achievement to guide future instruction. In our area, there is an analytical process for differentiation called MTSS (multi-tiered Support System) that is used for this very purpose.

CRM solutions said...

Her teacher is much more interested in biology and zoology, and she very rarely makes great effort in mathematics, arts, or language skills. She focuses quite heavily on insects and plants.
Thanks for post...

Boundless Technologies said...

It's always nice when you can not only be informed, but also get knowledge, from these type of blog, nice entry. Thanks

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