Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What are we doing wrong in math?

Math instruction has been on my mind a lot in recent years. My school has done so much to learn about how to most effectively teach language arts that I have a lot of confidence in that area. However, I feel as though we have a lot to learn about math. I've come to the conclusion that my school is typical in this matter. As a society we do not have the most positive attitude towards math. It would be highly embarrassing as an adult to say that you can't read, but it is perfectly acceptable to say that you don't do math. Why is that? What message does this send to kids?

Because I feel so good about my instruction in writing and reading I keep looking for ways to make math more like those workshops. So far, I've had minimal success at best. I have come to one significant (I think) conclusion; in language arts we are teaching our students skills but in math we are teaching content. In language arts we teach students how to make connections as they read, how to organize a piece of writing, or how to write strong leads; skills they could use in any text they read or write. In math we teach students how to multiply or divide, but we limit the use of the skill to specific instances. Instead of teaching students to think like mathematicians we are teaching them to follow set rules. We teach students to be readers and writers. We should be doing the same in math.

I just don't have any idea how we do it.