New? Fuzzy Math

As I was cooking dinner (I mean, warming up leftovers) the following news report caught my attention on TV:

As a teacher who hasn't taught math in many years (literacy is my specialty), I can only speak as a parent: My first question is...did they say NEW approach? In Duval County, FL we've been using Math Investigations for at least five years.

I have an daughter who is in 5th grade. She has struggled with number sense and memory skills since kindergarten. For many years I was frustrated with the multiple strategies she was learning for each new math concept. I would have been happy for her to just get ONE and be able to use it. I really longed for the "old" approach to math. I just wanted my child to be successful.

I was encouraged to stick it out through the Math Investigations. I was told she would understand better in the long run if she understood the concept. I won't lie - we had our dark days. She still struggles with memory and processing skills in the area of math, BUT the concepts she has mastered - she truly understands.

I faked my way through math. I memorized an algorithm and produced a right answer. It caught up with me in college. I ended up having to take College Algebra THREE times. I only passed by a hair. I still do not understand the concept behind most algorithms I use in my daily life.

Who got the better math education, my daughter or myself? She wins hands down. She is able to transfer her knowledge to real life situations in shopping and organizing household items. She sees the connection and is able to pull from a variety of strategies. Back to Basics math helps you complete a problem, not apply a strategy.

The 21st Century holds my daughter's future career. Whatever it may be, however math related it is...she is prepared to be a THINKER, capable of looking outside the lines for solutions. I hope that more parents will spend time asking their child about their strategies and less time looking for the "way we used to do things." We're moving forward, not back.


dayle said...

Oh my gosh- Melanie posting about Math! I love it! dayle

Anonymous said...

I am happy to say as a teacher of Math Investigations as well as a mother that has had two children taught using Math Investigations that I love this approach. With my personal children I have one child that struggles with math, but is able to use strategies that work for him. For my other child math comes easily and she loves using multiple strategies to solve problems. We often have conversations at home between the three of us talking about the new math strategies they have learned. I teach both K and 1 so they like to see how the strategies I teach are connected to their strategies in 5th and 7th grade.
As a teacher I see the benefit of teaching Math Investigations because of the depth of number sense my students have when they leave 1st grade. They don't need the traditional algorithm to add or subtract double digit numbers. They understand the concept because they understand how numbers work.
No matter what method of teaching math the county, state or government chooses I will not go back to the "old way" of teaching math. I will expose them to the algorithm as another strategy just as I do now.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher and Math coach, I've been hearing this arguement for several years. Many parents have questioned our use of Math Investigations at first glance. We welcome these questions because they provide us with opportunities to discuss our practices with caring adults. Most of the time the parents are invited to come and watch a typical lesson in their child's classroom. So far, not one parent has left unsatisfied. One parent summed it up as well as anyone. He described the people at his workplace as thinkers and followers. The thinkers were the ones who made more money. Through our math program, we were teaching our students to become thinkers not followers. I see nothing "fuzzy" about that statement.