Thursday, October 8, 2009

Math by the Numbers

[Image Source: popeye the sailorman cartoon @]

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Popeye was “strong to the finich” because he ate his spinach. Math is kind of like the spinach of school subjects -- most students do it because it’s good for them, not because it’s inherently enjoyable or meaningful. Out of school long enough to understand the challenges that lie ahead, parents know how many doors close when students are not successful in academic math classes. They want their kids to tough it out. However, teens are often more familiar with -- the frustration that results from poor understanding, disconnection from the content, and lack of skills mastery. Many just want to get out’.

Given many students' difficulty learning math and its importance in securing their futures, math class should be a natural place for trying new strategies, tools, and ideas to enhance learning. But math teachers are often the last in schools to try 21st century tools and strategies. Although math should be about problem-solving and communication, it can devolve into repetition and memorization of skills or solving of story problems that seem to students to have little to do with the real world. For them, what's learned in math class, stays in math class.

Math teachers all agree that more we get students doing math, the more math they'll learn. However, what secondary math teachers often don't realize is that many of these new technologies will give them ways to actually accomplish that -- by getting students talking about and doing more math. The value of Web 2.0 tools lies in their ability to help math teachers:

• ensure old skills gaps are filled and new skills are well understood and well learned,
• build math reading comprehension skills so that students are not baffled by the way language is used in math questions,
• engage students in communication and collaborative problem-solving so they have to ‘speak’ math,
• encourage higher order thinking skills by making intriguing connections between math and the world outside the math classroom,
• provide students practice using tools they will need for study and work after high school, and
• connect with other math teachers who are also trying these new approaches.

If we secondary math teachers can turn the part of the day students spend in our classes into a part of the day students look forward to, the time, effort, and deep thought that will be required of us to find, learn, and create compelling uses of Web 2.0 tools and resources will reward us with gold.

Math Candy: I thought this was very cool!

Why do math teachers prefer to 'paint by the numbers'? Any thoughts?


Next Post? Math 2.0 tools and strategies.

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