The Teacher is Talking: New Math

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By Leslie Lindsay

I will admit, I sort of kind of cringe when my daughter opens up her backpack and procures her “Everyday Math” workbook.  “Ugh!  This again,” I groan (to myself, not her).

As a child, I was not into math.  I hated it, in fact.  Once, I was even caught cheating in 6th grade during this “Mad Minute” math “game” as my teacher called it.  She beckoned me to her desk after the mad minute and said, “I saw you looking at Amanda’s page.  I know you were cheating.”  How my body filled with ice, numbing itself from the embarrassment, my face filled red.

But this past weekend, my heart filled with pride as my 1st grade daughter created–on her own–a math notebook.  (Yep, I guess she is a nerd).  In the notebook–penned in green marker, mind you–are all kinds of “experimental” math facts.

Donning her tiny green calculator I picked up at the dollar section at Target, she punched in digits to see what their sums would be.  She wrote them down, column after column, hour after hour, proudly displaying them to her dad and I, “Look!  Double facts”  (spelled, “dubl facks.”)  I smiled in spite of myself.  I hugged her and told her what a smart girl she was and reminded her how important math is (is it?!).

So, here’s the deal about math:

  • It’s the process, not the solution.  You’ve heard, “enjoy the journey, not the destination,” right?  Well, I think it’s the same idea about math.  Investigate ideas like data, space, problem-solving, pattern-finding…all of those things are part of life, are they not?
  •  Help your kiddo “see” math.  Different learners, different ways…in early grades, kids may manipulate math in terms of cubes or tiles.  (Yes, I remember this.  I was bummed that my snap-together cubes were brown and not blue, my favorite color.  I reframed that by calling them “caramel sqaures,” much to my teacher’s chargrin).  Remember the value of shape sorting, and pattern development through things like playing cards and other manipulatives.
  • Introduce concepts, then introduce them again.  Our school calls this a “spiraling curriculum.”  I like the idea.  Here’s how it works:  awhile back, the math instruction was measuring things to the nearest inch.  Kate sort of struggled with that.  We didn’t see measurement for awhile, instead the focus was on addition, function machines, etc.  Then, just recently, she brought home a Homelink page in which she was asked to measure small items around the house to the nearest centimeter.  The light bulb went off!  She seemed to get it this time around.  I like that!

As for me and math…well, let’s just say I use it when calculating how much I can save at Gymboree with my 20% off coupon.  That’s using math everyday, right?!

Class dismissed!

(For more information about the Everyday Math Program, see www.math.uchicago.edu/parents for detailed background, FAQs, and more). 

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