Thursday, 26 September 2013

Math – Number Crunching or Application?

The Common Core Standards address some of the discrepancies between how US schools teach their students mathematics and how students are taught in higher ranking countries (Finland, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore).   In the US, math instruction is generally slow and easy for the first several years.  There is so little application and so much rote practice that many students never have the opportunity to learn to generalize their math knowledge. I believe this contributes to tremendous frustration (and confusion) for older students as they learn more challenging math. In addition, I see many schools whose standardized test scores look really strong in early-mid elementary grades but plummet in middle school. Lack of connection, lack of problem solving skills and lack of true mathematical understanding at the foundational levels turn kids off and set them up for failure.

In my years with Kumon, many of my  brightest students were happiest when they could  act as “number crunchers” and fly through their work. In fact, this is what the program promoted.  In Pinecone, I have found very few of incoming students, regardless of grade, feeling comfortable explaining their thinking. They simply know that they know the answers. It seems that the ability to put their thinking into words was never cultivated, and by the time they were 11 years old, they saw no need to put math into context. But isn’t lack of context, paired with lack of challenge what makes math “boring” for kids?

This is why Pinecone focuses so strongly on word problems, beginning with the T.I.N.S. series for the younger ones (Thought, Information, Numbers, Solution Sentence).  We require that students think through the problems, identify the processes to use, find the most efficient solution, make sure they have answered the problem, then check their work to see if it makes sense.

The Common Core Math Standards will shift focus from number-crunching to more real-world application.  I think eventually, this will engage students more strongly, and ease the transition from basic skills to higher math with all its applications.

Friday, 13 September 2013

WRITING NUMBERS 1-10 from Pinecone Active Learning

Here is a fun jingle to help early learners correctly write their numbers. The first link provides the jingle with the words written below. The second link provides an interactive practice with numbers 1-10.  This is Common Core practice.   Have fun!

0 Start at the top and go around [repeat two more times] to make the number 0.

1 Start at the top and go straight down [repeat two more times] to make the number 1.

2 Halfway round and then straight out [repeat two more times] to make the number 2.

3 Halfway round and halfway round [repeat two more times] to make the number 3.

4 Down and out and then straight down [repeat two more times] to make the number 4.

5 Down, around, then make a hat [repeat two more times] to make the number 5.

6 Down, around, then close the loop [repeat two more times] to make the number 6.

7 Go across and then slant down [repeat two more times] to make the number 7.

8 Make an "S," then go right back [repeat two more times] to make the number 8.

9 Go around and then go down [repeat two more times] to make the number 9.