I love math. However, my first grader is pretty good at math, but he hates it. He enjoys nearly everything else we do as part of his homeschool day, but he groans when I say it’s time for math. To me, that’s a clear sign that I’m doing something wrong. Thankfully, I’m confident this book is going to help me fix that.
Review: The title of this book, What’s Math Got to Do With It?, is kind of perfect. When most people think of math, they think of numbers and memorization. They think learning math means drilling the same type of problems over and over. As kids, we’re often taught strategies for solving problems without really understanding why they work. However, that’s not what mathematicians think of when they think of math. They think of patterns and connections. Rather than “practicing” strategies, they solve interesting, complex problems.
The author of this book has a newer book called Mathematical Mindsets, which I just ordered. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend the $12, but after reading this book from our library, I can’t wait to see what the newer book has to offer. Here are some of the most interesting things I learned by reading his book.
- There is a whole “reform” movement in mathematics meant to make math more engaging, interesting, and fun, but it is opposed by “traditionalists” who are actively campaigning to not allow the new methods to be tried in schools.
- The author was involved in studies following both types of schools in which she learned that schools that focused on communication and projects rather than traditional drilling resulted not only in kids who were more enthusiastic about math, but also scored higher on standardized tests.
- Standardized test and grades are hurting student performance. A strategy called “assessment for learning” has been shown to be more effective. In this method students are given a clear sense of what they are supposed to know and positive, constructive feedback to help them achieve mastery.
- Grouping students based on ability hurts everybody’s performance.
- The traditional method of teaching math with little communication and a focus on memorizing strategies without necessarily understanding them is, generally-speaking, more discouraging to girls than boys.
- High achievers use certain strategies in math that low achievers do not. For example, they think flexibly about numbers, breaking them apart and recombining them to make them easier to work with. They also think about simpler cases when solving complicated problems and make tables and charts. They are able to think about their answer and whether or not it makes sense.
- There are lots of activities that families can do at home to help their children succeed in math. For example, they can provide lots of hands on materials like jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, and tangrams. They can provide interesting math puzzles or riddles for kids to think about. They can have “number talks” where they give children simple problems to work out in their heads, then discuss how they came up with the solution.
The book provides lots of other suggestions, both of activities and of books for further reading which I plan to look into. I’m looking forward to helping my kids learn what an amazing, fun, fulfilling subject math can be. It has reminded me what I have always loved about math and has helped me to understand why the path I’m following now with my oldest isn’t encouraging an appreciation for the subject. I’m grateful to have found this book. (Personal Rating: 8/10)
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