In an effort to make this applicable to the greater audience, I won’t insert much of my own personal journey with math, but you should know this nugget about our family and math: We don’t love it. At least we didn’t. It was a subject on a list to be checked-off, especially for my youngest daughter, age 10.
Our daily math instruction went like this:
1. Complete corrections on previous day’s math lesson
2. Teach current lesson
3. Complete 30 problems
4. Cry at regular intervals
In hopes to discover the missing link, I attended the Bazaks’ Math is More Than Passing a Test session at the recent CMI Conference. The Bazaks discussed the importance of bringing math into the students’ context. The missing link was that my daughter did not have a math problem that she wanted and needed to solve. She had no context for which to apply the concepts and formulas she was practicing in her textbook. If we are to know the child and the needs of the child, we need to do so in the subject of math as well. So we started with a problem she wanted/needed to solve: saving for an item she wanted.
We began our math lesson exploring ways to solve her “problem” by adding up her allowance, her birthday money, and other savings she had put aside throughout the year. We estimated the shipping cost and tax on the item. She then determined how many more weeks it would take of daily chores (@ 3cents/chore) to reach her end goal.
All this was done with great enthusiasm and excitement as she now had a purpose for concepts such as estimation, adding, multiplication, percentages and so on.
The Bazaks’ practical approach to math included focusing on concepts such as estimation vs. long division. “How many times have you used long division in the past several months?” they inquired. This statement alone freed me from bondage to the textbook drill method and granted me permission to ask myself, “What are some useful mathematical concepts I want my children to be confident in?”
I started realizing all the ways we had missed out on LIVING MATH. My eldest daughter had what I thought was a grasp on certain math concepts until she attended a theatrical school in which they were given stage direction in degrees. It had never occurred to her that you could rotate your head 30 degrees or your body 180 degrees. Though she had worked out problems with angles and degrees in her math text and mastered the concept easily, she had been looking at these problems one dimensionally. I naively never thought she would have difficulty transferring the idea outside of pencil and paper. Standing on stage and being forced to look at a problem (degrees and angles) from many dimensions made the math come alive.
Math plays a role in each of our children’s lives, whether in sports, traveling, saving/giving, building, or cooking. It is a privilege to give them access to the tools to learn what is needed of them to reach their goals. Textbooks can be a guide. Even now I glance at our textbook lesson to determine the concept and teach it to our children in this three dimensional manner. If they understand the concept, I certainly do not hinder their time with 30 additional problems for drilling!
The Bazaks stressed the importance of working toward a solution and not necessarily toward a “correct” answer. Allow kids to create, figure and sort, and solutions will arise. Solutions for problems they need answers to.
My daughter is a testimony to Living Math. I recently overheard her discussing the topic of favorite and least favorite school subjects. Her friend declared, “Math is my favorite.” My daughter replied, “I used to not enjoy math, but now it’s fun, and I really like it.” Her statement marked a shift in my commitment to teach Living Math.
Below is a minimal list of resources to encourage you on your journey toward Living Math:
Anno’s Magic Seeds
The King’s Chessboard
Sir Cumference and the 1st Round Table (A Math Adventure Series exploring Math Concepts thru Story)
What If Your ABC’s Were Your 123’s? Building Connections Between Literacy and Numeracy
The Van de Walle Mathematics Series: Teaching Student Centered Mathematics
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth: Kathryn Lasky
Archimedes and the Door of Science: Jeanne Bendick
The Moscow Puzzles
YouTube Channels (Mathematical Concepts):
© 2014 by Christina Pittman