Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sometimes, things just have a way of working themselves out

Like in math, even in common core.

This week in 5th grade we were multiplying fractions.

Anyone remember how fun that is?

Since our last math debacle, I have talked to my mother, who has a Ph.D in educational administration and one of my sorority sisters who has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years.

My friend said that the common core math tools have really helped her understand math better.  She recalls being very confused in math class as a child and the common core methods help her to visualize and understand the math problems more easily.

For example, just accepting that 2 + 2 = 4 was too abstract for her as a child.  Seeing the chart with 2 apples and 2 more apples makes it a lot easier for her.  It also helps her when she is teaching math to young children.

Ok, no problem.  Unfortunately, not everything can be simplified.  If we make up a crutch to teach math to children and there is no such made up crutch for more complex mathematics, how can American children ever truly excel in math?

Back to those pesky fractions.  My daughter was given fractions to multiply.  She was then given a number line in some problems and in other problems a chart with stars or shapes.

She was instructed to divide up the number line or the chart of shapes into the correct amount and this was supposed to help solve the problem.

Two problems with this scenario:
1. You can't determine the correct way to divide up the number line or the chart without solving the problem first and
2. This won't work for larger numbers.

So, I taught my daughter how to multiply fractions the good old fashioned way, by using math.  We then used the chart or whatever to check and make sure she had arrived at the correct response.

Here is where I got my redemption, finally.

Today, we had to divide larger numbers.  There were no charts, there were no pies, no triangles and no stars.  There was just a page full of fractions and they all had to be multiplied.

Of course, she did it.  I had taught her how to multiply fractions, all fractions, not just small ones that you could model with a bunch of stars or pies.

What did all of the other kids do who had learned how to do it only with the chart-number line-shape crutch?

I don't know.