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Early Math Teachers Celebrate ‘Critical Thinking, NOT Correct Answers’

by Pam Wright

Please tell me this is a joke.

Early Math Teachers Celebrate ‘Critical Thinking, Not Correct Answers’

This article begins by quantifying a serious long-standing problem:

“Just 40 percent of 4th-graders and 35 percent of 8th-graders are proficient in math, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

The article reports that the Erikson Institute will receive a 5 million dollar grant for teacher training in “new and high-potential practices to improve student learning.”

What does this new teacher training program do?

The Institute will use the five million dollar grant to train teachers at 8 elementary schools to “lead classrooms that celebrate critical thinking, not correct answers.” These teachers will ultimately “support” more than 4,500 students.

This program is not new or innovative.

It’s the same thinking and pedagogy that has characterized schools in the US for the last 40 years, as we fell further and further behind other countries.

I cannot understand why the USDOE is spending a grant to train teachers in another wishy-washy, “there isn’t a correct answer” approach to teaching math.

Why do you want math teachers who “celebrate” critical thinking, not correct answers? The beauty of math is that there ARE correct answers.

Why do you want to produce math teachers who “support” (but don’t teach) students?

This is the same old teachers “support success” model that has failed.

Since more than half of kids in the US are not proficient in math, we need to increase the number of teachers who are knowledgeable about math, and can teach kids how to solve math problems … and get correct answers.

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7 Comments on "Early Math Teachers Celebrate ‘Critical Thinking, NOT Correct Answers’"


My daughter just finished 5th grade and spent hours on math homework and practice daily but had lackluster B grades in the tests. She pounded on the basics and mechanics which was 90% of the homework and the textbook; however, the tests came in critical thinking format. She can tell you what 3 times3 is, but has a hard time answering that in a word problem. They are taught in one format and tested in another format.


I am seeing more math programs too focused on the abstract processes too early. When children don’t learn math facts–ESPECIALLY multiplication tables, they are horribly crippled for higher processes.


“Children need support and understanding of Math.” What does this mean? Can you give a few examples of how teachers “support Math”?

Experts say a strong math curriculum needs to be focused and coherent. A coherent program teaches basic math computation skills (yes, memorizing) before math concepts and processes, or “critical thinking.”(National Mathematics Advisory Panel).

Kids need to learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide – with automaticity. This is like knowing the sounds of letters – with automaticity – when we learn to read. When basic skills are automatic, memory is freed up to learn higher level concepts.