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

12/17/12
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 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Camille 06/18/13 at 6:01 pm

    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.

  • 2 Jennifer 02/05/13 at 10:00 am

    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.

  • 3 Wrightslaw 02/04/13 at 10:11 pm

    “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.

  • 4 Debbie 01/20/13 at 8:56 pm

    “Erikson Institute will receive a 5 million dollar grant for teacher training in “new and high-potential practices to improve student learning.”
    Children need support and understanding of Math. If the grant can help foster that then it is a good thing. Children often do not understand the math. So, even with correct answers, they do not understand. Critical thinking is the necessary process to understand math and why we trying to solve problems in math. Children often struggle with finding the ‘correct answer’. Maybe this grant will help to focus on helping students understand the problem and why it is necessary to solve. Plus, sometimes there is so much work to get to the correct answer that we often just grade on the correctness of the answer and not the process of reaching an answer.

  • 5 miranda 12/27/12 at 2:41 pm

    Frustrating! That’s about all I can say. My 7yo gifted/ADHD?/ASD?/anxiety-prone kid is so put off and confused by this stuff that he has pretty much stopped doing math. He loves math as a concept and playing with numbers, doing equations etc… But his rigid little “there-is- a- right- and- wrong- to- everything” mind can’t handle the ambiguity and he just shuts down.

  • 6 Ellen 12/19/12 at 7:17 pm

    There is so much more to math than memorization for facts and recall. Looking back on my experience as a child, I recall learning math as though it was a religious faith. I did not understand it well but relied heavily on my teacher as the authority on everything mathematical. — “if the answer is 7/23, well, I take your word for it.” I could not think for myself very well– all I was concerned about was getting the right answer not learning why I was wrong.. I needed guidance & support as well as time to think and reason. But there was not enough time for that because the math curriculum covered a lot of area but had no depth. When came time for algebra, I was LOST and miserable. The correct answer is still important, but not as important as one’s understanding of how you arrived at the correct answer. This is REAL MATH!!

  • 7 karenRZ 12/18/12 at 1:20 pm

    We have long argued against the new math program (Chicago Math) in our district. The problem with spiraling programs is that the children are not required to get the “right” answers because, as it is a spiraling program, the child will get the concept on the next pass.

    There is no rote memorization of the multiplication tables any longer, yet when my ASD ADHD son has to take those annoying 10 minute, 100-problem tests in the beginning of the school year, he struggles to solve all the problems within the time allotted.

    How we wish the math program was as we were children 40-50 years ago!