Back To School Teacher Tip – Math May Look Different … Trust Us

by MildlyManicMom on September 6, 2012

How exciting to be creating a post once again for one of my favorite sites ever – !  Our latest use of VolunteerSpot at my school is to help volunteer tutors sign up for after school tutoring slots.  I am working with a young lady that is developing a tutoring program at our high school for her senior project, and we decided the easiest way to ensure we had tutors assigned for each day would be to use VolunteerSpot.  There will be a link on our high school homepage and through security measures, no one will be able to view who has signed up but they will be able to determine where there is still a need.  Just one more way to “toss out those clipboards.”

Last year I posted advice for new high school parents called Preparing for College in High School.  This year I would like to talk about my favorite subject besides food and that is math education.  Not just math for math’s sake but actually the way we teach our children to be mathematicians.

What has it meant to learn math in school for the past 50 years?  There were formulas and rules and we would teach one concept at a time.  As teachers we would make links to other mathematical topics when we would start a new concept, but not too many kids were actually following.  Learn a skill, practice it a bazillion times, memorize what it was called so you could do it on the test, learn a new skill, practice it a bazillion times….  You remember.

School math is changing.  Why?  Because the world has changed so drastically in the last 50 years. I can still remember seeing my first cell phone but the children in school now have never lived without the internet. We badly need students with math literacy and a strong number sense to be ready for jobs we have not even imagined.

When my daughter was in elementary school and they were learning about division, it was everything I could do not to pull out that old algorithm we all learned in the United States.  Put the first number “in the house”, etc.  Did you ever understand exactly why that would give you the right answer?  I held my tongue while my daughter broke the numbers into chunks and really got to the idea of division.  This is math literacy.

We have been solving problems for so long but we have not really been creating problem solvers.  Look at most math books and the examples lead you through how to do a problem but don’t really emphasize there is probably more than one way to solve that same problem.  In my classroom I try to remind the kids that the best way to solve a math problem is the way that makes sense to them. Students sharing and explaining their thinking with the group has brought about many “AHA” moments in my classroom – for me included!

Many schools are trying to engage kids in mathematics like never before.  They are working on depth of knowledge not breadth and they are trying to make the mathematics tangible and real – because it is!  They are not throwing out those old ways of doing mathematics but are letting kids find those ways through context and discovery.  It may take a little longer but it can create a depth of understanding that many students have not had.

My Teacher Tip for VolunteerSpot – if your child’s math teacher is trying something new, give it a chance.  Feel free to ask questions and get involved.  Just because it looks different doesn’t mean you can’t help with math time in the classroom.  Go in and be amazed at how your child can problem solve!  Help them discover their inner mathematician.


Save time {and stress} and get more parents involved at school with!

VolunteerSpot’s FREE online signup sheets make it easy to organize parents for just about anything: classroom readers and volunteers, parent-teacher conferences,snack schedules, service learning, club events and trips, parties, library volunteers, and more….

No more ‘Reply-All’ email chains! Please share with your room mom, colleagues and parent leaders…

Plus there’s a huge Sweepstakes on VolunteerSpot’s Facebook page!
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Have a fabulous year!!
~ The Mildly Manic Mom


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth September 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

What a great piece! My children’s elementary school does a lot of work with math literacy and teaching a variety of concepts for problem solving. I’ll be sharing this on our PTA’s FB page!


MildlyManicMom September 12, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Thanks so much Elizabeth! I do believe once parents see the things that are happening in the classroom, they will be excited about these methods.


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