On May 23, 2010 in my very first blog, Teaching Math; It’s All in the Balance, I shared my view that both the traditional and reform camps have something to offer math educators. Basically, traditionalists believe skills should be taught based on algorithms, formulas and step-by-step procedures; reformists support a more inquiry-based approach that emphasizes developing conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills. My contention is that a balanced approach is best. Also, I am an advocate for using engaging, interactive technology whenever possible to reach and teach this generation.
I shared a conversation I had with Grant, my oldest grandson, about adding two two-digit numbers. During our talk it was obvious his skill for adding single digits was developing nicely, but he lacked an understanding of place value concepts. Even though he could get the right answers, when I asked him the value of the digits, he had no clue.
In my second blog posted on June 27, The First Steps in Developing Conceptual Understanding of Place Value, I emphasized the importance of developing a foundation of understanding. I also shared ways to help children understand place value when first learning to count with non-proportional items (straws and money) and with proportional manipulatives (base-ten blocks) when adding and subtracting.
Grant is now in the 3rd grade. He tells me he “gets” math. He doesn’t need my help, thank you very much. That is… until this week. Monday, he called to say he had taken a test last week, and he wasn’t happy with his grade. “Can I come down, Gigi? Can you help me?” Smile. Gigi is back in the picture.