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We MUST Engage Our Kids

§ February 5th, 2012 § 1 Comment- Add yours§ Filed under From the Elevated Math Team, Teaching Math § Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Photography by Patrick Reddick

A memory of middle and high school is being stuck in class and daydreaming my time away, full aware that my inability to focus on the droning lesson in front of me would cost me dearly when I had to figure out later how to answer the homework problems. Maybe this is why I made educational films in college and more recently worked with a team to launch Elevated Math, an iPad app that teaches middle school math. Teachers need to do something to engage our kids. We have infinite ways to do this, but for now I’ll touch on four.

1. Passion. Teachers must not only love the subjects they teach, they must be passionate about them. In college, I took a class on existentialism. The instructor would talk an hour in the lecture hall and then, when the hour was over, would invite us to join him in the sculpture garden outside where he would lecture another hour. Everyone followed him. He would speak about each philosopher as if this person held the ultimate truth of life that we each needed to know. No doubt this professor passionately loved his subject. Can we approach our class in the same way, as if we hold a sacred gift of knowledge that we must pass on?

2. Real-world problems. I remember my earth science class when the first photographs of the moon were released. My teacher drove to Washington D.C. (we lived in northern Virginia) and acquired large prints of these maps. § Read the rest of this entry…

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The Pursuit of Place Value Understanding, Part III

§ September 23rd, 2011 § 4 Comments- Add yours§ Filed under Teaching Math § Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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