Whatever happened to “old” math?

Ok as an educator and a parent I’m beginning to wonder more and more why the teaching of math has changed so much.  I love my child but when it comes to math and homework it’s positively maddening.  He can do math facts quickly when it’s on the computer ormath clip art his iPod but put a piece of paper with facts problems on it in front of him or ask him to answer out loud 3 x 3 and you get a blank stare.  It’s not just my child either, I see this all the time in kids at school.  They can do it on FastMath but not on paper.

Maybe it’s because it was so drilled into my head.  I learned multiplication in fourth grade, now it’s third not a huge difference except it’s not actually instructed.  Kids are told to study them at home and then given timed tests at school.  OK… We were quizzed almost daily, wrote the facts over and over, hubby said he had to fill out a blank multiplication chart over and over.  My teacher (not my favorite teacher, my least favorite as a matter of fact which is a whole other post) used to make us each answer flashcards in front of the whole class and he gave you maybe 2-3 seconds for each, maybe not the best way to teach it but we all learned the facts.

The year I taught fifth grade we had a math system I did not like at all.  The “teacher’s guides” didn’t have answers in them.  I understand that it’s good for teachers to try the problems themselves but if I don’t get it right and have no way to check that I got it right how can I be sure I’m teaching it correctly?  While I was teaching middle school com arts I made it a habit to complete the worksheets my students were doing.  Then if I had a question I referred to the teacher’s guide.  I tried not to rely solely on them because as any teacher will tell you no teacher’s guide is perfect there is always at least one mistake, it happens.  Still having no answers and a very different style of teaching math that I was not given any training in until about a month after the school year started made it incredibly difficult to teach.  Not only that but there were math topics on the report cards that were not covered by the series we were using so we had to find time to include those using other activities.  I’m glad I wasn’t a first year teacher that year but I felt like one when it came to teaching math.

I understand we teacher partial product and lattice multiplication to help students learn the problem comes when they have to transfer that to bigger and bigger problems or to division.  Lattice simply doesn’t work that way and it can be difficult to convince students of that.  Middle school math teachers are left to teach students traditional multiplication and division which has to be taking away from them covering the curriculum they’re supposed to be covering.

I don’t know I just think the changes have gone too far.  I guess I’ll be doing “old” math at home with my kiddo to make sure he has his basic facts memorized.



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