Friday, January 1, 2010

Favorite comments of '09: Julia D on algorithms vs. conceptual understanding

Re Math problems of the week: 6th grade Connected Math vs. Singapore Math, Julia D writes:

When I was a kid, all they did was teach us algorithms (or what I thought were "tricks") to finding answers to math problems. We were just supposed to memorize the steps, but they never explained why the steps worked. I think where we've gone wrong with all these visuals and explanations (number lines, hundredths grid, etc.) is that we are encouraging students to use them *instead* of memorization, when we should be using them only help students understand why the quick algorithms work. As an adult, I absolutely use the memorized "math facts" and algorithms that were drilled into me, and I could not function without them. But I also like that I now know why they work.

If I see one more GED student try to add 1-digit numbers by drawing a bunch of dots (in the middle of a multi-step algrebra problem), I'm going to scream.

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