mathematics soapbox

Mathematics Soapbox

Guest blog post by Mindy Englett

My mathematics soapbox begins and ends with the conceptualization of mathematics. We focus so much on one day assessments, we are forgetting to teach with true understanding in mind.

It is one thing for kids to pass a one day exam, but it’s COMPLETELY different when kids actually understand and conceptualize the mathematics they are doing! I can get kids, as many teachers can, to pass an exam by teaching mathematics procedures until I’m blue in the face. However, that does not help with retention of knowledge. While teachers who teach only procedurally help their test scores for one year, they are doing a great disservice to the teachers that will teach their students in upcoming years. Those teachers now have to go back and teach what students didn’t retain AND new knowledge for that year. It’s a never ending cycle with the students learning less and less each year.

I did the research. I taught a group conceptually for three years straight. The retention from year to year was AMAZING. I had to do very little reteaching at the beginning of the year, if any. Also, a large group of these students are still some of the top performers in high school math. Teaching conceptually is hard work, but it’s well worth the effort.

Yes, there must be a mixture and kids have to move through and get procedures eventually. However, I’d much rather have kids develop their own method for understanding the material than having kids taking remedial mathematics or flunking college algebra because I didn’t give them the tools they needed for success in elementary mathematics. Rant over.

About Mindy Englett

Mindy is an elementary math specialist in Oklahoma.

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