Math is a subject that can be taught in many different ways. While the basic concepts will never change, two plus two will always equal four. As people see things differently and have different ways of thinking, math instruction can be different for so many different reasons. Continue reading for some information concerning the different ways of teaching mathematics.
First of all, one way that teachers teach math is through teacher-centered instruction and rote memorization, this is the traditional method. They simply tell their students that, for instance, two times two is four, and expect them to remember it. This type of teaching involves the teacher expecting the students to learn all of their basic facts. They do not have time to explore the numbers and make sense of them, nor do they have time to explore the operations involved with the numbers. In this type of instruction, there is not a lot of thinking going on and students are basically there to take in information as given by their teacher. This type of teaching also involves the teacher telling students how to solve problems without giving them any input into the way they think about numbers and manipulating them. While a child may learn how to follow rules with this type of math instruction, they will not have a true understanding of numbers, what they mean, and how to use them.
2. New Math
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Another option for teaching math is quite different then the teacher-centered approach, and has been called “new math“. The teaching is not actually new at all and has been around for nearly 40 years. This way of mathematics instruction includes the teacher offering the children learning opportunities and guiding them through them. The teacher is not the leader, he or she is more of a facilitator. The students in the classroom are allowed to explore the numbers, make sense of them, and learn how they work. For instance, they may memorize that four times four is 16, but they will also understand that four times 40 is equal to 460 because four times four times 10 is the same as four times 40. Not only that, but they also understand that 16 times 10 is 160. The students that simply memorize the facts without an understanding are not able to connect what they know, the memorized facts, with new information.
In classrooms where the teachers allow exploration, there is also a lot of questioning. This inquiry helps students learn as the teacher asks productive questions of the students. The students question each other, and learning takes place as there is conversation going on. Also, if a student is stuck, the teacher does not just give the student the rule to solve the problem, he or she will ask the student questions to help lead them in the right direction. Again, this promotes thinking from the teacher and the student and helps maximize the learning since the student is making sense of the numbers, the operations, and how everything works together.
As we discuss the different types of teaching mathematics, it is important to note the reasons for teaching both traditional methods and those that many consider “new”. The traditional method of teaching mathematics is the way that many teachers were taught when they were in school. Not only that, but that is how the parents of the students were taught. This is the most familiar way of teaching math. Unfortunately, this type of mathematics instruction is full of rules and not “math” at all. Any student who is able to memorize facts and instructions can excel at this type of instruction. For the teacher, however, this type of teaching is much easier. He or she simply stands at the front of the class, explains how to do a method to find an answer, passes out a worksheet where the student practices this type of problem many times. As you can see, there is no real understanding of math here, just understanding of “rules”.
The “new math” teaching approach does take more effort for the teacher, but it offers so much more learning for both the students and the teacher. A typical math lesson may look something like the following: The teacher poses one word problem to the class. Each child begins working on the problem by working it out in a way that makes sense to them. The teacher walks around the class, talking with students, questioning them, and seeing what each child is doing. Then, the teacher may allow time for discussion and sharing and students are able to see how others saw the problem and solved it. One way is not better than another, but one may be more efficient.
Math can be taught in many different ways, but the concepts will never change.