Thursday, May 17, 2007

Everyday Math: A Nimble Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

Okay, I think I’m going to be sick….

My first grader, who loves math and finds it quite easy, sat down to do his Primary Mathematics (Singapore) and Kumon work. This day's work involved word problems requiring subtraction of double digit numbers with regrouping. He said, “Mom, do we have a number chart?” I said, “A number chart? You haven’t used one of those since you were learning to count. Why do you need one now?” “Because” he said, “that’s how we’re subtracting at school.” “Well, you know how to subtract without one. Just set up your problem and then you can do the math!” It took him no more than five minutes to complete the entire exercise of world problems.

Why did he think he needed a number chart to subtract when he’s done this type of math before successfully? To think of him counting back to find the answer on some number chart for each question when he already knew a much more efficient way to do it is disconcerting. He finished and promptly asked if he could work ahead on the next exercise.

This is another reason to dislike Everyday Mathematics. I feel likes it's a constant fight to keep the efficient algorithms in play lest my children come under the false notion that the EDM way is actually better, cooler, or newer. The teacher is teaching it, their friends are using, so maybe it's better and mom hasn't caught on yet. I don't mind if he learns about them but doesn't EDM pride itself on letting students choose? I strongly believe that most every additional algorithm is a collosal waste of time and who has time to waste? (If you don't believe me, just check out this video on youtube )

I find them to be inefficient, unnecessary. I also believe that dependence on manipulatives, charts and calcuators certainly does not allow children's minds to do all the amazing things they are capable of. These methods reinforce and even reward laziness and when they rely on these "crutches" children fail to exercise their brains and train them to work nimbly.

And a nimble mind is a terrible thing to waste.