Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Today's mathematics education is all about new trends. "New Math" as we call it.
Every six months some new innovative approach emerges and many start following it in hopes that it will improve student engagement and possibly understanding of the mathematical concepts studied.
Here is the truth: math is a fundamental science, consisting of simpler and more complex components, reinventing some which over and over again is counterproductive.
When you are building a house, you start with the foundation.
You don’t improvise on it, it has to be solid.
It is a mix of components that keep the foundation strong for years to come and can hold the frame of the house.
"When I was contemplating about what the main focus of the resource I want to create should be, I decided that it needs to provide students with a relatively fast path to mastering the main concepts for their specific grade - concepts which they will come across over and over again as they progress in their math education and life in general" - says Antonina Kumka, Founder of IntoMath.
The recipe is simple: learn, model, practice, apply.
"When students master the fundamental skills in math, they are able to expand on their understanding. They do not need to stop and think what three times five is or frantically reach for a calculator on their phone" - continues Kumka.
The above certainly does not mean that instructional methods should not include such useful, dynamic and engaging tools as Desmos, hands-on, partner and group activities, games like Prodigy Math, Math Playground games or online math help chats.
Those should complement the learning and make it more meaningful.
However, it is really important to ensure that students move from grade to grade (especially before reaching high school) with not just a vague understanding of the math concepts studied, but with a solid foundation, that could help them be more successful in college/university and on the job.
Math testing scores in grades 3 and 6 have been declining in the Province of Ontario for a number of years now. In fact, there are ongoing concerns on how math is being taught all across Canada. Take a look at grade 6 EQAO test results:
The theory is that modern day students simply think and learn differently, therefore, standardized testing is not for them, it should be eliminated completely.
However, math problems included in the tests are not that challenging. They are based on common core math that we are all using every or almost every day in our lives and that students have been studying at their grade level for a semester or a year, in addition to the knowledge they have acquired in earlier grades.
The majority of the students should be successfully passing, not failing the provincial tests.
Asking a student to memorize the multiplication tables will actually help the student be more creative when it comes to more complex mathematical concepts and by no means will it hurt their ability to think outside of the box. There are so many free printable worksheets available online on basic math. What IntoMath offers is structured instruction that could help organize the knowledge and apply it in other settings more effectively.
Balanced instruction is key to student success.
Shifting too much in either direction does not benefit students.