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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mathography II

2nd in a Series of Mathographies from my students:

As far back as I can remember my family supported my learning and helped me, if they could, with my homework. Since neither of my parents graduated high school, the help that I received stopped at about 6th grade. In my day, high school mathematics consisted of 9th grade algebra I, 10th grade geometry, and 11th grade algebra II, and senior year studying trigonometry. My parents valued the study of math, even when they could not participate in my learning. I remember liking algebra I, and finding algebra II more challenging. As for geometry, I got very lost in the first and second semester, even though I would go for extra help after school, I just was not
getting it. Then, a student teacher took over for the 3rd semester, and began by teaching a review of the course. Eureka! I went on to excel and discovered a love of geometry.

My elementary math consisted of rote memorization followed by drill work. I still remember the smell of the blue mimeograph ink and the handwritten teacher driven test problems. I do not remember the use of manipulatives or books about math. In 1960 when I was in 7th grade the new mathematical pedagogy emerged, referred to as “New Math.” I remember learning a new way of looking at numbers. I learned that in different base systems that the actual number of objects did not change, but the numeral describing that number changed depending on the base system. For example, the objects “NNNNNNNNNNNN” is numerically written as 40 in base three, 30 in base four, 22 in base five, and 12 in base ten. I remember adding, subtracting and converting various base systems. I can only imagine the professional development days that preceded this innovative way of teaching math, especially for those elderly, and extremely gifted, teachers at Girl’s Latin School in Boston.

The first time I studied the use of manipulatives and other ways to approach teaching and learning of math was in my math multiple subject credential program. It is here that I first learned the lattice form of multiplication, worked hands on in math, and listen to the story books such as
Grandfather Tang’s Story, Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar, and How much is a Million? For me, this approach to learning math made good sense and was fun.

We live in a world where advanced math skills are essential for the technological fields, and just to name a few, include biomedical engineering, computer electronics, mechanical engineering, civil and structural engineering, nuclear medicine, petroleum technology and mining technology. I am a 3rd grade teacher and need to know and use the best practices in teaching math, that I may prepare my students for their future. I use hands on learning, class discussion, and journal writing in my classroom. I am hoping to improve my skills so my students may benefit.

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