These are the words I hear every day during grade 8 math class. We scramble to find enough calculators or discarded times tables I have printed in colour and laminated. Yes, I actually laminated them!
There are very few in my classroom that know their basic facts and need either a calculator or multiplication sheet. It’s not that I mind them using a calculator but I will admit that when they have to use the calculator for the simple steps in the math it takes longer and adds to the already many steps in some formulas. This can cause confusion and errors. When I first started teaching grade 8 a few years ago I really struggled with letting the students use calculators all of the time but was encouraged to do so in order to continue on with the grade 8 curriculum. My comprimise was to include basic math fact games in my math rotations to help improve their skills. I do believe if they knew tha basic skills it would be much easier for them to succeed in math as the steps get increasingly longer and they can also get to the higher level thinking rather that taking the time to struggle with the basic facts.
Why do students struggle in Math?
I appreciated the article by Paul W. Bennett. I enjoy math and teaching it and often wonder and discuss why my students struggle so much in Math. There are varying reasons depending on who you talk to or read. According to Bennett’s article, one of the main reasons is our shift from making sure students know their basic facts and relying on calculator use. As he mentions private math tutors like Kumon Math take the focus back to the basics to improve math knowledge in their clients. Is this why? Perhaps or perhaps it is a longer list of issues but I am leaning towards making those skills a priority in September.
Cursive or Not?
This topic is one where I don’t agree with it all or disagree with it all. Take cursive writing, other than a signature I didn’t see that handwriting was a skill that people needed. There are other ways to gain fine motor skills. My favourite is LEGO. We have a LEGO room and the fine motor skills that come from building with LEGO are astounding. However, I did rethink my position a bit on this when hearing how teaching cursive writing helps with writing as fast as people can think. I imagine if some people are like me they may still want to take notes using cursive writing and if I had to print it all I am not sure I’d keep up. I was also drawn to the article by Berger, T. (2017), who talked about the evidence of cognitive and academic benefits of cursive writing. He said, “Brain scans reveal neural circuitry lighting up when young children first print letters and then read them. The same effect is not apparent when the letters are typed or traced. ” Perhaps this is why I still write things down more often than not.
As we learned this past week we need to remember that technology is not always reliable and when it isn’t working we need to be able to adapt and have the skills to work without it. There was a teacher who was convinced they couldn’t teach their math class because his lessons were online and he couldn’t access them due to the cyber attack. No, I am not making this up. This is a great example of not relying on technology for everything and learning that there are other ways to do things. Obviously a good lesson for both teachers and students.
Culture change is hard!
I think as Mason, J., Shaw, G., & Zhang, D. (2019) talk about ,” the greatest impediment to teachers adopting or adapting digital technologies for student learning is the significant inertia that exists in trying to bring about a cultural change, particularly changes in entrenched practices.” I find that even as I was thinking about the topic I heard myself saying but this is how it’s done, and I am a teacher who has adopted many technological aspects in the classroom, both for myslef and my students. Who knew when we started talking about digital technology for learning, and for future learning, we are indeed talking about bringing about cultural change in the very nature of teaching and learning. As we have seen over the last hundred years this is hard for people in education. There are many aspects of the one classroom school houses that still exist today, even though so much in society has changed and technology has advanced.
As I said I do not agree or disagree on this topic. I see the benefits of teaching some of the skills that could be done with technology today but also see the benefits of using the technology when available. What I don’t want society to do is become so reliant on technology that we lose the skills we may need again some day. Our school divisions issue with technology right now is a great example of this. Some teachers and students were really thrown for a loop when they showed up to school and there was no internet and many of the platforms we use daily were unavailable. I think we still need to be able to do simple tasks without using technology.
Debate 3 – Schools should no longer teach skills that can be carried out by technology.