Before each math class, I check and restock all the supplies my students will need: wide ruled paper, colored pencils, crayons, and pens. Pens? Not Pencils? Yes, pens not pencils – black and purple pens to be precise. I know this is unconventional but there’s a method to my madness. Think about it: Why do we use pencils for math? Normally this question is met with a blank stare since the use of pencils for math is so universal that most have never considered questioning this convention. The obvious answer, of course, is to erase our mistakes but, why do we want to erase our mistakes when we know that we learn from our mistakes?
While the ability to memorize math facts is not related to mathematical reasoning skills required for higher level math it greatly influences the perception of a child’s math ability. Compare two children learning to add fractions. They are given the task of calculating 1/14 + 1/21. Both equally understand the concept and procedure to add fractions.
Few parents of elementary school students are thinking about high school advanced placement options. Unfortunately, class placement as early as 4th or 5th grade may have a profound impact on a child’s ability to eventually take advanced placement classes in high school.
This is the first of a series of articles to explain accelerated math options to parents. This installment will explain the math options available in most NJ public schools and how elementary school math placement determines a child’s high school options.
Just for kicks, I threw up a volume of revolution problem on the whiteboard in the lunch room when I came in Friday morning. As the girls from Fundamentals of Research filtered in I was pleased to see them drawn to the puzzle. I watched in amusement as they made the problem so much more complex than it really was. It wasn’t the Calculus that stumped them but the failure to recognize simple things: the radius was equal to y which was proportionate to x. They solved it before going to class so I gave them another: could they apply the method of slicing to derive the equation for the volume of a pyramid?

Rita VoitRita Voit is the founder of HEROES Academy for the Gifted. Archives
August 2018
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