Once upon a time you learned math by doing a lot of math problems. The teacher would give a lesson, show a couple examples, and send you home to solve the even number problems at the end of chapter one day, and the odd number problems the next day. After repeatedly solving the same type of problem for a couple days, you usually got the concept down well enough to take a quiz. Then you move on to the hard word problems for a day or two then take the test at the end of the week.
Some PhD geniuses who devised the new math curriculum decided math needs to be taught differently. Today, they start with the word problems. I was told they do this so a student will immediately know how to apply math in a real world situation.
The obvious problem with this method of teaching math is that students don’t know how to read. If you can’t read, you can’t do a word problem. If you continue to fail at solving word problems, you are convinced you can’t do math, when, in fact, you never got a chance to do any math at all.
Fixing the dearth in standardized math test scores is as simple as getting students to start solving equations again. Learning to read will help, too, but let’s keep reading instruction in reading class and arithmetic in math class.
Students in poorer school districts have one huge advantage to learning math that students in other schools districts don’t have. They don’t have calculators. With all things being equal (which they never are) kids without calculators are far better at solving math equations than students who have had calculators in their book bags since birth. I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s the case.
If you want to help a child learn math, go to the dollar store and buy those basic paperback math books with a bunch of equations, games, and pictures. Get some arithmetic flash cards. If math was made fun again by solving problems quick, fast, and in a hurry, as opposed to demanding a kid work through the drudgery of reading word problems when they aren’t reading at grade level and some of the words aren’t even spoken in their everyday existence, we could create an entire school of STEM scholars.
Our kids are brilliant. They’re intentionally being made to think they’re dumb.