Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A 4th grader blew my mind

My daughter was telling me today about how she figured out how to multiply 8 times 8 when she had her timed test in math. She is working on memorizing her multiplication facts for 2s, 5s, 9s, and squares. She has most of them down now but a few of them were still escaping her. Therefore she was telling me that she skipped 8x8 during her timed test and did it last. She said she figured it out by counting 8 5s on her fingers which comes up to 40. Then she took her 8 fingers she had up and added 3 more for each finger. She counted 41, 42, 43 for her first finger; then she added 44, 45, 46, for her second finger and then so on. She came up with 64 and I was amazed. It took me a minute to figure out what she had done. THE DISTRIBUTIVE PROPERTY...8x8 = 8(5+3). She multiplied the 8x5 then did the 8x3 (by counting on her fingers...lol).  I asked her who showed her that and she said she just came up with it. I BEG TO DIFFER. She has had some great teachers and she is doing the dreaded GO MATH.

I keep hearing and seeing so many complaints about common core math. However, this little problem solver is a product of common core math. It is so hard to explain sometimes but I try. Common core teaches problem solving skills- not just rote memory. That does not mean that students won't memorize multiplication facts. They certainly will still memorize facts. However, they also use estimation and problem solving strategies that they can put into practice when they are not sure they are remembering their math facts correctly. I believe I have seen and heard phrases like friendly numbers and compatible numbers. I see posts about the "new way" to solve math problems and how long they take. Please consider that the students are learning problem solving strategies that will go with them as the problems get too hard to know by memory. The simpler problems are used to illustrate the concept but the concept applies as the problems get more difficult. It is similar to making students show their work on 1-step equations even though they can do them in their heads. We are teaching them the PROCESS so that when the equations get more difficult and involve more steps they can understand the correct way to solve them.

I like common core math. I love the focus on the problem solving skills and the math practice standards. I also love the incredible amount of resources that can be found to help teach algebra. I do think that schools need to have "tutoring" for parents so that they can understand the reasons for the different strategies that are being taught for solving their math problems. Faster is not always better. Comprehension and retention is the key!