Student G was an elementary school student. He was in grade 6 when we started tutoring classes. He did not know multiplication table, and consequently, he could not learn how to divide numbers. He could not complete the academic requirements of grade 6 and the school decided to put him into the special education class with other weak students that require extra help.
The whole story:
I started to teach the multiplication table. I gave him all tips and tricks on memorizing multiplication facts. I explained how to use some facts that he remembers to calculate multiplication facts he doesn’t.
Recently, I was surfing the Internet and encountered an article written by professors of Mathematics that were sharing their experience with the middle school math curriculum. The article is called, “Why is it your job to teach your kid math?” The authors of the article were helping their children understand various alternative method offered by school teachers such as using grids, blocks, counters, or strips of paper to perform operations on fractions. The professors realized that children can not untangle themselves from the confusion created by these variety of methods without their parents and ended up organizing a Math club at home to help their neighbors’ and friends’ children to understand Math topics better. If you are interested in reading this article here is the link: “Why is it your job to teach your kid math?”
I understand that the developers of the school curriculum wanted to appeal to all psychological types of learners by creating all these alternative methods. But, I do not understand why children are tested on understanding and using these methods. For any math student it is important to be able to perform arithmetical operations quickly, correctly and with ease. Which method a student is using is supposed to be a matter of his or her choice, - whatever makes more sense for him or her. My tutoring experience proved that classical, “old fashioned” methods are more easily understood by children.
The difficulties of learning Mathematics are based, very often, on the inability to initiate, understand, trust and control mental processes by our consciousness. The brain is an instrument, but we have to learn how to use it. Our mind is capable of thinking and figuring out the solution to many Mathematical problems if we feed it with precise data, formulate the question clearly and listen to what the intuition is trying to tell us. Of course, we are assuming that a learner has strong foundations in previous knowledge and has acquired practical skills in applying it.