Through my work over the past year with adults with disabilities and through my own learning experiences with math theory classes, I've realized that the best person to help another get though their struggle is often a person who had struggles themselves. When my assignments did not come easily to me, I had to research and discover new ways to teach myself, which then led to a greater understanding of the material that I was able to pass on to my classmates. I aim to bring the same dedication and research to every student that I am able to reach now.
To that end, I've decided to refresh myself on every level of math taught to public school students. I've skipped Kindergarten and 1st Grade, as those are basic number recognition, ordering, and one digit operations. Last week I worked through the 2nd grade Go Math! textbook.
I'll admit, it has been quite a while since I was in Second Grade but I really hadn't expected anything new. However, parents be warned that the numbers aren't different, the answers aren't different, but the strategies by which the students get there are nowhere near the same as the straight forward ways we are used to. It didn't take more more than a couple of hours to read over every lesson. The first quarter of the book is relatively easy, even for 2nd graders, but by the middle half I had to stop and make sure I had applied the right strategy to get the proper steps. (Was it Friendly numbers, half, then double or half THEN friendly numbers and double?) The second half went quickly with an overview of time and measurements (with a brief introduction of the metric system) and estimating those.
Over and over I have heard parents say "This stuff is too complicated! What is the point of all of these extra steps." I've even been guilty of this myself. But after working through the book and practicing the problems, I realized how TRULY USEFUL this stuff can be. By teaching the kids how to find 7*12 by subtracting a 2 from 7 to get to 5 (a friendly number) so that they can easily multiply that 5 by 12 to get 60, then multiplying that subtracted 2 by 12 to get 24 (a friendly fact), and adding those two facts (60+24) to get the answer 84, the kids have not only memorized a multiplication fact, but have come to understand the basic foundations of mathematics and by extension the entire logical world!
...Which sounds crazy, but seems to be true to me. Instead of telling a child "here. 7x12=84. It is what it is," we are teaching them How and Why 7x12= 84. We are teaching them the basics of the factoring that they will utilize in middle and high school. We are teaching them to look at a problem and break it down in to easily manageable and relatable units. Instead of being daunted that they can't remember 7x12, they can think of the facts that they do know and work from there using strategies that are being drilled over and over again.
Later this week I'll tackle 3rd Grade and see what it's been up to since I left. I must confess that I can't wait to move on to 4th and learning the same strategies as my son, but I'll do my best to give the little purple book its due diligence before advancing.