Monday, January 9, 2012

Math Rant: Yes, Elementary Teachers, Math is in Your Job Description

Yikes, long time, no post. Not the first time it's happened, but hopefully the last, because I've finally figured out a posting "schedule" that I think will work for me. What do you think?

Mathematical Mondays
Writerly Wednesdays
Free-For-All Fridays

You know I love my alliteration. Hopefully I can keep thinking of fitting topics each week.

So, that makes this a Mathematical Monday, and we have another math-rant. First, a disclaimer. Some elementary teachers are awesome. Some don't match anything I'm about to say. I hope we get more of those.

Here are some actual quotes I've heard from elementary teachers.

"I hate math."

"I wish I didn't have to teach math."

"I was lousy at math in school, but I figure elementary math is easy, so I can teach that."

I have yet to hear an elementary teacher say they hate reading, wish they didn't have to teach reading, or are lousy at reading. Many elementary teacher training programs are heavy on the literacy courses, and light (or non-existent) on the math pedagogy.

Don't get me wrong. Reading and writing are hugely important. (Hello, I'm a writer!) But so is math. Even if a student will never have to divide fractions or graph a linear equation once they leave school, the associated thinking skills are valuable no matter what they do in life. They need a good math education to develop those skills of logic, problem solving, and number sense.

And guess what—when the teacher doesn't like math, the kids know it. Doesn't matter if the teacher doesn't explicitly say so. It comes across.

It's socially acceptable to say you're bad at math, but this is something that needs to change, especially with the way technology is developing so rapidly these days. It used to be only the elite knew how to read, and now no one wants to admit being bad readers. (And yes, we need to keep working on ways to help those who have difficulty reading.) It's time for math skills to have the same status, and it starts with those who are role models for the teeny-tiny kids—both parents and teachers.

Okay, rant over. Now I can get back to looking for ways to bolster the math skills of the elementary teachers at my school so they can stop making excuses. ;)

Are you a math-phobe? What led to you feeling that way? If you're a math-lover, how did that happen?


Mindy McGinnis said...

Admitted math o phobe.... How did I get that way? I think it was right around the they put letters in with numbers and blew my mind.

R.C. Lewis said...

You're not alone—I know a lot of people hit the wall with Algebra.

(So despite my rant on elementary ... good, flexible math teachers are necessary throughout.) :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I LOVE teaching Math! It's my favourite part of the day. Our board has been great the last few years with lots of PD on math instruction & we've had some amazing speakers. I use a problem solving type approach and (almost all) the kids enjoy math too! :)

R.C. Lewis said...

*hugs Jemi*

*hugs Jemi again*


Sakura Eries said...

it's funny b/c growing up math o phobia was only something i saw referenced in TV sitcoms and not among my peers or family (mostly 1st and 2nd generation Asians). As my mom, who immigrated in her early teens explained, 1 +1 =2 whether you're in China or the US, but trying to read a text in English, when u've just barely learned to say hello, yes, and no, is really really hard. (for non-Chinese speakers, try picking up a text in Chinese and see how far u get).

so guess which subjects she thought were hard and which were easy :)

R.C. Lewis said...

Sak, I didn't understand why some people thought math was hard when I was young, either. My mom tried to have me help my little sister with her math homework once or twice—not a good idea—so I knew some kids struggled. Just didn't understand why.

Once I got a little older, I started figuring out the why part. Some people are just wired in a way where numbers don't click, but a lot of it can be addressed ... by a good teacher. ;)