
Re: rote learning math facts
Posted:
Aug 17, 2002 11:11 AM


On Thu, 01 Aug 2002 18:09:30 GMT, Art Burke <pianomanab@starpower.net> wrote:
>Just wondering how teachers feel about children learning their >multiplication, division, addition, and subtract facts by wrote? > >Are students encouraged in school to learn them by wrote, or are >teachers allowing children to count on the fingers and calculators >these days? > >This is not a loaded question. I'm trying to finish a project with >encourages rote learning using orals methods and the computer. >
If you're not already here, you should come out to California in the Spring. That's when the annual State Mathcounts competition is held, one at Davis, the other in Southern Calif. I'd recommend coming to the Davis event as Northern California is usually the region that produces the California students who go on to the National levels.
What's interesting about the Davis event is that at the end of several hours of testing, the top 16 out of 150, or so, contestants go up on stage for a headtohead competition.
While on stage, the students are paired off and have to quickly answer oral questions. Like the old collegebowl days, the contestants are frequently buzzing in before the MC is finished reading the question.
The top contestants stonecold know not just their basic math facts and algorithms, they've also mastered all the basic math formulas covered in introductory math classes up through geometry, as well as a significant number of squares, primes, and cubes. These students are 6th to 8th graders. That web of knowledge, enables them to not just knock off the gimmes such as "What is the sum of the first 100 odd numbers?", it enables them to quickly attack problems that require a deep insight into the nature of numbers. I've worked with bright children for 7 years now and remember one student in particular. The student is extremely bright but when we first met, couldn't accurately answer 9*8 or accurately do simple sums. The student would correctly perceive how to handle a difficult, multistep problem, but half the time, the answer would be wrong due to not knowing 6*5. The student initially waved away the issue as not important because "I understand the concepts involved..." I pointed out that the score for that problem at competition would be zero as there's no partial credit. It didn't sink in until we went to the Mathcounts competition at Davis. At that point, the student understood that not only are there a lot of very bright kids out there, a lot of them have been working their tails off and do know what 6*5 is as well as "understand the concepts involved..."
To summarize what this rant has been  basic arithmetic facts are important at the highest levels of performance. But they're only a part of the story. Curiousity, dilligence, inventiveness play a huge role. A well educated elementary student will not only know their math facts, they'll also know how to draw, make music, be a teammember on a sports team, write a story, read a book, create a story out loud, be able to talk to people  both peers and adults. It's a web of knowledge  no strand less important than another.
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