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Ron's Questions
Posted:
Mar 23, 1995 3:11 PM


I'd like to respond to "What should be the principal goal of elementary mathematics?" I think elementary school is where it is CRUCIAL that students get the idea that mathematics is MUCH MUCH more than arithmetic. They need basic understandings and skills but they must go beyond. They need to be involved in genuine problem solving. They must be asked to explain and justify their thinking. They must see that there are many ways to solve problems. Please notice that I did not exclude basic understandings and skillsthey ought to be able to perform all four operations, they ought to be at least familiar with the standard algorithms, (by the time they leave elementary school) although they may not choose to compute with standard algorithms. They need to have learned to listen to other students' ways of solving problems. They should have worked with negative numbersthey should have flexibility in their thinking, not stuck in the "one right way/ one right answer" mentality. I think that kind of thinking (that I just described at the end of that sentence) makes further learning of mathematics difficult for students and difficult for secondary teachers to teach. A middle school teacher once told me (very politely and appropriately by the way!) that it made her job harder when students told her that it was impossible to subtract 9 from 7, as they had been taught in elementary school. They'd be much more ready for middle school and further math if they knew math was more than rules and procedures. Cindy Chapman@apsicc.aps.edu



