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elementary math
Posted:
Oct 15, 1995 5:38 PM


I am a highschool teacher who feels strongly that the math teaching community ought to be putting most of its energies into trying to help figure out how to get appropriate math education into the 4th  6th grades. By appropriate I mean a math education that challenges each kid, that is broad, that solidifies skills as well as providing ongoing experiences in solving a variety of problems, that teaches kids when *not* to use calculators as well as when *to* use calculators, that promotes the visulaization of mathematical relationships geometrically, that models the use of correct mathematical vocabulary and, by doing so, enables kids to incorporate this vocabulary into their thinking repertoire, and that encourages kids to view their world mathematically as well as socially, morally, poetically and historically. Elementary teachers are, by necessity, generalists. Many (I suspect, most) are not first of all mathematicians and most, in my experience, are far more comfortable with language arts and social studies than with math of any sort beyond basic arithmetic. Schools of education routinely try to fill math gaps with math ed courses that cannot make mathematical thinkers of those who never much liked math in the first place. Schools that would never think of entrusting the teaching of reading and writing to teachers whose reading and writing skills were limited routinely put people who are mathematically limited into the classroom to teach math to elementary students. It's not the fault of the teachers. It is the fault of a system that expects every teacher to teach everything. We ought to fix the system. 4th  6th grade classes ought to be taught by pairs of teachers  a reading/ history teacher and a math/science teacher, people who are specialists. IMHO that is where money ought to go and the people who have complained about the futility of "throwing money at the problem" ought to consider throwing money in that direction.
Joan Reinthaler Sidwell Friends School



