Q&A #129

1st grade math curriculum

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From: Elizabeth Goldsmith-Conley
To: Teacher2Teacher Service
Date: May 17, 1998 at 22:34:00
Subject: 1st grade math curriculum

What is the rationale for quick coverage of many math topics which only a few students understand, versus in-depth treatment of a few topics until most students master them? I am teaching first grade in a public school in an impoverished urban area. We are using the Scott-Foresman - Addison Wesley 1998 text. The core lessons number about 160. Most topics are given only a single core lesson. Of course there are many, many additional suggested activities and extensions. However, since our administration (district wide) expects us to cover the entire book and follow its pacing chart, we are left with no time to develop any of the concepts or use any of the extensions. I find this very frustrating and think it a pedagogically weak approach. What is the rationale behind such an approach? Do many math education theorists really see this as preferable to dealing more deeply with just a few topics? I know that letting children, for example, play a place value game such as race for a bundle of 10 (or race for a dollar) more than one time is necessary in order for them to really understand what they are doing. Depth and repetition seem so obviously preferable that I am puzzled about why entire districts like mine are opting for superficial coverage that less than half the class really grasps.

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