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 

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