Q&A #674

Teaching children a process for solving math problems

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From: ---
To: Teacher2Teacher Service
Date: Oct 19, 1998 at 17:31:44
Subject: Teaching children a process for solving math problems

When I was in the fifth & sixth grade, 35 years ago, the good nuns who taught me required that we follow specific steps to solve various math problems. For example, for word problems, we had to write out what was GIVEN, what we had to FIND, what was the mathematical PROCESS, show the WORK, and then give the ANSWER. It was very rigid but it worked. I still find myself approaching my sixth graders Math homework this way! Unfortunately, in his award-winning, "progressive" public school, they do not seem to teach the students any specific steps for approaching math problems, whether in word form or written as expressions. He has great difficulty in figuring out where to begin when presented with a word problem. In addition, he is reluctant to follow the method I learned. When doing equations, he tries to do all the work on one line rather than showing each step on multiple lines (then he wonders why he can't follow what he did and gets confused!) because that is how he claims they do it in school. Is my son's school alone or is this the general trend in teaching Math these days? Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

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