What Our Children Are Learning in Math You probably remember studying “arithmetic” – adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing when you were in elementary school (as I do). Now, children are starting right away to learn about the broad ideas associated with math, including problem solving, communicating mathematically, reasoning, and number sense. Listed below are a few of the key mathematical concepts that appear in elementary school math books and classroom instruction today. Algebra: Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic in which letters of the alphabet represent numbers or a specified set of numbers, and are related by operations that hold for all numbers in the set. Arithmetic: Arithmetic is the knowledge and the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers and fractions. For example: 5+1, 10-5, 6x2, 12÷3, and ¾ + ½. Calculus: Calculus is about how quantities change. By understanding calculus, people can use math to make predictions about things that change over time. Estimation: Estimation is the act of approximating or guessing the number value of something. We use estimation regularly to determine such things as how many, how heavy, and how full. Being a good estimator also helps children know if answers on calculators or other computer-generated data makes sense. Geometry and spatial sense: Geometry begins with children recognizing shapes by their characteristics and extends to their being able to use formulas and algebra to determine important details about each shape. For example a=1/2 (bxh) is the formula for determining the area of a triangle. Measurement: Measurement is determining the lengths, areas, volume, time and other quantities. Children need to know common units of measure such as inches or kilograms and how to use measurement tools. Number Sense: Number sense is understanding the relative sizes of numbers and how to use them, whether doing arithmetic, estimation, measurement, or classification. Probability: Probability is determining the likelihood that something will happen, often expressed as a fraction or a ratio…..1 in 10 or 1/10. Statistics: Statistics is the collection and analysis of numerical data. Taking a census and counting people is a statistical activity. How Will Math Look in Your Child’s Classroom? As a result of the recent effort in mathematics teaching to include understanding the teaching of math, from basic through advanced levels, the picture of your child’s math class may, indeed, look very different from what you remember when you were in school! For instance: Children will be expected to know their math facts: Children will be learning their math facts with an understanding of how facts relate to each other. Children will be doing more than arithmetic: Children will be seeing that math is much more than arithmetic (knowing the facts and number operations); it involves estimation, geometry, probability, statistics and more. Children will be striving to achieve high goals: Children will be achieving high standards of understanding, complexity, and accuracy set for them by their parents, teachers, schools, and states. Children will be actively involved in the study of mathematics: Children will be doing tasks that involve investigations. They will be talking and writing explanations for their thinking. Children will be working with one another: Children will be collaborating to make discoveries, draw conclusions, and discuss math. Children will be evaluated in a variety of ways: Teachers will use many different ways to determine if children know and understand math concepts. Some of these will include writing samples, projects, or written tests. Not all evaluation will be the same for every classroom of every child. Children will be using calculators to solve some problems: They will be using calculators, not as crutches, but as tools to solve more complex problems with bigger numbers than they could do otherwise. Children with good knowledge of math facts, number sense, and reasoning about math will be able to use the calculator most effectively. Children will be using computers: They will be developing databases, spreadsheets and computer graphics, while solving problems. Help Your Child Achieve in Math Visit your child’s school. Meet with your child’s teacher to see if your child is actively involved in math. Find out how you can help your child to better understand math problems. Set high standards for your child in math. Make sure your child is mathematically challenged and encourage his or her interest and pursuit of math. By the end of 10th grade, your child should be expected to have studied algebra and geometry. Help children see that math is very much a part of everyday life. From statistics in sports to the price of clothing, from the calories in food to the amount of gas needed to travel from one city to another, math is important to us every day. Help your child make these connections to math. Point out that many jobs require math. From the scientist to the doctor, from the plant manager to the newspaper salesman, from the computer programmer to the hardware store owner, many jobs require a strong foundation in math. Help your child see that math leads to many exciting career opportunities. Positive attitudes about math will reinforce encouragement. Your feelings will have an impact on how your children think about math and themselves as mathematicians. Positive attitudes about math are important in encouraging your child to think mathematically. Much of the above information was found on the U.S. Dept. of Education website. Memorizing the Basic Multiplication Facts Work on only about two or three new facts each day. Mix the new facts in with the review of a fact or two that has already been learned. Have your child make flashcards for each new fact. Make 2 flashcards for each new fact…example: 2x6 and 6x2. Practice these new facts and 1 other fact that they’ve already memorized. Practice only these cards for a few days or until they have memorized them. In this way, they are only working with a small group of cards each day. If you prefer, just have your child write the answers on a sheet of paper with problems on it to practice. Again, use only a few new facts each day but mix them up. Remember to have your child master the newest facts before going on. This may take more than two or three times of practice. Some of the websites listed on my webpage have reproducible worksheets. As the multiplication facts are mastered, begin practicing the division facts. It is more productive to practice five to six minutes each day rather than to try to cram a sixty-minute practice session into one day! J We can’t stress enough how important it is for the students to KNOW the facts! This means giving the answer without having to think or use their fingers.