speed vs comprehension

October 22, 2009 at 8:25 am 1 comment

So based on the comments made about the math scores in the United States I see there is great concern about students in the younger grades not knowing their math facts well enough to succeed in the upper grades. Some districts and states sound like they were trying to compensate for that by letting students at young ages use calculators.  I don’t see that as a solution but is the so called “kill and drill” any better.  Is speed and instant recall of math facts as important as strategies and thoughtfulness in figuring out the answer.
So much of what we do in math is reward those that are fast. First person with hand up usually gets called first, games for knowing their addition or subtraction etc. are almost always based on speed. Isn’t it more important that we work with kids on knowing strategies and letting them think through problems first.  Here is an article on the benefits of allowing students to work through the problem even when frustrated.


Entry filed under: Math Instruction. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Math scores in the US. Going for the Gold

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Paul Farrar  |  October 22, 2009 at 10:14 am

    “Speed vs Comprehension” offers at best a false dichotomy and at worst a Straw Man which guarantees the Author’s desired outcome. I’m happy to agree that over-emphasis on competition in math class dampens the spirit of those who cannot win. Sooner or later all of my students WILL compete for college admissions, military training programs, and scholarships. I will do all I can to allow them to win the competition of their choice, which certainly includes honing BOTH their speed and their comprehension.

    Much as I admire Piaget and the constructivist approach to math, please do not ask me to pay a plumber or a carpenter by the hour to “figure out” the solution to a routine problem. I expect either one of them to possess a certain foundation of knowledge in their profession before they tackle my job.

    Oregon’s math testing instructions say: Calculators are allowed for all students in all grades at all times. [Author scoffs.]

    For parents who want to see more than just their child’s score: “While test items must be kept secure, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that parents have the opportunity to view their student’s most recent test booklets or a computer generated list of test items.” [Page 10, Oregon’s Test Administration Manual.] I recommend that every parent exercise this right and TAKE YOUR CHILD WITH YOU.

    Yours for happy, strong math students, paul4r@canby.com


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