Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Drilling “Rote Understanding” | Truth in American Education

Drilling “Rote Understanding” | Truth in American Education:

Drilling “Rote Understanding” 

Image result for drill and kill math

Over the last several years, the press and television have publicized many parents’ frustration with how math is being taught in the lower grades.  On the internet, videos abound with examples of how procedures such as addition and subtraction are being taught to students using convoluted methods that are leaving students and parents baffled as to 1) how to do the procedure and 2) angry that the standard methods are delayed.  (This video is one of many examples of parent concern over how math is taught under Common Core.)
The current interpretation of Common Core by publishers, instructional coaches, professional development vendors, and other educational entities, maintains that teaching the standard methods (known as standard algorithms) for various procedures too early can eclipse the conceptual underpinning of why the algorithms work, and can lead to students being confused.  A video by one instructional coach argues that teaching only procedures 1) has only worked for a small group of students and 2) that the reason students have a hard time with math is “No one taught them to understand the concepts and why we’re doing what we’re doing.  We didn’t teach them how to think; we just taught them how to ‘do’ and execute…”  The premise stated by this coach and others, contains the usual mischaracterization that procedures were taught in a void without contextual understanding. He also maintains that Common Core’s main focus is on “understanding”. This article explores this notion, and how and why Common Core is interpreted and implemented in the ways we are seeing.
A case in point
A case in point has presented itself in my recent work with a group of fifth graders in need of math Drilling “Rote Understanding” | Truth in American Education:

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