Math instruction today looks a lot different than the math most parents were taught in school

This is not your momma’s math!

If your child is in an elementary school at SFUSD, you are aware that math is not being taught the same as it used to be. If you are like me, you might have expected to see math worksheets come home with the 10-30 of the same type of math problems over and over on a page. This type of “drill and kill” math homework was meant to teach children through repetition. The philosophy behind this type of teaching is based on the premise that learning addition and subtraction facts (e.g. 2+3=5) is not necessarily supposed to be fun, and is only learned through memorization.

Thinking about math education has changed a lot since we were in school (over 30 years ago… YIKES!) Really smart educators who have studies how children learn and internalize math concepts have come to realize that repetition can definitely teach kids basic math facts (e.g. addition and subtraction facts, the numbers in a multiplication table) but this type of instruction alone does not teach kids the relationships and foundational concepts that underpin a true understanding of math and how it works in our everyday world. This new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) ask students to think in this new way.

Enter Everyday Math…

Many K-5 educators at SFUSD use Everyday Math to support this kind of learning in their classrooms. Whether teachers use this curriculum, another, or create their own, Everyday Math provides a great example of how math instruction is different from the instruction many of us received as parents. Here is a great example at the 2nd grade level of two very different ways that addition can be taught: 1) Using the Partial Sums Addition versus 2) the US Traditional Addition (What most of us were taught when I was in school.)

Instead of just learning one way (the US Traditional Addition method), students are taught BOTH ways so that they can gain a conceptual understanding of how addition works. Teaching them two methods, allows students to understand that there are often more than one way to solve a problem. Thinking mathematically is more than calculation, or just getting the answer right; it’s about understanding what numbers represent, and how they work in relation to one another.

Everyday Math Resources for Parents.

Click here and then select the appropriate grade level for your child. Then click on the links to view the following information:

  • Grade Level Goals – This explains what your child should know and be able to do at each grade level to demonstrate understanding
  • Student Gallery – Click on a thumbnail picture to view examples of student work
  • Family Letters – These letters are provided for your teacher to send home at the beginning of each unit. They explain the specific goals of each unit that children are working on as well as vocabulary and activities to do at home to reinforce learning
  • Everyday Activities – This is a complete list of the at home activities found in the family letters by unit.

Here is a Pdf offering tips on how to help your child with math.

To see videos of what an Everyday Math Class looks like at various grade levels, click this link and search by grade level.

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About alimcollins

Ali Collins is an educator, community organizer and mom. She lives with her husband and twin girls in San Francisco, CA.

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Academics, math

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