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Teaching math that counts to kids
Kindergarten and first-grade students, along with their parents, played math games using everyday items.
hugh muir/the free lance-star
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Date published: 1/22/2008
A kindergarten teacher holds up two playing cards, say the 6 of diamonds and the 4 of spades. "What do I have?" she asks her students. After a little silence, a small voice pipes up: "Nine!" The teacher doesn't say the child is wrong. What she does say is, "Let's count the spots."
"1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10" later, with the class chiming in, everybody has the answer. This is how today's teachers teach mathematics. It's called Everyday Math and is designed to replace traditional math, which was based on algorithms, or systematic repetitive solutions to a single type of problem.
The first math specialist came to Stafford schools five years ago. Widewater Elementary School got its first one this year. She is Judy Schneider, and last week she organized the school's first parents-pupils meeting to demonstrate recent techniques and explain them to everybody.
"This is an opportunity to tell the parents about how math is taught differently from their day," Schneider said. "It teaches them how to work with their children at home, how to play the games." Twelve of Stafford's 17 elementary schools have mathematics specialists, as does one middle school.
During an evening learning how their children learn, parents of kindergartners and first-graders often found that they, too, have to catch up with the new teaching methods. Both young students and their parents, in separate rooms, played the games, with the parents then getting a tutorial on how the games teach.
Back to the deck of cards--which has no cards above 10, by the way. Teacher Bonnie Patishnock deals five cards facedown (the hole cards). Then she puts a card face-up on each one. The object is to have a pair that adds up to 10. Bonnie points to a face-up card. It is a 7 of spades. "What number are you hoping for?" she asks a student.
"Three!" the 6-year-old says. The teacher turns the hole card over. It is a 5 of hearts.
So the game continues. With the 5 of hearts and the 7 of spades, what total do you have? This requires more number recognition or counting ability by the student. Is the total below 10, 10, or above 10? And by how much? All the solutions are reached by addition and/or subtraction in the student's head (no pencil or paper here).