The Chronicle: “What does it mean for kids to be ‘ready’ for math?”

17 Jul

Echoing the concerns expressed in a USA Today op-ed, Robert Talbert reiterates in The Chronicle that perhaps we’re “asking young kids to move up in mathematics too far, too soon.” He quotes the op-ed’s author, Patrick Welsh, who says:

I worry that we’re pushing many kids to grasp math at higher levels before they are ready. When they struggle, they begin to dread math, and eventually we lose thousands of students who could be the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. If we held back and took more time to ground them in the basics, we could turn them on to math.

Talbert then extends Welsh’s concern to the teaching of calculus:

Where I see the effects of an early push into higher levels of math is in another subject that is often pushed down too far: Calculus. Here, whether it’s in an AP Calculus class in high school or the traditional freshman calculus class in college, the effects of early pushes to higher levels of mathematics are greatly compounded. Issues with arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry tend to get amplified in calculus, which needs facility with all those subjects.

An understanding–not just memorization–of mathematics fundamentals is crucial to higher-level math. At Nazareth, the mathematics program focuses on problem solving. Mathematics is taught as a language of patterns, de-emphasizing rote learning and encouraging the integration of numerical, graphical, and symbolic approaches to problem solving. The department wants all students to understand that mathematics is more than a collection of recipes for solving equations and that there often may be multiple correct answers to complex problems.

Likewise, Nazareth’s School of Education has a long history of preparing some of the area’s most innovative and inspiring teachers. To this end, the College offers a collaboration with RIT to continue preparing some of the best and brightest educators: It’s called Tech2Teach. Many students journey to RIT because of an interest in and fascination with science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Not only do these students excel in their chosen disciplines, but they also have a passion for exploration, learning, and discovery—a passion that many of them want to share with the next generation of students.

Knowledge in math and the sciences grows exponentially; teachers must inspire students at all levels to unleash their imaginations as they obtain the foundation necessary to understand our world–and perhaps someday help transform it. But the demand for high quality K–12 math and science educators is well documented with a projected shortfall of more than 280,000 math and science teachers across the United States by 2015.

With the Integrated Center for Math and Science (which opens in the fall and will be housed in Peckham Hall), Nazareth College will continue and extend its commitment to keep teachers up to date in the latest proven educational methods throughout their careers.

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