Improving kids’ math

24th August 2018

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

We’ve long thought that Shackleton’s amazing voyage, as described in the riveting book Endurance, was one of the greatest stories of courage and, yes, endurance, ever told.  But we’ve now read an even more amazing story—We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance, by David Howarth.  This is the epic tale of how Jan Baalsrud, a Norwegian commando, overcame virtually every hardship that could be thrown at a human being as he fought, skied, limped, dragged, was carried, was entombed, and yet still carried on.  This book will inspire you to carry on with aplomb—it is unforgettable!

Should U.S. Students Do More Math Practice and Drilling?

This excellent article by Professor Paul Morgan explains the key ideas behind the answer to this important question.  Key graf:

“Routine practice and drilling following explicit teacher-directed instruction should help students become quick and accurate in solving basic operations, thereby becoming procedurally fluent. Becoming procedurally fluent in turn should help students by freeing up their cognitive capacities to solve more complex tasks. For example, students who practice to quickly and accurately recognize the meaning of the equal sign do better at solving word problems. Practice may be particularly important for elementary school students who are struggling in math. This is because these students often have underlying difficulties in attention, working memory, and language that interfere with their learning during less structured student-centered activities.”

Numeracy Ninjas

We’re often asked if we have recommendations for worksheets that might help kids practice and build their math skills.  Numeracy Ninjas is a great answer! These wonderful free worksheets provide a low stakes, high fun-factor way for kids to get a daily 5-minute dose of extra, nicely interleaved practice with important math concepts.  These excellent worksheets have been developed by Will Emeny and his team–their research on the effects of developing procedural fluency in helping spur kids’ interest and success in math is phenomenal.  Check it out!

Cognitive Science and the Common Core Math Standards

Ever wondered about whether Common Core structures the teaching of math in accordance with what we know from cognitive science?  This paper by Eric Nelson lays matters out clearly. Key graf:

“From the viewpoint of cognitive research.. the repeated omissions and delays in initial memorization in the 2010 [Common Core Mathematics Standards] result in learning strategies that simply do not work in the brains of non-experts (students).”

Dinner Table Math and Trapezium Math Club

Trapezium founder Angela McGiver did her PhD dissertation studies on older students with weak math foundations. She notes “My frustration with my children’s elementary math program led me to start an after-school math club out of my house that turned into a business… Everything you wrote in the [New York Times op-ed] is what I have been telling parents for years. I will be sharing this article to parents for years to come. My conclusion is that the only way to develop children with strong math foundations is to empower parents to do it at home.

“After starting a math club that emphasizes developing a deep and flexible understanding and fluency with numbers in elementary school through lots of practice – our work has paid off. The only children graduating from 8th grade in our neighborhood school [in the Greater Philadelphia Area] who tested into the highest level math classes in their magnet high school are Trapezium Math Club kids (2 of whom are girls and two of whom are African American).

Dinner Table Math has many of the games and activities that we use in Trapezium. Parents may purchase these technology-free games to do at home (just as we expect parents to read with their children daily, they can also be doing math). Shortly we should have videos on our site with children demonstrating how to play the games. I have also found that there truly is an educational component for  parents and am working on a Resource Guide to help them (for instance, we encourage parents to be silent and allow kids to struggle….to normalize struggling).”

Memory Expert Anthony Metivier on Why He Reads Hard Copies of Books, Rather than Electronic

Here’s Anthony’s interesting explanation of why he reads old-fashioned hard-copy books, which help him to remember and categorize the material better.  Along the way, you’ll get some excellent tips to help you remember what you read.

An Amazing Job Opportunity at Apple

Izzet Yildiz, a research scientist working at the intersection of machine learning, neuroscience and mathematics, reaches out to the Learning How to Learn community to let us know about a unique opportunity at Apple for anybody interested in making a major impact in learning domain. Izzet writes “I am working with a group of brilliant neuroscientists/engineers and we have a job opening for a ‘learning and education scientist.’ We are looking for PhDs who have significant amount of expertise in the field and who are passionate about technology. I would appreciate if you could direct possible candidates you may know to the job post here. Thank you!”


Check this out for a little additional insight into the value of chunking. [Hat tip Jeffrey Riman.]

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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