Ma, Pa Kettle and Tom Lehrer do mathematics

I just love these two videos. They show just why so many people have problems with mathematics. In particular it is the way that teachers have taught pupils “quick fix” solutions and not explained why it works.

Watch the videos and then reflect on why it is that so  many people hated mathematics at school. I find, as a mathematics consultant, that the idea of “ways to do it” just causes confusion that may very well last a lifetime.

The answer, I feel, is explanation. Tell the children why it works and let them UNDERSTAND it! Otherwise we will get perfectly good explanations for why 13-7=5 or 14 X 5= 25 (because of course 4X5 =20 and we add the 5 1’s !).

A colleague of mine is always saying that the moment we get children onto division by introducing the “bus stop” algorithm is the beginning of many children’s problems… we start from the biggest number and then what’s left becomes the larger number of the next column to the right…if you are getting confused by my explanation then think how children must feel or try to remember back to your own school days and how the mist came down and how you couldn’t wait to drop mathematics forever!

I have also added two examples of children’s mathematics answers which I feel shows the sheer panic that getting an answer to something you just don’t understand can bring you to. Without understanding we will continue to see mistakes in maths which the videos and pictures show.

About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
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