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DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN TREASURES OF MATH 1

Discovering the Hidden Treasures of Math


Madison A. Cona


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Abstract
This paper is about why it is so critical for my students to learn math. In this paper, I explain why
our students math scores in America have reached an all time low as well as propose a solution
to rebuild our countrys educational system. The basis of this paper is built around the common
core standards. I use the common core to explain why learning through concepts is more
beneficial to my students everyday life than teaching them through topics. I ultimately want my
students to see that there are hidden treasures in math such as problem solving, being precise,
and logical thinking that they will use to help them become life long math learners. After reading
this paper I hope my students will gain a sense of purpose so that they will understand and
realize why they need math in their life.
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Discovering the Hidden Treasures of Math
Picture this in your mind: its your first day of 9
th
grade, stress levels are high, your
taking 6 or more classes, so theres a lot on your plate. Now to add to your already busy day, for
50 minutes each day you have to sit through the class they call math, where for 50 minutes you
are constantly asking yourselves, why do I have to learn this? If only my students knew that
they actually use math all the time! From the moment you wake up in the morning, you are using
math; whether it is to set your alarm, figure out how much time you need to get ready in order to
make the bus, think about how many possible outfits you can wear, measure how many cups of
water you need in order to make your pancakes, or even to decide how much money you need to
buy your lunch (Emma 2014). Math is not only a part of your daily routine; it is a part of your
everyday life. It is such a necessary skill to have, but students in our country are not progressing
in math, and are not as interested in it as they should be.
Internationally, average math scores taken from 4
th
and 8
th
grade students in the Trends in
International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), show that out of 57 countries, the US at
grade 4 was in the top 15 education system for mathematics and for grade 8 the US had dropped
to the top 24 education system for mathematics (National Center for Education Statistics 2011).
Overall, in the US, math scores for 4
th
graders have increased slightly, whereas math scores for
8
th
graders have not changed since 2007. So why is our math scores, in America, behind so many
other countries math scores and why is it that our students math scores are dropping from 4
th

grade to 8
th
grade?
For all students out there, do not worry, as it is not your fault. For many years, students
have been misguided by our educational system into thinking that the best way to learn math was
to complete as many math problems as you could, and sit quietly at your desks. In this type math
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class students were not allowed to talk, for fear that they were cheating, and the teachers read out
all of the answers at the end of class. Although some may believe that this is the most effective
way for students to learn mathematics, this method eliminates any chance that students have to
logically think and problem solve, using mathematical discourse through class discussion.
Therefore, the problem begins with our countrys educational system. For many years our
countrys educational system has done a disservice to all of its students, but today with new
standards being brought to light there is a potential for hope that our students may finally learn
and understand why its important to learn math.
This country came together with big dreams of higher learning for students, and together
46 states agreed upon the development of the Common Core (McNeil 2012). In mathematics the
Common Cores Standards focus more on concepts rather than topics (engageny 2014). The
Common Core gives students a chance to make sense of these concepts in order to reach true
understanding (engageny 2014). According to the New York State Standards for Mathematics,
students can [now] focus their time and energy on fewer topics, in order to form deeper
understandings, gain greater skill and fluency, and more robustly apply what is learned. All of
this is good news because life is very precious and I, as a future educator, want to see that my
students time and energy is well spent in the classroom. That is why it is my job to explain how
the Common Core can benefit my students understanding of why it is important to learn math.
My students understand how to use math in basic forms like counting and measuring but
as my students progress in math, the math they learn becomes more challenging. Complex math
is harder for my students to understand because they do not see how they can apply this math to
their personal lives. Although, there may be some aspects of math, like the quadratic formula,
were you would probably not have to use except to solve a problem on a test, there are however,
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hidden concepts and skills that you learn from doing math. Such hidden treasures will ultimately
open your eyes to a whole new world of math that goes way beyond the simple numeric answer.
My goal is to show my students that the concepts learned through complex math problems, such
as problem solving, logically thinking, and being precise, can help you in terms of optimizing
your success in everyday life. Lets say for example youre walking down the road, and someone
says to you, do you want 10? Youre first thought might be 10 what? Do they mean 10 puppies,
10 dollars, or 10 milkshakes? Being mathematically precise is critical in all aspects of life
because if your not clear on what you are saying then people will have a hard time understanding
what you mean. The common core expresses other concepts that are key for students to
understand why math is so important to their lives.
The Guru of Education, Charolette Danielson said once The common core standards
help us to do better [in a classroom] so that when a 7 years old says to you, after youve asked
them to do something, who says. [We can then view that as] a question for evidence, [because
questioning] it comes to kids naturally and we can build on what is natural to their learning and
their thinking, we just have to exploit it. Like Danielson, the Common Core Standards were
designed to get students asking why? In mathematics it is critical to ask questions, because
when students start asking why, it opens doors to abstract thinking and leads to various ways to
problem solve, especially in students everyday life. For example, Danielsons idea can be best
understood through this math problem: If 18 students can fit in one bus and there are 81 students
in the grade, how many buses will the school need to go on a class trip? A student would get an
answer of 4.5 if they did their math correctly. Although this answer is mathematically correct,
given the context of the question the answer should be 5 (Jacobs 2014). The Common Core
standards encourage students to think in terms of why and explain their reasoning behind their
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answers. Therefore, a student who shows logical thinking to problem solve would say the
reason you need five buses is because you can not have half of a bus and you can not fit all the
students on 4 busses. This shows that the student is thinking about math in terms of real life
situations as opposed to just obtaining a numerical answer. This is the reasoning I would want
my students to display which shows me they have conceptual understanding of the problem.
Learning math through questioning and explaining answers allows hidden concepts such
as thinking logically, problem solving, building on mathematical vocabulary, and reasoning
abstractly to develop within a student. According to The Common Core State Standards
Initiative, The Common Core concentrates on a clear set of math skills and concepts. Students
will learn concepts in a more organized way both during the school year and across grades. The
standards encourage students to solve real-world problems (Common Core State Standards
initiative 2014). Students who practice these skills and concepts in their math class can then
apply what theyve learned to real world situations or other content areas to optimize their
success. Lets say you are having an argument with your best friend, you can use the skills you
learned in math class such as problem solving to think of various ways to come to a common
agreement. Another example would be lets say you are asked to write a paper in English class on
a controversial issue, you can use the concept of reasoning abstractly that was taught in math to
help you think on a deeper level.
My goal as a future educator is for my students to ask, Well how should I go about
solving this? when faced with a problem. I want to get students critically thinking and
questioning, this way they can begin the process of problem solving and thinking abstractly.
Through problem solving I hope to get students to start to develop conceptual understanding. In
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order to assess the levels of understanding in the class its important for my students to be able to
then explain how they got their answers using mathematical vocabulary.
From extensive research, I have learned that for many years our educational system has
let mathematics reach a low point. Another reason its at such a low point is because students do
not have a conceptual understanding of the material. In order for us as future educators to build
back up our mathematics program, students need to be taught fewer topics and more concepts.
Students need to start questioning math and relating the math they do and concepts they learn to
everyday life. I will create an environment that generates my students thought processes and gets
them to openly problem solve in order to be able to explain their results in mathematical
language. I ultimately want The knowledge and skills students need to be prepared for
mathematics in college, career, and life [to be] woven throughout the mathematics standard
(Common Core State Standards Initiative 2014).











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References
Emma, L. (n.d.). The Use of Mathematics in Everyday Life. Everyday Life. Retrieved
September 24, 2014, from http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/use-mathematics-
everyday-life-14225.html
EngageNY. (n.d.). EngageNY. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from
https://www.engageny.org
Math Forum: Ask Dr. Math FAQ: Why Study Math?. (n.d.). Math Forum: Ask Dr. Math
FAQ: Why Study Math?. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.why.math.html
Math in Daily Life -- The Universal Language. (n.d.). Math in Daily Life -- The Universal
Language. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from
http://www.learner.org/interactives/dailymath/language.html
McNeil, M. (n.d.). 46 States Agree to Common Academic Standards Effort. Education
Week:. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/06/01/33standards.h28.html
nces.ed.gov. (2014, September 24). Mathematics Achievement of Fourth- and Eighth-
Graders in 2011. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from
http://nces.ed.gov/timss/results11_math11.asp
Jacobs, Maryann. Education 206 Planning and Assessing for Learning in Secondary
Schools


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