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Do you understand?

What are some possible problems?


What are some possible solutions?

How do you teach college students


the mathematics they should have learned
in elementary school?

Joel Reyes Noche


jrnoche@adnu.edu.ph

Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences


Ateneo de Naga University
Council of Deans and Department Chairs of Colleges of Arts and Sciences
3rd Quarter General Assembly

September 4, 2009

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand?
What are some possible problems?
What are some possible solutions?

Do you understand?

Before our students will understand, we must first understand our


students. [Rac98]
We must understand what one who understands understands.
We must understand what one who does not understand
understands.
We must understand what one who teaches one who does not
understand to understand understands.
We must understand what curriculum will lead one who does
not understand to understand.
We must understand what curriculum will lead one who does
not teach for understanding to teach for understanding.

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand?
What are some possible problems?
What are some possible solutions?

We must understand what a strong student understands.


We must understand what a weak student understands.
We must understand what a good teacher understands.
We must understand what curriculum will lead a weak student
to become a strong student.
We must understand what curriculum will lead a bad teacher
to become a good teacher.

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand?
What are some possible problems?
What are some possible solutions?

We must understand what a weak student understands

“School mathematics is not the same as real-world


mathematics.”
“I should only use my teacher’s strategies, even if they don’t
make sense to me.”
“I don’t need mathematical skill and understanding if I have a
calculator.”

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand?
What are some possible problems?
What are some possible solutions?

Outline

1 Do you understand?

2 What are some possible problems?


Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
Skill vs. understanding

3 What are some possible solutions?


Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
Skill and understanding

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill vs. understanding

Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics

“Many pupils seem able to hold two parallel sets of


knowledge—one which applies to school mathematics and the
other to real life.” [TJ00, p. 99]

“For many of our students mathematics is learned as an illusion


and as with illusions understanding is based on accepting the
unreasonable as reasonable.” [Rac98]

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill vs. understanding

(All student solutions shown are from a study described in [Noc09].)

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill vs. understanding

Saying
1 1 2
+ =
2 3 5
is like saying
1 apple + 1 orange = 2 bananas
But

1 apple + 1 orange = 2 fruits


An apple and an orange are fruits.
2 and 3 are 5.
Therefore, 12 + 13 = 25 ?

Apples and oranges are “real” (concrete).


Halves and thirds are “not real” (abstract).

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill vs. understanding

How do you explain this to a student?

A teacher grades a student’s test as follows:

“For the first part of the test, you got 7 out of 15 items correctly.
For the second part of the test, you got 6 out of 10 items correctly.
7 6
Thus, your score for the entire test is 15 + 10 = 13
25 .”

The answer is “correct” if used in “real life” and is incorrect if


given in an exam.

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill vs. understanding

Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies

“All too often, the questions which pupils solve in class are based
on the repetition and practice of an algorithm which has just been
demonstrated. No choice is involved, no mathematical thinking is
required and a pupil using an alternative method would be in the
wrong. No wonder then that school-taught algorithms are rarely
used in real life!” [TJ00, p. 113]

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill vs. understanding

Subtraction with regrouping

Subtraction of whole numbers is usually taught in school using the


short method of regrouping.
2 12 8 12 12 8 12 12

932 932 932


 932

−356 −356 −356 −356
6 76 576
For some students, this subtraction procedure is very difficult to
understand. So why are teachers using it?
Is it because it is the only subtraction procedure they know?

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics vs. real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies vs. students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill vs. understanding

Skill vs. understanding

Should we focus on teaching procedures?


Calculate without using a calculator: 42.13 − 6.7 =
Why should a student be able to do arithmetic using pen and
paper when it is easier and more accurate to use a calculator?
Should we focus on teaching concepts?
Using a calculator, find the area of the shape shown below.
60 m
15 m
40 m 20 m
25 m

80 m

Is a student who knows how to use a calculator a student who


understands arithmetic?

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics

Give these students 6.25 pesos and then take away 4 pesos from
them. Ask them how much would remain. Would they give the
above answers?

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

If you were actually going to divide 812 pesos among these four
students, how would they react if you gave them 23 pesos each?

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Real-life contexts are not enough

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Acknowledge that many students and teachers have been


trained to believe that, and act as if, activities in the
classroom are not affected by and do not affect the real world.

Present problems in real-life contexts and emphasize to your


students the importance of checking if their answers are
realistic.

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies

“[C]hildren actually learn better when they are allowed to choose


the strategy that they wish to use. [...] Allowing children to use
the varied strategies that they generate, and helping them
understand why superficially-different strategies converge on the
right answer and why superficially reasonable strategies are
incorrect seems likely to build deeper understanding.” [Sie03, p. 224]

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Other subtraction algorithms [AAPS02]

“Unusual”
932 Rename Subtrahend
−356
932 932 +4 = 936 +40 = 976
600
−356 −356 −4 = −360 −40 = −400
− 20
− 4 576
576

Left-to-Right Add-Up
932 632 582 356 360 400 900
−300 − 50 − 6 + 4 + 40 +500 + 32 = 576
632 582 576 360 400 900 932

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Which procedure is easier?

0 12 99 10 12 99 10 12

10012 10012 100




 12
 100


 12

−214 −214 −214 −214
8 98 9798
or
10012 −2 = 10010 −10 = 10000 −1 = 9999
−214 +2 = −212 +10 = −202 +1 = −201
9798

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Skill and understanding

Have students solve problems that involve both procedural skill


and conceptual understanding.

What digits should go in the boxes to make 235


the statement true? [TJ00, p. 20] (The digits −187
in the boxes are not necessarily the same.) 738
What number should go in the box to make the statement
true? 3 + 4 + 5 =  + 7
What number is indicated by the arrow?
2.0 2.1
6

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

Conclusion

For our students to understand us, we need to understand


them.
Show your students that the mathematics in the classroom is
the same as the mathematics in the real world.
Allow them to use the problem-solving strategies that work
best for them.
Give them non-standard problems that require both skill and
understanding.

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...
Do you understand? Classroom mathematics should be real-world mathematics
What are some possible problems? Teachers’ strategies and students’ strategies
What are some possible solutions? Skill and understanding

References

Ann Arbor Public Schools.


Everyday mathematics parent handbook: Algorithms and arithmetic in everyday mathematics, 2002.
Retrieved December 17, 2008, from
http://instruction.aaps.k12.mi.us/EM_parent_hdbk/algorithms.html.

Joel Noche.
Systematic errors in arithmetic of some college students.
Kamawotan, 3(1–2):74–86, May 2009.

Sid Rachlin.
Man scars—so seems lost.
In George W. Bright and Jeane M. Joyner, editors, Classroom Assessment in Mathematics: Views from a
National Science Foundation Working Conference, pages 231–241. University Press of America, 1998.

Robert Siegler.
Implications of cognitive science research for mathematics education.
In J. Kilpatrick, W. Martin, and D. Schifter, editors, A Research Companion to Principles and Standards for
School Mathematics, chapter 20, pages 219–233. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Reston,
VA, USA, 2003.

Howard Tanner and Sonia Jones.


Becoming a Successful Teacher of Mathematics.
RoutledgeFalmer, London, 2000.

Joel Reyes Noche How do you teach college students the mathematics ...