Friday, September 25, 2009

Some VERY light mathematics

I'm teaching math -- albeit very light math -- this year. Julia's in 5th grade, so she's still doing basic arithmetic, and I can handle that. I'm even making up her tests for her.

One reason this is easy is because (I'm sorry to say it) Julia is not much of a math student. Now, this is a perplexity to me, because her daddy is a math WIZARD, and I'm no shabby math student myself, although it's not a subject that ever held my interest.

This fall I discovered that my 5th grader is still doing her addition and subtraction by using her fingers.


Anna used to use her fingers -- she's another mathematically challenged one. But when we homeschooled her last time, her daddy broke her of this habit. Through repeated drills, he worked those math facts into her head. It wasn't easy.

Is it supposed to be easy?

The modern trend in education is to make it palatable to the student, even pleasant. Now, actually I would say this has always been the goal of education, but the MEANS to this end has changed in the 20th century. We used to make education lovely to the learner by changing the learner. That's hard work, altering the natural tendency of a child, training IN a love of knowledge and wisdom, training OUT a love of sloth and frivolity. (see most of Proverbs)

Modern educational methods do not attempt to change the child. They change the education, adapting it to the child. Theologically, I believe this is a reflection of our rejection of the fallen/sinful nature in a child. Why change someone who is pure, perfect and innocent? Some educational models teach that the child has a natural love of learning, and if it is not immediately enjoyable to him, then we're doing something wrong as teachers.

Not so.

Julia uses her fingers because that is her default behavior. It's easier than permanently embedding dozens of math facts into her memory. And I will say, without any hard feelings to any teachers out there, that I would have preferred it if SOMEONE had noticed this in her over the past few years and broken the bad habit.

I've printed out math drill sheets from a free website, They work great! Some modern educators will tell you that doing rote repetition like this is not useful for the child. Hardly!! Not only does Julia enjoy these sheets, she can already tell that she's benefiting, and this motivates her. She wants PERFECT scores, so she is careful. She is getting faster and remembering the math facts, so she feels proud of her accomplishments.

So, if you're a teacher, or homeschooler, or just someone interested in education, be sure to evaluate the educational models you've been trained in. It's worth it for the sake of the child.

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