Developing a mathematical disposition - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School Principal's Blog

Developing a mathematical disposition

Posted on November 15, 2008

by Dr. Edna Hussey on November 15, 2008

I began to understand how to do long division the other night.  Well, I learned how to do long division in third grade, that is, I memorized the procedure or algorithm, but I can't say I understood the relationship from one step to the next.  I and about 75 other parents from preschool through fifth grade listened to national math consultant Gail Parrino explain multiplication and division using the methods now taught to our students in our curriculum program, Math Investigations.  Using arrays, a grouping of squares in rows and columns to form rectangles, Gail demonstrated how the use of arrays provides children with a visual representation of multiplication.  I will no longer view the multiplication table in the same way, as a grid to find answers when I forget what 8 x 9 equals.  Now I see this table as representing relationships among numbers.  I learned that mathematics is about patterns and relationships and how to think and problem solve, radically different from the traditional focus on end products of knowledge, such as using formulas or breaking knowledge into disconnected segments.  Focusing on individual pieces and rules is contrary to promoting coherence in mathematics or in learning. Student learning must go beyond the learning of specific skills.  

Though intensive math tutoring may yield speed and accuracy, traditional methods of approaching the teaching of mathematics will not provide a solid foundation of mathematical concepts and thinking essential for higher-level mathematics.
[A mathematics curriculum] needs to include attention to the development of a mathematical disposition that cases students to be confident in using mathematics, flexible in exploring mathematical ideas, perseverant in working on mathematical tasks, interested and inventive in doing mathematics, inclined to reflect on their thinking, and to value mathematics and its uses, and to appreciate its role in our culture.  - From "Standards-Based Mathematics Curriculum Materials: A Phrase in Search of a Definition," Paul Trafton et al, Phi Delta Kappan, November 2001, p. 263.
If you were unable to attend the session and are interested in receiving the handouts, please contact our school office at 441-3800.  I can see why many of our students look forward to math every day!

If you've read the classroom teachers' blogs this week, many described the cup stacking assembly in the gym on Thursday morning, which seemed to me an amazing demonstration of controlled chaos! I have never seen so much widespread excitement stacking cups into pyramids then dismantling them in feverish seconds!  All 252 students from preschool through fifth grade joined over 10,000 students across the nation to participate in a Guinness Book of Records event to break the record for the most people cup stacking around the world in a day.  You would not have believed the resounding energy in that gym.  Please read Pam Jenkins' weblog on the elementary website for more details about the physical development aspects of cup stacking.  The November assembly scheduled on November 20 was combined with the cup-stacking event.  We acknowledged students celebrating their November birthdays, and several shared their birthday books at the assembly.  

A few safety reminders:  Thank you for observing the ban on double-parking during morning and afternoon pickup times.  The traffic cones have also been placed in the one critical spot where cars entering the turnaround area have had to swing left into oncoming traffic exiting the turnaround area.  I think some drivers are forgetting that they need to slow down when entering the campus.  I have seen too many situations where children playing in between parked cars could suddenly dart onto the road.  Please slow down, mindful of the children nearby.  And please ensure that your child is close to you when walking on the sidewalk or that you are holding onto your child's hand when walking on the road.

Check out www.spacegranthawaii.ed/futureflight for a weekend program in June for students in grades 2-5, accompanied by an adult.  Children work together in a unique team mission to explore robotics, physics, the solar system, and mathematics.  I know it's only November, but the parent who passed on this information to me said slots fill up in November!

After you've read my letter and your child's classroom blog, please don't forget to check out the specialists' blogs.  You need to enter your email address if you want to receive notifications about newly posted information.

Before I close this week's letter, I want to thank our parent `ohana who provide tremendous support.  Not only do they meet each month and plan activities for our students, but they also provide excellent ideas and feedbackThe faculty and I value their dedication, commitment, and spirit!

For our children,

Edna L. Hussey