Friday, May 13, 2005

Math Facts & a Math Foundation

Math Facts - Where do they fit in building a math foundation?

While math facts get alot of attention from parents who seems to like drilling their children on the math facts, the focus on memorizing math facts is often ill-timed in the educational sequence. While it's true that (as many parents say): "There are parts of education, like math facts, that you just need to memorize", it is not true that memorization of math facts are a key to success. In fact, the impatience of parents drilling on math facts (math facts at breakfast, math facts at lunch, math facts before TV, math facts before bed etc etc) can do some real harm, particularly when they are trying to teach the materials before the children are ready. In these cases, the children get frustrated, can start disliking math, and worse of all, can start to feel that they are bad at math. How sad is it when children develop math anxiety due to poor teaching!

Note, for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, there are the addition math facts (3+5=8), subtraction math facts (8-1=7), multiplication math facts (3x7=21), and division math facts (25 / 5 = 5).

Math facts appear to many parents to be the heart of math education but in fact, math facts are the epitome of the less-important rote learning aspect in a subject (math) which can only be mastered by acquiring basic understandings, not by memorizing the math facts or anything else.

A solid math foundation is build on deep fundamental understandings. The math facts are like the windows of a structure; important but math facts are not as important as the real foundation. As an example of the elements of a math foundation, look at Time4Learning's explanation of the proper sequence for acquiring skills to develop a deep enough foundation for success prior to spending time on the math facts.

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