Everyday Math

By Murray Bourne, 31 Jan 2006

The article Go figure - "Everyday Math" shows there's more than one way to solve a problem, but it has parents lost in translation [which is no longer available] demonstrates two things:

  • Mathematics education is one extended experiment
  • Parents never have a clue what is going on in schools - especially in math

In the approach described, I like:

  • the use of manipulatives,
  • encouraging alternative approaches and
  • emphasis on number

However, from the article, it all seems rather disorganised.

It's called Everyday Math, a reform curriculum developed by the University of Chicago in the 1980s and now used by nearly 3 million students throughout the United States.

One alternative strategy:

For example, a child adding 326 to 575 would first add the hundreds column, then the tens, then the ones, then add up the results, a foreign strategy for many adults.

Students have a lot of difficulty with algebra when they have not mastered basic number skills. And those number skills must be couched in real-life problems.

See the 4 Comments below.

4 Comments on “Everyday Math”

  1. Fed Up says:

    My son has suffered with Everyday Math from 1st grade. He is now in 6th grade and he is extremely confused. Everyday Math has been the downfall of my son. He can not multiply two digits by two digits because he has been taught so many different ways to do the problem. He uses parts of each of the 4 ways he was taught to multiply the problem and its wrong. In the beginning, they are not allowed to use the traditional method, so I can't help him. I had to rely solely on the teachers to show him how to do these problems and they did not do their jobs. I have complained to everyone I can to get this changed with no luck.

  2. Murray says:

    Thanks for your comment, Fed Up.

    Sadly, your son will probably rely 100% on his calculator from here on in.

    Maybe you could be radical and show him the traditional method? Or would it be too confusing at this stage?

  3. grahamsw says:

    "Everyday Math" is really not the enemy here - though applying 4 methods without understanding probably is worse than applying one method without understanding, and any curriculum can be badly taught.

    We have to think about the purpose of math education. 50 or so years ago it was vitally important to teach a large number of people how to add and multiply quickly and reliably. Pencils and paper were the technologies available - and in these circumstances the 'traditional' algorithms are highly efficient (quick) and robust (produce relatively few errors compared to other algorithms).

    That is not the situation any more. Now it makes about as much sense for most students to spend time on multiplication of multi-digit numbers as it would for them to practice producing square roots or logarithms by hand. Valuable and fascinating things to know how to do for advanced students, but everything has to earn its place in the curriculum.

    Math ed is indeed one long, amazingly expensive, experiment. The great news for those interested in it is that society is willing to spend so much money on it. We still suck at it, but think what music teachers would give to be in this position.

  4. Murray says:

    Thanks for the comments, Graham.

    We have to think about the purpose of math education. Exactly - why are we doing it and what is the desired outcome?

    A lot of government programs that try to "improve the math level of students" end up increasing algebra manipulation skills, but tend to fail at increasing mathematical thinking and problem solving skills.

    Have you used Everyday Math extensively?

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