Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

The principal of my school had a speaker come in today to talk to the math teachers.  I’m not a math teacher, but I do help students with math regularly so I was invited to attend as well.  The principal insisted I would enjoy it.  She used words like “fun” and “awesome” to describe the event.  In my world, the words “fun” and “awesome” do not belong in the same sentence with the word “math”.  Sitting through seven hours of math talk sounds almost as delightful as peeling off my skin and rolling in a pool of salt.  Still, I trust my principal and and if she said this would help me to help my students, I was onboard with it.

So, the speaker gave us these problems and told us to solve them without using algorithms.  Since I had no clue what an algorithm was anyway, I figured I could give it a shot.  She asked us, “What’s 5/8 divided by 1/4?  Draw a picture to solve this problem.”  While all these math teachers could answer the question immediately by using ‘keep, change, flip’, they puzzled a bit over the idea of drawing a picture.  I, on the other hand, being a visual learner who has to regularly draw pictures in my mind to solve problems, found this to be pretty easy.

The speaker was amazing and really got us to think about using different methods to teach kids math so that they truly understand what they’re doing and, more importantly, why they’re doing it,  instead of just memorizing different formulas to come up with solutions.  However, as the day wore on and the math teachers continued to call out complicated solutions to problems, my eyes glazed over and my brain started to bleed.  I didn’t understand their reasoning.  I couldn’t keep up with their thinking.  At this point, realizing I was in a completely different (and slightly stupid)  league from these guys, I gave up.  I spent the rest of the session in my little right-brained world doing this . . .


and this . . .

and, well, you get the idea.  I may have a math deficiency, but I’ve got an abundance of creativity.  It’s the way I work.  And perhaps, my math ineptitude will give me an edge on understanding my students’ frustration, and the ability to help them comprehend concepts.  Either that, or we’ll all just build houses and sculptures with the base ten cubes.  Six of one, half dozen of the other . . . (That’s an idiom, not a math problem so I can use it here.)

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