[Numeracy 98] Re: how age affects learning math

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mmanly mmanly at earthlink.net
Wed Feb 3 23:36:02 EST 2010


First, I should introduce myself. I'm Myrna Manly, an independent numeracy
consultant. I have been working lately with an OVAE numeracy project and
with the numeracy domain of the PIAAC international assessment of adult
competencies.

There is an interesting NYTimes article about aging and learning called "How
to train the aging brain" You can find it at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/education/edlife/03adult-t.html

There may be some clues there to help us (the aging) to keep sharp and to
help our students at the same time.

Finally, regarding the discussion about the multiplication tables; in the
interest of fairness, let's be careful to recognize that very few educators
or curricula have stated that memorizing multiplication tables is not
authentic. Most have said that MERELY memorizing them is not enough to
establish a robust number and operation sense.

I'm enjoying this list and learning a lot from you.

Myrna


-----Original Message-----
From: numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf
Of Susan Jones
Sent: Wednesday, February 03, 2010 7:45 AM
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List
Subject: [Numeracy 97] Re: how age affects learning math

I'm reframing the question, since I don't think "style" is the issue.

I do find some patterns when dealing with students who've been away from
"school math" for many years, which makes sense given the research
indicating that all too many people process mathematical problems
differently if it's "a math problem for school" vs. a situation outside of
school.

My fresher-out-of-school folks are sometimes overwhelmed by the way our math
courses do mean and horrible things like put extra information in a problem,
as a number. I work with them on really imagining the situation, drawing
sketches, etc.

My older students have less trouble with that -- but are far more likely to
have incredible trouble unlearning things like "+ means you add." -5 + 3
... it has to be 8, and we'll debate the sign, because it says to add, right
there!

When I became aware of the "old models" that had to be torn down and
rebuilt, it really helped. I'll sometimes compare it to child development
and how a child will, at first, think all hairy four-legged thigns are dogs
(or moose, if you're in Alaska) and call out that name... but that as they
grow, their understanding grows. It's not that the "rules changed," it's
that our understanding deepens.

And yea, the older students are more likely to know the times tables if they
went to school before memorization became "beneath" so-called "authentic"
learning.

Susan Jones
Academic Development Specialist
Center for Academic Success
Parkland College
Champaign, IL 61821
217-353-2056
sujones at parkland.edu
Webmastress,
http://www.resourceroom.net
http://bicyclecu.blogspot.com


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