[Numeracy 587] Re: QUESTION: Teaching math and numberacy skills to adults learning English

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Susan Jones SUJones at parkland.edu
Tue Oct 19 12:49:46 EDT 2010

I think articles like that are fascinating, but potentially dangerous. It is entirely too easy to assume that mathematical thinking is happening, when in my experience the "estimating" process is rife with fundamental fallacies. We can see a student get the correct answer -- and gosh, "it doesn't matter how you got it!" Then the next problem requires *correct* mathematical thinking and the student gets it wrong... so... our "solution" is to practice more with the easier problems without diagnosing the thinking.

I completely agree that learning a procedure is less than useful if the student doesn't understand what it means. The task is making sure that what it means to them is connected to what it means to the problem. There's a point where "constructivism" is less than adequate -- I watch students "construct their own meaning" -- only it's not what the real situation meant. If the student thinks two thirds of something means to divide by 2/3, they've constructed meaning all right... but it's going to be difficult to move forward.

Susan Jones
Academic Development Specialist
Center for Academic Success
Parkland College
Champaign, IL 61821
sujones at parkland.edu