As teachers, we have listened to parents' concerns and frustrations about how their children are learning math these days. Parents want to help their children but are "baffled" by the material. They talk about their own math instruction and how they fluently and efficiently solved math problems using "procedural knowledge"-a set of steps, actions or procedures.
At Levine Math Night last night, teachers set about explaining and demonstrating how we teach for conceptual knowledge. Our students don't just memorize times tables. They're expected to understand and explain their mathematical reasoning.
We want students to demonstrate deep understanding through multiple representations, which include drawings, area models and word problems. Procedures and shortcuts are also taught, but not until the student can explain, why those shortcuts work. We like our students to get the right answer, but we need them to know why the answer is correct.
The reason for teaching conceptual understanding is to help students see connections between the math they're learning and the math they already know. This is especially empowering for students. It prepares them to solve the real-world problems they will face in the future.
Teachers demonstrated math games and showed how mini lessons and small group activities work in their classrooms.
Yes, math is being taught differently today. It may be a little more difficult for parents to visualize, but it definitely is more fun, more engaging and more effective in preparing students for math in the real world and in the 21st century.