Everyone can be good at math.
In learning math we are building life skills that will serve us in the future.
Doing math with your child can be fun.
A Flash of Insight
I experienced an epiphany one afternoon when Peggy McLean, math specialist, was teaching my second grade class about square numbers. She had the students building square numbers using math blocks. I knew that three squared was equal to nine but I had never seen anyone build a three-by-three square out of blocks and show that that was the visual model of three squared. I nearly fell over when she explained that square numbers are so named because they make a square shape. How could I have made it through college math without knowing this? I thought someone just decided to call it “squared.” I didn’t know there was a reason for it. I wondered what other math secrets were out there that I didn’t know. It was then that I became a convert to the visual math philosophy and knew I wanted to empower adults to help the children in their world so that the children would learn that math does make sense and we are all math people.
Visual Math Philosophy
I believe that students learn best when they build visual models of the math concepts they are studying. These models provide access to math concepts in a way that makes sense to students. There is no confusion with memorizing meaningless procedures. Math makes sense when one can visually see what is happening. I also believe that students learn mathematics best when engaged in discussion with others about what they have learned and discovered. Through these discussions students explore their own viewpoints and consider the viewpoints of others. Disequilibrium is essential to the process. When students encounter new ideas or new ways of thinking about old ideas they will deepen their own understanding. Even adults, who have learned math in a different way, will have their own “aha” moments when exploring math using a visual math philosophy. Most will say, “I would have been so good at math if I had learned this way.”
I am math coach, workshop leader, and consultant to public and private schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. I have over twenty years of teaching experience with children, including a decade as a teacher of gifted second graders at The Nueva School. I also co-authored a book with Michael Thompson: Understanding Independent School Parents which was recently mentioned in The Atlantic.
Listen to Alison Interviewed by reporter Amy Mayer