I attended Longwood College in the United States many years ago where I earned my bachelor’s degree in elementary education. In addition, I took extra reading / literature classes to earn a reading endorsement allowing me to teach in that area from grades K-12. Later I went on to earn my master’s degree as a reading specialist. I assumed I would do something with reading when I embarked on my journey in earning my doctoral degree. As they say, life got in the way.
In my first year as elementary principal at ABA, there was concern voiced by middle school teachers and parents that our elementary students were not proficient in recalling their multiplication facts. I set out with my doctoral dissertation to determine if a) that were true, and b), if so, why not? The title of my dissertation was The Effect of Matheletics.com Technology on Basic Multiplication Fact Fluency.
In writing a dissertation, one requirement is to compose a Literature Review chapter. This chapter is dedicated to the most current research where one reads peer reviewed articles, research and other dissertations in the subject area as well as the surrounding supporting aspects of the subject. One area of my literature review focused on the importance of understanding multiplication at the conceptual level. I took this information back to our teachers for us to consider.
The teachers and I have met together to read and speak of how the PYP believes children learn mathematics. We learned what the most recent research says about the importance of children’s conceptual understanding in the context of mathematics and how this influences later mathematics learning. The research is clear, when a child does not know what it means to multiply numbers conceptually, even the memorization of multiplication basic facts becomes more challenging. The research is also clear that it is not an “either / or” approach in pedagogy. Procedural learning is important in learning mathematics. However, Rittle-Johnson and Alibali found that children with greater conceptual understanding tend to have better procedural skills. In other words, procedural teaching, although and important educational piece, must go hand in hand with the teaching of conceptual understanding in mathematics.
Stanford University mathematics professor Jo Boaler, who I have mentioned in previous newsletters, has influenced me in how I believe teachers should be teaching mathematics to our children. She has been recently recognized as the twelfth most influential person in education. I would encourage you to visit the website to learn more about her revolution in how we teach math.
As Boaler repeatedly states, “Viva La Revolucion”.
Dr. Michael Berry
Head of Primary