Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to teach math to little kids

This is a long article in the New York Times about young minds and how to teach them math. It's a little scary at first, the whole idea of teaching math to preschoolers. You're afraid they're going to bring out workseets. The actual descriptions of how this is done are not so bad: dividing candies among stuffed animals, solving shape puzzles, sometimes counting items and sometimes saying in a flash whether there are 3 or 4 items on a plate, using the same brain wiring apes use to know how many M&Ms are on a test plate. Some neurons specifically fire if you see a specific number of objects you are paying attention to.

But then they talk about a program called Building Blocks, which is designed to teach math to little kids. The program description talks about learning one-to-one correspondence by setting a lunch table with plates and such on a computer.

My biggest fear is just that it is a program. I've talked before about the problems intrinsic in having a curriculum or a program that decides a  year in advance what you will be teaching next Tuesday. This program doesn't look like that, but I tend to attribute to a progam the faults it acquires when it is used by a poor teacher. That's unfair, I know. Any program can be screwed up, and from their website, this looks pretty good.

One thing the article said that I didn't know is that the brain may not be fully up to the task of linking sounds with letter combinations until 11. That's a surprise to me and should be discussed amont reading teachers.

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