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The Focus Of A Math Education

When I was a high school math teacher, I was always asked the question “When am I ever going to use this?”  Too often, the honest answer was “You’re not.”  This is why our focus at Math Inspirations is on our student’s ability to think, problem solve, observe patterns and test hypotheses.  These are the skills they will use no matter what endeavors they pursue. These are the skills which are in HIGH demand right now in our workforce.

One way to emphasize thinking is by giving students the opportunity to discover the definitions of different mathematical vocabulary.

A Different Way To Define

The images below, from the Math Inspirations curriculum, show how we help students discover mathematical words and phrases.  They are given two columns.  One side shows examples of the word and the other side show counter-examples.  Students observe patterns, similarities and differences, between the items in each of the two columns to figure out what the word means.  Usually, the observations are small, like on the left they all have straight sides. As the similarities and differences are identified, students put them all together to form a definition.  The final step is to test the definition against all the provided items on the left and right to make sure there are no exceptions.

Here are a few definitions pages from the curriculum (Digit from Unit 1, Simplified Fractions from Unit 3, Pentagon and Hexagon from Unit 5). Check them out and see how you would define the words.

There Are Only Two Ways

In learning the definitions of vocabulary, there really are only two ways to do it. One, memorize what someone (or a book) tells you. Two, figure it out based on context using observations and patterns. Which one sounds like it takes more thinking? We learn this way all the time in reading, it can easily be done (and SHOULD be done) in mathematics too. So this week, give it a try. Create a definitions page or try one of the few above out with your kids and watch them think through it and grow their brain power!