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Why “New Math?”

When my son started bringing home the “new math” two years ago, I HATED it. Until I slowly, but surely, realized I was grasping mathematical concepts I never understood before. I found myself in real situations where I was adding or subtracting mentally in a way I never did before. I am not a “math” person so this transition has been especially difficult, but I find myself wondering if they can teach this old dog new tricks.

My issues with it lie mostly in my own lack of understanding it. If my son needs help I am completely inadequate. That, then, makes me, as a parent, have to do one of two things: 1) I can buckle down and try to learn something new myself or 2) I can put the responsibility back on him and his school. I think both of those choices are OK.

Maybe as a society of parents we have become too invested in solving problems FOR our children. I think it would help tremendously if teachers let parents know that they don’t necessarily expect us to always be able to help with the new math concepts and that if we can’t help our child, it’s OK to send it back in, incomplete, with a note saying “I don’t know how to explain this. My child doesn’t understand. Please help.” Doesn’t that create a lot less stress in the long run?

My child learns it’s OK to struggle. The teacher knows¬†what my child is actually¬†learning. I learn it’s OK not to fix everything. Win. Win. Win.

My other main issue with the new math is whether or not they are trying to teach concepts that children are not developmentally ready for. Not that teaching them to think critically and understand the concepts is bad, but whether or not they are introducing too much too soon. Specifically, how they expect emerging readers to decipher multiple step directions and decode word problems. Grasping concepts regarding place value, addition, subtraction, and even multiplication and division is one thing, but throw in the critical thinking it requires to decipher a word problem at 7 years old may be demanding too much and backfiring by frustrating them the same way the old algorithms did for us “non math people.”

What do you think of this video explanation of “new math?”