Below are my thoughts in response to Alice Keeler’s I turn 40 next month and, for pretty much my whole life, I have felt dumb. I’m not.
Alice Keeler’s post really spoke to me. I’m not a fan of memorizing *anything* in math. I know not everyone agrees with me on this one, but this is how I feel. I never could memorize anything. I still can’t. Like Alice Keeler, I was terrible at timed math assessments in elementary school. It caused me major stress and made me question my math ability. My mom did math with me – after working all day, she taught at Montgomery College in the evenings when I was growing up (she’s superwoman, I don’t know how she did it!). In 5th grade, she was teaching Algebra 2 with Trig, and she took me to the course with her. I did the whole thing, along with all the assessments, and totally rocked the class. This was eye-opening for me. In elementary school, I never felt that I shined in math. I was slow and we constantly had timed tests or had to do flashcard tests of math facts. So when I did my mom’s course and found it easy, it was huge for me and probably changed a lot for my future. After that, I got into the magnet program for Middle School and High School. Math was totally my thing, but the way math was taught in Elementary School didn’t really allow me to see this. I was lucky to have amazing Middle School and High School math teachers, but I know a lot of MS and HS math still is taught with far too much memorization. I know it because I see it constantly in teaching now. Kids memorize how to do math problems and then misapply/forget those rules. If they just learned the correct understanding in the first place, we would avoid so many of these “bad habits” that kids learn. But understandings take much longer to develop than memorizing and also a really strong presentation of the material by the teacher. So it’s a difficult one to tackle. I’m glad we are having more conversations about these important topics. Thanks, Alice, for the wonderful post!