In a recent op-ed in the LA Times, Dan Willingham, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Virginia, addresses a particular aspect of math education in the U.S. Blaming poor math performance on bad curricula, he argues, overlooks that elementary school teachers may not have the deep understanding of math that is required to teach it. In fact they may actually fear math.
Students without deep understanding, Willingham argues, may be limited to inflexible thinking. That is, their math knowledge is limited to performing specific operations for certain types of problems but they may falter when presented with problems in new settings or with slightly different wording. The result is an increasing number of high school students floundering in math “because the groundwork of understanding was never laid in elementary grades”.
Willingham suggests that the solution might then be to find and hire those teachers…
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