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News from Mathnasium of Great Neck

Doing Math vs. Understanding Math

Jul 8, 2015

David Ginsburg, an educational consultant and coach recently wrote an article titled  “Doing Math vs. Understanding Math”. The following are excerpts of that article:

A key instructional shift called for by the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics is the dual emphasis on conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. NCTM draws a connection between these two areas in its position paper on procedural fluency (as I did in my post, Procedural Fluency: More Than Memorizing Math Facts) (see link below):

Procedural fluency builds on a foundation of conceptual understanding, strategic reasoning, and problem solving.

NCTM also cites research suggesting that "once students have memorized and practiced procedures that they do not understand, they have less motivation to understand their meaning or the reasoning behind them." An implication of this research is that "students need to have a deep and flexible knowledge of a variety of procedures, along with an ability to make critical judgments about which procedures or strategies are appropriate for use in particular situations."

The lesson here for us as math educators is that we need to shift the emphasis from answer-getting to the problem-solving process. We also need to model for students--and encourage them to pursue--multiple solution strategies rather than prescribe a standard procedure.

In essence, we need to make the most of opportunities to deepen students' conceptual grasp of math and build their procedural fluency. We need to help students understand math rather than just do math.

At Mathnasium, our goal is to make math make sense. We believe that children don’t hate math, they hate being confused by math. As students gain a greater understanding of math, their excitement toward the subject grows. Excitement leads to passion, and passion leads to growth.

The following is a link to Mr. Ginsburg’s full article.