# What are the Math Wars all about?

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I don't know about the math wars, but do you know anything about teaching "New Math"? I am teaching 3rd grade and am trying to find a better way than old-fashioned memorization.

There are a lot of great materials out there, but they can sometimes be tricky to get started with unless you've had some first hand experience with different ways to think about math yourself. One nice curriculum is TERC. Unfortunately, it's very wordy, and can be hard to get into. Once you do, though, it pays off.

So, TERC is one good resource

TERC is one good resource.

Cool, thanks finkelitis. I checked out TERC, looks manageable.

there's a lot of debate currently in the math ed world on whether we should move back toward old-fashioned memorization - especially at the lower grade levels. it helps a lot later on when the basics are memorized and don't require thinking through. and the u.s. is slipping internationally in math skills.

Puh-leeze. Sorry, I don’t get it. We memorize the alphabet when we start to learn how to read. We memorize scales when we study music. Why would we **not** memorize the addition and multiplication tables when learning numeracy?

Because it bores the teacher, and because some students will be better at it than others and that might hurt their self-esteem. Yes, that’s snarky, but I think it’s accurate.

The main purpose of the new math, as Tom Lehrer put it, is “is to understand what you’re doing, rather than to get the right answer.” This is a good goal, but when you accept conceptual understanding in the place of the sort of fluency you get from memorizing and doing drills, you lay a poor foundation for further arithmetic.

Problem: It’s boring for the teachers:

One solution: Make fun zap the alien video games for kids to learn their times tables

(Now if you were *really* smart you could do it in a way that teaches a conceptual understanding as well as drilling them)

Problem: Some students will be better at it than others and it might hurt their (i presume the others?) self esteem

Hmm… but aren’t some kids going to get the new math better than others? Won’t that hurt the esteem of kids who can just memorise?

By the way, I do think the ability to memorise is a really important skill to teach. And with lower grade math, I’m really not worried that they won’t get the concept later. They’ll need it so often in life. I have a question: which cultures do the best mathematicians come from? I know that here in Asia in general we score much higher in math and science, but I’m curious about if this translates at the cutting edge of mathematics.

What are the math wars about… Memorisation vs. Understanding?

Can’t say too much about math, but with many different skill sets you need a certain prerequisite of vocab/basics to be able become creative. And in some cases there’s really not a lot of logic behind it and you just have to remember stuff. Why is dog “chien”? Why does 1 + 1 = 2 ?

The thing is, how does one build on this foundation so that intelligence becomes flexible, rather than mechanical? And I think in this case it’s just a matter of the teacher having fun, and modeling that inquiry process.

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