Sequencing Mathematics

A pet peeve of mine is how we have organized our Math. Why do we make students solve things algebraically before we show them a graph?

Well, students don’t see quadratic graphs until grade 11 – yet we teach factoring in grade 10. WHAT?! As a visual learner, I know that I was always upset when my teacher finally showed me that magical graph – at last, I knew WHY an answer is what it is. So, why couldn’t we have the graphs coming earlier…

Well, students can’t handle a 2D graph when they are learning to solve in grade 8 and 9. WHY?! In my experience, students UNDERSTAND on a graph. It’s always easier to get them to solve when they use SOME type of graph (or manipulative) – many of my grade 9 students used integer lines so add, subtract, multiply AND divide [this was interesting to me because I am typically a senior teacher].

Now, I’m really seeing this shift with the introduction of our ‘new Math’ curriculum. A Pre-Calc 30 student of mine is able to solve complex topics using his graphing calculator and guess and check – and MOST of the time he is correct. Now, this takes longer than the typically taught ‘algebraic’ method, BUT he also has shown a BETTER understanding what these topics mean, and what it means to solve. Five years ago, I would have been upset because this kid, “just didn’t get the math.” However, now, I recognize that he is able to attempt content he ‘hasn’t seen yet’ just by using these strategies I showed at the beginning of the year. Imagine how much further he could have gone if he learned these strategies younger.

Why are we waiting so long to show math?


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