## Thursday, November 19, 2009

### Turning Kids Into Machines

From my son's Kumon workbook:

Count how many decimal places you have to move on the divisor....then move the decimal point of the dividend the same number of places....then bring it straight up where the quotient is going....ignore some zeroes...add some zeroes....okay, how many 15s are in 36?....remember where to put your answer....multiply....subtract....bring down the zero....

What a ridiculously cruel approach to teaching kids!

Long division is nothing more than an absurd ALGORITHM - the way it's taught by *schools*.

Do this, then do that,....then do that.

Why?

Never mind about that....because it's on the test.

For all my high level, competitive math background, you know I never really thought about moving decimal points or why the division algorithm *worked*.

There's just got to be a much, much better way.

Charlotte Mason, patron saint of many homeschoolers, said that math, as an academic subject, was over-emphasized; schools pushed it simply because it was *easy to test*.

As a math guy I'd like to take reflexive umbrage at that, but I suspect she makes a valid point.

Though I don't think math unimportant by any stretch. I believe the instruction of it has been misdirected to make it *easy to test*.

How about having each 5th grader go up to the front of the class, or in front of the 4th graders....and EXPLAIN long division - explain each step, why decimal points can be moved, etc., and why it works.

Now THAT is a tedious exam to administer to 25-30 kids for one government school bureaucrat.

But at least it's a genuine test of comprehension.

Nobody has truly learned ANYTHING until they can stand up and TEACH it to others.

I've already got 5.00 year-old Prince C-Nut teaching his 3.42 year-old sister simple addition, the on-the-fingers kind.

As we proceed onward, she'll be asking him, *why* and *how*, and he's going to have to deliver an answer or ruminate upon one.

In those old-fangled, one-room schoolhouses....the bigger kids taught the medium-sized kids, who taught the little'uns. The *uncredentialed* teacher just sat there and facilitated more than anything.

With this approach, mysteriously everyone became literate and numerate.