I remember going to a craft store with my mom when I was a little girl and dreaming of all the cool stuff I could create. I often would choose the things you could color in with the fuzzy edges that had images of everything from tigers to princesses. The best part was that it didn't matter if you went outside the lines, the black fuzz would cover it up! However, soon I started to find the painting section and found the paint by numbers canvases. Painting was so much more thrilling, the thought of accidentally getting paint all over the kitchen counter or spilling on the carpet! But thank goodness for those numbers. They told me EXACTLY which color to put where! It made it so easy and I did not even have to think! It told me to put red where it should be and blue in the sky. Each thing were a specific color and you had to match each specific space with the correct color. You could easily tell what it was going to be from the start, and I just filled in each space, one by one, with the correct color coded choice.

This "worked" for me as a type A child, just looking for perfection and approval from adults. "Oh good job, Mallory, you followed the directions correctly." It wasn't that I created anything on my own or allowed myself to even dip into my creative thinking. I merely followed the steps. But what if I got confused by the directions or simply messed up? What if there was one correct, black and white answer and I got mixed up? What if I completely lost the directions and didn't know which color went where? What if I had to complete the entire painting within a certain timeframe with no notes and no instructions? What would I do then?

In schools today, math is taught in a "pain by numbers" form and that is why so many students are struggling with test anxiety and retaining the information. Yes, math should be taught in steps (especially now, students are so visual that if you skip a step you will lose about 75% of them - more on that later). However, it should not be a plug and chug, memorize the steps and formulas to get the correct answer. That is why so many students are failing math. They are simply being taught to memorize each step but then they get into the testing atmosphere and forget which step to do when. If all you do is memorize the steps (or simply follow the paint by number instructions) how can you actually learn the material and build a foundation of the concepts.

The problem with math is that everything builds. All concepts relate to one another. Therefore if a student only memorizes the steps to "get by" on a test, how can we expect them to fully understand the material to move onto the next chapter and then eventually the next class?

The majority of us will not use math in our everyday lives, the only reason I do is because that is my profession. However, we will use problem solving skills, deductive reasoning and logic each and everyday. So if math builds these skills and we are trying to teach our kids to learn them by "paint by numbers" how well are we actually preparing them?

#math #matheducation #mathtechnology #graphlock #nevercarryacalculatoragain #mathbymal