My boys hate math. When they were younger, they actually liked math. They loved the days of using manipulatives with math – especially if I used something like M&Ms! Even though they hate math, they’re both pretty good at it. My 12-year-old who is 7th grade age has already started Algebra I and he’s doing a great job. But he still groans when he needs to do his math.
I recently heard a TED talk called, “Why Math Instruction is Unnecessary” by John Bennett which blew my mind. John Bennett, a middle school math teacher, spent almost 12 minutes developing the argument that 99% of the population doesn’t need to be taught higher level math. Seriously?!? If there is a way to stop having to teach my boys math, I definitely wanted to hear all about it.
John gave the following 4 reasons for why students are taught higher-level math:
1. Math is everywhere – God is a god of order. He has placed mathematical patterns in everything from the spiral of the seeds in a sunflower to the spiral of the galaxies.
3. Math could be required – Our kids might choose a job which will require it someday.
4. Math helps you get good grades – Kids need good grades to get good test scores. They need good test scores to get into a good college. And they need to get into a good college to get a good job.
Some kids are interested in math. For those kids, John recommends helping them to go as high with math as they would like. He then went on to say that about one half percent of our population becomes an engineer and about one half percent of the population uses some math in their job. Kids also need to learn about math-related items such as student loans to understand repayments and interest rates, for example. The other 99% of the population doesn’t need higher mathematics.
John said that forcing ALL kids to learn higher mathematics causes them to feel stupid and stresses them out. And stressed out kids become stressed out adults.
John emphasized that the majority of this math is learned by age 10. If this is all the math that 99% of the populations needs to know, then why are we requiring all students to take higher level math? John says that it’s because we are trying to teach them inductive and deductive reasoning.
Inductive reasoning is when we learn to think in the following manner: If I study for a test, then I will do well on a test. If I do well on a test, then my parents will be happy. So I want to study for my tests to make my parents happy.
Deductive reasoning is when we see a pattern and then come to a conclusion. For example, if we learn to solve an algebraic equation which looks a certain way, then we will know that every time we see a problem which looks like that, we’ll know to solve it that same way.
John said that quite often, just solving page after page of math problems doesn’t help students to make those inductive or deductive leaps. He recommended that it would be more productive to instead let 99% of students work logic puzzles and various games to help them to increase their reasoning skills and problem solving abilities.
Five Activities which will help your child to increase their reasoning skills:
- Video Games – Believe it or not, video games actually help kids learn to make quick and accurate decisions. They help them develop better hand-eye coordination as well as enhancing their spacial intelligence. There are many games kids enjoy playing which aren’t filled with violence or crime. Minecraft is a game my boys LOVE to play. They also love playing fast action sports games on the Wii U such as NBA 2K13 and Madden NFL 13. And they love the Lego series of games such as The Hobbit and The Lego Movie.
- Board Games – Board games are excellent at helping kids to become more number smart, word smart, and people smart. All games force the players to make decisions, come up with good strategies, and interact with the other players. You can find a list of some games that boys especially love to play here.
- Sports and Exercise – Being physically active boosts blood flow to all parts of the body including the brain. Complex reasoning, concentration, and thinking speed are all enhanced when the brain is supplied with freshly oxygenated blood. The more your kids move the better they will be able to think. Physical activity also has the positive benefits of increasing creativity, promoting clear thinking, improving coordination, and decreasing depression.
- Music Training – Research shows that the brains of kids who learn to play a musical instrument work differently than the brains of kids who don’t receive any musical training. “When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University. Musical training boosts a child’s IQ, increases their spatial intelligence, and develops their skill to solve multistep problems such as the ones encountered in architecture, engineering, math, and computer science.
- Critical Thinking – Teaching our kids critical thinking is an excellent way to increase their reasoning skills. Have them solve logic puzzles. Encourage them to ask questions. Help them to consider alternate explanations and solutions to problems. Help them to notice logical fallacies
in thinking. Encourage them to reason about ethical, moral, and public policy issues. Teach them debating skills.
Should we stop teaching our kids higher level math? I can’t answer that question for you and your family. I can only say that my husband and I will be praying about this matter and see which way we feel God is leading us.
One big thing to consider is that higher math skills are necessary if you’re planning to have your child take the ACT or SAT. There are ways around these tests, however, if you’re wanting to send your kids to college but don’t want to have them take these tests.
For this coming year, we are planning to at least give a lower emphasis to math and a higher emphasis to critical thinking skills. Long term, however, we haven’t made a final decision about how to proceed. My boys ENJOY learning about logic and completing logic puzzles – they cringe when they have to complete math problems… We’ll definitely be doing some more pondering and praying!
Question: How about you? Do you plan to teach your kids higher level math? Did watching this video spark any new ideas about how your family will proceed? Please leave a comment below.