math

Wendy Oleksinski's picture

Learning to Ride a Bike and Divide

Do you remember who taught you how to ride a bike? Did that person simply place you on the seat of the bike and tell you to soar downhill? Probably not. Very likely, you began your training by learning to balance on two wheels or maybe you starting with training wheels. Perhaps you progressed to pedaling in the grassy part of your yard or the park. Some people, although very few, might have been naturals and hopped on their bikes to ride straight away. Undoubtedly, there were a few skinned knees along the way.

As with any skill, there are steps to follow toward mastery – a vertical transgression of moving from the basics to more intense skills or from training wheels to wheelies.  In mathematics, these basic skills are often overlooked or not focused on enough in the early years of a child’s education. Consequently, it is not surprising that many older students may struggle with multistep mathematical problems.

To address this unbalance, Lane Holmes, a mathematical instructional coach at Georgia Cyber Academy, suggested that a group of online teachers watch a video clip from the “Questioning My Metacognition” YouTube channel. The clip focuses on the progression of division from 3rd-6th grade and on the skills mastery needed to solve division problems effectively.  

Upon viewing the video clip, many teachers had legitimate questions, such as, “Is it reasonable for fifth graders who have most likely never received the necessary conceptual understanding to be able to “catch up” to where they should be?”  

In other words, can we, as teachers, move backwards to reteach skills that might have been previously skipped for students?