Facility
in math is recognized by educators as being key to later success in life. The
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has set ten content standards
for the teaching and learning of mathematics from prekindergarten through
twelfth grade.
The standards in this series refer to the entire range of grades.
Examples, however, are for prekindergarten to second grade, which includes the
grade I teach.
The NCTM publication Principles and Standards for School Mathematics
has complete explanations of these. For more information, you may visit NCTM at www.nctm.org.
Bullet points are quotations from the publication. Underneath them are my
suggestions for parents.
Math
principles and standards, part 6
Problem
Solving Standard
The instructional programs should enable all students to:
 Build
new mathematical knowledge through problem solving;
 Solve
problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts;
 Apply
and adapt a variety of appropriate strategies to solve problems;
 Monitor
and reflect on the process of mathematical problem solving.
The ability to solve problems mathematically will depend largely upon
each child’s fluency with math terminology and situations. Ask a child how
many coins he will have all together if he starts with four and then gets two
more from his visiting grandfather. The words “all together” should tip him
off that there is going to be adding.
Similarly, when we ask how much taller one person is than another, we
demonstrate that one way we arrive at the answer is by subtracting the shorter
amount from the larger one.
In preparing children to understand multiplying, we have to impress upon
them that each object has to be standard in a certain way. In using the number
two for example, we can use legs, arms, eyes, and ears, since this is standard.
How many eyes are in our family? Two times the number of people. But we have to
get across the idea that not everything is standard. To find out how many
pockets are in the clothing being worn by the people in our family, we realize
that not everyone has the same number of pockets, so we can’t use
multiplication to find out the answer for this.
If the family has supported this type of activity with discussion and the
appropriate vocabulary, it will be much easier for children to solve
problems such as these in school.
I have noticed that younger children in the family benefit tremendously
from the mathematical discussions that their older siblings and parents have in
the household.
We recognize that problemsolving is not taught as a separate skill but
is part of an everyday approach to working with each other.
