Seeking to build on their math knowledge to better support their children at home, more than 100 Mount Vernon Preschool – grade 6 parents went back to class. Math class. Texas-based external math expert and national consultant Garland Linkenhoger, who has been working with Mount Vernon teachers and students for four years, spoke to parents while at the School meeting and consulting with faculty across divisions. She encouraged parents to get back to the basics and rebuild the framework on which all mathematical concepts hinge. In her own words, she “helps math make sense because it is is sensible.”
As the School began creating Research and Design teams around different subject areas to create the Mount Vernon Learning Outcomes, the School identified a need for external expert to help evaluate and align our curriculum to meet the highest mathematical standards and give our students a rich numeracy experience PS – 12. Teachers’ understanding of math has grown so much over the last few years, that we decided it was time to invite parents to be a part of the conversation. Those who attended wanted to better connect with the approach to mathematics at Mount Vernon and to have a window into the types of learning experiences that happen daily to build students’ number sense and problem solving strategies. In two separate Parent University workshops, math for Preschoolers through second grade and third through sixth grades, parents took a journey through numeracy to learn how they might enhance, strengthen and reinforce their children’s problem solving habits.
Garland shared a few common misconceptions, “Years ago in elementary school we were taught rules. That whenever you multiply two numbers, the product will always be greater. While this is true for second grade math, it is not true when you get to Middle School and start multiplying fractions and the product is reduced. No wonder we were so confused! Kids don’t need to memorize the rules. They need to understand the process, the how.”
Armed with laminated graph paper, dry erase markers and bins of manipulatives: number units in values of single 1-unit cubes, 10-rods, 100-flats and 1000-cubes, parents began to relive first grade by building rows and groups to demonstrate place value and organization, just as our children are experiencing math, today. By stripping away the weight of rules, and examining the simplicity of blocks, Garland creates an environment that reduces stress and builds confidence to solidify a strong foundation of numeracy.
Garland’s strategy is simple. She says, “Math is precise. There is always a geometric structure associated with mathematical combinations. Let’s forget the rules that were taught us that made math scary. Multiplication is as easy as rows (number of groups) by columns (items in the group).”
Advice from Garland:
- Use facts that you know. Build from the top of your comfort level.
- Keep the values of numbers consistent: 1237 + 597 = 1000+200+500+90+30+7+7
- Start with estimations and reasonableness. Instead of multiplying 189 x 7, exactly, round 189 to 200, multiply that by 7 to get in the ballpark, then zoom in.
- Create an area model: 4 7’s and 4 50’s is much easier to build in your head than 57×4.
- Once you have a firm handle on the basics, the rest falls into place.
- Never, never, never let your child hear you say, “I don’t like math.” or “I am not good at math.”
“Garland understands building number sense. My kids are learning math differently than I did – they have a stronger knowledge base of mathematical concepts and are comfortable approximating. They then problem solve to zero in on their estimation.”
“The accompanying books are extremely helpful. The explanations put things in to perspective, making it easy to see how two children can look at the same thing and see something different.”
“I never felt comfortable with math, and would panic when having to help my children. However, after hearing from Garland and being reminded how truly basic the elements are, I am no longer fearful and can better help my children!”