What Exactly Is “Doing Math” As Opposed To “Writing Math”
What Does It Mean To “Do” Math?
This is actually a great question, and had really boggled my mind before I came up with a solidly explained answer. I believe that “Doing Math” translates to individuals actually working with mathematical concepts and skills in a hand-on fashion. Many people think that working through a set of mathematical equations on a sheet of paper is “Doing Math”; however, you are really just finding the solutions to mathematical equations when you are working in a pen and paper fashion, you are not really “Doing Math”.
One example of an individual “Doing Math” would be a student cutting up (with the help of an adult of course) a whole pie into equal portions; they will be “Doing Math” in the sense of working on fractions and parts of a whole.
I believe that “Doing Math” consists of individuals actually working on mathematical skills in a hands-on fashion while using manipulatives to exemplify the mathematical concepts and skills that exist in their brain.
What Features Of A Classroom Environment Are Important For Students To Be Engaged In Doing Mathematics?
I believe that a few things must be present in a classroom environment in order for students to be engaged in “Doing Mathematics”.
First off, I believe that a classroom must be full of manipulatives that can be used in cooperation with mathematical skills. These manipulative can be as specific as base ten blocks or as general as a bag full of cubes.
Secondly, I believe that the teacher must have the common mathematical vocabulary for that grade being displayed on the wall. I have titled a portion of a wall in my classroom with the “Math Talk” headline, and it contains all of the most common mathematical vocabulary words within the grade 4 curricula. Students can get easily confused with the mathematical vocabulary that they are presented with; these words on the wall will simplify it.
Thirdly, I believe that the importance of mathematics must be stressed and emphasized by the teacher. There can be a box full of manipulatives on the shelf, but the students might not use them in a mathematical manner if they are not aware of their importance.
Fourthly, I believe that a positive and vibrant attitude towards mathematics by the teacher must be present for the students to be engaged in “Doing Mathematics”. Imagine that two teachers are teaching the exact same lesson; however, Teacher A has a positive attitude towards mathematics and uses vibrant voices, and Teacher B has a negative attitude towards mathematics and used monotone voices. I can guarantee you that the students that were being instructed by Teacher A will learn the concepts and skills much better than the students that were being instructed by Teacher B.
Why Is Doing Paper-Pencil Computation Not “Doing Mathematics”?
If I was asked this question 5 years ago, I would have definitely not known the answer; however, my in-class experiences and teacher’s college course have taught me otherwise.
As was stated in my first paragraph, doing pencil-paper computations merely allows the individual to find the solutions to mathematical equations; however, it is not specifically “Doing Math”! To come to this conclusion and understanding, one must really think about what the person is actually “Doing” when they are completing paper-pencil computations. They are merely writing down the answers to mathematical equations…the thing that they are “Doing” is writing!