I have just completed writing a new book about math education. It is available for free download.
Moursund, D. (July, 2012). Using brain/mind science and computers to improve elementary school math education. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download Microsoft Word version from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/232-using-brainmind-science-and-computers-to-improve-elementary-school-math-education.html. Download PDF version from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/239-using-brainmind-science-and-computers-to-improve-elementary-school-math-education.html.
This 111-page book is specifically designed for use in the preservice and inservice education of elementary school teachers whose duties include teaching math. It is also suited to the needs and interests of parents, guardians, grandparents, and so on of children in our current K-5 schools. The book provides an introduction to brain/mind science and computers as they relate to teaching and learning math. The goal of the book is to improve the quality of math education that elementary school students are receiving.
The book can be used as supplemental reading in a math methods course or a math for elementary teachers course. It can be used in inservice education workshops for elementary teachers, for parent education, and for self-instruction. It contains a large number of links to materials currently available on the Web and has an extensive index.
Some Personal Thoughts
I believe that our elementary school math education curriculum content, teaching processes, and assessment leave much to be desired. They do not adequately reflect quite a bit of what is known about math education research, brain science, and uses of computers in education. My ponderings about such shortcomings are reflected in this latest book.
I always have feelings of both pleasure and relief when I finish writing a book. I began writing this book more than eight years ago, and then discontinued the project until just a few months ago. I found it interesting to look back at my initial writing efforts and at what had changed during the ensuing eight years. Our world is changing much faster than our educational system. The smart phone that is now so commonplace contains the compute power of mainframe computers of the past. The central processing chips in some of today’s game machines are so fast that they are being used in building Supercomputers. (To learn more about the history of computers, see http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/?category=cmptr.)
Our children live in a world of game machines, media machines, cell phones, texting, social networking, and accessing information via the Web. They are used to the idea that personal portable Information and Communication Technology (ICT) devices are commonplace everyday tools—indeed, that a person might routinely use such devices a hundred or more times a day. There is a steadily growing gap between the ICT world of today's children and the roles of ICT in instructional content, pedagogy, and assessment.
Our educational system is very resistant to the types of changes that go along with routine use of ICT. What should a student memorize, when a Web search engine is at his or her fingertip? What types of math problems should a student learn to solve mentally or “by hand” in light of the steadily improving math problem-solving capabilities of calculators and computers?
Our educational system is also struggling with the rapid pace of research in cognitive neuroscience (brain/mind science). We have a much better understanding of lower-order and higher-order thinking, teaching and learning for transfer of learning, teaching for understanding, the flaws in our increasing emphasis on “standardized” testing, and so on.
What You Can Do
I believe that our educational system cannot be substantially improved by still more top-down edicts and pressure from above. Improvement is highly dependent on what small groups of teachers, parents, and students can do. Each of you (my readers) can make a difference in the quality of education that some children are receiving. Even if you just help one child, that is a marvelous contribution to the world. Even if you help just one parent or one teacher, that is a marvelous contribution to our educational system.
One small thing you can do is to read the first chapter, "Introduction and Some Big Ideas," of the book mentioned at the start of this IAE Blog entry. Think about your own math education and what you would like our current schools to be doing. Then share your thinking with others, and share this book with others.
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.
A number of my previous IAE Blog postings focus on ways to improve our educational system. Here are a few that you may enjoy reading:
- A study skill: Reading for learning and understanding. (See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/a-study-skill-reading-for-learning-and-understanding.html.)
- Computers that learn: machine learning. (See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/computers-that-learn-machine-learning.html.)
- Higher-order thinking in algebra II and in reading instruction. (See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/higher-order-thinking-in-algebra-ii-and-in-reading-instruction.html.)
- Some underlying theory about electronic games in education. (See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/some-underlying-theory-about-electronic-games-in-education.html.)
- Stop teaching calculating, start teaching math. (See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/stop-teaching-calculating-start-teaching-math.html.)
- Timed tests contribute to math anxiety. (See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/timed-math-testing-contributes-to-math-anxiety.html.)