Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Math Drills -- Are They Really Useful?

One of the problems with elementary school math is the dreaded math drills. I believe you will find very few children who actually love math fact drills. I was one of them, but I believe I was in the minority -- preferring to repeat page after page of things I could do well, such as addition, subtraction and multiplication tables. I liked the self-competition. I liked scoring better than myself on the previous page. I liked striving for perfection, though I rarely achieved it.
This was a piece of cake compared to learning something new, which took more effort. I think math facts and drills are useful for reinforcement, but not for teaching the concept -- I believe that a set of flash cards take the skill out of context, and if the skill isn't mastered, then the drill will be pointless, frustrating hard work. I believe also, that drills help show the pattern of the fact, but that they should not be used to teach the pattern. Some kids just don't get it on their own and have to be "spoon-fed" the pattern, but really understanding the pattern is what makes them really know the concept. I would say that random drills, and mixed math facts should be used once the facts have been mastered, only for reinforcement, never for teaching.

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