Kids can love Middle School Math: Vander Ark, Hudson & Mead

Students can learn to love math in their middle school years. What it takes is helping kids connect with math in a real-world way and understanding their individual and group dynamics. Watch Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart, Dr. Tim Hudson, Senior Director of Curriculum Design for DreamBox Learning, and Megan Mead, Getting Smart Math Contributor discuss the need for early conceptual understanding of algebra, online, and classroom engagements that speak to the middle school mind and emotions.

Middle School Math Chat: Tom Vander Ark, Tim Hudson, and Megan Mead talk about the need to connect middle schoolers early to math concepts and to their fellow student mathematicians

The earlier you start algebra, the better

There is an abundance of evidence that correlates success in Algebra to future success in mathematics. And there’s a pivot point when students transition from a general understanding of the number system to a thoughtful use of this system to model and understand their world. Without a conceptual understanding of the skills and ideas that are taught in the intermediate grades, this all-important shift is difficult for students to make successfully. Although there’s an assumption that algebra is a high school subject, Tim explains that Algebra reasoning should be introduced early and that the operations used in Algebraic Reasoning can and should be taught as soon as kids learn basic operations to give them the grounding they need for success in high school, college, and career.

Blended learning, gaming protocols, and the willingness to question and fail

As Tom and Tim discuss in the chat, adaptive and game-based learning are great examples of how to create non-linear sequencing that connect the mechanics with the concepts and develop a deep understanding of subject matter. And as Tim notes, when you design any online engagement you have to keep in mind that by the time kids are in middle school, they’ve had a lot of gaming experience.  The engagement should be challenging and tailored to their sensibilities. There is something else that’s great about gaming – it’s makes it OK to fail. Testing and trying are a part of what mathematicians do, and how math students can be learn to think like mathematicians.  

 ‘Social animals’ can become a community of mathematicians

Math should be a lot more conversational than we currently make it. It’s also a way to take advantage of the developmental stage that middle school students are in – they are geared to look to their peers and value social interaction. Great math communities engage all students through tackling tough problems and building upon each other’s ideas, as exemplified by the learning models of Dr. Cathy Fosnot.  They creating an environment where it is okay to struggle, think through problems and strategies, and find peer support. As Tim states in the Google Hangout, “The math classrooms that I want for my kids are places where they can engage in really great thinking and dialogue rather than as places where they go to acquire information.”

There’s so much more to learn from this lively and informative Google+ chat. Don’t miss it!

You can also try some DreamBox Learning Math for Middle School lessons driven by Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ technology for yourself.