Math has never been my strong suit. I have always struggled with math and the idea of math. Before taking this class I have had a very low opinion of math. I can say that my feelings about math are still not the greatest, but they have improved slightly. I still cannot connect math enough to the real world especially since we have calculators that can calculate everything and the only times I feel that I’m using math is calculating a tip and we have an app for that now on our phones. I understand that math is helpful to our development and our critical thinking skills, but still cannot make that deep impactful connection that would help me get interested in math. It is with that knowledge that I seek to devise a manipulative that could assist children make math more meaningful and impactful.
The thing that I struggled the most was the multiplication table. I was told to memorize it and that was it. It did not create any meaning for me. I did not understand why I had to memorize it. I know in class we always talk about learning for understanding and that conceptual knowledge is important, but multiplication tables always confused me. Are we really supposed to memorize it? What do we get by memorizing it? I have found that the more I memorize the more I actually will forget later on because our memories fade horribly over time; some more than others. But, if I am constantly informed that multiplication tables serve as knowledge for the future and if that is the case then something should be done to help children who might struggle like I did learn for understanding better. But, this also can be applied to those who do not struggle.
How does a table help a child process all the multiplication facts? I have always pondered that. When I stared at the multiplication table it felt intimidating and scary. It was daunting and I have to think I’m not the only one who feels this way. Therefore, what I seek is a new way to learn multiplication. As a Hebrew school teacher, I teach Hebrew through games. I teach through any and every game and it does not have to be related to Hebrew. Whether it is through Tic-Tac-Toe or Candy Land or Dominoes or any other board game that can help a child have a good time while trying to learn a language because learning a language is not always fun or easy. It helps the child feel less stressed out about learning a new and to them a difficult language filled with so many symbols and vowels that do not make much sense to them. It is with my design and manipulative that I hope to help children see multiplication in a whole new way. A way that is fun and different and impactful.
It would be important for the child to be able to make connections. When one actually learns, they are learning for understanding. When working with manipulatives it is a great way for those who are still in the direct modeling phase or concrete stage, to work and literally manipulate something so they can start to understand the concepts behind the idea. The project will seek to make the learning more meaningful and relational to the child. All of this will of course lead from memorization to the ability to do “good math” and learning at a higher cognitive ability and are productively struggling. The future design will demonstrate that math can be learned in a fun and interesting way and that one does not need to hate math. The child will be able to feel their way around the design and therefore become more connected with multiplication. Our sense of touch can be so important and meaningful.
The design would demonstrate the connectedness behind math. Math is all about increasing the relational understanding and instrumental understanding. It will demonstrate that the child understands not just the procedure, but the reasoning behind it. Confidence is extremely important and if the intended design gives the child confidence by not putting them on the spot and they can learn on their own I feel it would be effective. There is this constant assumption that all students learn the same way. We say that we know that’s not the true, but more often than not, things are still taught in the same way. Especially in math and a new concept, I believe it is important for a child to explore on their own. Children have such strong imaginations and therefore have a probably good chance at making connections between different aspects of multiplication by themselves. I would of course regroup and have them share with the class if they want to because productively struggling is not the same as making the child feel uncomfortable or alienated. We can all learn from each other’s strategies and ideas, so it would be beneficial to discuss after the child has a chance to work with the manipulative.
The project would be successful if a child does not feel scared or intimidated or embarrassed about dealing with multiplication. Of course, the desired goal is knowledge and learning for understanding, but if I can have the child overcome their fears of math and multiplication then half the battle is already won. This project is designed to improve their confidence levels and make them take an increased interest in math and multiplication in particular. Since knowing the multiplication tables are so important, a child needs to feel that they can do it and that it is possible. The possibility and a child’s self-worth is so important when teaching. The art of the possible is what can allow for further growth and development. I see it in my own teaching when a child realizes that something they do is possible and leads to positive results then nothing can stop them. The sky’s the limit.
It would only fail if the child leaves feeling frustrated and dejected. The child should want to continue learning and participate. If the child does not gain the mathematical skills right away or even over time it does not mean that it was a failure. As long as the child is feeling good about themselves and is confident, then there is no failure. There is a good chance that the design or manipulative does fail. Most experiments often do fail, but that is why there are experiments. It is important as teachers to recognize this possibility and therefore be open to more experimentation and flexibility and collaboration.