What’s sophisticated about elementary mathematics?

The current issue of American Educator includes a very interesting article about mathematics teaching in the elementary grades. The article is entitled What’s Sophisticated about Elementary Mathematics? Plenty—That’s Why Elementary Schools Need Math Teachers, and it is written by Hung-Hsi Wu, who is professor emeritus of mathematics at UC Berkeley. I should probably say a lot more about him, because his list of merits is impressive, but I will leave it to you to find out more.

It appears to be a rather common impression that teaching elementary mathematics is … well, rather elementary. I mean, the mathematics is quite simple, so how hard can it be? In this article, Wu provides a very nice introduction to how challenging it can actually be. In the introductory part of the article, he claims: “The fact is, there’s a lot more to teaching math than teaching how to do calculations.” In the article, he provides examples of how hard it can actually be to teach something as “elementary” as place value and fractions.

I am tempted to quote more or less the entire article, because so many interesting issues are presented here, but I will not. I am, however, going to recommend that you take the time and read this excellent article. If you are somewhat interested in teaching mathematics, I am sure you will find this interesting!

Thanks a lot to Assistant Editor Jennifer Dubin for telling me about this article, by the way! I appreciate it 🙂

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