Sooo if the US wants to produce more competent individuals in the STEM fields, they should just wait until the 6th grade to start teaching math..... And the reason we suck in world rankings of math skills is because we teach too much math! Makes perfect sense! I bet if we wait until 6th grade to start teaching English, we will be as literate and eloquent as the British in no time! This is definitely not the most idiotic article I have ever read!

### Rod Judkins M.A., RCA

Benezet specified that early grades spent the time they would normally spend on math to chatting about interesting things, movies, TV programmes or anything that created an animated debate. He believed this would increase children’s ability to think logically.

The Manchester children were tested on their math proficiency during the sixth grade. Those in the experimental classes in math caught up with those in the standard classes.

Back in the 1930’s Benezet proved that children who had only one year of math, in sixth grade, performed as well or better at math than children who had several years of math teaching in the early grades. Research since then has supported these results. Governments have learnt little though.

Many years ago the government in England were disappointed by math results. They doubled the amount of the school day spent on math (and cut time spent on arts subjects). Math results continued to drop. So they increased the time again. Results continued to drop. And so it went on and on. The only result was that they increased the level of boredom in children. They also had to cut down the amount of time spent on the subjects that children enjoyed. This attitude is echoed across the Western world.

Why is there such a bias towards math in schools? The answer is that math is easy to assess. Tests can clearly show a students ability. Whereas ability in creative subjects is harder to assess.

Rod Judkins MA RCA is an artist, writer, and professional public speaker, delivering lectures and workshops that explain the creative process and help individuals and businesses to be more inspired in their lives and work. He is author of the bestseller, Change Your Mind: 57 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Self.

### You clearly did not read the

You clearly did not read the article well enough. It was saying that we should not just drill math into students' heads until they are ready for it. We should wait until they are ready to connect math to the real world rather than force them to learn something while letting them think "what use is this to me?" That is what is causing them to reject math education and forces teachers to restart so often losing valuable time to learn.

Also, I wouldn't put too much emphasis on those world rankings. Asian countries in particular have particularly high stress rates in their students. They may excel in math compared to American counterparts but are less well-adjusted and usually less developed in other areas, especially social skills. I saw this myself as an overseas teacher.

If this is an idiotic article, you must not read many American newspapers then.

One more thing: British accent =/= literate and eloquent.

### You taught overseas? Oh my,

You taught overseas? Oh my, you must be an authority on every culture in the world! I grew up in Asia, and to say that children their are social maladjusted is a horrible, blanket stereotype coming from an arrogant, American-centric world view. What counts for socially well adjusted in America might be considered brash and selfish somewhere else.

If students are saying "what use is this to me?" then the way the math is being taught is ineffective. Anytime people are confronted with a new way of doing things, we may encounter resistance. It is up to the teacher to help the student connect the concepts to their own lives.

No one said anything about accents. Also, you come across as a terrible teacher. I feel sorry for your victims... Oops, I mean students.

### You taught overseas? Oh my,

You taught overseas? Oh my, you must be an authority on every culture in the world! I grew up in Asia, and to say that children their are social maladjusted is a horrible, blanket stereotype coming from an arrogant, American-centric world view. What counts for socially well adjusted in America might be considered brash and selfish somewhere else.

If students are saying "what use is this to me?" then the way the math is being taught is ineffective. Anytime people are confronted with a new way of doing things, we may encounter resistance. It is up to the teacher to help the student connect the concepts to their own lives.

No one said anything about accents. Also, you come across as a terrible teacher. I feel sorry for your victims... Oops, I mean students.

### Reading the research

Thanks for clearing that up. I agree with all your comments - the problem is getting governments to.

### Not teaching math until sixth grade

We already do not ask our students to drill and memorize math facts. The way math has been taught in the US for many years now is to "connect it to the real world". Whoever wrote this article had it completely backwards (like most things education-related).

### Math, math, math

I don't know what the research about teaching English shows. But the research shows that students who are not taught any math until six grade catch up within a year. There are added benefits, for instance, they have not become bored and frustrated by math.

### What research? I see no link to the study.

I find it more than a little odd that the author would choose to use ONE case study from the 1930s to make his rather extreme point that math shouldn't be taught at all.

Has this study been attempted at all again? Was it even published? Do you have access to the raw data? How many students in each group etc etc etc.

Perhaps the author should bone up on his own quantitative skills before attempting to say that without any doubt teaching math at lower grade levels is POINTLESS.

### Nordic example?

The Nordic nations do not (as I understand it) begin formal teaching of anything until children are six years old, and their children routinely outperform the US, the UK and the rest of Europe.

The UK at least seems to be wedded to the idea that the only way to make progress is to make children work harder, but there certainly seems to be a body of evidence that you'll get as far by working smarter.

### Flaw in interpretation

The study only proves that the WAY math is being taught to younger kids is ineffective not that learning math is ineffective. We cannot know how the sixth graders with only one year of math would have done compared to the counterfactual that they received BETTER or DIFFERENT teaching of math in earlier years.

So I'm not sure the takeaway is necessarily that math not be taught, but to reflect on what is the better way to teach younger kids.

### You are 100% correct. It was

You are 100% correct. It was the way math was taught. Benezet was an administrator in the 1920's and 1930's. Back then, math was taught almost exclusively as a "drill and kill" discipline with almost no connection to applications...which is still prevalent today in many schools. This is what Benezet wanted to eliminate from his schools. What he replaced it with was, for lack of a better term, "thinking". Or as Benezet said, "to reason, to read, and to recite...my new three R's." Instead of teaching mindless arithmetic procedures, teachers were instructed to discuss numbers IN THEIR CONTEXT as they arose naturally in stories that the students read, in movies that they watched...in short, as numbers appeared in real life. Students were still doing mathematics...they just weren't doing the unintelligent dribble of rote memorization of math facts. They were developing number sense. They were, in 21st century terms, becoming quantitatively literate. This is why they were able to "catch up" with their peers 6th grade after only one year of formal mathematics instruction. They had developed the ability to think about numbers, and the ability to problem solve, which allowed them to easily transition to the world of "school mathematics".

Don't take my word for it...please read http://wol.ra.phy.cam.ac.uk/sanjoy/benezet/ for more information.

### Yes... Reminds me of the

Yes... Reminds me of the hothousing debate - intensive, early teaching of children produced kids who could perform well at an early age..but by age 7-8 their peers had caught up. Any competent educationalist knows that teaching things when a learner is not ready is at best a waste of time and at worst counterproductive as you put them off and demotivate them.

Having said that, some kids seem to really enjoy maths age 5+ including my own kids. Maybe we should ask also, why are many younger kids not ready when some are?

Talking of cultural biases, I am not convinced that much of the mathematics I had to study age 15-18 did me any good either. I learned the sound basics of arithmetic and algebra before that age... I don't see why more advanced maths needs to be compulsory, as a tiny percentage of learners will ever use it - people who become engineers etc (and they could pick it up quickly and easily when they need it). The rest would benefit more from learning history, philosophy, politics & of course psychology - things that are actually relevant to everyone's life.

### Too much math.

Yes, I agree with all your comments. I think there are a lot of reasons why governments and schools are so bias towards math. I think the main reason is that math is easy to measure. You can test a student and find out exactly how much math they have learnt. It's much more difficult to measure the arts.

### Physics

There are people who say that there is no Physics without Maths. Then there are people who say that Maths is a mere tool for effective sciences. Maths by itself is marvel for some others. Such controversies are natural as we all have different biases to judge. I feel that a subject gains significance from its relevance to humanity at large. We need to solve real problems we face as human beings. We also need to protect Nature as we are part of it and our survival depends on it. Too much or too little are choices before an individual needs and generalisations are difficult to work out. However i agree that too much of any thing is always harmful as life is run with equanimity and balance.

### I don't know why, but this

I don't know why, but this article has the feel of an author who failed math and is bitter about it

### literacy

Did anyone else notice that the second-to-last sentence of this piece ends with a word that is missing an apostrophe? Or that the last "sentence" is in fact a sentence fragment? How much credence should we give the author's opinions on the teaching of math, when he cannot write standard English?

### Okay, the word that is

Okay, the word that is missing its apostrophe is the second-to-last word of the second-to-last sentence. The point stands--if you're going to criticize educational ideals, it's better to do it in a way that suggests that you are yourself an educated person.

### I wonder what Leonardo da

I wonder what Leonardo da Vinci would have to say if he read this..

### Personal experience

Over the years we've had new math. Then new, new math etc. None of them have been successful. The teaching of math has not been successfully transformed. Ten years ago when my son was at elementary school, I helped him with his math and I was astonished to discover that nothing had changed. It was every bit as painful for him - and for me to go through the same old stuff all over again. The sad thing is the enormous amount of time schools devote to a subject that most students find unrewarding. It has squeezed out the arts subjects that they enjoy. It is also a sad fact that schools ruin math for children who might otherwise enjoy it.

### Teaching Math Counter-productive

Hooray! An article that resonates with me. The old saying: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink fits. I was one of those innumerable donkeys who could see no relevance for my life in mathematics beyond the basics. I didn't hate my classroom experiences with math, but it certainly bored me and I just didn't care. I abandoned it as a course of study as soon as I was able at tertiary level. For me Rod's observations are true. I see no contradiction with the gist of what hot-headed 'anonymous' had to say - teaching young students how to think and problem-solve from a young age seems to be an admirable, smarter use of education resources (which I believe was Rod's main message).

Rod, please keep beating that drum - loudly.

### Teaching math

Thanks very much for your comments.

### I love math

Math rocks, but as a homeschooling mom, I agree 100% with this concept. I have a teaching degree and spent two years teaching middle school before I realized it's all a sham. Yeah, I'm a slow learner and didn't pick up on that during my 12 years there. If *all* we did was teach kids about money until age 12, they would have SO many math skills accidentally taught by the time they were ready for new skills in 6th grade. My kids learned how to count by twos, fives, tens, etc. as 5 year-olds because they realized it was easier (or necessary) to count change that way. We did fraction work from the books, but it didn't make sense until working in the kitchen. I do love math and that helps my kids, but I can only imagine how much math sucks for parents or teachers who really don't like it or never got it themselves. Poor kids/students under those adults! Forcing math at young ages is simply a way to pass the time in that free daycare system called "school," and a way to keep parents forking over that tax money without bitching too much. While your kids are standing in line to get water or lunch, mine are at dance, art, and theater class. But keep doing what works!

### Math rocks

Well done for homeschooling your children. Everything you say really strikes a chord and is so true. What you say makes it very clear that it is the system that's at fault and that the way math is taught is just a part of that system. Thanks so much for sharing that with us.

### It is just that they catch up

It is just that they catch up to something which is below 6th grade level... The elementary teachers, statistically, do not understand or like maths themselves, so the way they teach it does not give students any advantage...

### One of the issues I

One of the issues I discovered while researching my article was that most elementary teachers had not studied math at university and didn't like teaching it. Once you start looking into the problem of teaching math it's quite vast.

### Study people who love math . . . and ditch your fascination with drill n kill

I actually love math, and did very well at it. I'm very amused that so many are too lazy to read Benezet's articles, and prefer to take potshots without understanding them.

I learned math early - but not in the formal, soul-killing fashion. I learned how to count pennies into 50s. (We rolled change and took it to the stores back then.) Five groups of ten make 50. Five pairs make ten. Simple, basic concepts - but I understood place value before I started first grade. I understood factors of ten and fifty and many other numbers. I understood how to group and regroup to simplify the processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division - but I had not yet learned the formal algorithms which consume so much time in most classrooms.

Behold! Modern research by Geary concludes that children who have this basic "number sense" on entry to First Grade, do very well six years later. Without first understanding the idea of counting and grouping and regrouping, the formal manipulation of numerals will not make sense to the child.

The Benezet approach focuses on the important, foundational aspects of math; it also focuses on word problems, the bane of most formally-taught students. It allows children to learn how to reason about mathematical ideas, instead of blindly following pre-programmed routines. And it actually works.

### Thanks for that

Thanks for explaining that. I think what you say is very true. There is a lot more to Benezet than I can put in an article - the format has to be short and succinct - so I had to leave a lot of detail out. I'll look into Geary as I haven't heard of them. Thanks again.

### Sadly most of my math

Sadly most of my math teachers were geeks and not very good teachers and I did not do very well in most of my math classes. However every now I would get a math teacher who was a good teacher, had good interpersonal skills and could relate to their students and I did very well in math for those couple of years. Math generally was always geared and taught to the level of the students with the highest mathematics aptitude. Everyone else prayed they could keep up.

### Math teaching

I think your experiences are the same as most peoples - certainly mine. I teach at Central St Martins College of Art in London and I asked my students what their experiences of math at school was. I've written about it in a follow up post. Have a look here...

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/connect-creativity/201412/have-you-been-victim-math-torture

### Teaching math is outdated

Don't get me wrong, the math we teach young kids is imperative to developing competent adults, however, anything past pre-algebra is truly a waste of time. We live in the age of technology and the plain truth is that I can download an app (for free) that will answer just about any algebra, geometry, statistics, or even calculus question in a matter of seconds, all I have to do is take a picture of the problem. Teachers will argue that it is important to truly know how to work these problems so we will be prepared later on in life but, surprise surprise, If I ever actually need to solve a problem that is more complex than basic algebra, I could just whip out the math app and immediately get the answer just like I did when I was "learning" (or at least supposed to be learning) the material in school. It's almost more practical and efficient to teach a quick introductory class on how to use a math app that will solve just about any problem you come across versus trying to get a bunch of uninterested, bored students to memorize endless formulas and steps. At what point do we stop kidding ourselves and begin to take into consideration the technology at our disposal? Besides, it's commonly accepted to use a calculator. What are these math apps if not just the next generation of calculators?