Math Approaches: Traditional or Reform
Presently there is an argument regarding whether it is better to teach mathematics in a reform or traditional approach. Understandably, educators want to teach children in the best way that will benefit students as a child and a learner. Different people can argue that their approach is more effective than traditional methods, and likewise for the reform approach. However, research reveals that there are certain advantages and disadvantages to each teaching approach.
Traditionally math has been taught in a teacher-centered environment. With this traditional approach students give all their attention to the teacher, and work problems using a given method. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel defined this approach as “instruction in which primarily the teacher is communicating the mathematics to the students directly” (National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008). In this approach the teacher explains the idea that the class will be working on, and then shows the students how to answer the problem. The goal is getting to the answer, and the students rely on the teacher to determine if their answers are correct or not (Van de Walle, 2007).
Advantages to the Traditional Approach
Research shows that there are advantages to using the traditional approach in the math classroom. Direct teaching is considered one of the most powerful teaching methods because of its systematic and grounded principles (Markusic, 2012). One advantage of a traditional teacher-centered classroom is that the teacher is directing the learning, and students have no problem determining what is important in a lesson (Markusic, 2012). This is also an advantage for the teacher because the teacher does not have to worry about a student missing an important topic.
Disadvantages to the Traditional Approach
Research also shows that there are disadvantages to using the traditional teacher-centered approach in the classroom. “Children emerge from these experiences with a view that mathematics is a series of arbitrary rules, handed down by the teacher, who in turn got them from a very smart source” (Van de Walle, 2007). As a result of this approach, students often are unable to take what they have been taught and transfer it to problems that are slightly different from those they have been working in class (Kohn, 1999). Students may easily add numbers when they are stacked on top of each other, but may struggle when they are lined up horizontally. Children become good at learning rules in order to ensure good grades, but are unable to actually do the mathematics. This traditional system seems to reward students for learning the rules, but does not give students the opportunity to actually do the mathematics (Van de Walle, 2007).
In a traditional teacher-directed classroom students work alone, and do not learn to collaborate with other students in the classroom. Because of this, students may lack the social...