Let the Children Learn


Let the Children Learn (Part II) by Mary Latela @LatelaMary

In Grade 9, the year of Algebra, our class was treated to “the New Math.” This was a very theoretical version from the Yale Math Study Group. Equations? I didn’t see any. Our teacher went to class twice a week to keep ahead of us.

We worked hard …. We were over-achievers, after all … and passed the course. However, back when being “smart” was OK, we found out that there was a seven week summer school class in Algebra I at the “other” high school in town. YES! Our parents of course were happy about this. Our teacher was confused until we explained what we had been doing our usual algebra class. By the end of the summer, we understood.

I love math, so I ran into a variety of settings and courses in my studies. Then when I taught, I became a hostage to whatever system had been purchased by the school system. There was the resurgence of the abacus in elementary school. There were calculators. There were the old-fashioned (and still excellent) marble-covered notebooks with the built-in multiplication tables.

Thousands of dollars were spent on “new programs.” I always compared this to the price of those 3×5 cards for number facts. Each child makes her own. Voila! After investing money of course the school would push hard to “make it work” – whether it was useful or not.

One time I asked students about the “agenda” of the publishers which might be discovered in the problems section … They concluded that these people wanted kids to study more, apply to college, learn to figure out interest in a savings account, and take wonderful family vacations.

Art! Oh my! My mom had a card table in one end of the kitchen with paper, crayons, kids’ scissors, magazine pictures (Better Homes & Gardens). We could make anything we wanted to. I find that I am always replenishing the art supplies for my grandchildren, who are now into making cartoons and writing fantastic stories in which he or she is the hero (of course!) My refrigerator is an art gallery.

Apparently, teachers ask kids about their plans for grown-up life. So far, we have two plumbers, one Mommy, and a stay at home little guy who is learning to sound like lions, tigers, and other critters. Btw, the two “plumbers” were told by the teacher that they would make lots of money! Horrors!

Don’t forget that kids teach one another. After Paw-Paw (their grandfather) died, the oldest boy announced that his younger brother had told him the real story. Paw-Paw lives on the moon, where he can watch the kids, and send love. “My brother told me!”  When kids teach one another, it’s wonderful!

This is like the definition of love – let them learn by practice, and they will really understand!

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