I am a little frustrated when it comes to these worksheets. Don’t get me wrong sometimes worksheets can be good. Sometimes some problems on these worksheets, that have come home with my niece for the past 2 weeks, bring up great math discourse about strategies used or mistakes she made. However when my niece brings home this worksheet for the 2 straight week in a row I am a little over this busy work that is not helping her be successful in mathematics. In addition, today she had quite a melt down about completing her worksheet. I am not sure how to keep a THIRD grader motivated to fill out a worksheet that is filled with 10 different concepts that she possibly learned or did not learn in previous years. If she did learn it before she sure did not master it because she is not recalling anything to help her complete the problems. I got a little glimpse of her reasoning to why she doesn’t want to finish these worksheets. “when I finish them and we switch papers to correct them in class I don’t like to be wrong.” How can you disagree with this…who LIKES to be wrong? My classroom is very heavily based on students making mistakes but they are nutured out of those scared feelings. Wrong answers are not laughed upon or graded and pointed out with red pen in my class, instead mistakes are asked to be looked at by all students and to figure WHERE their mistake was and what they were thinking in order to get there. Then we discuss what misconceptions a student might have had by performing a mistake and most of the time students are able to feel like their mistake was something that became part of their learning process. As a teacher, I am really hesitant to have third graders correcting papers and feeling inadequate based on worksheets scores. This feeling of inadequacy could be the beginning of their insecurities and hatred of mathematics. Here is where it starts for kids, this is the class, concept or teacher that is going to take that switch of loving mathematics from on to OFF. They feel like failures because here is a worksheet that is graded and they are being asked to come to class, have a good attitude about it, feel like a failure and then come back everyday to do it all over again. I have never met anyone that has said “I really like to do things that make me feel unsuccessful” What do you expect when you give students work that makes them feel like failures? You want them to be happy about it and WANT to do it again and again week after week? WOW! It is hard enough for adults to do this but now you are asking my third grade niece. No wonder she had the melt down….No wonder she doesn’t want to do this worksheet. Who would?
Now when you take a look at this worksheet you will see that it is very focused on rote mathematics. They want you to recall basics facts and regurgitate it on the paper. Write 8+2=10 in these different ways even though they really make no sense to you unless connections are made. Please calculate the sums or differences of these problems that don’t require me to show my work so I really could have just used a calculator. This is exactly what will get students ready for high school mathematics and problem solving strategies.
Ok really, all sarcasm aside, how do we keep that GREAT feeling of loving school and math fun-ness when math is just being taught on worksheets and the steps are being asked to be mimicked after shown what to do. There is no way that I would be interested in math if that is what it is about. I don’t think we would have been able to get a robot on Mars if we just followed an algorithm and we just followed what someone showed us what to do. How are we going to create the next group of scientists and mathematicians if we keep telling them HOW to do it and making them just memorize and regurgitate information that is useless? We need students to investigate and have the opportunity to feel safe enough to make mistakes in class and learn from them. This is the most important part of the natural learning process….forming pieces of information in your brain based on mistakes or discoveries you have made. That is the issue I have with the use of Khan Academy in high schools and these types of worksheets in elementary schools.
“We do better when we know better.” -Maya Angelou and we DO know better!!