Helaine Juliette November 28, 2020 Worksheet
Teachers are actually doing their best to educate children. The problems with education aren’t so much on the level of teachers as with the institution as a whole. It’s kind of like the state of communications in our country before the deregulation of the telephone companies. Before deregulation, one and only one advancement–the touch tone phone. After deregulation, well you have cell phones, the Internet, instant messaging, you name it! What dedicated teachers and parents need to do is to supplement public school instruction with strategies that work, that have always worked, to get kids to really master the fundamental skills of elementary math.
Another problem with almost all worksheets is that they don’t prevent incorrect answers. Self-checking worksheets just let the student know they did something wrong–after the fact. I am a firm believer in the concept that, if at all possible, learning should be structured in small chunks in such a way that there is very little possibility for error. Worksheets often allow for mistakes to be made and then to be repeated many times. A mistake that gets practiced is extremely difficult to correct. This especially happens when worksheets are used as time fillers or baby sitters and the work isn’t really being supervised.
The same is true for mastery of working with fractions. So, in general, kids who don’t learn their multiplication tables and arithmetic with fractions usually don’t do well in math. It’s been proven that success in science depends to a great extent on success in math. So, these same kids usually don’t do well with science, either. In other words, they’re locked out of most of the growth that our economy is going to experience in the future. According to the federal government, eight out of ten jobs in the next twenty years are going to be computer related. If you want your child to have access to the major portion of jobs in the future, your child must master math. It’s that simple.
Rather than using worksheets, a better method is to use individual size white boards and have the child writing entire facts many times. Having a child writing 9 x 7 = 7 x 9 = 63 while saying ”nine times seven is the same as seven times nine and is equal to sixty-three” is many times more successful than a worksheet with 9 x 7 = ___ and the student just thinks the answer once and then writes that answer on the duplicate problems.
I will admit that there is one type of worksheet that I used in the past and found relatively beneficial, although it had a different kind of flaw. For my Basic Math, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra classes, I had several books of ”self-checking” worksheets. These worksheets had puns or puzzle questions at the top, and as the students worked the problems they were given some kind of code for choosing a letter to match that answer. If they worked the problems correctly, the letters eventually answered the pun or riddle. Students enjoyed these worksheets, but there are a couple problem areas even with these worksheets. Some students would get the answer to the riddle early and then work backward from letter to problem answer, so they weren’t learning or practicing anything.
Have you ever noticed how many K-12 math content websites are devoted to math worksheets? There seems to be an increase in websites that cater to desperate teachers and parents by offering fast, free ”worksheet generation”, ”10 free fractions worksheets,” etc. Now, as a former teacher I am not saying that one should never use math worksheets; however, I do believe that many teachers are using a very superficial method of instruction that relies too much on low-level math worksheets and hands-off instructional approaches. Worksheet lessons move from reading the directions aloud, to doing sample problems as a group, to completing the worksheet independently (or at home with parents), day in and day out.
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