Jeanee Elena October 22, 2020 Worksheet
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.
Printable math worksheets can be used by both parents and teachers to help kids overcome some of their most common problems in leaning math. You see, I’m a professional educator. I teach high school. I’m also a parent. (I wear both hats!) Year after year, I see kids come into my classes completely unprepared to learn math. When I diagnose what the problem is, it’s virtually always either they don’t know their multiplication tables or, more often, they don’t know how to work with fractions. I teach the upper grades in my school, yet I continue to see kids who do not even have basic algebra skills in place.
As a parent, I’m very aware of what my own children are learning in school. For the most part, I’ve been happy with their progress, but as they rise in grade level, I’m starting to see more emphasis on a loose understanding of the concepts and less emphasis on skills–particularly skills with arithmetic of fractions. The main problem with what I see with my students and my own children is that kids are taught ”concepts” and are not taught skills–unless they’re lucky enough to have a teacher who knows better. Most particularly, children are not taught mastery of arithmetic with fractions. Unfortunately, virtually all of their future math education depends on being able to do fractional arithmetic.
The math worksheet is not only for the young children in kindergarten and early primary school; they are also used for tutoring high school and university students to keep the students’ math skills sharp. The sites that offer these worksheets have helped a lot and this resource is now a common thing to use for all kinds and levels of educators. The formats for the worksheets differ according to the level and content of the worksheets. For the young kids it is preferable to have the worksheet in large print, while the older students commonly use the small print ones that are simple and uncluttered.
Of course, there is a place for math worksheets. After some instruction has occurred, math worksheets can provide extended practice and support development in fluency, provided the teacher is engaged with students as they work. Teachers who are effective at grouping students can use math worksheets as a springboard for discussions, discovery, and communication. So the next time you do a search for curriculum materials, skip the worksheets. Instead, consider resources that provide interactive experiences or consider sites that provide students with challenging problems. These sites will more likely engage students, foster discussion, and build a true understanding of the purpose and joy of learning math.
No matter what materials you choose, it is most important that you supervise your child constantly so that mistakes get caught rather than practiced. I learned this particular lesson the hard way. When my daughter was young, she did something that needed ”attention.” I no longer remember what it was that she did, but I told her to write the sentence ”I will not disobey my parents again” 50 times. I should have known better, but I didn’t check on her at the beginning and then I got busy. So, sometime later, she brought me 50 sentences of ”I will not disobey my parents agen.” She had just practiced misspelling ”again” as ”agen” — 50 times! I’m not certain that we ever really got that fixed.
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