Simone Leïla October 17, 2020 Worksheet

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.

When I was growing up we didn’t have home computers let alone PlayStation to entertain ourselves. Handheld camcorders were barely coming to the retail market by the time I was in 8th grade, but still a long ways away from the YouTube and Facebook arena we now see today. Times were extremely different back then and so was school. From a teacher’s perspective our competition is tough. Passing out a handout of 30 problems that are all in a format of 534×25= is not as stimulating in the students’ eyes as playing games such as Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil. Granted, that will always be a tough uphill battle for math to win out over most video games, but the point is, students today are much more immersed in technology than ever before. So even if you need to pass out a math worksheet to review concepts and formulas, it will greatly benefit your cause if you design the worksheet to be as stimulating as possible.

Some students are unable to access tools that many of us take for granted when they try to complete worksheets. They may be unable to grasp pencils, control their movements within the limited spaces provided on the sheet, or be able to simply stabilize their paper while writing. Other students, including those for whom English is not their primary language or who struggle with reading, have difficulty reading the directions, words, and math terminology on the worksheets. Still other students require different visual representations or methods of engagement in order acquire an understanding the content. Most math worksheets do not provide information in multiple formats so they are inaccessible to students with a wide variety of learning styles and abilities. Well-designed technology can provide these students with access to excellent content. For example, these fractions tools and supplemental curriculum allow students with physical disabilities to access fractions content using a variety of assistive technology devices. Instructions, prompts and feedback can be read aloud, while visual models, cues combined with sounds support a wide range of learning styles and abilities.

Most of even beginning algebra depends on being able to do two things–one, doing multiplication quickly and accurately in your head, two, knowing how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions. You might remember a concept in algebra called ”factoring.” Factoring means breaking up into parts that are multiplied together to give you the whole. You can factor numbers. For instance, 6 factors into 2 and 3–2×3 =6. In elementary algebra we learn to factor expressions such as x^2+4x+4. This particular expression is easily factorable into (x+2)^2. If this doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t worry about it. Just trust me, if you don’t know your multiplication tables, you can’t factor. If you can’t factor, you won’t do well at all in algebra, geometry, or trigonometry.

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.

It’s easy to see how free worksheets can save you money. If you want, you can skip buying math books and just use worksheets that you get for free on the internet. All you need to do is use a ”scope and sequence” book that tells you what your child needs to be doing in math by age and grade. This book is essential when you homeschool. I recommend getting one of these books when you first begin homeschooling and use it as a reference throughout your homeschool journey. Regardless of how long you homeschool, you’ll always have doubts and questions about how your child is performing.A scope and sequence book can put your mind at ease.

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