Dr. Foss: Welcome to Math Rehab, what seems to be the problem?
Student: I can’t answer questions fast enough.
Dr. Foss: Fast enough for who? For what?
Student: Hmmm… I don’t know…
One more thing about learning multiplication. No need for speed.
Somewhere along the line speed became synonymous with smart. Not in other subjects though, just math.
Finished reading that novel already? Read it again.
You can spit historical facts out faster than your peers? No one cares.
Rush through a science lab? Not safe!
Win a flash card game? Genius (insert sarcasm here)!
Anyone play “Around the World” in math class? I did… If by play you mean anxiously waiting for the game to be over or the school to catch fire, whichever comes first. The game should really be called “You are inadequate so stop embarrassing yourself and sit down.”
Ok, ok, I might be bitter, and yeah, maybe I blame my elementary math experiences for most of my adult insecurities. Nothing 20 years of therapy can’t solve. Let me explain.
The game starts with everyone sitting down. One student starts the game by choosing a classmate to compete with. The choser and the chosen stand next to each other and asked to quickly spit out the answer to a math question, typically, a multiplication fact. Everyone else just watches, breathing a sigh of relief that it’s not them. It’s a duel to the death and someone has to be Hamilton. The person who says the answer first gets to stay standing and choose a new victim. The other student sits down, defeated, embarrassed, and one step closer to hating math.
The thing is, with this game and others like it, EVERYONE loses. The student that wasn’t fast enough equates that with not being good enough. The speedy student gains a false sense of being better than their peers, and the teacher thinks they are helping students “have fun” with math. And just like that 30 minutes of instructional time goes up in flames.
So please, adults of the world, STOP MAKING MATH A RACE. You don’t have to take my word for it, take it from Ice Cube “Math ain’t a track meet, it’s a marathon.” At the very least, let’s stop publicly shaming students for not meeting antiquated and unrealistic standards. K? K.