How Math Counts

2007novel_2Professor of Mathematics Lynn Arthur Steen believes “fractions and Algebra II represent the most subtle, powerful, and mind-twisting elements of school mathematics.” The challenge is how to teach abstract math concepts in ways that students understand.

Read “How Mathematics Counts

What’s missing from traditional mathematics instruction, says Steen, is sufficient emphasis on three important ingredients: communication, connections, and contexts.

How do you bring these three ingredients into your math classroom?


  1. I could not agree with that article more. In fact, it epitomizes everything I want to do in my classroom. However, execution can be very difficult. I am fortunate to teach Algebra II to 8th grade gifted/high achieving students. In addition I teach Pre Algebra and Algebra I courses. In each one I try to show students the importance of certain concepts like fractions, ratios, and percents. I give them real world examples showing them when and how they might use them. I do struggle, though, with finding examples with my Algebra II students. As the concepts become more abstract it is harder for me to find real applications of the concepts.
    Communication is another area I like to focus on. I tell my students that I care more about how and why they got an answer, not just that they got the right one. Communication is the key to life overall. It is so important to be able to communicate your ideas, opinions, and instructions in all areas of your life. If I could not communicate how to solve a problem I would not be a very good teacher. Teaching is a great example of how important communicating is.
    Connections are also just as important. The brain functions and learns based on experiences. If we cannot connect our material to experiences it is meaningless to our students. I also agree that there need to be connections between all of the subject areas the students study. That proves how meaningful math really is in the world.
    I find that the context part of teaching math can be very hard to attain. The article mentioned how the focus of standardized testing is on the step by step procedure on how a problem is solved. Meanwhile we are trying to show the students its importance in relation to other ideas without focusing as much on how it is solved. We are trying to prepare our students for two totally different things (passing state tests and real life).
    We need to come up with more real life applications to the concepts we teach. Students already find math pointless, if we continue on the path we have set for ourselves that ideation will only get worse.

  2. I am a high school algebra II teacher, and there are many times they struggled with basic algebra skills that they should have learned in algebra. I agree with the article about the need for communication, connections and context. I feel that many times with the context many teachers will teach the students shortcuts or special rules in math, but then they will not understand why or how the rules work.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here