A headline in the December 21, 2009 issues of The Dallas Morning News states, “Brain Studies Changing Teaching of Math”. The caught my attention (and that of my family and several dozen of my friends–thanks for thinking of me, y’all!) The basic premise of the article is this: “We” (the education establishment) used to think children had NO concept or potential to understand math until they were five years old. It admits practice was based largely on “tradition and guesswork”. Kurt Fischer, director of the Mind, Brain & Education Program at Harvard said, “Teaching is an ancient craft and yet we really have no idea how it affected the developing brain. Well that is beginning to change and for the first time we are seeing the fields of brain science and education work together.”
That last sentence really made me sit up and pay attention. I can’t think of many places which should rely more on brain research than the classroom. The article then focuses on a program called “Building Blocks” developed by researchers at the University of Buffalo. The program appears to just “bring out” math in the preschool environment. “How many plates did we put on the table?” and “Let’s jump seven times.” and one-to-one correspondence. This and other similar programs have been shown to improve math understanding for low-income preschoolers. That’s great! I love that kids are getting a leg up. I would also add, “It’s about time!”
Now for those of you who would seriously like to know about math development in the brain, I would invite you to read “Teach Your Baby Math” by Glenn Doman. The book, the method, and the author are all brilliant. It works, I’ve personally witnessed it.
But back to “It’s about time!” I think our world has things backward sometimes and I’m glad people are beginning to realize it. How is it that a LOT of five-year-olds have cell phones but we wouldn’t dare teach them basic arithmetic? Truthfully, if a child can operate an iPhone with ease and speed, shouldn’t algebra be somewhere nearby on the horizon?
How is it that young children can understand the lyrics of popular rap music (even though “rap” and “music” really shouldn’t be used together) but we make them wait until they are 14 before they could begin to understand Spanish or French or Mandarin??
How is it that young girls featured on the TLC Show “Toddlers & Tiaras” can learn intricate routines and detailed answers to “interview” questions, but they may be in high school before we think them capable of learning beautiful poetry. ”Achy Breaky Heart” or “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”??
Why is it that 3-year-olds can master the “Cha Cha Slide” but not beautiful gymnastics or dancing?
There is one simple answer and it’s simply this—children’s brains are built to learn and grow at phenomenal rates. Even those children who have neurological struggles can master great quantitites of information. The question then becomes “Then why don’t they?” That answer is also very simple. It is because we don’t give them the information. They master everything we let them have exposure to—Achy Breaky Heart, the cha cha slide, iPhones, etc. They are trying to tell us that they can learn anything we throw at them.
So why don’t we throw wonderful things at them? Why can’t we expose them to things like Greek & Latin roots, mythology, inspiring poetry, beautiful music? Why wouldn’t we expose them to many languages? Children in China learn Mandarin merely by hearing it, as children in France learn French the same way. Why can’t children in the United States learn Mandarin and French? Why don’t they get to listen to foreign languages? Why don’t we give them opportunities to figure out how the roots of words and their meanings fit together?
Another answer—we would have to make an effort to teach our children the wonderful mysteries of this magical world we live in. We would have to do a little research and plan and then present them in a FUN and EXCITING manner. It is my opinion that the MOST IMPORTANT PLACE that should be affected by the latest brain research is (drum roll please)HOME. At home we can play wonderful learning games and spend times with our children in a way to provide stimulation to their brains at a critical time in their development. They can learn tremendous amounts of information that will grow their brains and set them on a wonderful path of learning for the rest of their lives.
Of course, how do you teach foreign languages, poetry, works of the great art masters, etc. to young children? The answer is honestly easy, simple, inexpensive and FUN. It is one way that young families can spend their precious time together and stimulate brain growth. It is also, my in opinion, ABOUT TIME. Research has finally supported what some mothers have known right along. Your children are brilliant and love to learn. It is truly ABOUT TIME!