Math is taught to American Children in a couple of different ways. One approach is to let the children solve problems in different ways and teach them why things are the way they are. Another way is “parrot math.” This involves feeding the children information on how to solve a problem and making it the only way to solve that problem. A small group of critics have stated that American schools need to return to a parrot math approach in order to have our children be at pace with the leading countries.
Parrot math does not allow for children to find meaning in math. It involves solving equations, finding exact answers, and moving on. Children do not learn how to estimate, solve word problems, or what significance that the problem has in life. It involves memorizing, not understanding.
Other critics state that “math should make sense to children and that children should be thinkers rather than storage bins.” They think that children should realize why the problem comes out the way it does and children should be encouraged to find different ways to solve it. They want children to understand what they are doing, not just know that they are doing it right.
A perfect teaching method would include a medium between these approaches. Children should learn the basics through parrot math and then expand on what they have learned through applying what they have learned to life situations. There is no exact way to teach something, but this would be the most effective. Perhaps applying this method could get the United States to catch up with the rest of the world’s children when comparisons are made again.