Many people confuse memorization with understanding. Once while
Steve Demme was teaching seven junior high students,
he asked how many pieces they would each receive if there
were fourteen pieces. The students' response was, "What
do we do: add, subtract, multiply, or divide?" Knowing
how to divide is important, understanding when to divide
is equally important.
Math-U-See: Suggested 4-Step Approach
In order to train students to be confident problem solvers,
here are the four steps that I suggest you use to get
the most from the Math-U-See curriculum:
- Prepare for the Lesson
- Present the New Topic to the Student
- Practice for the Student to Acquire Mastery
- Proceed after the Student Demonstrates Mastery
Step 1. Prepare for the Lesson
As the teacher, watch the DVD/video to learn the concept yourself,
and see how to demonstrate this concept with the blocks
or fraction overlays. Also, read and study the examples
in the Teacher Manual, along with the written explanations.
The video and the Teacher Manual are designed to easily
familiarize you with the new material. They are your
multi-sensory educational tools. The older and more mature
the student, the more useful the video and Teacher Manual
will be for them as well.
Step 2. Present the New Topic to
Present the new concept to your students. Have the students
watch the video with you, if you think it would be helpful.
Older students will benefit from watching the video.
- Build: Demonstrate how to use the blocks (or fraction overlays) to solve the problem.
- Write: Show the problems on paper as you build them, step-by-step.
- Say: Explain the "why" and "what" of the math you are doing.
By using Build, Write and Say (also explained on the video),
you are helping the students to use their eyes, ears
and hands to learn. Do as many problems as necessary
until the students understand. One of the joys of teaching
is hearing a student say "Now I get it!" or "Now I see
Step 3. Practice for the Student to Acquire Mastery
Using the examples and the Lesson Practice problems from the
Student Text, have the students practice the new concept.
Coach them through the building, writing and saying process.
It is one thing for students to watch someone else do
a problem, it is quite another to do the same themselves.
Do enough examples together until they can do them without
Note: Do as many of the Lesson Practice pages as necessary
(not all pages may be needed) until the students remember
the new material and gain understanding. Utilize the
word problems, which are designed to apply the concept
being taught in the lesson.
Step 4. Proceed after the Student
Once mastery of the new concept is demonstrated, proceed into
the Systematic Review pages for that lesson. Mastery
can be demonstrated by having each student teach the
new material back to you. Let him build the problem with
the blocks (or fraction overlays), write it as he progresses
through the problem, and say what he is doing as he works
the problem. The goal is not to fill in worksheets, but
to be able to teach back what has been learned.
Note: The Systematic Review worksheets review the new material
as well as provide practice of the math concepts previously
studied. The word problems are taken from material the
student has mastered in previous lessons as well as the
new material. Remediate missed problems as they arise
to ensure continued mastery.
Proceed to the lesson tests. These can be used as an assessment
tool or as an extra worksheet. Limiting the time on a
test is your decision, but be aware that it is often
an unnecessary source of stress, especially for younger
Your students will be ready for the next lesson only after
demonstrating mastery of the new concept and continued
mastery of concepts found in the Systematic Review worksheets.
Confucius was reputed to have said, "Tell me, I forget; Show
me, I understand; Let me do it, I will remember." To which
we add, "Let me teach it and I will have achieved mastery!"
Length of a Lesson
So how long should a lesson take? This will vary from student
to student and from topic to topic. You may spend a day
on a new topic before you reach the lesson sheets, or
you may spend several days. There are so many factors
that influence this process that it is impossible to
predict the length of time.
By following the four steps outlined above, you, the teacher,
will know when to proceed to the next topic. Math must
be taught sequentially, as it builds lesson by lesson
on previously learned material. If you move from lesson
to lesson without mastery in each lesson, the student
will become discouraged. But by adhering to the suggested
approach and moving at the student's pace you will be
helping to create a confident problem solver who enjoys
the study of math.