Thursday, July 15, 2010

Skills Practice Vs. Concept Development


It's where so many things go wrong.

In trying to do one thing well, we overlook something else.

It frequently happens in math education. Whether in homeschool or in public school, math education is often imbalanced.

It seems that we may wish to ask ourselves this question...

"Does my child's math education present a balance between concept development and skills practice?" 
  • Am I so focused on "skills" (math drills, flashcards, pages & pages of traditional story problems or algorithms) that I'm missing the "big picture," not allowing my student the time and opportunity to development mathematical thinking?
  • Am I so worried about NOT doing the "traditional" stuff that I've thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath water...never allowing my student time to practice math skills?
I sampled an on-line math curriculum with one of my children a couple years ago. Sadly, the program over-emphasized skills practice and just assumed that students would develop concepts through very brief tutorials. I'm afraid that my child soaked in the concepts long enough to practice the prescribed drills, but failed to further develop mathematical thinking skills.

Yet there is a place for skill practice. Even electronic.

Saturday, on a weekly basis, I'm starting a series of posts on using math apps. While I would never want this to become the staple of a math education, I do see value in allowing kids time to practice skills already learned through fun, unique apps.

What do you think? How do you balance concept development and skills practice for your student(s)?


  1. I love when a game can do both! For example, playing jacks. It teaches the why's of counting by 5's, 10's and so on but it provides the repetition needed for mastery but in a fun way. It's the same with reading, without the right balance of whole language or phonics, reading can become tedious or lacking in vital skills. Great topic!

  2. P.S.

    I just responded to a post on a math forum about our experience with computer based math...

    Computer based math is forced to rely heavily on
    skills practice. (We found one program to be useful in reviewing skills prior to mandatory testing. But I would not want to rely on it for initial instruction/concept development.)

    Contrary to all the images of nerdy, isolated mathematicians, math IS a social experience. We learn by talking with others about their strategies and mathematical thinking.

  3. @ Joyful Learner...

    Totally agree! Which is probably one of the reasons I love games so much. And am appreciating them more everyday. ;)

  4. We also agree and recently shared this with our readers...

    Flash cards and games with drilling of flash cards are everywhere but problem-based learning is an important real life skill.

    We found this to be lacking and is why we decoded to develop iLiveMath for our homeschooling needs.... It really has helped our 6th grade daughter.



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