Math Is About Skill, Not Speed


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In an article back in 2013, Jo Boaler wrote about research showing that timed math tests resulted in significant math anxiety and thus underachievement by many students. One of her statements that is maybe most perturbing is that “mathematics has become a performance subject”. It is no surprise that many math teachers pushed back pointing to the perceived societal requirement to do things ‘on time’. There was also an argument for automaticity, the importance of being able to do lower order computations without thinking so that the brain was free to think at a higher level. An entire business (Kumon Math) is built around the idea of worksheets, timed tests and repetition. The limitations of short term or working memory are well documented and so the importance of ‘knowing’ math facts seems indisputable. Many of those in agreement were teachers (and former students) who relayed their experiences of hating mathematics due to their sometimes extreme math anxiety. It is estimated that up to 50% of 1st and 2nd graders have some form of math anxiety.


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