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Top of the Class, but... For seven years I've watched my beautiful son hunched over Kumon math worksheets. He finds little enjoyment from them and I'd rather see him chasing butterflies. They've certainly helped his Math performance at school __ he's top of his class, but I wonder if the effort has been worth it in the big scheme of things. He's currently solving about 100 polynomials per day. Man, he can really solve polynomials, and fast. But for what? His arithmetic skills are awesome but when presented with a math story problem, he falls apart, helpless. No matter how many times I suggest that he _ read the problem carefully, note down the givens, assign names to intermediate and final values, form equations,activate his Kumon engine (brain), he just can't get past the read_the_problem_carefully step.
Engagement entails much more than rote repetition of a procedure. Math worksheets tend to present very similar problem types over and over, leading to mundane practice of disassociated skills. For students who understand the material and successfully complete an assignment, another worksheet becomes meaningless. On the other hand, for the students who don't understand the material, an alternative method of instruction is what's needed. Another worksheet simply adds to the student's frustration, or worse, contributes to a belief that "I'll never understand math." A cute image or a "fill_in_the_blanks" riddle does nothing to increase engagement or learning (and let's face it, those riddles are not funny!). Instead, teachers need to increase engagement by providing students with exercises in which they discover patterns and relationships, solve problems, or think creatively about math relationships.
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