I substituted for a friend today, a young woman my youngest daughter babysits for in the summers. She teaches 2nd, yes, second graders. It is an anomaly for me to sub for such an age. They wear me out! It is a battle at times to keep high schoolers awake. That is not so for 2nd graders. At all. ( I might have taken them out and run them.)
Anyway, we wrote out spelling words and played spelling games. We read and drew and answered many comprehension questions aloud and independently. We practiced our penmanship, no I didn’t remember how to make a cursive upper case Q. When have I last written in cursive? And then I taught a math lesson on equality. (Those who know me well are smiling. ) I told them I didn’t know a dang thing about elementary math, how their teacher taught it, etc. I taught seniors, 12th grade math, the best I could do for them was some geometry with a few fractions and decimals thrown in for fun. Their eyes got big, 12th GRADE MATH! Yep, your teacher told me you were very smart and could handle anything I dished out. They nodded, of course.
I made them put up their workbooks and just watch. We were going to learn how to do math intuitively. We would check ourselves with counting and regular old math. They were game. We started with the geometry of circles and triangles and squares, learned the relationships inherent. We eye-balled equivalents. Then we counted to check them, and do you know, along the way we learned all about equivalent fractions and how to reduce them. And no one was afraid or shut down or was unable to get it. Because they were smart at math, their teacher said so, and I proved it for them…I just proved it for them.
Later in the day they went to centers, things which I have learned save teachers’ souls, and I asked them what they were playing. “Math games! they are much more fun than word games.” This Word Girl, who just teaches math to those who need more counselor than instructor, had to smile. Math is a mental thing, the game gets gummed up in the mind when you are told how hard it is, how weak your skills are over and over. The best mathematicians I know are intuitive in how they reach their ( correct) answers. They see it first, then prove it with numbers or statements…and consequently their scores.
2nd graders can still see it, like Santa Claus sailing across the night sky or that glorious as of yet unhidden forest. 2nd grade is the time, now, before it is too late, to let them see and then believe.