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Category : Blog

I get it, but I can’t explain it…

There are tons of ways to navigate towards the correct answer of any question. There are countless “right ways” of getting to a happy destination. If you’ve ever eaten at a Cheesecake Factory, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The menu is endless, but no matter what you pick, you’re satisfied.

At a very young age, I learned how to get to my best friend’s house. I also knew how to get to the mall at a young age. However, to get from my friend’s house to the mall, was another story. You see, I only knew how to get to those two places when leaving from my house. I didn’t know the roads; I just knew the way. I didn’t understand how the two places fit together on a map. It was muscle memory for familiar routes, but my sense of direction not there. I try to keep this in mind when I teach my second graders.


Many people learned math and spelling through strict memorization. That totally works when you are working on a memorized fact. But what happens when you hit a detour? Do you have the skills and foundation of knowledge to figure out the answer? Can you pull out a map and find another way? Understanding spelling patterns and building a strong number sense provides multiple ways of getting to a destination… It may be easiest to memorize a preferred avenue, but knowledge of the back roads is important.

This is why the backwards model for teaching is so important. Don’t start with teaching the rule – “Look at the last number… If it’s a 1,3,5,7, or 9, it’s odd…” Teach the student WHY that makes sense. Let the students explore place value and realize that no matter how many tens or hundreds are in a number, they always split evenly. Let the students figure out that it always comes down to the ones place before telling them the rule. It is much more meaningful learning when you understand why tricks work, than how the tricks work. A strong foundational knowledge and sense (in whatever we learn) gives us the tools we need to figure out the answer when the rule fails us.

Don’t teach the rule; show the map 😛 🙂

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