In a recent edition of Teaching Children Mathematics, authors Kateri Thunder and Alisha N. Demchak make a strong case for a “Math Diet” to grow healthy mathematical reasoning in kids. Just as researchers have identified five foundational components of healthy reading reading instruction, the Math Diet is meant to provide students a balanced framework for navigating math through elementary school.
Here are the five components of the Math Diet as described by Thunder and Demchak:
- Conceptual understanding
- Strategic Competence
- Procedural fluency
I hear someone mumbling that EVERYONE knows counting is a given, and it’s certainly not esoteric. BUT, there is a lot more to counting than meets the eye. Many kids are able to process the more abstract features of counting (understanding order irrelevance, for instance), while struggling students never seem to get past using their fingers. The key to a healthy Math Diet is to start early and start right.
In my experience, it’s hard to “feed” kids this Math Diet once they have acquired a taste for junk food math skills. And as I’ve noted before, elementary teachers themselves may not have been exposed to healthy Math Diets. That’s one reason I joined The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: my personal Math Diet was sketchy.