*I was sent a copy of the book "Balancing the Equation" for the purpose of review. An affiliate link has also been included in this post.*

Thank you for joining in the “Balancing the Equation” book
study. I am joining in a group of dedicated math bloggers to take a closer look
at this text. My opinion? You want a copy for yourself. I consider myself to be
quite well versed in understanding math education, where it falls relative to
the current political arena (and yes, math education is very tied up in
politics!) but this book has given me a more robust understanding of the very
specific twists and turns that have taken place that bring us to the space in
math education that we occupy today.

If you are just joining in the book study, you may want to
go back (links at the bottom of this post) to begin the study from the
beginning. Each day a new blogger has added their chapter to the conversation
so, depending on the date you are joining us, you may want to grab a coffee (or
your beverage of choice), sit back, and hop on through. Alright, enough chit
chat, on to Chapter 2!

Throughout the text the authors continue to revisit the
pendulum swinging between developing conceptual understanding and developing
procedural skills. Chapter 2 of

*Balancing the Equation*seeks to examine the historical context behind these pendulum swings.
Upon first glance, it seems like there is a simple answer
and that balance needs to be struck between conceptual understanding and
procedural skills.

Major spoiler: Yes, balance is the answer.

In fact, it’s the name of the book J And yet, that is not how math
education is handled in all districts, buildings and classrooms. So the
question then becomes

**why?**
The answer, my friends, lies in a historical context that is
littered with political tension and decisions being informed by groups of
people who have little to no background in child development. Not shocked by
this answer? Neither was I. And yet I found this chapter to be wildly
interesting to read in terms of understanding how entire generations could be
effected so profoundly by a pendulum swing in one direction or another.

Kanhold and Larson argue that, initially, math education was
not a mandate in our country in terms of childhood education. As a need arose
for citizens to know basic math, basic math skills were introduced in
classrooms. And these skills were taught rotely. This makes sense. Students
needed to know how to “do specific things” with numbers and they were taught
how to perform those specific skills, provided with examples and then allowed
to practice those skills.

As time went on and as the scope of mathematical skills
broadened, theories on more effective math teaching practices began to emerge.
A man by the name of Warren Colburn introduced the idea that perhaps if
students were given math tasks which allowed them to develop an understanding
of math concepts that they may be able to more easily and effectively
understand mathematics and apply their understandings.

It was only 4 short years before Colburn’s theories received
significant backlash. The reasoning? Parents would rather that math be taught
the “old fashioned way”.

Really?

Parent preference is not grounded in research on how
students learn best and yet the tides turned back to the “old fashioned”
approach. To be fair here, Larson and Kanhold do point out that the preference
of parents is often grounded in their perception of the current math teaching
approach and that perception is often derived from what is seen in curriculum
or how curriculum is interpreted and implemented by individual teachers. This
constant tug between educational theory and

implementation is another common
theme throughout the history of math education.

This same pattern continued in turn with the pendulum
swinging back and forth every few decades (the text goes into detail here
outlining a number of shifts and the forces at work). Sometimes the swing
happened at the hand of research as it did in the 1950s and 1960 when “New
Math” was introduced. Sometimes, the swing occurred as a result of parents or
legislators. Legislation introducing state testing for students at a variety of
grade levels was the cause of one such swing. Despite a 2008 study commissioned
by the national government that stated that math education must include a
balance of conceptual understanding and procedural fluency, a drive towards
procedural skills occurred when NCLB (No Child Left Behind) was introduced.
High stakes testing quickly drove education at the classroom level to focus on
a more narrow set of standards that would be tested at a given grade level.

CCLS (Common Core Learning Standards) have now been
introduced and embedded within the standards themselves you will find very
specific language that aims to convey the balance required for highly effective
math instruction. But, if we have learned anything in chapter 2 of this book,
we know that an attempt to shift the landscape of math education will surely be
met with backlash and a pull back to what is traditional. Continue on the blog
hop to continue the book study with a review of chapter 3 to see how the most
current shift is playing out.

If you would like to keep up with this blog hop... and why wouldn't you :) Check out the line up below!

- Table of Contents, About the Authors, and Introduction
- Evil Math Wizard — Chapter 1: Why Mathematics Education Needs to Improve
- 7/7/16 The Math Spot — Chapter 2: A Brief History of Mathematics Education
- 7/8/16 The Research Based Classroom — Chapter 3: The Common Core Mathematics Debate
- 7/9/16 Math Coach’s Corner — First half Chapter 4: The Equilibrium Position and Effective Mathematics Instruction
- 7/9/16 LIVE WEBINAR with Matthew Larson (register here)
- 7/10/16 The Recovering Traditionalist — Second half Chapter 4: The Equilibrium Position and Effective Mathematics Instruction
- 7/11/16 Guided Math Adventures — Chapter 5: How to Help Your Child Learn Mathematics
- 7/12/16 Kids Math Teacher — Epilogue, Appendix, and Recap

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