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Students Learn to Solve Problems With Mental Math

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. – Teaching math is easier said than done, but explaining how it’s done may be even harder.  Josh Rosen, a math teacher at Springhurst Elementary School, has done just that by creating a video of his methods to help show how students are learning.  Rosen and others went around school with flip cameras and asked students to solve problems and then explain the strategies they used.

“This is real, it’s really happening in the classrooms,” said Springhurst principal Julia Drake.  “I’ve seen it myself.”

Rosen said he introduces a number of different strategies to his students and has them identify the best method. “The goal is to create flexible thinkers,” Rosen said.

Explaining this type of mental math to parents is another challenge for Rosen, hence the video showcasing what students are actually doing. “I think one of the best ways to inform parents is to show them what’s happening,” he said.

Students learn to break down complex numbers into more “friendly numbers” that are easier to add or subtract mentally. “We’re teaching a lot more than just getting an answer to a problem,” Rosen said.  “Multitasking, that’s what we’re asking the brain to do.”

The actual strategies are not the most important part of learning according to Rosen, rather it’s the process used to get there.  Rosen also said that memorization is not a strong suit of most people, but lots of people are skilled at multitasking.   

“It’s not about solving more problems it’s about solving them in different ways,” Rosen said.  “It allows their minds to kind of play with numbers more.  It’s a little bit of freedom to explore.”

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