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Don't Panic. Just Think!

Updated: Sep 16, 2023

My scholarly interest was "in the works" long before I had any idea that I would end up capping off my career as a doctoral student in mathematics education. Growing up, I never connected with mathematics. As I sat in classroom after classroom, the subject was presented as disconnected facts, rules, and procedures, which never made sense to me. I sincerely believed, by high school, that math was accessible to only a select few, and I was not one of those few. Unfortunately, what I experienced as a student shaped the way I taught mathematics as an elementary teacher. Then, later in my career, I was trained to teach a conceptual- and problem-solving-based curriculum to my gifted first and second graders. All of a sudden, I realized how beautiful the subject of mathematics is! I discovered, alongside my young students, that mathematics is a set of connected ideas that make sense! Fast forward several years to my final seven years as a classroom teacher, during which I taught mathematics to all second graders in a private/independent school for gifted learners. My 7-year-old students heard me say — several times daily — "Don't panic. Just think!" I am passionately interested in facilitating sense-making in the elementary mathematics classroom. Generally, my scholarly interest is promoting procedural fluency, which means that students are "able to choose flexibly among methods and strategies to solve contextual and mathematical problems, they understand and are able to explain their choices, and they are able to produce accurate answers efficiently" (NCTM, 2014, p.42). Specifically, my scholarly interest is focused on nurturing the "seed," or beginnings, of procedural fluency — basic fact fluency, which is the ability solve single-digit number combinations for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division efficiently through the use of meaningful number-sense-based reasoning strategies, instead of meaningless rote drill and memorization. For example, 8x6 can be solved by knowing 8x3 is 24 and doubling 24, which is 48. Or, 8x6 can be solved by knowing 10x6 is 60 and subtracting 2 groups of 6 (12), which is 48. Or, 8x6 can be solved by knowing 5x6 is 30 and 3x6 is 18, and 30+18 is 48. There are several other appropriate and efficient methods for solving 8x6. How would you solve it? Don't panic. Just think!

National Council for Teachers of Mathematics. (2014). Principles to actions:Ensuring mathematical success for all. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

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