The Problem With Moving on to Higher Math Before Mastering the Basics

The government has placed so many regulations on education in the 21st century public school classroom that students are not mastering basics in math before they have to move on to higher math. Students are required to learn algebra and geometry as young as the third and fourth grade. The ideology behind this is that we live in a high tech, advanced world and kids need to be able to keep up with the fast paced society. The problem is that most students graduate high school lacking the basic math skills they need to function in the real world.

Students moving on to algebra and geometry before mastering basic math skills never really get the chance to go back and learn those lost skills. Once they move beyond the basics the school system does not have time to go back to the basics. Math, like all other subjects, builds on itself. People begin learning number sense and meaning. They learn to count and what the purpose of numbers are. Next they learn to add, and subtract. Then they move on to learn multiplication and next division. They cannot become proficient in multiplication before learning to add and subtract. They cannot become proficient in division until they learn to multiply. Each skill builds on the other and skipping any one of the skills is detrimental to learning later on in life.

Upon graduation many students are able to graph and chart but are unable to count change or even balance a check book. Not all students need advanced math skills such as algebra and geometry. Some will never use it and may drop out of high school without knowing the basic skills they need in life because of the higher math requirements.  They don’t understand the higher math and know they will never pass the class.

One solution to this problem is for children to learn and master basic skills throughout elementary school. Those who are advanced and able to move beyond the basics should be provided with accommodations to move on. Those who have not mastered basic math skills should not be expected to move on until they have basic skills down. The main focus of elementary school should be focused on mastering basic math skills. For the average student this does not happen until the end of the fifth grade.

When students enter junior high and high school educators must make sure they have mastered basic math skills before forcing higher math on them. If they have not mastered basic skills they need to continue learning and practicing those skills.

Once the government realizes that educators need to be in charge of education and let them create standards and once educators realize that students need to master basic skills before moving on to more advanced math skills, students will graduate able to function in the adult world.

 Picture by Flickr


Kim Miller

About Kim Miller

I am a single mom of two sons, 15 and 18 years old. I also have an 8 month old grandson. I recently earned my BA in Elementary Education and am working toward an MA in Elementary Education. I love working with children and watching them learn.

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