I’m working on a section of a game that teaches fractions. If a player misses the question about where to meet up with the returning hunter, he or she gets sent to study. There is a movie that plays before this about needing to get back to the camp before dark.

Here is the question,

*“The sisters begin to worry their brothers won’t make it back by dark. They start down the trail to meet them. They decide to stop and wait at the spot where their brothers will be 3/4 of the way back to camp. How far FROM the camp will the girls be?”*

I used this question because I want students to think about a few ideas:

- Distance between two points can be thought of as a whole.
- If you are a/b distance FROM point X, the remaining distance TO point X is 1 – a/b . Of course, I don’t expect them to state it like that.
- 1/4= 2/8
- Number lines can be numbered in either direction. You can have 0 on the left or 0 on the right. The distance will be the same. The size of each interval will be the same.

These are kind of important ideas in math – equivalence, the arbitrary nature of labeling points on a line.

Students can click on GIVE ME A HINT, and a hints page pops up that explains, among other things, why you were wrong if you answered that the sisters would be 3/4 of the distance to the hunting grounds FROM the camp. If, even after reading the hints, (or if they skip the hints and just guess, we’re talking kids, after all) they get the problem wrong, the player is sent to watch a video clip explaining the problem, and then has to take a quiz to get back to the game.

SO … I had the thought instead of writing the quiz questions out of thin air, I might read what some more experienced teachers were giving to students in this grade as math problems. After all, I haven’t taught middle school math since the 1980s. I went to several sites, I even purchased some things like “One year of fifth-grade homework problems” etc.

When I looked at page after page of what students are being given as homework assignments, the only thing I could think was “*Are you fucking kidding me? No wonder kids hate math.”*

All of the homework was like this:

1/4 + 1/3 = ?

For FIFTY problems. That’s it! Then, the next day, it would be another fifty problems like this:

5/6 – 1/4 = ?

Okay, you need to learn to add and subtract fractions, but is that ALL you need to learn? Obviously not. How boring must it be to sit and just calculate answers to the same type of problem over and over? This stuff made me start to hate math and I LOVE math.

How can you possibly think that is teaching kids math? That’s like making them copy down all of the words in the dictionary and pretending you taught them literature.

Don’t even get me started on teaching statistics – wait, too late. I’m started. That is my rant for tomorrow.

You said, “That’s like making them copy down all of the words in the dictionary and pretending you taught them literature.”

That is exactly how science is usually taught. As facts to memorize instead of a process to learn.

This is the way we feel about kindergarten math right now. Without an internalization of quantities how can you understand the numbers on the page? Use manipulatives, ask questions, think!