For a parent, few things are as puzzling as seeing your child arrive at the right answer for a math problem only to be put down by teachers who say the child got it wrong because he didn’t follow the prescribed process.
Mainstream colleges of education and many teachers all over the country subscribe to this principle, but it is far from being the correct one, according to an article written by James V. Shuls, Ph.D. for Education News.
It’s the answer that matters the most
In the article, Dr. Shuls makes an analogy that undoubtedly establishes that it’s the answer that matters the most, not the process. He compares solving math problems to having an accountant do your taxes, a carpenter build your home, and a scientist perform an experiment. When they all reach the wrong answer, everything goes down the drain, and it doesn’t matter if they did the process beautifully or whatever.
He also shares an experience by her daughter who got the lowest rating possible for getting her answers right without going through the prescribed process. Conversely, his daughter got higher marks for wrong answers, which she presumably reached by following whatever process her teachers prescribed.
Although I believe that teachers need to make sure that students are able to apply the strategy (or algorithm) being taught, I also agree with the author that in the end, it is more important to arrive at the correct answer. And if a student gets the correct answer through a different thought process than what has been taught, then that is a good sign of independent thought.
Click here for the full article.