So here we are, our first blog post as polemicsmath.com, our flag planted firmly on the internet among the endless sea of sites and organizations professing to have the golden method to solve math education. Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but the seed of truth here is that we do actually have a flag to plant, and we do have a winning method to enable students to thrive in today’s STEM world that has such a high focus on math, logic and critical thinking abilities.
What is the Polemics Math Method? It is a broad system that balances wide coverage of topics, in depth focus when needed, and retention of material during long breaks. The Polemics Math Method also directly attacks the gates found in common core math, standardized tests and gifted and talented screening exams.
That’s a big promise and it is a lot to unpack so let’s say this in a different way with a few more seeds of truth. The Polemics Math Method:
- There is no silver bullet to learning math, use a variety of methods and select the best method for the specific objective
- Do not just ‘study the next thing’, develop a training plan beyond this week’s math assignments. Practice problems that combine earlier learning so that students continually use strategies both new and old
- Work with puzzles that specifically train logical thinking. Logical thinking tasks will benefit students in cognitive testing and in their academic careers in general.
Train to the Test Because You Must
Standardized testing is a fact of life. There are tests that monitor students’ progress over the years, tests for passing grades in school, tests for entry into gifted and talented programs, and tests to get into college. The list goes on and on. Ever hear or say, “Teachers just teach to the test.” and then think what’s the point or where is the real learning going on then? The important thing is to keep revisiting and practicing skills so that students don’t just learn them for a single test – they continue to remember them throughout their academic careers and hopefully beyond.
Our Response: Tools & Training Plans
Efficiently train for standardized tests. Use a variety of tools to quickly learn how to master the material. In the short term you need some tactics and techniques to get you through what you are studying right now. In the long term you need a training plan that looks ahead to the next big year end test. At the time of writing Polemics Math has over 25 iOS and Android apps and a score of workbooks found on our site and Amazon to help with specific objectives such as the COGAT, OLSAT, NNAT2 or Texas STAAR test. In the near future we will be creating a how-to guide to making your own custom training plans for long term growth. At the bottom of any page in polemicsmath.com you’ll see a sign up for our newsletter. Drop your email in there and make sure you’re on our list as you won’t want to miss this free resource.
Train Critical Thinking to Win Future Tests
As we are efficiently pursuing test mastery, we also want to develop the peripheral critical thinking capabilities. This comes in a variety of logic puzzles and exercises. Here is one of our favorites:
“Can you count from 9 to 1 backwards?” The student will say sure! And then spout of “nine eight seven six five four three two one!” Then you can be a bit playful and say, “No I said 9 to 1 backwards. You counted from 9 to 1.” Sometimes they get it sometimes they stop and think about it and you have to explain it to them. Counting from 9 to 1 is an operation. Counting from 9 to 1 backwards would be “one two three four five six seven eight nine!”
You aren’t directly giving them a lecture on math, but it is a quick fun thing that is sure to cause a child to think and you can be sure they will riff on this theme with their friends. The Polemics Math method hopes to arm you with these types of puzzles so you can pull them out and cause short burst of critical thinking at odd intervals to improve overall growth. This one fun exchange can be followed on by a conversation like “This is actually a two-step problem…” or “in computer programming terms this would be a NOT operation that looks something like this NOT(Count 9 to 1)”
In these last two paragraphs note the exchange between mentor and student. This is a flowing and fun conversation. When you really want to train critical thinking it’s often a two way street, the mentor provides something a mental resistance training and then backs off so the student can return with something thoughtful. In almost every tool we market to math mentors we start with “don’t just throw a workbook at the student” you have to train and be an active part. Treat this journey with your student more like the renaissance apprenticeship programs and less like an assembly line of work. In all of this we are dealing with kids and they are always better engaged when the mentor is likewise present and actively participating.
This is the end of the article, it’s really a primer and a promise of more to come. Do subscribe to our mailing list below, do check out our other blog posts, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, find us on Twitter at @PolemicsM and on Facebook.