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  • 26% on the nation's report card,

  • that's the percentage of U.S. 12th graders

  • who are proficient in Math.

  • In America, we pride ourselves as being an exceptional country.

  • But does 26% sound exceptional to you?

  • Raise your hand if you think as a country we need to do way better than this.

  • I'm with you.

  • We all need Math, but why are so many kids confused by it?

  • Is it because only 26% of people are hardwired for Math,

  • while 74% are not?

  • After working with thousands of kids, I can tell you,

  • this isn't the case at all.

  • Kids don't understand Math

  • because we've been teaching it as a dehumanized subject.

  • But if we make Math human again, it will start to make sense again.

  • You're probably wondering:

  • "How was Math ever human in the first place?"

  • So, think about it.

  • (Laughter)

  • Math is a human language, just like English, Spanish or Chinese,

  • because it allows people to communicate with each other.

  • Even in ancient times, people needed the language of Math

  • to conduct trade, to build monuments,

  • and to measure the land for farming.

  • This idea of Math as a language isn't exactly new.

  • A great philosopher once said:

  • "The laws of nature are written in the language of mathematics."

  • So you see? Even Galileo agrees with me.

  • (Laughter)

  • But somewhere along the line,

  • we've taken this language of math,

  • which is about the real world around us,

  • and we've abstracted it beyond recognition.

  • And that's why kids are confused.

  • Let me show you what I mean.

  • Read this 3rd grade California Math Standard

  • and see if it would make sense to an eight year-old.

  • "Understand a fraction 1/b as the quantity formed by 1 part

  • when a whole is partitioned into b equal parts."

  • Understand the fraction a/b

  • as the quantity formed by a parts of size 1/b.

  • (Laughter)

  • And if you gave this description to an 8 year-old,

  • you'd probably get a reaction... like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • To a Math expert, this standard makes sense,

  • But to a kid, it's absolute torture.

  • I chose this example specifically because fractions

  • are fundational to algebra, trigonometry and even calculus.

  • So if kids don't understand fractions in elementary and middle school,

  • they have a tough road ahead of them in high-school

  • But is there a way to make fractions simple and easy for kids to understand?

  • Yes!

  • Just remember that Math is a language and use that to your advantage.

  • For example, when I teach 5th graders how to add and subtract fractions,

  • I start with the apples + apples lesson.

  • First I ask, "What's 1 apple plus 1 apple?"

  • And kids will often say 2, which is partially correct.

  • Have them include the words as well since math is a language.

  • So it's not just 2, it's 2 apples.

  • Next is 3 pencils plus 2 pencils.

  • You all know that pencils + pencils give you pencils,

  • so everyone, how many pencils?

  • Audience: 5 pencils.

  • 5 pencils is right.

  • And the key is you included the words.

  • I tried this lesson with my 5-year-old niece once.

  • After she added pencils and pencils, I asked her,

  • "What's 4 billion plus 1 billion?"

  • And my aunt overheard this and she scolded me and said,

  • "Are you crazy? She's in kindergarten!

  • How's she supposed to know 4 billion plus 1 billion?!"

  • (Laughter)

  • Undaunted, my niece finishes counting, looks up and says:

  • "5 billion?"

  • And I said: "That is right, it is 5 billion."

  • My aunt just shook her head and laughed

  • because she did not expect that from a 5-year-old.

  • But all you have to do is take a language approach

  • and Math becomes intuitive and easy to understand.

  • Then I asked her a question

  • that kindergartners are definitely not supposed to know:

  • "What's one third plus one third?"

  • And immediately she answered: "2 thirds".

  • So if you're wondering how could she possibly know that

  • when she doesn't know about numerators and denominators yet?

  • You see, she wasn't thinking about numerators and denominators.

  • She thought of the problem this way.

  • And she used 1 apple + 1 apple as her analogy

  • to understand 1 third plus 1 third.

  • So if even a kidergartner can add fractions,

  • you better believe that every 5th grader can do it as well.

  • (Applause)

  • Just for fun, I asked her a high-school algebra question:

  • What's 7 x² plus 2 x²?

  • And this little 5-year-old girl correctly answered,

  • 9 x².

  • And she didn't need any exponent rules to figure that out.

  • So when people say that we are either hardwired for math or not,

  • it's not true.

  • Math is a human language,

  • so we all have the ability to understand it.

  • (Laughter)

  • We need to take a language approach to math urgently

  • because too many kids are lost and are anxious about math

  • and it doesn't have to be that way!

  • I worked with an angry, frustrated high-school student once

  • who couldn't pass algebra

  • because she only knew 44% of her multiplication facts.

  • I told her,

  • "That's like trying to read and only knowing 44% of the alphabet.

  • It's holding you back."

  • She couldn't factor or solve equations and she had no confidence in Math.

  • As a result, this teenager had no confidence in herself.

  • I told her, "We have to start with multiplication

  • because once you know all your facts by heart, everything gets easier,

  • and it'll be like having a fast pass to every ride of Disneyland."

  • (Laughter)

  • What do you think?"

  • And she said "Ok."

  • So she systematically learned her times tables in 4 weeks

  • and yes, even multiplication has language embedded in it.

  • You'd be surprised how many kids don't realize 7 times 3

  • can be spelled out as "seven times" 3,

  • which just means 3 seven times, just like this.

  • So when kids see it this way,

  • they quickly realize that repeated addition

  • is slow and inconvenient,

  • so they gladly memorize that 3 seven times always gives you 21.

  • So for this teenager who was at risk of dropping out,

  • becoming fluent and confident in multiplication

  • was a game changer.

  • Because for the first time she could focus on problem solving

  • instead of counting on her fingers.

  • I knew she had turned the corner

  • when she figured out that a 2-year car lease

  • at $445 a month would cost you $10,680

  • and she looked at me disapprovingly and said:

  • "Mr Polisoc, that's expensive!"

  • (Laughter)

  • At that moment, math was no longer causing problems for her,

  • but she was using math to solve problems as a responsible adult would.

  • As an educator, it's my duty to challenge kids to reach higher,

  • so I leave you with this challenge.

  • Our country is stuck at 26% proficiency,

  • and I challenge you to push that number higher.

  • This is important because mathematical thinking not only builds young minds,

  • but our kids need it to imagine and build a future that doesn't yet exist.

  • Meeting this challenge can be as simple as apples + apples.

  • Insist that we teach Math as a human language

  • and we will get there sooner, rather than later.

  • Thank you!

  • (Applause)

26% on the nation's report card,

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A2 math language multiplication laughter understand algebra

【TEDx】Math isn't hard, it's a language | Randy Palisoc | TEDxManhattanBeach

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    SylviaQQ posted on 2015/09/20
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