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Procedures Are Not Enough

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My husband asked me to return something to a local craft store recently. Upon arriving at the store I handed the clerk my receipt, which she promptly allowed the computer to scan. The computer beeped at her and indicated the receipt was too old. She informed me that only merchandise purchased within the last 60 days could be refunded. Since the item had been purchased more than 60 days ago, she would have to give me store credit for the lowest price in the last 60 days. I indicated that was fine and she proceeded.

Much to my surprise, after she finished punching in all the information into her computer, she handed me a gift card with $3.51 on it. I told the clerk I did not think that was right. She double checked and said yes it is all correct. I had questioned her because, I paid only $2.16 for the original item. It was on sale and my receipt clearly showed the price I paid. However, store procedure was to give the lowest price in the last 60 days…and the clerk did just that!

This incident has forced me to once again ascend to the soapbox on which I often stand. When math teachers teach from a procedural basis, they are not helping students develop deep conceptual understanding. Instead, students are mechanically walking through steps, not knowing if their answer makes any sense.

As we look at the Common Core State Standards there are 6 shifts in mathematics for teachers to consider. They are focus, coherence, fluency, deep understanding, application and dual intensity. The expectation for the area of deep understanding is to focus less on mnemonics or discrete procedures and more on core concepts by applying them in new and different situations.

I am off my soapbox now and slightly richer. I bought two more of the items needed for my husband’s science classroom and still had 44 cents left on the card. I paid it forward and handed the card to the next person in line.

I challenge you to help students develop deep conceptual understanding in mathematics.  To do less would be to short-change them of the skills that are critical to their future success!

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