The book Vision in Elementary Mathematics by W.W. Sawyer provides many insightful and useful teaching strategies for elementary and middle school mathematics. The writing is easy to understand which means all teachers (no matter their area of expertise) and most parents would be able to read this book. The book breaks down many math topics into digestible small segments and suggests drawing and visualizing numbers and stories as the best way to understand each component. In Chapter 4, Tricks, Bags, and Machines, Sawyer indicates that we should use exploratory teaching methods that allow students to:
· be successful
· discover and reason
· be intrigued and fascinated
Although it seems like the ideas presented in this book are new and novel approaches for understanding math, this book was written in 1964. In addition, these lesson attributes remind me of something I recently learned in one of my math courses. In Teaching Middle School Algebra, one of the most significant ideas I learned was that a rich and meaningful mathematical task should:
· encourage student reflection
· allow students to choose their methods and tools
· be mathematically interesting and challenging
· provide long-term insight and strategies (residue)
· indirectly teach concepts and procedures
The ideas from Vision in Elementary Mathematics seem to align perfectly with the “new” concepts I just learned about. If these teaching strategies and ideas have been around for at least 50 years, it makes me wonder why the concepts did not catch on until now. Why didn’t my teachers use these common sense strategies when I was growing up and when my own children were in elementary school? I feel that if I would have been taught math (and all subjects, for that matter) in an exploratory way rather than by rote memorization, all of the higher level subjects would have made more sense and would have been easier to master. I feel strongly that true learning occurs when we make meaning of the material presented, not by memorizing facts.
This book is a great reference tool for elementary and middle school teachers, as well as parents. I purchased this book to keep as resource in my teaching library. I give Vision in Elementary Mathematics five stars!