How MEATS Can Make Math Fun for Students and Teachers
A title expresses the true value of math to a quality education.
I have a Graduate degree in Electrical Engineering and took many complex undergraduate and graduate math courses. I don’t remember most of the content. What I do remember and use every day is how to learn and think a given situation through in order to make, not the best but rather a better decision.
Math has the potential to reinforce imagination and be fun. Unfortunately, many experts have described our current teaching methods of math as “memorize, regurgitate and forget.” There is no fun for most. An alarming number of students, not realizing the true purpose and enjoyment of learning math, resign themselves to minimum graduation requirements.
Just as English is the language of literacy, math is the language of engineering, technology and science. It is the foundation of developing the skill of logical thinking and as such must be built and reinforced consistently from a very young age, starting as early as pre-school. Otherwise by the time the student goes through elementary, middle and high school to be ready for college and beyond it may be too late. Early math skills are the number one predictor of later academic success in all fields.
High quality education is not likely to be delivered without a strong and solid math foundation. The focus in the current education conversation is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). I believe that the correct acronym is METS. No, I am a Yankees fan, not a Mets fan. It is also not because as an immigrant from Israel 60+ years ago I can still write and read Hebrew right to left. Just to be correct, the letter A should be inserted in the middle making it MEATS. There is a need for Art in everything we do.
The process of learning how to learn must be reinforced by loving it from a very early age. This can be done in a number of ways and is essential, no matter what the student’s future career(s) will be. To achieve this, education must also be a confidence builder. Students can abandon fear of failure and approach unfamiliar concepts with curiosity instead of defeat. When it comes to the study of math, way too many students use terms such as “I am not good at it”, “I can’t do it”, “I hate it” or “I am never going to use it anyway.” A way must be found to return fun and a growth mindset to the classroom. A high quality math education is essential not only for those students who will pursue one of the STEAM/MEATS professions but also for the 80-85% of those who enter other fields of work.
There are many math learning programs available on the market today, however I believe that the MIND Research Institute, a societal benefit organization, in CA offers the best potential solution for elementary school students. It is ST (Spatial Temporal) Math. Before I go any further, I must admit that I am somewhat biased having spent close to 20 years on its Board of Directors.
The ST Math suite of math curricula is based on neuroscience research into how and where math concepts stimulate networks of neurons in the brain, especially for young children, especially in grades K-5. It enables most of the features and benefits of the discussion above. It is a learning tool and is based on the the following features and benefits, in no specific order:
- Visual learning through games, fun and reinforced imagination
- Language introduced in latter stages
- Building confidence by allowing multiple tries to win
- Individualized learning, instead of one size fits all
- Learn at school and home
- Evaluates progress on number of games completed, not tests
- Advances logical thinking
- Benefits all, not just those destined for STEM careers
- Online feedback to teachers on student performance
- Last but not least, professional development for teachers
Currently close to 2 million elementary students, 100,000 teachers, 4,000 schools in all 50 states are taking advantage of this tool, some in private but the overwhelming majority in public schools. However, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. The latest Census indicates that there are over 30 million.
To summarize my takeaways:
- Knowledge is easily accessed online but skills of logic & common sense must be developed
- Children of all ages starting in pre-school and going forward must have fun while learning
- We must equip teachers and administrators with effective educational tools
- To achieve this we cannot depend solely on government funding. It must also come from philanthropy
- By making learning fun and accessible, and providing teachers with quality professional development and educational tools, we will continue to help close income and achievement gaps
President, The Semel Group
Mike Lefkowitz is President of The SEMEL Group, providing consulting services to corporations, foundations, and social benefit organizations. Previously, he was Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation, with a charter to create societal value by making high leverage investments in innovative programs in a number of focused fields. Lefkowitz holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a Master of Science in electrical engineering from New York University, and is a graduate of the Stanford University Executive Institute Management Program.