Thanks to Facebook’s Memories feature, I had the opportunity to revisit this post from three years ago. At that time, a friend queried me as to my thoughts on a video titled “Why is Math Different Now?” My reply provided my thoughts as to the methods contrasted in the video.
I agreed with Dr. Raj Shah that finding partial products is a superior method for building conceptual understanding even though it differs from the compact algorithm most people learned in primary school. Additionally, the use of partial products enables a connection to be made to area via a geometric depiction, as illustrated in the video.
You might ask why am I making this Facebook Memory a blog post? My short answer is contained in my reply of three years ago where I optimistically stated that over time we should have more math literate citizens, given the introduction of methods such as Dr. Shah shows. However, I included a caveat using a mathematical acronym as follows: “IFF those who tend to resist change do not derail the effort” where IFF means ‘if and only if’ in mathematical vernacular.
Based on what I’ve experienced, and read in various periodicals, I believe I may have been overly optimistic. Resistance to change can be a very effective means to slow the advance of harmful policies, plans, and/or practices. However, resistance can also impede legitimate progress that offers the chance for more meaningful learning to occur. Yet, as nearly everyone spent time mastering one method of multiplication, and many may not have known why it was taught in the first place, or whether another approach may be superior, the familiarity they possess dominates their thought process leading to a near bandwagon effect in rejecting what is unfamiliar in spite of it offering a path to a more mathematically literate citizenry.