Thoughts from a reflective educator.
When I learned how to ride a bicycle, I practiced with training wheels first because my parents thought that it would be too difficult for me to learn how to balance myself, steer, and pedal all at the same time. I eventually learned how to ride a bike without training wheels but it was challenging for me.
With my son, we started him on a like-a-bike which would let him practice balancing on a bicycle (which some parents argued with us was the most difficult part of learning to ride a bike) before having to learn how to pedal. We then later gave him a bicycle with training wheels so he could practice pedalling separately from balancing himself but honestly, we didn't find it helped much. When he finally had a standard bicycle, he still needed to learn how to pedal while keeping himself balanced.
I'm not sure either method is best. It probably depends on the kid which technique we should use. Maybe we should have just started our son on a regular bicycle.
So now look at mathematics education. Our goal is to have students think like mathematicians, and to know enough mathematics to be able to use it in their thinking. Is it entirely necessary that all of them learn it the same way? Can we find different ways to engage different students in the act of learning how to be a mathematician?
David is a mathematics teacher and a learning specialist for technology at Stratford Hall in Vancouver, BC. He has been teaching since 2002, and has worked in Brooklyn, London, and Bangkok before moving back to Canada. He has his Masters degree in Educational Technology from UBC, and is the co-author of a mathematics textbook. He has been published in ISTE's Leading and Learning, Educational Technology Solutions, The Software Developers Journal, The Bangkok Post and Edutopia. He blogs with the Cooperative Catalyst, and is the Assessment group facilitator for Edutopia. He has also helped organize the first Edcamp in Canada, and TEDxKIDS@BC.