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Why Drill and Skill are Necessary in Education

I am a very creative person.  I love discovering, thinking, designing, and having a finished product to show.  I learn this way. Before I can create to demonstrate knowledge, I need to build a good foundational understanding.  Lately I have notice that “drill and skill” are getting a bad reputation in the education community.  Drill and skill games are sometimes seen as a waste of time, a memorization of unnecessary facts, or a lesser use of computer time.  I believe that drill and skill has an important place in education, particularly in the primary years where basics of learning are built.  These activities give students an opportunity to practice a skill and become familiar with it before creating with it.  Drill and skill games and activities give students room to find patterns and build understanding.  Consider a lesson on homophones, we could just ask students to create illustrations of each word using a program like Tux Paint and upload them to a presentation or class wiki.  But without some drill and skill practice, students may not have solidified their understanding of the concept.  They will most likely complete the assignment, but because they haven’t practiced the skill first, they haven’t had adequate time or interaction with the concept to recognize patterns and make connections.  If we begin with some drill and skill, students create with a more solid base of understanding that can then be built upon.  We offer the student the light-bulb moment when they start to recognize patterns or connections in content.    The mistake that is often made in education is the belaboring of drill and skill.  We burn students out with the constant fact practice, never giving the chance to actually do something meaningful with those patterns they have discovered in learning.  I am finding that, as in everything in life, learning requires a balance.  Don’t completely cut drill and skill from your classroom and don’t go overboard with it.  Give students an opportunity to practice the skills that they are learning, and then allow them to do something with them.

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Dance, Factors Dance: Animated Factorization Diagrams #mathchat

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 15-11-2012

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What it is:  Dance, Factors Dance is a fantastic site to visualize factorization diagrams.  The first “tango” is inspired by the digital clock, with a separate diagram for each of the hours, minutes and seconds.  The Factor Conga is a “promenade of primes, composites, and their constituents, arranged with an aesthetically-tuned variation of Yorgey’s rules, one per second.”  I love the way these math factorization dances help students visualize numbers and Prime numbers.  Brilliant!

How to integrate Dance, Factors Dance into the classroom: Dance, Factor Dance is a stupendous way for students to visualize and think about numbers.  I Love the way that the prime numbers are depicted…so easy to see why it is a prime number!  Ask your students to explore this site and identify the patterns they notice in the dance of numbers.  What happens when a number is prime?  When a number is odd?  Even?

Dance, Factors Dance is a fun way to learn more about numbers, it is also a wonderful inspiration for finding the art in math.  How can students use the site as inspiration to create their own math dance?  Could they use stop motion animation and manipulatives to do something similar?  What patterns in math do they notice?  How can they use color and design to help them better understand math?

This site is a great one to explore as a class, as a center on classroom computers, or individually on student devices.  Students can pause the dance, rewind, and fast forward as they explore.

Tips: Be sure to watch (or fast forward) to the three digit numbers…this is where things get really impressive!  As a side note, I learned something today from a fellow teacher.  When looking at numbers in grid form, you know if a number is prime if it can only make one rectangle.  This understanding would have been helpful in math class! Better late than never :)

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Dance, Factors Dance in your classroom.

Comments (1)

We have already taught this concept, but this is a perfect way to reinforce it! Thanks!

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