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Elementary Math Philosophy


With the right foundations in higher level skills and a biblical worldview, elementary math can open a whole new world to students. By studying and understanding math, they can better understand how their world works, how their favorite things are created, and how to create things on their own.  However, the mathematical principles that help people to make toys, music, and candies can be so abstract that many children will struggle to grasp them. When math is left in the abstract realm instead of being connected to concrete concepts and real life, it’s easy for math class to just be about finding answers.

At BJU Press, we want elementary math students to go beyond finding answers in math. We want teachers to be able to use our materials to help students understand math by teaching abstract concepts with concrete models so they can master foundational math skills. Ultimately, students should be able to apply their math skills in solving real-world problems.

Number Sense

To help students gain an understanding of how they can use and interact with abstract numbers, we encourage the development of number sense by using manipulatives in the teaching process and in independent learning activities. Manipulatives offer concrete models for abstract concepts, giving students an opportunity to gain a hands-on understanding of what numbers are and what they can be used to represent. The BJU Press elementary math lessons make extensive use of manipulatives to ensure students can progress from physical representations of math concepts to abstract representations of math concepts. In the teacher edition for each grade level, the teaching guides and notes recommend how the teacher might use manipulatives for whole class instruction, for one-on-one instruction, and for enhancing individual learning experiences.

Fluency and Automaticity

In order to solve real-world problems, students need to be able to focus on the problem, not on the process of getting to a solution. Fluency allows them to know when to apply specific principles, and automaticity helps them to solve equations without diverting their attention. To help students develop their computational fluency and automaticity, we strategically build on their math foundations with related skills so they can consistently use and apply those skills. When creating assignments out of BJU Press materials, teachers can be certain that exercises will include opportunities for students to practice the current concept as well as review content from previous chapters. These regular practice opportunities and spiral reviews ensure students can go beyond a familiarity with their math facts to an automatic application of those facts when needed.

Problem-Solving Skills

Students learn mathematical problem-solving skills by applying what they’ve learned in unique and authentic learning situations, not by endlessly drilling a concept. Authentic learning situations should point students toward the math that is all around them. Exercise sets in our elementary math program include word problems that reveal the math in cooking, music, sports, using money, and creating things. Additionally, we introduce activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These STEM activities present students with unique opportunities to apply their math skills in different situations, such as designing a chair out of upcycled cardboard or designing their own Fabergé egg. To complete each STEM activity, students will need to learn about a new topic or concept and apply the math concepts they already know to what they learn about that topic. By encouraging students to complete these activities and take the time to solve real-world word problems, teachers can also teach another vital skill for problem solving: grit. Students who understand that they won’t always reach the right answer the first time are more likely to be able to persevere in attempting to solve problems and finding answers until they are successful.

Biblical Worldview

Part of understanding math is learning what math is from a biblical perspective. Because math studies are not just about finding answers, the BJU Press elementary math program introduces mathematical concepts and their applications in the light of biblical themes. The biblical themes we focus on help students to understand that math is a tool that Christians can use to better serve and glorify God. STEM activities and chapter introductions establish the principles to be explored, and teachers can use discussion guides and notes from their teacher edition to help students understand how they can use math for God’s glory. However, in order for students to have an accurate and complete understanding of math, they must also understand that while math is often an impartial and objective tool, it cannot provide all of the answers. They can use math to serve people and to glorify God, but they should not expect math to solve all problems or to give all the answers.

While the principles we teach in elementary math have direct application to real-life situations, they also significantly contribute to a student’s success in future math studies. Students who have established these foundations and have learned to persevere in their studies will be well prepared as they advance in their understanding of math concepts. To further prepare them for all future studies, we also ensure that elementary math students will have significant foundations in number systems, fraction theory, algebra, geometry, and statistics. Students who can grow and be successful in math will be able to encounter and solve more real-world problems using their math skills.

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Category: Philosophy