Racial Equity Requires Teaching Elementary School Teachers More Mathematics
The understanding of the area of a rectangle and its relationship to multiplication underlies an understanding not only of the multiplication algorithm but also of the commutative law of multiplication, the distributive law, and the many more complicated area formulas. Yet in my first visit in 1986 to a K-6 elementary school, I discovered that not a single teacher knew how to find the area of a rectangle.
“What is the area of a rectangle that is x high and y wide?” I asked. There was no response, so I asked the question again. “What is the area of a rectangle that is x by y?” The teachers were very friendly people, and they know how frustrating it can be when no student answers a question. “x plus y?” said two in the front simultaneously. “What?!!!” I said, horrified. Then all fifty of them shouted together, “x plus y.” Apparently my nonverbal reaction had not been a sufficient clue that the original answer was wrong.
American Methematical Society

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