A million math facts. But where’s the meaning?

Students at a Montana elementary school are working toward solving one million math problems. Teachers motivate the students by awarding meter-long streamers for each 1,000 problems solved and hanging streamers in the hall to mark the milestones.
“When they reach a million math facts, we’ll have one kilometer of streamers across the ceiling,” said Jessop in the article. The story notes that students who complete 1,000 math problems receive a meter-long streamer as a head band they “proudly wear through the school and playground.”
We applaud any efforts to get kids engaged in math.  But we wonder: What will the kids gain from a million calculations?  Sure, the students will probably develop skills on specific standards. But will these children also increase their understanding of the world?  Will they apply the math facts to a larger purpose?
Stories like this remind us that facts alone are not meaning, and acquiring information does not guarantee its wise application.  In a data-driven environment, we need to remember this:  Facts, skills, and standards are the building blocks of learning–not its definition.
A million bits of information won’t matter unless we give them context.  Standards have to more than isolated test items. They need to serve the larger goals of citizenship and global problem-solving.  Learn more
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