August 4, 2020
Making Math Real’s Response to COVID-19 Part 5:
Update on the Status of the
Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 Course
Our Highest Priority at Making Math Real is Returning to In-Person Courses Once Conditions are Safe
First of all, we at the Making Math Real Institute hope that all of you are staying healthy and safe and that the impact of COVID-19 will end soon. It is our highest priority to return to our normal structure of presenting our series of 12 courses in person at our two locations in Oakland, CA, once conditions of the pandemic improve to guarantee the health and safety for all of us.
Back in May 2020, I published a blog, “Making Math Real’s Response to COVID-19 Part 2”, in which I presented my explanation for which Making Math Real courses could be transitioned to a distance learning/online format, and which courses could not. My hope at that time was that by September 2020 we would have returned to our regular in-person instructional format. However, since current conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic have not yet improved sufficiently to guarantee the safety for all of us, it is necessary for us to continue to provide only those courses that can be effectively presented in a distance learning/online format.
In “Making Math Real’s Response to COVID-19 Part 2”, I explained that all of the Making Math Real series of courses that focus on the physical, hands-on use of manipulatives cannot be effectively transitioned to a distance learning format.
From that “Part 2” blog post:
The Physical, Hands-On Use of Manipulatives: The Cornerstone of all the Making Math Real Series of Courses that Cover the K-5 Scope and Sequence
As an educator of 45 years, I have always experienced the superior educational benefits of presenting all instruction in a direct, in-person structure in which the physical, hands-on connections that drive the Making Math Real simultaneous multisensory structured methodologies can function appropriately. We are physical beings, and despite the ongoing developments in virtual technologies, virtual forms of educational practice can neither replace nor substitute for the direct physical experience that fosters the integration of all learning in the body. It is through this body-based integration that simultaneous multisensory structured methods achieve the highest priority goal and objective of instruction: the development of essential self-regulatory executive functions that support initiating, activating, and sustaining working memory.
The most significant and effective form of direct, physical learning occurs with the extensive use of manipulatives, which is a cornerstone of the all Making Math Real series of courses that cover the K-5 scope and sequence. Consequently, all of the following Making Math Real series of courses that rely extensively on group interaction with manipulatives cannot be transitioned to an online format:
• Making Math Real: Overview K-12
• Making Math Real: The 9 Lines Intensive
• Making Math Real: Kindergarten
• Making Math Real: The 4 Operations & 400 Math Facts
• Making Math Real: Time & Money
• Making Math Real: Games!
Making Math Real: Overview, K-12
for September 2020 is Cancelled
Since the Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 cannot be transitioned to an online format, it is with utmost regret that I must also cancel the Fall 2020 Overview course. Please understand, since it is our highest priority to return to our regular in-person format for the courses as soon as conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic guarantee the safety for all of us, we will directly transition back to our regular in-person format; and all of the courses that could not be presented in a distance learning format will be rescheduled starting with the Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 as soon as possible.
Making Math Real: Overview, K-12:
The Most Important of All the Making Math Real Series of Courses
In addition to being the required prerequisite course for getting started with the Making Math Real series of courses, the Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 is the most important of all the Making Math Real series of courses. The Overview course provides the necessary introduction to the structure and methods of Making Math Real to prepare educators and parents for the up to 680 hours of content courses that follow (see the full list of courses here), and is therefore the mandatory prerequisite for all other Making Math Real courses. The Making Math Real Simultaneous Multisensory Structured Methods are historically unprecedented and are the first and only comprehensive pre-K through calculus prescription for teaching that emphasizes integrating the development of executive function and working memory within every math lesson.
Math Means “I Know that I Know”
The entire emphasis of all the Making Math Real Simultaneous Multisensory Structured Methods K-12 is on structuring the educator’s ability to activate and sustain their students’ comprehension-based, working memory perceptual experience of the mathematics. For teaching much of the K-5 fundamentals in mathematics, this requires a direct and interactively structured, in-person, hands-on use of manipulatives. The interactive structure of using the manipulatives provides students with a direct and physical, concrete experience of activating their comprehension-based working memory picture for introducing new mathematical concepts. Once students have integrated the concrete concepts of the math, they are systematically guided to transferring their concrete, manipulatives-based understanding of the math to its specific reconstruction in abstract symbolic form. Successful transfer of the concrete to the abstract means students can self-activate their comprehension-based working memory picture directly from the math symbols. The emphasis on developing students’ ability to self-activate and sustain working memory is unique in math education, and is never to be confused with the way math has been consistently taught: teaching to procedural memory dissociated from comprehension-based working memory activation. Procedural memory without working memory activation can at most “hope” students remember what to do, whereas students’ self-activation of working memory integrates their knowing and understanding what they are doing, because processing math successfully means “I know that I know”.
Making Math Real Was Never Intended to Be Taught Via Distance Learning
The online format of distance learning is contraindicated because the educator’s ability to structure, activate, and sustain their students’ working memory picture without direct and immediate physical interaction with their students’ hands-on, manipulatives-based experience, is severely limited. The Making Math Real Simultaneous Multisensory Structured Methods K-12 require an active learning experience for the students, not a passive one. The nature of distance learning greatly fosters a passive response from participating students (much like watching TV or an instructional video), and without the educator’s ability to immediately activate instruction through direct and physical management structures, students can revert to passive modes of learning. In addition, students with underdeveloped self-regulatory abilities to sustain focus and attention will struggle to maintain engagement with the lesson without a direct, in-person external source to help manage their behavior and attention. Furthermore, the significant limitation of the educator’s ability to establish and maintain rapport with students via distance learning greatly reduces instructional effectiveness. As stated above, we are physical beings, and to maximize educational and developmental benefits, all students need and deserve all instruction to be delivered in a direct, in-person format. Making Math Real was never intended to be taught to students via distance learning.
Sending the Wrong Message
Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 is the most important of all the Making Math Real series of courses, and since the principle function of the Overview course is to help educators expand their teaching practices beyond the limitations of teaching to procedural memory dissociated from working memory activation, I would be sending the wrong message to new participants by introducing Making Math Real via distance learning. Without first experiencing a baseline physical connection of the direct and immediate interaction with their students’ hands-on, manipulatives-based experience, new participants could not understand how my attempts to express this cornerstone of Making Math Real via distance learning are misleading; and worse, could inadvertently send the wrong message that course participants, too, could try and teach Making Math Real via distance learning. The prospect of my trying to teach the Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 via distance learning prompts what would be my constant disclaimer to the course participants:
“Even though you are experiencing me teach Making Math Real to you online, Making Math Real was never intended to be taught online, so please, do not do what I’m doing!” *
Please Stay Tuned
It is my sincerest hope that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will one day cease and we can return to our normal human interactions. In the meantime, as conditions remain unsafe, I will continue to postpone the Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 course, which means the Overview scheduled for February 2021 may also be cancelled. I will make a formal decision about the courses for Spring 2021 by the end of November 2020 or sooner, so please stay tuned. I hope my explanations for why I cannot present the Making Math Real: Overview, K-12 course via distance learning make some sense to you. If the unsafe conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic persist indefinitely, and continue to require distance learning only, I will endeavor to create new structures for teaching Making Math Real via distance learning.
Stay safe and be well,
David Berg, E.T.
Founder & Director of the Making Math Real Institute
Creator of the Making Math Real Simultaneous Multisensory Structured Methods
* It is possible and well precedented that under the appropriate conditions, a highly experienced Making Math Real practitioner can effectively teach students via distance learning. This is not a casual statement and is indicated for only those Making Math Real practitioners with requisite clinical background and experience in the assessment, diagnostics, and the planning and implementation of individually prescriptive scopes and sequences for a vast diversity of student processing styles.