What it really means to be good at math

Hint — there's no need for speed.

Bill Day was the 2013-14 Teacher of the Year in Washington, D.C. He teaches more than algorithms and speed to sixth and eighth graders.

Video transcript

“When I was younger, I definitely picked up on the qualities that made for a good math student — being speed and accuracy. But I didn’t focus as much on giving reasons, showing my work — I just thought, ‘You know what, I’m good at this if I can get it done quickly’ and I get to the answer. When I got to college, my professors were prompting me to look at this topic and ask a question. And when I got a prompt like that, I was stumped. I didn’t have an algorithm to go to; it wasn’t just about getting the answer, it was about the quality of the questions that I was asking…it was about how I was communicating my thinking about these topics. I want students to realize that there are so many different ways to be smart at math. There’s asking questions, there’s supplying reasons, there’s visualizing things, there’s organizing your work — all of those skills, which have in some ways been minimized in traditional classrooms — are recognized in classrooms that are doing a good job of implementing Common Core curriculum.”

Hear some of his other insights:

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