Math Workshop Given By Dr. Andrew Chen

 All the third grade teachers in Woburn attended a math training last Thursday.  Dr. Andrew Chen - the President of Edutron Corporation and a vociferous supporter of excellence in math and science instruction - provided the workshop. 

Here are some of the highlights of the training.

The Blueberry Story

I was particularly interested in this true story of a business executive who gave a speech to a group of educators.  The executive's speech dealt with how teachers can improve the state of education.  The executive claimed that if he ran his business the way schools were run, he would not be in business very long.

The following is an excerpt from part of an article written by the business executive who has since changed career paths from business to education. 

She began quietly, “We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream.”
I smugly replied, “Best ice cream in America, Ma’am.”
“How nice,” she said. “Is it rich and smooth?”
“Sixteen percent butterfat,” I crowed.
“Premium ingredients?” she inquired.
“Super-premium! Nothing but triple A.” I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.
“Mr. Vollmer,” she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, “when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?”
In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap…. I was dead meat, but I wasn’t going to lie.
“I send them back.”
She jumped to her feet. “That’s right!” she barked, “and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school!”

This is a great story, and I had never heard it before!

 Statistics on how the USA is lagging in education

This part of the presentation went on for quite a while, but the good news for Massachusetts is that our students perform very well in their performance tests.

Three Necessary Components of Math Instruction
These are the most important and effective parts of succeeding in Math:
1.  Computation/fluency
2.  Conceptual understanding
3.  Problem solving
I have to absolutely, positively agree with number one on the list because I think it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY AND IMPORTANT TO MEMORIZE THOSE BASIC MATH FACTS (those capital letters are for my students who might be reading my blog).  I still have some students who need to keep practicing so I hope they'll listen and hear this message.
Fractions should be taught as numbers that live on a number line just like whole numbers.  Fractions are numbers that are between two whole numbers.  
How Teachers Can Improve Math Instruction
According to Dr. Chen, teachers should have high expectations for their students.  Teachers also need to encourage students to read and understand math problems (not just have students circle the numbers and underline the question - like I was doing).  Students need to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.  The goal is for students to reason abstractly and quantitatively.
In closing
These are some of the highlights of the training and the parts I thought were important.  Dr. Chen talked about so much more, and I'm sure that I've left out a lot of other information that he shared.  Overall, the training was interesting and enlightening.
Happy Columbus Day!


  1. Great! Loved all your take-aways/notes from the workshop. I think most math concepts are taught way later than they currently are being taught. Thanks for your post! In the future, feel free to link up any math-related post with my Thursday linky party MaTh (Math activity Thursday). : )
    Kids Math Teacher


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