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Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 147.  Today I’m talking about how Practice Makes Permanent.

Here in the United States, it is the end of the school year and teachers are contemplating what work they should send home with students for them to do over the summer.  

I’m not a fan of sending home packets of work for kids over summer break.  If you are on my email list, you got my recent email about this…but the short version is that if a kid has something they need to work on then, great, send home specific things for that, but not the 50 page packet of general math problems.  

One reason I don’t like the general packets sent home over the summer is because there is no instruction happening.  The packets are just practice.  For kids who are struggling, that practice may do more harm than good.

There is a common phrase that “Practice Makes Perfect”…meaning that you need to practice more so that you can become perfect at something.

However, the more life experience I’ve had the more I realize that is NOT true.

For example, I love to golf.  I’m not the best at it, but I can hit the ball well…when I hit it well. 😉 

Problem is that I don’t hit it well that often.  So I could go to a driving range or even just get out on the course more often to practice…and if I practice more, it should perfect my golf game….but that isn’t how it works.

When I do get out there to practice all I’m doing is practicing my bad swing. 

Practice only makes perfect IF you already know what you’re doing…if you are already doing it right.

So, kids who are given a packet of math problems to do over the summer…that practice is only helpful if they already have accurate strategies for those problems.

To get better at golf, I need instruction that helps my swing get better.  Without the instruction, my swing does not improve just with practice.   I’m just getting better at my bad swing.

Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Practice Makes Permanent.

When I go out and play 9 holes of golf, I hit the ball around 50 times with that bad swing. Instead of getting better, I’m creating muscle memory of that bad swing that just gets engrained deeper and deeper into me.

I am all for practice.  I think kids need more practice, but it has to happen at the right times to work on something they ‘got’ and then the practice is a way to help make it more permanent.  

Learning doesn’t happen from repeated practice.  Practice should be happening after the learning has taken place.

Because, practice makes the learning permanent.  

Until next week my Fellow Recovering Traditionalists, keep Building Math Minds.

These episodes are sponsored by the online trainings that I do for elementary educators.  Registration for The Flexibility Formula K-2 and 3rd-5th is now open.  These courses help you understand the foundation of number sense, how number sense builds kids’ flexibility with numbers, and how that impacts their ability to become fluent with the mathematics at your grade level.  Go to buildmathminds.com/enroll to learn more about each course and get enrolled.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.