Teaching kids to use algorithms in math often provide them with a useful tool, but without understanding how things work, tools aren’t very helpful. I’ve always thought that calculus was a complete waste of my time in college. Even though I thought it was easy for me (or so I thought), it’s something I never thought I’d ever use in my life. 20 some years later, a wonderful, short, simple opinion piece in the NY times about calculus has completely changed my mind. Definitely worth the five minute read and perhaps relearning a few things this summer. I realize now that I was just good at following procedures without any real understanding. I wasn’t taught to understand. Many continue to criticize how we assess our students like AP tests. Tony Wagner suggests many can get through AP programs without actually having to do any real thinking. Algorithms and math text books can be good tools if accompanied by understanding. As teachers, we just have to be careful to balance those two things.