Are we doing too math too soon or are we depriving students of math? Class teachers can be pressured by parents or colleagues to prove that their own class is strong at math, doing advanced material, and ahead (or at least not behind) in other classes. The teacher may or may not be conscious of this pressure, and much of it may be self-inflicted. Because of this pressure, the teacher is then inclined to move quickly through the material and go into too much depthwhen the students are too young. All of this will likely lose a good portion of the class, leaving them math traumatized and thinking that they will never become good at math. Such a class often then enters middle school with a huge disparity between those who are good at math (the “fast students”) and those who aren’t good at math (the “slow students”), with few students in between.
Math deprivation. Don’t mistake what has been said above as an argument to do as little math as possible. If a teacher avoids math because he or the students find it unpleasant, or the teacher keeps the math too simple, then the class won’t progress enough, and the students’ sense of number and ability to “think mathematically” will be underdeveloped. Such students will likely have difficulties in later years when they have a teacher who has higher expectations.
It’s all about balance. We need to have (reasonably) high expectations of our students. Each student should be appropriately challenged in math. Developing a sense for what is right for the class is an important part of the art of teaching.