Cursive Writing and Long Division

Posted: April 2, 2011 in Current Events, Pedagogy & Education

As technology progresses and society changes, the way we educate our youth will have to make some adaptations.  One current topic of debate is whether cursive writing is a valuable skill to teach in our elementary schools.

As a former teacher, I have witnessed a struggle over cursive writing for many years.  As far back as 10 or 15 years ago it was obvious that Intermediate (Gr. 7 & 8 ) students were demonstrating increasing reluctance towards cursive writing.  I can remember a time when teachers insisted on cursive writing and still had to battle with many students who claimed that they could print faster than they could write.  If we were diligent in our insistence, students would begrudgingly write, and then come back in subsequent years to say that the High Schools were not as fussy and that they’d returned to printing.  This was prior to the supremacy of keyboards in preparing most formal work.

Personally, I don’t get it.  I know that I can write much faster than I can print.  I strongly feel that those who claim the opposite have just not put in the practice time to master the skill.  It is like those who hunt and peck on a keyboard rather than typing with proper hand position.  They’ll swear up and down that they are just as fast, but everyone really knows that they just don’t want to learn the proper way and they’ll never be as fast as the proper typist.  But, as they say, the writing is probably on the wall, …and it’s probably not cursive.

Is some kind of handwriting is still necessary in life?  Not many students take their notes on a laptop, although I’ll admit that laptops are probably used for most of the minute taking I’ve seen at any recent meetings I’ve attended.  I’d actually love to see students use laptops or tablets for note taking more regularly.  Schools need to move towards becoming more paperless.  I even put my grocery list on my i-phone.  If I’m on the road, I’ll often keep a journal in cursive writing.  I actually enjoy the act of writing that way, but that’s me being old school.  I know that the younger generation probably doesn’t share that joy.

Clearly, we will have to reassess which skills have real relevance as technology progresses.  One skill that always was the source of lively debate among my colleagues is the topic of long division.  This is a math skill that seems always to be challenging to students, but we always thrust it on them in Junior and Intermediate grades.  As late as Gr. 8, it is clear that almost 50% of students still have a lot of trouble with this skill.  One of the reasons for that is that it is not a skill which is ever used in practical situations.  I have to say that I have probably only been in a situation where I’ve used long division about half a dozen times in my whole life.  In most situations when long division may play a part, like making a budget calculation or working out an average, most people have access to a calculator.  Long division seldom arises in a situation where a calculator is not within arm’s reach, -and if it ever did, I think most people would just differ the task till a time when one was.

I always advocated scrapping long division from the Math curriculum.  I know that, if I’d tried to teach it properly to my Gr. 7’s, it would easily have taken up a week of instructional time that could be better spent on other topics.

Similarly, one has to wonder if cursive writing might go the same way.  I’m more ambivalent on this matter, as I clearly see the use of cursive remaining relevant in daily life.  Maybe just barely, though.

But where do you draw the line?  After dispensing with cursive writing, will grammar be next?
LOL  BTW U can always rite ♥ this.  gr8!!  🙂


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