An algorithm (according to wikipedia) is a step-by-step procedure for doing calculations. Most of us have spent hours practicing them in procedures like adding decimals, doing multi-digit multiplication or long division. The problem with algorithms is the fact that the step-by-step procedure is nothing more than a set of rules, and a person does not have to understand the mathematics behind the procedure to follow the instructions. I wrote about this idea last month in the post titled “Place Value not Face Value”. Until students really understand the concepts, it is not a good idea to practice what does not make sense to them.

I won’t rewrite all my views here, but I do want to add a link to a video that drives home this point. You may have seen this Ma and Pa Kettle math clip before, but it is worth watching again.