Now days, a student’s math instruction consist of computation, which is learning how to solve for the right answer in an equation or a number sentence. As well as, mathematical thinking in which students are asked to 1) analyze a math problem or a scenario to its basic numerical structure; 2) identify any underlying patters; and 3) justify their methods used to solve or investigate a problem.
Mathematical thinking is not a new instructional method. It was just not emphasized or taught in math education in earlier decades to all students. That’s why for many of us it feels like our kids are learning new math. If you were fortunate to be enrolled in a college level math course in high school, it’s more likely you were exposed to some concepts of mathematical thinking.
So, what changed?
Our advancements in technology have forced the nation to rethink math education. Our 21stcentury hightech society requires a workforce with mathematical skills beyond computation. Past generations of students were able to find jobs that required basic to limited understanding of mathematics.
This is no longer the case in our new economy. There is a huge demand by companies for workers, who can think mathematically. They are looking for workers “who can think outside the mathematical box, not inside it” (Delvin 2012).
Currently, “one in five American adults lack the basic math skills expected of eighth graders, making them unfit for many newly created jobs.” In many cases, that’s because they were not taught essential math concepts, never exposed to higher levels of mathematics, or they lack the ability to think mathematically.
Demand for a mathcentric workforce has resulted in schools promoting “mathematical thinking” skills to help all its kids develop into high functioning math students.
So that’s why math is so very different now ….because it’s become a vital skill to obtain a job and earn a livingwage.
Sources:
 Introduction to Mathematical Thinking (2012) by Keith Delvin

Who Says Math Has to Be Boring? by New York Times Editorial