Thursday, June 14, 2007

This is math?

Follow the link to a Kirkland Courier Reporter article on a math class in a suburban school district located near where I live. In a typical "reform math" class, fifth graders spend time inventing their own ways to solve the "problem of the day": 55 x 20. Their teacher waxes poetic about the superiority of this approach over "memorization of formulas". No mention of the fact that solving 55 x 20 is not important enough to spend that much time on. And that this time might be better spent on inherently more interesting things, like why multiplication works, the structure of number systems, etc. And that this is, at best, a fourth grade math problem.

Meanwhile, the students either lose the possibility of future careers in science or engineering, or their parents tutor them, or their parents spend money on math tutors for them (a booming business in Washington state). And then their parents join Where's the Math? to pressure school district officials to inject sanity and rigor back into K-12 math education.

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, this is happening across the nation.

    Some blame, NCLB and the need for states to meet NCLB guidelines - what better way then lowering the standards so all can jump over them.

    Personally, the dumbing down of math traces back to 1989 and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, standards document release.

    A document with good intentions but clearly has led (courtesy of NSF funds) to curricula material that is poor at best, damaging at worse.