Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth

M.J. McDermott explains the current state of math education in 4th and 5th grades in this YouTube video. Every parent of a child learning mathematics should watch this video.

It will astound you how "reform mathematics" is creating kids in this country who cannot compute, and now we know why.

M.J. totally fleshes out why and how the new mathematics programs create kids that cannot work alone, do not have math fluency, (they have no knowledge of mathematics symbols) and lack a basic knowledge of math skills. She explains why kids end up completely dependent on calculators for simple math computations.

It is quite an eye opener to see what math textbooks and programs our tax money is being used to pay for, and how these programs are creating a generation of math illiterates in the process.

If you have a child in school, you should make an effort to see what mathematics curriculum they are using. As for us homeschoolers... well, let's just say now I know why our kids are doing so well; we don't buy into these kinds of new fangled programs. The programs M.J. talks about make little sense in practical use, and in the end do not teach kids the real math skills that they need to know.

Do you realize that there are some high school geometry courses that no longer require a student to do proofs! Did you hear that noise? I think it was Pythagoras and Euclid turning over in their graves.

While textbook publishers share the blame here, I think we can all thank the NCTM standards which have helped to confuse, dumb down, and eventually mentally cripple our nation's students. One should not forget, however, that school boards and school systems are ultimately the ones that choose and pay for their curriculum. Do you know what your tax dollar is buying these days in your local schools?

This post is dedicated to Denise over at Let's Play Math; one math resource I certainly enjoy.


Dana said...

For the most part, text book companies are answering a demand. One which originates largely in TX and CA, and whatever they buy is what the rest of us have to choose from. Of course, there are others, but I bet we all know the big companies (like Houghton Mifflin) who get the big contracts.

When I was there, TX had a good math program. But the state has money, and the program wasn't even in the book. I have some thoughts on this whole topic, but there are so many competing issues I'm not sure where to begin. And I'm so horrifically bad about beginning a series on a topic I later lose interest in and never finish. Blogging ADHD, I guess.

BTW, I did some text book review for a course in college. I looked at German texts...I guess people probably aren't going to get riled up about such things but they were terribly out of date and just plain bad. They adhered to odd theories about language which I believe were popular about the time these math theories were popular.

Anyway, it is nice to be back and checking in on you again!

Denise said...

Wow, thank you for dedicating a post to me. I'm honored! Unfortunately, I'm also rural with a dial-up modem. But from what I've heard of most reform math textbooks, I imagine I'd agree with everything Mr. McDermott says.

Brian said...

I know we are all so brilliant, and we all know what's "wrong" with the state of education, blah, blah, blah...
I'm not happy about it either, but I doubt that anyone reading this, and who has watched the youtube video in question, knows a really good algorithm for multiplication. No, it is not the "standard" one.
It is amazing that everyone wants to hoist their flag and complain, but no one really wants to admit that their way isn't "the best."
I'm sure I don't know the best way, either. But one I do know is faster, easier, and more fun that the "standard" one. (Jeez, since when does "standard" mean "best"?)
And you do it in your head. No paper and pencil, and sure as hell no calculator.
Please go investigate.

Happy calculating!

Judy Aron said...

Brian - Perhaps you know a "best way". That's terrific. All I know is that when our public schools switched away from the standard algorithms that the math proficiency of our youth has plummeted. I can't even go to a store where a check-out clerk can figure change without the cash register telling them how much to give. It's appalling really.

I am not saying any one method is best.. but the new "reform" methods certainly do not teach the tools needed to problem solve. The fact that Euclidean Geometry is disappearing in our high schools is even worse, as students cannot even follow through a problem in logical progression as a result.

It isn't so much the method as what those methods teach overall. This isn't a question of what we are all "used to" versus "what is best", rather it's a matter that the newer methods greatly lack the ability to impart certain skills necessary, are confusing, and have created kids who struggle with mathematics.
There are reasons why the new methods are taught at all, and they too have nothing to do with what is "best. Go investigate that.

It is a shame that taxpayers have spent so much money in the "reforms" and have reaped so little benefit from them. Worst of all the kids, and our society, suffer as a result.

I'm not "hoisting any flag", just pointing out that we have a major problem here and it goes far beyond what you or I think is the "best" way to teach mathematics.

Have you wondered why we spend more on education now than ever before using methods that are devised by all kinds of "specialists" and yet we are obtaining the worst results?