Tuesday, October 03, 2006

1 + 1 = 2 Once Again

Parents Are Right; Math "Experts" Are Wrong

From Roman Catholic commentator Phyllis Schlafly:

It took parents 17 years to overturn the tragic 1989 curriculum mistake made by the so-called education experts who demanded that schools abandon traditional mathematics in favor of unproven approaches. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics finally reversed course on September 12 and admitted that elementary schools really should teach arithmetic, after all.

The new report called "Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten Through Grade 8 Mathematics" is a back-to-basics victory that rejects the type of math curricula that parents had derided as "fuzzy math" or "rainforest math." The experts preferred such hoity-toity titles as "New New Math," "Connected Math," "Chicago Math," "Core-Plus Math," "Whole Math," "Interactive Math," or "Integrated Math."

Whatever the title, these curricula imbedded the notion that estimates are acceptable in lieu of accurate answers to math problems so long as students feel good about what they are doing and can think up a reason for doing it. Fuzzy curricula were big on discussion, coloring, playing games, and early use of calculators.

The 1989 report (which gives the word "standards" a bad name) flatly opposed drilling students in basic math facts, taught that memorization of math facts was bad, and failed to systematically build from one math concept to another. Children were encouraged to "discover" math on their own, construct their own math language, and flounder around with their own approaches to solving problems.
I had seen this type of learning in full flight at the Hosmer School in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1997. Children were instruction to gather in groups to complete a math "test." A Korean observer was in the room at the time and he looked at me, the substitute, in bewilderment. He asked me in halting English, "The children work in groups on a test?"

"Dude, I don't know what the hell is going on here", I stammered back to him.

Later that year I quipped to a teacher, "Did you hear of the new math? 'If four birds are in a nest and two fly away, how did the other two feel?' "

She screeched back, "That's what I teach!"

I'll be posting more about the cognitive abuse of children.

1 comment:

Dean said...

All the more reason to chuck the "experts" and listen to mom!