Once again, Hamilton County School System students have been used as guinea pigs and the experiment has failed. For those parents who have questioned the math being taught to your students, you have been vindicated. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has finally gotten their head out of the fog and admitted that maybe students should not be using calculators in kindergarten and students should memorize their math facts. Eureka!The NCTM has also admitted that it was time students got the right answer and not just an "gestimate." Imagine!
On Sept. 12, on page one of the Wall Street Journal- "Arithmetic Problem. New Report Urges Return to Basics in Teaching Math. Critics of "Fuzzy" Methods Cheer Educators Findings; Drills Without Calculators."
In 1998 Everyday Math, (one of the "fuzzy" math curriculums) was adopted in Hamilton County Elementary Schools and Connected Math (another one of the "fuzzy" math curriculums) was adopted in Hamilton County middle schools. Before the curriculums adoption, I urged parents through neighborhood meeting to oppose the "new new math" teaching because it relies heavily on the use of calculators beginning in kindergarten. The "new new math" also uses the "spiraling method" to teach instead of the building block method that had always been used.
The building block method teaches students to master one concept before moving on to the next more complicated step. For instance, first, students memorize and master addition and subtraction facts, then they move on to multiplication and then division.
The spiraling method, however, teaches several concepts in one week. If the concepts are not mastered, students move on. Teachers, students and parents are told not to worry if a concept is not understood because students will have another chance to "get it" when the concept "spirals" back around later.
The Wall Street Journal 9/12/06, "In a report to be released today, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which represents 100,000 educators from pre K through college, will give ammunition to traditionalists who believe school should focus heavily and early on teaching such fundamentals as multiplication tables and long division.
The council's advice is striking because in 1989 it touched off the so-called math wars by promoting open-ended problem solving over drilling. Back then, it recommended that students as young as those in kindergarten use calculators in class.
Those recommendations horrified many educators, especially college math professors alarmed by a rising tide of freshmen needing remediation...
The new approach puzzled many parents. For example, to solve a basic division problem, 120 divided by 40, students might cross off groups of circles to "discover" that the answer is three."
The article continues, "Understanding math, rather than parroting answers to poorly understood equations, was the council's controversial 1989 standards. Those guidelines called on teachers to promote estimation, rather than precise answers. For example, an elementary-school student tackling the problem 4,783 divided by 13 should instead divide 4,800 by 12 to arrive at "about 400," the 1989 report said. The council said this approach would enable children using calculators to "decide whether the correct keys were pressed and whether the calculator result is reasonable."
September 25, 2006, an article titled "Parents Know the Right Equation for Teaching Math", written by Phyllis Schlafly says, " The new (NCTM) report called 'Curriculum Focal Points for Prekindergarten Through Grade Eight Mathematics' is a back-to-basics victory that rejects the type of math curricula that parents had decried as "fuzzy math" or "rain forest math." 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."
Several teachers contacted me at the first of the year to say they had been warned not to supplement the Everyday and Connected Math curriculums as they had done in past years. These teachers had been supplementing because their conscience would not let them deprive students basic math education they knew they needed.
I hope this new NCTM report makes those in administration doing the teacher intimidation to back off and realize that those teachers who have been supplementing our "fuzzy math" curriculum have been doing the right thing to ensure their students learned the basics.
The main reason Everyday and Connected Math curriculums were adopted in Hamilton County was because we received a $5 million National Science Foundation Grant from the federal government. (Another reason the federal government should not have anything to do with education.) So, HCDE who has never seen a grant they didn't like, decided to gamble on an unproven math program and lost.
At the time Hamilton County adopted the curriculum in 1998, lawsuits had been filed by parents in other states to get rid of the "fuzzy math" and California had already kicked the "new new math" out of their state. The school board was well aware of these facts because every time I met with a group of parents to tell them of all the "fuzzy math" pitfalls a representative from the school system was there taking notes. Yet they chose to ignore the warnings and mark me off as a troublemaker. Only one board member did their own investigation and voted against the curriculum adoption, Mr. Eldridge.
Even Harry Austin, who had ridiculed both Mr. Eldridge and myself for speaking out against the new math programs, had a "back to math basics" editorial in Sunday's TFP.
The question now is, where do we go from here to try to adjust for the gaps created by these math programs?
Someone in the Math Department should be held accountable for these decisions. Who should it be?
I promise to try to find out the answers to these questions, because the students, parents and taxpayers deserve better.
County School Board Member
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You go gal!
Anybody who would defend what math we are teaching in local schools these days would be advised to visit a convenient store or fast-food restaurant and be waited on by a youth.
After the sale is rung and a particular amount of money is offered, they punch in that amount and the cash register tells them how much change to return. But.... test them, change the amount of money you give them after they've punched it in. In many cases they are lost and can't make change. This has happened to me several times.