LOGO-L> MATH EXPERIMENT PROVOKES PARENTAL REBELLION 
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 LOGO-L> MATH EXPERIMENT PROVOKES PARENTAL REBELLION

Ed.Net Briefs
May 1, 2000

MATH EXPERIMENT PROVOKES PARENTAL REBELLION
Three years ago, one of New York City's school districts embraced a new
"constructivist " math curriculum without textbooks. This approach was
based on the theory that it is more important for children to construct
their own solutions to mathematical problems than to learn the standard
rules, from multiplication tables to the value of pi. Long rated near the
top of the city in mathematics, the district has held its place. But the
new curriculum has enraged many parents who find that their children
cannot multiply easily or understand basic algebra. As many school
districts across the nation embrace the constructivist math, parents are
forming e-mail networks and turned out in force to protest what they
describe as "fuzzy math" and the "dumbing down" of mathematics teaching.
The new math has at its core a belief shared by tens of thousands of
teachers around the country that they can reach more children, especially
low-achieving minority students, by dropping standard rules in favor of
exercises that allow students to discover the principles of math on their
own.

 Anemona Hartocollis
 "The New, Flexible Math Meets Parental Rebellion"
 The New York Times, April 27, 2000, A1
 ( http://www.*-*-*.com/ )

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Wed, 16 Oct 2002 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> MATH EXPERIMENT PROVOKES PARENTAL REBELLION

Quote:

>Ed.Net Briefs
>The new math has at its core a belief shared by tens of thousands of
>teachers around the country that they can reach more children, especially
>low-achieving minority students, by dropping standard rules in favor of
>exercises that allow students to discover the principles of math on their
>own.

<sigh>  I don't think any responsible teacher would put it quite that way.
Nobody thinks that in math the rules are arbitrary -- quite the contrary,
the whole point is that the rules *make sense*, but they make sense only
if you understand them instead of merely memorizing them.

You can get kids to memorize anything long enough to take the test, especially
rich kids [this is the nugget of truth in that quote about low-achieving etc]
who understand that playing the game is their ticket to staying rich.  But the
result of the "old math" is that most {*filter*}s can't do math, hate math, and
think people who like math are a different species from themselves.

The only thing that's "fuzzy" about the newer approaches is that they *start*
where the kids are, building toward a more solid understanding.  But the goal
is the same as it's always been -- for kids to become competent at using math.



Fri, 18 Oct 2002 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> MATH EXPERIMENT PROVOKES PARENTAL REBELLION

...

Quote:
> But the result of the "old math" is
> that most {*filter*}s can't do math, hate math, and think people who like
> math are a different species from themselves.

> The only thing that's "fuzzy" about the newer approaches is that
> they *start* where the kids are, building toward a more solid
> understanding.  But the goal is the same as it's always been -- for
> kids to become competent at using math.

Acknowledging Brian's vast knowledge and contribution to contemporary
math curriculum, I beg to differ.

I think that the reason why "most {*filter*}s can't do math" (BTW, is that
a fact?) has nothing to do with "old" math teaching.  It is because
they have had bad math teachers.  Conversely, a good math teacher can
create enthusiasm and proficiency in math, regardless of the "new"
vs. "old" textbook.

Take a real-life situation where math education can help.  For
example, deciding between the different options of financing a new
car.  I wonder if there are studies showing an advantage of "old"
vs. "new" math in preparing people for such applied-math applications.

Chuck Shavit
www.MagicSquare.com



Fri, 18 Oct 2002 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> MATH EXPERIMENT PROVOKES PARENTAL REBELLION
I'd like to go back to the original thread here.


Quote:

> The only thing that's "fuzzy" about the newer approaches is that they
*start*
> where the kids are, building toward a more solid understanding.  But the
goal
> is the same as it's always been -- for kids to become competent at using

math.

I confess I don't know what happens in most classrooms that try to use a
constructivist approach to math. But the New York Times article that Dale
referenced
(http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/regional/042700ny-math-edu.html)
has a few disturbing paragraphs. It gives the impression the courses are
truly fuzzy:
'Wilfried Schmid, a professor of mathematics at Harvard, became a critic of
constructivist programs after his daughter, Sabina, began using one of them,
TERC Investigations in Number, Data and Space, at her elementary school in
Lincoln, Mass. When she started second grade last fall, Sabina knew how to
carry tens and add two-digit numbers, Mr. Schmid said. Sabina's teacher, who
is well-intentioned but too inexperienced to deviate from the program, Mr.
Schmid said, told the child that she was not allowed to use this method; she
had to demonstrate her work with blocks or by counting on her fingers.

"So Sabina is reduced to drawing 39 little men to solve problems like
39-14," her father said. '

As Chuck wrote maybe it is the teachers that are the critical factor and not
the pedagogic approach. And when teachers don't understand something well
then it isn't surprising that things go wrong.

And here's another quote:

'But some parents are insulted by them. Ms. Weinberg, a dentist, said she
was
appalled when her daughter, Kelly, a sixth grader at East Side Middle
School, came home with assignments to write her math autobiography and to
write about her favorite number. "She was being graded on grammar and
spelling," Ms. Weinberg said.'

I'm not convinced either that writing about "favorite numbers" is a way to
learn math. Nor is it clear how constructivist it is.

(Now writing about the smallest uninteresting number - that is fun. Since it
is interesting property of a number that it is the smallest uninteresting
number. Does this contradiction imply all numbers are interesting?)

Best,

-ken



Sat, 26 Oct 2002 03:00:00 GMT  
 LOGO-L> MATH EXPERIMENT PROVOKES PARENTAL REBELLION

Quote:

> Sabina's teacher [...]
> told the child that she was not allowed to use this method; she
> had to demonstrate her work with blocks or by counting on her fingers.

This sort of new-teacher mistake is orthogonal to curriculum style.
It happens a lot in algebra classes; a kid solves a word problem by clever
ad-hoc methods and gets yelled at by the teacher.

I agree that "your favorite number" is a strange assignment (although I'd
like to see the context before dumping on it myself) but "math autobiography"
seems like quite a good idea to me.  For one thing, it encourages kids to
look for math applications in their own experience (quite a different thing
from those awful pseudo-real-world word problems); for another, it might
help a teacher get a handle on what's standing in the way of some kids learning
math.  As for grading on spelling, I hate grades altogether, but *another*
progressive curriculum trend, also orthogonal to new-math trends, is
"writing in every subject," and I think it's a great idea -- I wish someone
had taught my straight-A college students how to write a coherent paragraph.

The real question is whether things like the math autobiography are done at
the expense of more direct math instruction, and we really can't judge that
by reading newspaper articles.



Sat, 26 Oct 2002 03:00:00 GMT  
 
 [ 5 post ] 

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