>You are right, Dan, most of us learned mathematics in just the way you >describe. That is the problem. The fact is that only about 20% of those in >school (K-12) end up with some measure of mathematical success and literacy.
My argument has never been that math education doesn't need some reform, linking it better to the real world. My argument is the NCTM is leading us into unknown ground, going way beyond a good balance of skills, concepts, and problem solving.
About the apparent "density" of the American public relating to mathematics. I think the inability of the Simpson jury to even consider the DNA evidence is proof enough.
However, having said that, I believe the primary reason for our poor performance as a nation of mathematicians (how do you like that?! Maybe the NCTM should enter that next to rich, powerful, and diverse, some of their favorite words.) is that our education system is much too easy. Kids who don't feel a need to STUDY, don't STUDY, and if they don't STUDY, they don't learn very much. (Excuse the shouting, but "study" is the forgotten word in American education.)
Last night at a class I'm taking, I was speaking with a hair stylist. Upon learning I'm a math teacher, she apologized as all of us know people do. She then told me she'd like to take some math classes because she knows she can do better. And you know what? I bet she's right. How many times have we seen older people come back and retake math courses they failed as youngsters. Did they get smarter?!!
No, they got motivated!!
Thursday is Multicultural Unity Day in LAUSD. And you wonder why this city has no problems.