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Topic: How to End the Math Wars
Replies: 3   Last Post: Nov 20, 2006 6:39 PM

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Linda Gojak

Posts: 13
Registered: 9/9/05
Fwd: How to End the Math Wars
Posted: Nov 20, 2006 3:59 PM
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This comes to us courtesy of Jerry Becker. Interesting reading....

Linda


Linda Gojak
President, NCSM
Supporting Leadership in Mathematics Education
CMSETT
John Carroll University
216 397 4574 (o)
www.ncsmonline.org
lgojak@sbcglobal.net

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person
doing it.
...Chinese Proverb


Begin forwarded message:

> From: Jerry Becker <jbecker@SIU.EDU>
> Date: November 20, 2006 2:42:30 PM EST
> To: JERRY-P-BECKER-USA-L@listserv.siu.edu
> Subject: How to End the Math Wars
> Reply-To: Jerry Becker <jbecker@SIU.EDU>
>
> ***********************
> From TIME.com, Sunday, November 19, 2006. See http://www.time.com/
> time/magazine/article/0,9171,1561144,00.html
> ***********************
> How to End the Math Wars
>
> We have a new formula for teaching kids. Don't let ideology ruin it
> this time
>
> By Claudia Wallis
>
> American education is every bit as polarized, red and blue, as
> American politics. On the crimson, conservative end of the spectrum
> are those who adhere to the back-to-basics credo: Kids, practice
> those spelling words and times tables, sit still and listen to the
> teacher; school isn't meant to be fun--hard work builds character.
> On the opposite, indigo extreme are the currently unfashionable
> "progressives," who believe that learning should be like breathing--
> natural and relaxed, that school should take its cues from a
> child's interests. As in politics, good sense lies toward the
> center, but the pendulum keeps sweeping sharply from right to left
> and back again. And the kids end up whiplashed.
>
> Since the Reading Wars of the '90s, the U.S. has largely gone red.
> Remember the Reading Wars? In the '80s, educators embraced "whole
> language" as the key to teaching kids to love reading. Instead of
> using "See Dick and Jane run" primers, grade-school teachers taught
> reading with authentic kid lit: storybooks by respected authors,
> like Eric Carle (Polar Bear, Polar Bear). They encouraged 5- and 6-
> year-olds to write with "inventive spelling." It was fun. Teachers
> felt creative. The founders of whole language never intended it to
> displace the teaching of phonics or proper spelling, but that's
> what happened in many places. The result was a generation of kids
> who couldn't spell, including a high percentage who had to be
> turned over to special-ed instructors to learn how to read. That
> eventually ushered in the current joyless back-to-phonics movement,
> with its endless hours of reading-skill drills. Welcome back, Dick
> and Jane.
>
> Now we're into the Math Wars. With American kids foundering on
> state math exams and getting clobbered on international tests by
> their peers in Singapore and Belgium, parents and policymakers have
> been searching for a culprit. They've found it in the math
> equivalent of whole language--so-called fuzzy math, an object of
> parental contempt from coast to coast. Fuzzy math, properly called
> reform math, is the bastard child of teaching standards introduced
> by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (N.C.T.M) in
> 1989. Like whole language, it was a sensible approach that got
> distorted into a parody of itself. The reform standards, for
> instance, called for teaching the uses of a calculator and
> estimation, but some educators took that as a license to stop
> drilling the multiplication tables, skip past long division and
> give lots of partial credit for wrong answers. "Some of the
> textbooks and materials were absolutely hideous," says R. James
> Milgram, a professor of mathematics at Stanford.
>
> Adding to the math morass was the fact that 49 states (all but
> Iowa) devised their own math standards, with up to 100 different
> goals for each grade level. Textbook publishers responded with
> textbooks that tried to incorporate every goal of every state.
> "There are some 700-page third-grade math books out there," says
> N.C.T.M.'s current president Francis (Skip) Fennell, professor of
> education at Maryland's McDaniel College.
>
> Now the N.C.T.M. itself has come riding to the rescue. In a notably
> slim document, it has identified just three essential goals, or
> "focal points," for each grade from pre-K to eighth, none of them
> fuzzy, all of them building blocks for higher math. In fourth
> grade, for instance, the group recommends focusing on the quick
> recall of multiplication facts, a deep understanding of decimals
> and the ability to measure and compute the area of rectangles,
> circles and other shapes. "Our objective," says Fennell, "is to get
> conversations going at the state level about what really is
> important." In recent weeks, that's begun to happen. Florida and
> Utah and half a dozen other states are talking about revising their
> math standards to match the pared-down approach. That pleases
> academic mathematicians like Milgram, who notes that this kind of
> instruction is what works in math-proficient nations like Singapore.
>
> So do we have a solution to the national math problem? We certainly
> have the correct formula. The question is, Can we apply it? Already
> the N.C.T.M.'s focal points are being called a back-to-basics
> movement, another swing of the ideological pendulum rather than a
> fresh look at what it would take to get more kids to calculus by
> 12th grade. If the script follows that of the Reading Wars, what
> comes next will be dreary times-tables recitals in unison, dull new
> books that fail to inspire understanding, and drill, drill, drill,
> much like the unhappy scenes in many of today's "Reading First"
> classrooms. And that would be just another kind of math fiasco--of
> the red variety. Kids will learn their times tables for sure, but
> they'll also learn to hate math.
> ***************************************
> --
> Jerry P. Becker
> Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
> Southern Illinois University
> 625 Wham Drive
> Mail Code 4610
> Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
> Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
> (618) 457-8903 [H]
> Fax: (618) 453-4244
> E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu





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