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Topic: Re[2]: Harvard Calc and "feel good"
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Pat Ballew

Posts: 356
Registered: 12/3/04
Re[2]: Harvard Calc and "feel good"
Posted: Jun 5, 1997 10:56 AM
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I think I heard this exact percentage from the folks at Oakland U
several years ago, maybe that is the University you were speaking
of... I think it would be a mistake to assume either that this is
because the level of teaching in high school was *too rigorus* or that
the alternative of some of the reform programs will improve that. By
the late 80's or early 90's, math had recovered most of the groud it
had lost in the last period of great educational reform ,the late 60's
through the 70's (verbal skills have not yet reached their previous
level to this day as I understand the SAT results). So we had
returned to the success level of, say, 1965, but the college bound
percentage of our population had increased dramatically. So now
the 10-15% who had always taken remedial classes were to be
joined by an additional influx of new students who were lower in the
educational food chain, so to speak. At the same time the demands for
mathematics in college had increased for many majors during the 25 to 30
year period. In 1965, for example only a rare business school
required calculus for a business admin degree, today it is common,
and often includes demands for one or two statistics classesas well.
The surprising thing is not that 40% need remediation, but that
*only* 40% need remediation, and more surprisingly; that with that
level of failure, people think the solution is to ask "less" of
students in HS math. The sad truth is that among the many dedicated
teachers and professors who want to find a balanced direction to make
meaningful improvement in math education, there are too many who have
more concern about how reform sells textbooks and consulting hours than
the impact on students growth.
If you think you have the "Silver Bullet" to fix math education
then you really are the Lone Ranger.

"Pat Ballew has left the soapbox"

Pat BAllew
Misawa, Japan

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Harvard Calc and "feel good"
Date: 6/3/97 8:18 AM

Dan Hart,

In a message dated 97-06-01 18:09:10 EDT, you write:

<< As an example of the absurdity of the lack of proof before implementation
of reform materials, I was told of this exchange (by several people) at a
HS math department chair meeting in LAUSD.

The District is very big on pushing "Integrated Math" on all the high
schools. When asked for data comparing different approaches and books, the
"experts" response? "I don't know." >>

Unfortunately, what I think we do "know" about traditional high school
mathematics programs is that they do not do a particularly good job of
preparing students for first year studies at college. In my state, the
largest university typically assigns about 40% of incoming freshmen to a
non-credit-earning mathematics class in order to bring their level of
understanding up to what the university deems as a "minimal level of

To use your analogy, if 40% of my patients were dying, I might try some other


Michael Shelly, Ed.D.
Mathematics Department Chair
Andover High School
Bloomfield Hills MI

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