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Fwd: Traditionalists Mathematically Right?
Posted:
Sep 21, 2004 11:27 AM


>Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 11:21:15 0600 (CST) >ReplyTo: amte@csd.uwm.edu >Originator: amte@csd.uwm.edu >Sender: amte@csd.uwm.edu >Precedence: bulk >From: Jerry Becker <jbecker@SIU.EDU> >To: Multiple recipients of list <amte@csd.uwm.edu> >Subject: Traditionalists Mathematically Right? >Xmd5sum: 5fe23264d77c253549d97bb179400790 >Xmd5sumOrigin: ex1.ncsa.uiuc.edu > >[Note: Just received from the West Coast ...] >************************************************** > >(You might recall the recent TPPFsponsored math textbook review conducted >by Mathematically Correct, available at >http://www.tppf.org/news/021099.html ) > >TPPF = Texas Public Policy Institute > > > >San Antonio Express News (Texas), Sunday, February 21, 1999 > >By Rick Casey > >Are the traditionalists mathematically right? > >As if they weren't already busy enough trying to purify the state >bureaucracy, privatize VIA's bus operations and revolutionize the Texas >public school system through vouchers, our friends at the conservative >Texas Public Policy Foundation have taken on another task. > >They want to teach your children math. > >Well, actually, they don't want to do the teaching themselves. They just >want to tell your children's math teachers how to teach. > >TPPF has become, in effect, the Texas arm of a Californiabased movement >called "Mathematically Correct." This organization wants to take America >back to traditional ways of teaching math methods based on teaching kids >the right formulas so they can get the right answers. > >The group accuses the "educational establishment," and particularly the >National Science Foundation, of using softheaded, feelgood methods that >dumb down the curriculum. > >TPPF officials have gone before editorial boards, lobbied school boards >over textbook selection and made the case for "classical" math education >through their Web site. > >In a recent oped piece in this newspaper, Anne Newman, president of the >San Antoniobased Texas Family Research Center, cited the TPPF Web page in >arguing for traditional math. Well she should. Much of her piece was taken >from the Web site. > >She criticized a training program in which teachers were tossed a beach >ball printed as a globe and asked to remember where their right indexes >were when they caught it. This was an example of an exercise in which >students could learn probabilitiesin this case, the probability of a >meteorite crashing on land as opposed to water. > > Mathematically Correct named themselves, apparently with no sense of >irony. They have several things in common with the leftwing politically >correct. > >Both include intelligent, well intentioned people. Both are ideologically >based. Both are intolerant of those who think differently. > >And while the politically correct have an idealized view of the future, >Mathematically Correct has an idealized view of the past. > >If you're old enough to have been taught under traditional methods, as I >am, just ask yourself this: Was math a subject in which your average >classmate felt he or she could perform well? Or was math considered >the sole domain of the brainiest? > >Mathematically Correct cites studies to show the superiority of >traditional math teaching, but were the good old days really that good? And >are present methods really that bad? > >Maybe California math went buggy, but it's not so clear that national >performance has. One of the most ambitious measurements is the SAT, which >most collegebound seniors take. A substantially higher percentage of >seniors take the test today than in 1972. Because of that, you would expect >scores to go down. The average verbal score has, from 530 in 1972 to 505 in >1998. > >But the average math score has gone up 3 points to 512. In Texas, the >results are better. While Texas seniors held verbal skills even from 1988 >to 1998, their average math score jumped 11 points. > >We're still below the national average, but we're moving in the right >direction. > >Improvement among Texas fourth and eighthgrade students on another >standardized test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has >been among the best in the nation since 1990. > >That's why I'd like Anne Newman to meet Melinda Rodriguez, who has taught >math at elementary and middle schools and now teaches ninthgrade algebra >at Lee High School. > >More importantly, I'd like the school boards that will be selecting >textbooks (and thereby curricula) in the next few weeks to meet Rodriguez. > >(Later, in another column, I'd like you to meet Rodriguez.) > >I don't know if Rodriguez uses beach balls (though she took the workshop), >but she uses such methods as having kids chart the number of jumping jacks >they can do minutebyminute for five minutes. She has them punch a hole >in a cup of water and measure the rate of leakage, then go home and >calculate how much such a leak would cost on their water bills. > >In other words, she teaches just the way Newman and Mathematically Correct >find abhorrent. The latest results: 70 percent of her students passed the >statewide endofcourse exam, including 60 percent of her special >education students. > >By comparison, 39 percent (not including special ed) passed statewide in >1998. But that figure is up from 28 percent in 1996. > >So before TPPF and their friends fix this problem, let's make sure it's broke. > > >From the Web site: > >TPPF"Providing the intellectual ammunition for a better Texas." > >****************************************** >* >Jerry P. Becker >Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction >Southern Illinois University >Carbondale, IL 629014610 USA >Fax: (618)4534244 >Phone: (618)4534241 (office) >Email: jbecker@siu.edu >  Jerry Uhl juhl@ncsa.uiuc.edu Professor of Mathematics, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign Member, Mathematical Sciences Education Board of National Research Council
Calculus&Mathematica, DiffEq&Mathematica, Matrices,Geometry&Mathematica, NetMath
http://wwwcm.math.uiuc.edu and http://netmath.math.uiuc.edu
"Is it life, I ask, is it even prudence, To bore thyself and bore the students?"
. . . Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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