Thank you, Ken Blystone, so very much for your post (7:14 AM 3/20/95)! It accurately reflects and calmly describes a number of serious problems with Saxon, his beliefs, and his tactics for spreading his message. I share your concerns and am likewise dedicated to the task of promoting teaching as a "craft" which is complex and difficult to do well, as is the subject of mathematics. Both--the art of teaching and the practice of engaging in mathematics in powerful ways, as described in the NCTM Standards books--require *thinking* human beings, working together, discussing ideas, struggling with concepts, constructing knowledge for themselves in meaningful ways in order to be successful.
Saxon DOES have the answer for how to train students to crank out answers that will earn them high scores on standardized multiple choice tests. And yet this is NOT what the Standards call for. (I have seen firsthand that) such students are not able to succeed in a math classroom environment that involves discourse, reasoning, non-routine problem-solving, communication, seeks to make connections, and encourages students to learn to rely on *themselves* (instead of the authority of a teacher or a textbook) for the knowledge and *understanding* of whether their solutions seem reasonable and make sense. Such students are not prepared to respond to the question, WHY do you believe that answer makes sense? (when the "answer" we seek is one which would demonstrate a *conceptual* understanding of the mathematics, and *not* one which recites that the formula/algorithm used and the arithmetic performed were technically accurate).
I think the whole Saxon/Standards debate rests on the goals one has for students (perhaps, one's definition of "mathematical power") and the way in which one intends to ASSESS stiudents' learning and understanding. I am quite anxious for the third volume of the NCTM Standards--Assessment Standards for School Mathematics--to arrive (free to members of NCTM) this Spring. I believe the standards set forth for (alternative) assessment will further demonstrate the differences between the aims and aspirations that reform-minded math educators hold for students of the 21st century and those touted by Saxon and his followers.
____________________________________________________________ Angie S. Eshelman 116 Erickson Hall Office: (517) 353-0628 Michigan State University E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org East Lansing, MI 48824-1034 ____________________________________________________________