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Topic: Saxon Revelations
Replies: 9   Last Post: Mar 21, 1995 1:14 PM

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Angie S. Eshelman

Posts: 10
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: Saxon Revelations
Posted: Mar 20, 1995 10:03 AM
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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:
East Lansing, MI 48824-1034

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