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Topic: Comments: Detroit News Core-Plus; Washington Post; St. Louis

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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Comments: Detroit News Core-Plus; Washington Post; St. Louis

Posted: Jun 18, 1998 2:51 PM
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NOTE: Below are some notes I received following some articles that were
sent out
dealing with developments in mathematics education. These are sent for
your information
This note came in response to the Core-plus article.

I have been reading these testimonies for a while now about how students are
leaving the high schools after being taught using one of the "reform"
Instead of condemning the program why not ask some questions:

1. Was the program used the way it was designed to be used?
2. Was it monitored to insure it was being used correctly?
3. Could there be a mismatch between the goals of the program and the college
tests being given to students?
4. Could there possibly be a mismatch between the program and the belief
systems and the college teaching? Maybe there needs to be change at the
college level to make a smooth transition for these students.

I know this last question is going to bring the "conservatives" out of the
woods, but I belief the entire situation needs to be examined, not just one


This note concerns the Core-plus article and entrance to the U of MI.

While at the NCTM convention, in the session that directly followed yours
on the three
international experts--in the exact same room--a University of Michigan
placement officer explained why students in whole math type programs fail on
the U of M's placement exam. It is just a series of factoring problems. She
admitted it was a rough and dirty exam that trips up many students who haven't
reviewed factoring before walking into the exam.

This note concerns the Core-plus article.

Someone sent me a message you sent to some group. It ended with the

In my head I am "writing" an op-ed piece that would begin: If your child
came home from school and asked you how to spell asparagus, you would
probably help them spell it for themselves, get out the dictionary, or just
it for them. You would probably not pick up the phone and call the teacher
ask why your child and therefore by implication, all students had not been
taught how to spell asparagus and all the other vegetables. But if a child
figure the tip on the restaurant bill, the parent immediately calls the
teacher, demands that figuring the tip be taught, and that all students had
did not know how to figure a tip. That is what these parents are doing!!

Is the person who wrote this serious? The piece was about CorePlus,
which is a high school program. Students should know how to figure
a tip long before high school, say fifth or at the latest sixth grade.
If a student in high school can not do this, the parents have a good
case to complain, and ask that this be taught. By this, I mean much
more than a mechanical formula for figuring out a tip, but how to
deal with percentages. I suspect that is what parents are really
asking for.


Note: This note concerns an article from the Washington Post, sent out
much earlier

Thoughts and questions...

Regarding Frank Wang's commentary in The Washington Post,

I don't know why he claimed to be on the mathematics advisory panel for the
proposed test, I was on the committee and he was not. Also, this past year I
used the Focus on Algebra book with my 8th grade students. This is the
"rainforest book and whacko algebra book. Well, I was so impressed with how
and what my students learned and so were they. They just didn't learn to
manipulate symbols they learned why and practical applications. When I taught
from a very traditional algebra text, my students could solve equations, graph
and all that, but they never got the big idea. The idea of functions. Using
the Focus On Algebra book, based everything on functions. I worried a little
that factoring expressions was introduced so late, but my students did not
suffer. As for results, my 24 students took the Texas End-of-Course Algebra I
Exam as all Texas students do after completing Algebra l. The lowest score was
an 80. Three students made 100's. 18 students scored 90% or better. Now, my
students in the past three years have all done real well. But this year I had
higher scores. So Mr. Wang asks for tangible results.

I did not realize that districts had to pay for taking the TIMSS test. Doesn't
this skew the results some? Of course we still didn't do very well.
I hope this makes some sense. I wonder how I can be a voice in all this
shouting? Then I wonder if I really want to be involved. I am getting very
weary of these "experts" getting all kinds of press and publicity with really
nothing to back them.

I and countless other teachers are the ones in classrooms day in and day out.
We are in the real world of 8th Grade students, who have much more on their
minds than learning mathematics. Sorry to go on. Thanks again.


This note concerns the Charter Schools note that was sent earlier.

Some lovely images in the posting on charter schools. One point, though,
charter schools are not "private schools operating with public money"; they
are simply a new form of public school. Indeed, the reason they receive braod
support is that they reflect a recognition that there are many ways to reach
children's needs, and that the public school system must be flexible enough to
meet the needs of all, if it is to be successful. Supporting public charter
school is a means to strengthen the public school system, drawing strength
away strength from those who say the system is unsalvagable and who call for


This note concerns the Saxon-testing article sent earlier.

I read with interest the Saxon story. I would agree that if you want high
test scores (and also want to ground the students thoroughly in fundamental
algebra skills) then Saxon is the way to go. However, I don't think that
Saxon ever claimed to teach creative thinking skills. I think that their
claim is that they will instill the math skills necessary for success in
higher level math and science scores. And I don't see anything wrong with
that. After all, it's my experience and belief that most students bail out of
math because of a lack of these skills - not because of an inability to be
creative mathematically.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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