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Comments: Detroit News CorePlus; Washington Post; St. Louis PostDispatch
Posted:
Jun 18, 1998 2:51 PM


******************************************************** 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 Coreplus 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" curricula/programs. 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 part.
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This note concerns the Coreplus article and entrance to the U of MI.
While at the NCTM convention, in the session that directly followed yours on the three international expertsin the exact same rooma 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 Coreplus article.
Someone sent me a message you sent to some group. It ended with the following:
In my head I am "writing" an oped 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 spell it for them. You would probably not pick up the phone and call the teacher and 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 cannot 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.
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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 EndofCourse 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.
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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 vouchers.
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This note concerns the Saxontesting 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 629014610 USA Fax: (618)4534244 Phone: (618)4534241 (office) Email: JBECKER@SIU.EDU



