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July 22, 2008

Another Reason Why I Despise Public School

Over the past few years I’ve heard my sister complain about the “new” math that is being taught. My sister is, well, a bit dramatic to say the least so I did not pay is much attention. Instead I Just thought she was making it up. However, now I find out that there really is a “new” math?

When I was an undergraduate in college there was a time when I thought about being a teacher. However, my pure dislike for public school kept me from going that route. Before I changed my major I took a math class for teachers. It sucked really bad. It was like some foreign language. I mean, English is my subject but I thought, come on, I know basic math? Well, the way that the problems were being solved just didn’t make any sense to me. So, just like many parents, I reverted back to my old way of doing thing. To hell with what they teacher was trying to show us.

So, long division has a new way of being solved? That’s fun because the old way allowed you to come up with the answers. Why did it need to be changed? I am a big fan of progress but really, to change something for the sake of changing it is not wise. So instead of the actual rote procedures of math, students are learning the ideas behind math. Well, from a true blue English major, I say, who cares about the ideas behind math?

Well, let me rephrase that. Some of us do care about the ideas behind math. Others of us do not need to know the ideas behind it. Yes we need to know how to do it but we don’t need to have all of the background that comes along with it. This is just my opinion but I think that a lot of people agree with it. Obviously this is the case since parents are teaching their children the old way of doing things.

Concept based curriculum are a strange notion to me. I think that public schools ought to master teaching the old stuff before they move on to the new stuff. With the test scores of Americans frequently being behind many other industrialized nations, changing the curriculum does not seem to be the answer. How about just teaching well? I think that would be a better endeavor to take up.

I know that this does not really come down to the teachers. Some higher ups decided to make this unfavorable decision. In any case, if the concept based curriculum are going to be in place, fine. However, teach the children more than one way to solve the math problems. Show them the new fancy way and the old fashion, always worked for us way. If you want to introduce something new into the curriculum, so be it. But remember that the parents will not be able to help their child out because they have no clue what the “new” math is. Also, isn’t it good to have more than just one way to do a problem?

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Jim | Sep 2, 2008 | Reply

    Actually, from a teacher, this makes a lot of sense. I have taught too many students who were drilled on the procedures, but when something went wrong had no idea what to do because they never learned the concepts behind it. I know that not all my students will be mathematicians, but I strongly believe that if they know why they are doing what they are doing, and how it fits together with what they already know, they will be much more successful at it. And who knows, they might even enjoy it more now that it is not a “black box.”

    Keep in mind that there was no “golden age” of mathematics teaching. These conversations have been going on since the beginning of the 20th century (if not before), and many of the changes advocated are because not enough students are learning it well the “old way.” I’m just saying.

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