Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why I am not a fan of Reform Mathematics

I could have titled this a lot of different things, but that's succinct and polite. Two personal goals, met!
By Reform Math I refer specifically to the idea of math instruction that came from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1989. These standards were revised in 2000. The emphasis in this new mathematical conceptual thinking and problem solving instead of the arithmetic most of us were taught in schools with algorithms for problem solving and an emphasis on memorization and solid knowledge of math facts.
Now, this doesn't sound bad yet. Conceptual thinking? Problem solving? Who doesn't want their child to think beyond just 1+1 and into the concept? Problem solving is important in all subjects! America has lagged behind other nations for a while mathematically- so maybe this is what we need! The idea of moving students past the need to always solve problems in one, regimented way sounds like a decent plan of attack on moving scores and comprehension forward.
So what's my problem? Other then being a subversive homeschooler? First- watch this. It's a little long, but it works through actual examples from teacher's manuals from two of the most popular reform math programs being used by schools- Everyday Mathematics and Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space or TERC Investigations.
Personally, I am strongly opposed to the early and frequent use of calculators in the early years of arithmetic. I am in favor of drilling until math facts are solid. I also find the new ways of solving multiplication and division featured to be cumbersome, confusing, and something that I don't care to teach my children.
I know that there are some strong proponents of the new math, and that these programs have fans who have achieved a personal level of education in the fields of education and mathematics far exceeding any claims of my own. I'm not here to besmirch the people involved in the creation of these ideas or programs- just to say that for me and my family, and a lot of other people that I've talked to about this, it's not a good fit.
I'm also interested in the long term track record of these ideas- how will kids stack up once they reach university level? How will they be in the job market, the workplace, at home with their finances?
Anyone else with any opinions about reformed math?

1 comment:

  1. My opinion about Everyday Math:
    I can speak of this program because my two oldest kids work with it every day at school. It was interesting to watch the video, and comments made by the author led me to further investigation about things that didn't quite add up for me. (It should also be noted that this author promotes the Singapore curriculum at the end of her video which I think is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Everyday Math). I make no claims about being a math genius, so my opinion is about what I know from working with my kids. From personal experience, Everyday Math has taught my oldest different ways to solve problems, even if they aren't the same ways that I grew up learning. The algorithms aren't confusing to her because it's how she's learned it. I think she's asked me to use a calculator twice... to check her work (she's in 4th grade). Her teacher at school uses Everyday Math in conjunction with other methods to give her a good mathematical foundation. Calculator use in the workbooks isn't in place of multiplication or division, it's used in certain circumstances to facilitate problem solving, as you'll see in the videos below (if I've copied the links correctly...) The videos below are excellent. The author is a college professor, so he addresses many of the concerns about how kids are doing and the skills they need at the university level. Everyday Math teaches how kids use math everyday, it uses multiplication and division in real world ways. The chapters she referred to in the video are from the reference book, not the student workbook, they're used to apply the facts they've learned. The first 2 videos discuss the issue from his perspective. The second two discusses the Everyday Math program itself. The last is about memorization. Please have a peek below, I really think it completes the picture and ...I'd be happy to let anyone have a look at the books if interested. Math Education: A response to “An inconvenient truth-part 1 Math Education: A response to “An inconvenient truth-part 2 Everyday math part 1 Everyday math part 2 Why memorizing math isn’t enough



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