My daughter, as most of you know reading this blog, had HUGE problems with Everyday Math, which is an "investigative" math curriculum that doesn't teach traditional algorithms.
Well, she is now in 8th grade, and guess what her math homework is for the first week of school? How to do:
- Long Division
- Short Division
- Traditional Multiplication
- Traditional Multiplication with fractions
Why? Because most students only know the lattice method (an unwieldy method that takes up lots of paper and leaves room for numerous mathematical errors) and can only do division with calculators.
Because I used the online program Aleks to help her catch up in the 6th grade, she was far ahead of most others in her class and tested into high math for 7th grade. (She is actually in "high middle" math this year due to a death in the family, my not having her do Aleks outside of class last year(she needs the traditional methods in order to excel, and her school system doesn't use them still), and more that I don't want to go into. Only one other student in her "high middle" math class also knew the traditional manner to complete equations, and, guess what, he also got bumped from high math. (My guess is that he learns like my daughter and his parents didn't make him do his Aleks either.)
There is a teacher in her school who was a civil engineer in a former life, and she alerted the 8th grade teacher that these skills needed to be taught. (It was the people who actually worked with math who were the most vocal about "fuzzy math" curricula in the first place. The folks in the "teacher colleges" were the ones who advocated the fuzzy math, not the mathematicians.)
Kids in high math and who excel in math, if I had to place a bet, are being tutored outside of school at a rate that is unprecedented. Of course, no school district would have the guts to do a survey to find this out.
We have a lost generation of math students and tests are now showing that and the establishment is reacting.
According to the September 12 edition of the Wall Street Journal:
The nation's math teachers, on the front lines of a 17-year curriculum war, are getting some new marching orders: Make sure students learn the basics.
In a report to be released today, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which represents 100,000 educators from prekindergarten through college, will give ammunition to traditionalists who believe schools should focus heavily and early on teaching such fundamentals as multiplication tables and long division....
The report wants kids to learn long division in 5th grade and multiplication with decimals and fractions in 6th grade. Our school children are getting those things in 8th grade. Better late than never. Folks, PLEASE remember, we would have never found out about these fundamental problems without TESTS!
Infuriated parents dubbed it "fuzzy math" and launched a countermovement. The council says its earlier views had been widely misunderstood and were never intended to excuse students from learning multiplication tables and other fundamentals.
My kids never learned their multiplication tables from school. They learned them at home, once I realized, because of the state test, that there was a problem.
Furthermore, this revelation that has happened in the 7th and 8th grade may not have trickled down into the earlier grades yet. My son is told that he MUST use the lattice method for multiplication. The lattice method is USELESS except as a mental exercise. As a parent, this situation forces me to say that the school isn't always correct in what and how they teach. I really don't like to do that so early in their educational careers, but I must.
While the article talks about a Terc math program based out of MA called Investigations in Number, Data and Space, Everyday Math is also a "fuzzy math" program used in lots of other MA communities, especially the affluent communities. These affluent communities can pay for tutoring. However, a lot of the "at risk" kids have been saddled with this fuzzy math with little or no at home help from parents. The article points to one town in MA with a lot of at risk kids that does use the traditional math curriculum, Singapore Math, and the results are spectacular. Revere didn't focus on what ed schools said was best; they focused on what worked for their population. I applaud them for going against the education "groupthink" and putting the needs of the kids first.
Additional posts here:
- If your school has Everyday Math (first post on math)
- More on How to Help Kids with Math: Math Tutoring (second post)
- More on Math... Math Sense: Stage 3 Help (third post)
- More Parents Find Out About EveryDay Math (fourth post)
Now, I want to make a few things clear. First, tests should be used to improve things and not bash things -- but to improve things you need to go back to the kids who don't have the basic skills needed and do some remediation. Second, of course curriculum should have open ended questions, but these should be after they learn the basics. You shouldn't expect kids to come up with "how to multiply" on their own.
Oh, and the same thing is happening with grammar in the schools. They don't teach it. Furthermore, they teach spelling in the most helter skelter manner when there are programs like this around, Word Web Vocabulary, that is based on learning the roots of words, the "rules" that can then be extended, kind of like phonics versus sight reading, or traditional math versus "fuzzy math."