Monday, May 28, 2007

CBS "Reform Math" Story

I was watching the CBS story about "Reform Math" that aired on Saturday, May 26th. On the one hand, I'm encouraged that the controversy with reform math programs like Everyday Mathematics made the network news and found its way into living rooms across America. On the other hand, I dissapointed that the story wasn't more balanced.

CBS highlighted interviews with a parent who is supplementing with traditional math at home and one of the authors of Everyday Mathematics. However, there were no interviews with mathematicians or scientists or leaders of the many grassroots parents groups that oppose reform math, there was no data about the decline of our nation on international standards assessments like TIMSS (Trends for International Math and Science Study), they didn't even mention the National Mathematics Advisory Panel that is in the process attempting to sort out the state of math education in our schools. And so, for the most part, the story was unbalanced. But hey, it was a two minute piece and at least it got a few people thinking about this issue that might not have otherwise.

So, what bothered me most about this story? It was something that Amy Dillard, one of Everyday Mathematics authors, said:

"We're preparing kids now for jobs that we don't even know are going to exist, and we can't be teaching them the same mathematics that we did years and years ago, we really have to prepare them for the workforce that they'll be headed to,”
says Amy Dillard, author of “Everyday Mathematics,” a reform math textbook.

Message to Amy Dillard: How could you possibly know how to prepare someone for a job that you don't even know is going to exist? How are you so certain that students should rely on the "spiral" to get them to where they need to be in the future if you admitedly have no idea what that future holds for them? Are you even aware that there's an entire world that is producing generations of mathematicians and scientists using methods of teaching mathematics that continue to respect the value of traditional algorithms? These high performing nations aren't teaching reform math, that is for certain.

"Asian countries are setting the pace in advanced science and math."
-Ina Mullis, codirector of the International Study Center at Boston College that manages the TIMSS.

And guess what, Ms. Dillard, you won't find Asian countries touching reform math with a ten foot pole. In fact, they must be thanking you for increasing their competitive advantage.

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