Tuesday, July 3, 2007

When reform math rubber hits the road...

What happens when a school board member asks a group of middle school students "What is 9x8?" and only six out of 25 are able to answer the question? That school board member starts asking more questions...

School board member Pat Fletcher of Maryland was concerned enough to bring the issue before the school board as well as a seasoned University of Maryland math professor, Jerome Dancis. They were all "shocked to hear a math coordinator at the meeting say that county students should have a ‘‘sense” of what 9x8 is."

This is when the reform math rubber meets the road of reality. Having a good "sense of numbers" may sound "21st Century" to some, but if it means that only 24% of a given middle school class can answer a basic math fact question, you might say you have a big problem.

According to Professor Jerome Dancis ‘‘A math coordinator said that not all students can memorize the multiplication tables, implying that since some cannot, none should be required to do it.” He didn't mince words in his report when it comes to Maryland's algebra exam either, criticizing it for allowing students to use calculators. His argument that such a policy sets students up for failure when they get to college is not a new one, but it is a significant one.

‘‘Again, this is a very good strategy if the goal is just to have students pass the [state’s algebra test],” Dancis wrote.

‘‘This is a counterproductive strategy if a goal is to have students avoid remedial [math courses] when they enter college.”Using calculators on algebra exams, he said, ‘‘allows students’ arithmetic skills to get rusty” and ‘‘covers up students’ lack of fluency in arithmetic.”

Dancis released a memo to the state board last month making clear his concerns for the struggle with math that students would encounter upon entering college. The data Dancis used in support of his hypothesis is damning. When looking at the county's most advanced students of math, 44% of these advanced students that should have been prepared for postesecondary mathematics, took remedial math classes when they enrolled in a Maryland college or university in 2004. As for the statistics of advanced African-American math students needing remedial college math that year, they are even more bleak. Of these advanced students, 53% required remedial college math.
‘‘The county has a problem,” Dancis said in an interview with The Gazette. ‘‘A massive number of their better graduates need to take remedial math in college.”

So if your standards make some vague reference to "number sense", you might want to take a closer look. Particularly if you think it's important for your middle school student to know how to answer the question "What is 9x8?" or any other basic math fact that just might come in handy some day. Afterall, what will they do when they get to college and are expected to calculate without a calculator? Assuming, of course, that they get to bypass remedial math first.

Source:
Math guru critical of county’s math curriculum
Board of Eduction member also concerned about math lessons
by Dennis Carter Staff Writer
July 4, 2007

22 comments:

Jerome Dancis said...

Your rewriting of "Math guru critical of math curriculum" was great. I thank you for spreading the word on this article.

It started out as my long report, Mathematics instruction in PGCPS (now on my website at www.math.umd.edu/~jnd/Math.inPG.htm) A short version was passed on to a reporter, who picked it up and ran with it.

Your readers may enjoy the original as well as these articles linked from my homepage, www.math.umd.edu/~jnd:

Large numbers of college students are relegated to remedial Algebra I and Arithmetic classes.
"More than one in four remedial students work on elementary and middle school arithmetic. Math is where students often lose confidence and give up." (New York Times)

# Literacy (writing and reading) instruction is crucial. (Excerpts from Washington Post of July 13, 2006
# And from Reading Instruction for Arithmetic Word Problems:
"Some 70 percent of [fourth - twelfth graders] require remediation [in reading]. Very few … need help to read the words on a page; their most common problem is that they are not able to comprehend what they read." This results in large numbers of students not able to read and comprehend their textbooks. From a report published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP): "Sadly, if students two to three grade levels behind [in reading] do not receive intensive literacy instruction, the results can be devastating because the struggling reader will not experience success [in many classes]."

# College professors are distressed by the low level of understanding of Algebra and Arithmetic by large numbers of students as they enter college -- even students who have taken calculus in high school. This concern prompted the local college math professors' professional association [ the MD/DC/VA section of the MAA] to issue its statement "ON MATHEMATICS PREPAREDNES [NOT]" College math professors decreed: "Students should be able to perform Algebra and Arithmetic calculations, without the assistance of calculators." This is the opposite of the MD HSA on [pretend] Algebra, which effectively mandates the exclusive use of calculators for Algebra I.

Try Singapore Math K-6 Textbooks -- your students will learn Math, including how to do difficult Arithmetic word problems.

A fun, critical video on how two popular Reform math textbook series: TERC and Everyday Math muck up the teaching of Arithmetic.

concernedCTparent said...

Thank you for posting that important link to your original document as well as your webpage. I will give it a proper place on my blog so that it can be more easily accessed.

I use the Singapore Math books with my 3 children and am very happy with the firm grasp of mathematics that has developed as a result. The word problems are truly wonderful and my children are becoming quite adept and working through them. They also do Kumon to build computational fluency. It seems to be working well in tandem.

We are quite familiar with Everyday Math as this is the program in place in our school district with Connected Math in the 6-8 grade... which is why we do Singapore Math at home.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.