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.
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