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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Missouri parent tells of "insanity" in reform classroom

Note from Laurie Rogers: Reform math, excessive constructivism, and persistent administrative arrogance and interference are not exclusive to Washington State. Together, they have sunk this great country into a mathematical Dark Ages, severely limiting the futures of millions of children and devastating our supply of STEM professionals.

Every week, I receive emails from perplexed, frustrated and angry parents, teachers and community advocates in states across America. Here is one sample, provided by a Missouri parent Dec. 8, 2010, and republished here with her permission:

[From personal email, Dec. 8, 2010]:

"Laurie,

"I think you will find it interesting that in my son's elementary school, the teachers are only allowed to teach reform curriculum Investigations in Number, Data, and Space....without any supplementation.

"When I found out that my son was sitting for 50 minutes per day during intervention time, allowed to draw, read any outside reading book, play games, or play on the computer -- I called the teacher and asked if I could send his math workbook from home that he worked in every night at home. I explained that it would be a much better use of his time during the day. I was told that I could.

"I sent the book, and quickly other parents were sending their children with the same books that were simply standard math practice with traditional algorithms. I was called to the principal's office. I was told that the book was not allowed. I was dumbfounded. My daughter, who was in that building the year before, had practiced in the same book the 2 years prior. She had the second highest score out of 400 of her peers on the math portion of the state standardized test.

"So, I clarified: 'You mean to tell me that my son can bring in a Stephen King novel, draw pictures, or play games, but you will not allow for him to better himself with math practice during math intervention?' I was told, 'That is true.' My husband and I walked out the door, and we decided to pull him out of that building that day.

"The crazy thing is that the 'games' were questions for no grade like, 'Write a chant or a song about a division problem.' Another was, 'If you met an alien who could not speak your language, draw portraits of what a multiplication problem will look like to them without using words.'

"INSANITY. Keep up the good work."

Stacy Shore, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

[Later, Stacy Shore added a side note.]

"The other very alarming element of what we have been through here as of late is what happened when one mom went in to ask for copies of the 'extension activities' (that involve the writing chants, and drawing portraits for aliens, to name just a few of the ridiculous 'activities' our kids are being forced to do). When asked if we can have copies of all activities being offered to our children, we were told that we can come in and look at them, but we cannot have copies to take outside of the school. Our kids do not bring home copies of this homework, and without a couple of us parents going in and reviewing the 'activity box,' no one would realize what our kids are being forced to do.

"Insanity. And, our children are absolutely NOT allowed to practice standard algorithms in their free time. When we realized what was going on in 'secret,' if you will, we pulled our kids and ran."



Note from Laurie Rogers: If you would like to submit a guest column on public education, please write to me at wlroge@comcast.net. Please limit columns to not more than 1,000 words. Columns might be edited for length, content or grammar. You may remain anonymous to the public, however I must know who you are. All decisions on guest columns are the sole right and responsibility of Laurie Rogers.

 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the parents who have the time and talent to pursue the public school's Administrator's decision simply drop out along with their kids. They should protect their communities with School Board presentation/confrontation for what the building level is promulgating as "education"

As a school Director I sure would rather find out in the Board meeting than in the produce section at Safeway!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately those concerns usually fall on deaf ears. Sadly most school administrators seem more interested in defending their decisions and maintaining the status quo.

Anonymous said...

WE'VE GOT TO GET THIS JUNK OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS!!

Wake Up Call!!
http://concernedabouteducation.posterous.com/

Mr. McCall said...

As a student teacher, I am learning how to teach this type of math first hand in my program. If taught correctly, new math pushes students past simply memorizing algorithms for testing to becomming mathmaticians. The goal is to have students discover the algorithm rather than memorize it - so that they develope better number sense. I think that parents who complain have their kids in schools where veteran teachers are trying to teach this math without training. Moreover, many of these paretns have forgotten the algorithms they memorized as students, so it's kind of ironic to read these complaints. The goal is for students to have conceptual number sense so that they can solve problems they've never encountered before. This is how math is taught in countries that conisistantly score much better than American students.

Laurie H. Rogers said...

Hello, Mr. McCall. Thank you for writing. I will take your comment piece by piece.

You said: As a student teacher, I am learning how to teach this type of math first hand in my program. If taught correctly, new math pushes students past simply memorizing algorithms for testing to becomming mathmaticians.

You are claiming this without proof. “New math” does not push students “past” memorization. Reform math has removed nearly all of the “memorization” from the process. With reform, students are being asked to build a house without a proper foundation.

You said: The goal is to have students discover the algorithm rather than memorize it - so that they develope better number sense.

Reformers expect students to work in groups to “discover” algorithms. As children, the students are not equipped to do it. In addition, many necessary algorithms are missing from reform math. In the process of muddling their way through this loopy, time-consuming, inefficient, ultimately ineffective process, the children become frustrated, confused, and tired of math. They most definitely do NOT develop better number sense.

You said: I think that parents who complain have their kids in schools where veteran teachers are trying to teach this math without training.

Again, you are saying this without proof. Billions of dollars are wasted every year browbeating teachers with “training” (i.e. “professional development”) in reform math. You could spend all $664 billion of America’s K-12 money on teacher training; it still won’t work because reform itself does not work.

You said: Moreover, many of these paretns have forgotten the algorithms they memorized as students, so it's kind of ironic to read these complaints.

Do you remember the history you learned as a child? Do you even remember everything you were taught last semester? Memorization doesn’t last forever. One must use something or one loses it. However, having learned it adequately the first time, older parents remember their training much more easily than today’s students who were never properly given this material, not given the opportunity to memorize, and not allowed to practice the material to mastery.

You said: The goal is for students to have conceptual number sense so that they can solve problems they've never encountered before. This is how math is taught in countries that conisistantly score much better than American students.

I agree with your first sentence. I disagree with your second. Countries that are more successful than America in teaching K-12 mathematics (and that is now a good number of them) tend to depend more on direct instruction, traditional algorithms, practicing of skills, and learning to mastery.

concerned said...

Mr. McCall,

Welcome and best wishes for a successful teaching career.

You might be interested to read a little background on "reform" math programs.

http://improvingmathed.blogspot.com/2009/06/tax-dollars-at-work-reprise.html

I'm a secondary math teacher whose spent many years trying to minimize the detrimental effects of these experimental methods.

The fact that these programs have infiltrated our schools with no proof of success is extremely UNETHICAL.

http://improvingmathed.blogspot.com/2008/12/over-8-years-later-and-counting.html

American Journal of Physics, Feb 2007 (a must read)
http://www.csun.edu/~vcmth00m/nsf.html

Best wishes in your teaching career.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. McCall,

As the mother of two daughters who got 5's on their AP Calc tests, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with highest distinction from college, I would like you to know that my husband and I are completely for traditional, tried-and-true math instruction, and we HATE the "whole math" stuff that you apparently like.

We urge you to please study this further before you "drink the Koolaid" and start actually HURTING kids more than helping them, by believing that "whole math" works. It does not!

We have no doubt that our daughters' traditional math curricula and teachers provided them with outstanding math educations to the point where they achieved at the highest levels with their opportunities wide open.

Further, we doubt they would have gone as far if they had been subjected to the "junk math" that is popular in schools today.

Would also like to point out your spelling errors in your short post, as a respectful attempt to show you that maybe parents DO know a little something compared to educators, and not just in math.

You wrote "first hand" -- it's "first-hand" (compound modifier takes a hyphen)

You wrote "becomming" -- it's "becoming"

You wrote "mathmaticians" -- it's "mathematicians"

You wrote "develope" -- it's "develop"

You wrote "paretns," but I'm sure that's just a typo for "parents"

In your last sentence, you used "that" when you should have used "which," and you wrote "consistantly" instead of "consistently"

I'm not trying to be mean to you or criticize you. But I must make the point that attention to detail is as important with proper math operations as with writing operations. When you make that many writing errors in such a short passage, it destroys your credibility overall.

Misspelled words are a red flag of a careless and undisciplined mind. I don't blame you, and am sure you are plenty smart, but schools of education are highly suspect for being substandard in the instruction of basic academic skills.

I think you're a victim of that, and hope you can take some grad courses in composition or somehow fix that, for your own sake.

Am hoping that, by pointing out these errors, you might give us non-educator parents a little more "cred." No, we HAVEN'T forgotten what we learned in school, including in math class. Yes, we DO know what we are talking about.

Maybe, just maybe, you could learn something from us. I hope you will come on over to our side in this important battle over curriculum.

Thanks!