Monday, January 22, 2007

The results don't compute

Dr. W. Stephen Wilson has a simple study that asks, then answers, the question, "Are our students better now?" The Johns Hopkins math professor simply compared his students in 2006 with those he taught in 1989.

The surprising result: Even though the students in the two classes separated by almost two decades had very similar math scores on the SAT, the current level of performance in Wilson's class shows students ill-prepared for college-level instruction.

The real shame is that 1989 stands as the year that math education in US public schools began to become fuzzy due to recommendations from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). NCTM is an organization comprised of public school math teachers, not mathematicians or math professors.

The recommendations published in NCTM's Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (1989) opened the door for the math equivalent of whole-language. The waste product of these recommendations are programs such as Everyday Math. In addition, many schools have adopted NCTM recommendations as the basis for their curriculum (Olentangy utilizes both Everday Math and the NCTM recommendations - it's no wonder that more than 30% of district graduate require college remediation).

What's to be learned? One: Fuzzy math is an expensive and worthless means to teach math; despite what the education colleges and your local administrators and teachers claim (see previous post Everyday Math - A big waste of time and money). Two: The SAT is not the best indicator of college preparedness.

Additionally. The students in school today are your children. Get involved and ask the hard questions, and don't accept a muddled response. Demand proof that the math programs work. But don't be shocked if not valid proof can be produced, as none exists.

Finally. Don't expect much change without a fight. Absent a free market, the government school monopoly has little reason to change, especially given that public schools support the fuzzy concepts over real learning.

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