Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Everyday Math, constructivist education, and Olentangy

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth

Everyday Math and Olentangy: This is a great video on the differences between traditional math and the current flavor of the constructivist, Progressive education in vogue at districts such as Olentangy. In fifteen minutes, you will understand why district students struggle through math.

You will also find yourself wondering why the administration adopted such a mess. Simply ask Olentangy's Executive Director of Elementary Learning why the district continues to embrace failed programs such as Everyday Math. I can only imagine his response.

The video's M.J. McDermott is able to effectively explain the issue since she has not been inculcated into the current education mess. She is a successful user of math; not some educationist living the life of PT Barnum's fool.

Constructive Education and Olentangy: The constructivist education philosophy is centered on teachers and students being co-equals in the discovery of knowledge.1 The teacher holds no special place since knowledge is relative, therefore the simple understanding of a third grader is equal to the supposed learned knowledge of the professional teacher.2

Constructivism is an application of Progressive education, the pedagogy - philosophy - that has permeated public schools for over to a century. As these ideas have taken greater hold of education - most notably since the Sixties, student achievement has gone downhill - this despite a tremendous influx of dollars and technology.

Even though constructivist math - fuzzy math - had been a failure for years, Olentangy decided to adopt the Everyday Mathematics program for its students. Well, the district will not say they have adopted Everyday Mathematics. Instead, the district will use doublespeak to say that they have adopted their curriculum maps, and not any single math program. But that simply confounds means with ends.

The maps are the ends, the definition of what is to be learned - the equivalent of architectural blueprints. The textbooks are the means to achieve the ends - the building tools and materials. Funny, your tax dollars pay for Everyday Mathematics textbooks yet the district staff do not even claim that they use the textbooks to teach math. Staff members say the books are simply a resource, similar to putting a child's plastic hammer in the toolbox instead of the steel hammer.

Go ahead and ask your administrators about Everyday Mathematics, you will hear them spin a tale of educationist gobbledygook. Hold on to your own head so that it doesn't counter spin in response.

[1] Check out rantings of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and The Teachers College Record from Columbia University's prestigious Teachers College.

[2] Administrators and teachers who buy into this philosophy may actually be the overpaid, co-equals of their students.


Anonymous said...

You've got to love You Tube. Type in "teachers" or, better yet, "angry teachers" and you get some nice surprises.

Here's an angry teacher poet:

Anonymous said...

My 4th grade son and I just got a great laugh watching the You-Tube video on the insane ways that children are now taught math.

There is no question in my mind that this has a lot to do with why American school students graduate with a pathetic level of basic math skills. I'm sorry, but in today's money driven society, basic math is a skill that people simply can't do without.

Anonymous said...

As a student at olentangy, I do admit to not being able to understand math as well as I should. I wonder why I am learning this when I wont use it in real life. But on the contrary, all you do is bash olentangy, and it's administrators, what are you doing to help the situation? Because your sure as heck not helping me with all your whining. You do a lot of talking, and not enough action. Let me know when you decide to stop all your whining, and start doing something constructive.

Jim Fedako said...

If you are indeed a student - who knows with the internet - you had better be pushing the schools to assist your math studies. Otherwise, you will be left behind in the increasingly global market. You will be harmed, yet your teachers and administrators will be retired at 52, on a pretty nice pension.

I'll leave the constructive part to you, as you have much more to lose than my tax dollars. I simply want the district to quite wasting my dollars on nonsense. You need them to give you a chance to succeed.

Push hard, and don't allow the staff to waste your precious time, and your parent's precious money.

Good luck.