## Wednesday, March 12, 2014

### Case for the new math curriculum

I have seen many pictures, articles, and petitions on why the new math needs to leave our schools.  Here is a quick explanation, and "Myths around the new math curriculum".

First, I want to ask you to determine what is

82-19

Take a moment and complete it.  Don't worry there is no test, just please don't use a calculator.

The answer is 63.  Now did you:

1) Borrow one from the 8 to get 7(12)-19, then say the ones are 3 and then 7-1 is 6, so the answer is 63?

2) Did you add 1 to 19 to get 20, then added 60 to get 80, then added 2.  Finally, added 1+60+2 to get 63?

3) Did subtract 20 from 82 to get 62, then added 1 to get 63?

4)Did you do it a different way?

Finally, which way is the best way?  Which way should your child learn?

If you answered "NUMBER 1 MUST BE THE WAY TO DO IT" you are in favor of the old math curriculum.

If you answered "Number 1,2,3, or 4 is a way to do it" then you are in favor of the new math curriculum.

Myth: Discovery Math is a mandatory strategy to be used in K-12 curriculum.
Fact: "Discovery" or any synonym, cannot be found anywhere in the curriculum at all.  The government tells the teachers WHAT to teach, but not HOW to teach.

Myth: The teachers are simply no longer teaching children.
Fact: The teachers are not teaching each child the same.  Differentiated instruction is now part of the classroom. Students A, and B may be taught differently; one with manipulatives, one with without, based on the needs of the child.

Myth:Children don't need basic math facts.
Fact: Basic math facts are part of the curriculum.

Myth: Students are becoming dumber.
Fact: While the PISA score has dropped 2%, the students who wrote the last PISA test were taught in the old curriculum.  Therefore, if you think this is a problem you should be advocating for the new math.

Myth: Teachers hate the new math.
Fact: Teachers have the choice and autonomy to teach however they want, and therefore some extremely creative and innovative things are occurring in classrooms.

Lastly, if your child comes home with a different way of completing math than you were taught, then ask them to explain how they are solving the problem.  Lets not forget that there is not only ONE way to solve a problem.

#### 1 comment:

1. Would that things were quite this cut and dried. There are definite problems in the CCSS-Math, but to analyze them fairly, it's vital to distinguish between the Content Standards and the Practice Standards and then to try to suss out where any given critic's objections lie. There are those who object mostly to how the CCSS-M has pushed topics down to developmentally-inappropriate grades at the primary level. In order to "raise the bar" at the high school level, the designers of the Common Core forced many topics to be taught at earlier grades than previously, without apparent consideration of any findings in developmental psychology. Taking that approach, there's no reason not to think that at some point, CCSS-M, Mark II will demand that topics be pushed to even earlier grades, so that maybe factoring quadratics will be 4th grade topic, or something even more absurd will be considered, well, the standard. If we may safely ignore the notion that kids' ability to learn some ideas is age/development-dependent, then the sky can be lowered as much as we like. Calculus in the womb, perhaps?

Then there are those who focus on the "failure" of CCSS-M to have explicit calculus standards (according to Bill McCallum, that was unnecessary given that we have a national standard for h.s. calculus. It's known as the AP curriculum and exam). Well-known critic of thef NCTM Standards, UC-Berkeley emeritus professor of mathematics R. James Milgram seems to be such a critic, refusing to sign onto the CCSS-M because, he claims, it's just not world class (at least not at the elite end, which, frankly, seems to be Milgram's only interest). I believe it's pressure from Milgram and the faction of the mathematics community he represents that resulted in the first issue (ignoring developmental appropriates) become "necessary." I have little empathy for Milgram's concerns. I don't buy the phony argument that we are losing some international competition to grow an ever-bigger supply of professional mathematician The economic facts don't support the so-called STEM crisis, leading reasonable people to wonder what is the exact agenda of mathematicians, politicians, and other interests pushing this particular myth.

Milgram is also part of the coalition that opposes the Practice Standards. These are a clear carry-over from the NCTM Process Standards from the 2000 volume PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS OF SCHOOL MATHEMATICS. Many who oppose them have done so for decades. Others are being sold that such pedagogy is "awful" through tired arguments that had no validity 25 years ago and haven't grown in truth (though they maintain their ability to sway many who have little insight into what mathematics actually is or how it can be more effectively taught).

There are some of us who object to the Common Core primarily because it's been foisted upon the nation in a dishonest and stealthy manner, backed by billionaires, multi-national mega-corporations, and other profiteers, with a political agenda that is anti-democratic and fundamentally anti-education and anti-child. The horrid incursion of the concomitant high-stakes tests, the absolutely clueless roll-out (a far better way to do reform on this scale would be one grade per year starting with Kindergarten or first grade), all combine to make this a guaranteed disaster.

I, for one, see far more difficulties with the big picture than with anything in particular in the content or practice standards. I think this is a bad political reform, not a nuanced educational one. But unfortunately, too many in the other camps described are getting most of the media attention.