Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Math wars - coming to a school near you?

Well, OK, I exaggerate for effect. But by jings, this is all very interesting. Basically there's a war raging in the US over how maths should be taught. No surprises that it's a sort of traditional v modern thing, but the extremes are pretty extreme, and if reports are to be believed then there is a real question over whether or not students are being damaged in the crossfire.

See here
and here
and here
for a few details/comments/op-eds, though be warned that these are pretty one-sided (even if they do seem fair enough to me, but what do I know?).

I'll post my own thoughts later, but would be glad to hear any comments from colleagues from the US in the meantime.


Tony said...

I don't even have my own classroom yet, and already I'm worried about getting caught in the cross-fire. Regardless of the issue, I invariably score somewhere in the middle. A little of the old mixed with a little of the new seems like a pragmatic approach to anything, including math ed. I worry that I will get accosted from both sides, since unfortunately, from what I have read and heard about from teachers, the war is very very real, and the casualties are mounting.

Pissed Off said...

The new math is awful. I teach high school and in junior college. The first day of the semester, my cahirman told us to hand out multiplication tables because kids are not required to learn them in elementary school and they need them to factor.

My advanced placement kids are being short changed also. These kids are extremely bright but, because of the calculators, they do not know basic trig and basic graphing.

I'm all in favor of teaching kids how to think. That is the way I approach my classes, but only after they really know the basics. I try to mix up my exams, some with calculators and some without. It is essential for kids to know how to approach a problem, but it is just as essential, maybe even more so, for them to know the basics.

maths teacher said...

I find it interesting to compare this with some changes that happened to the Scottish curriculum a few years back... more of which later, as it will take a long post to explain.

In the meantime, hang in there, and do what you do. At least we can still close the door and teach...