A while back I quoted from a piece written by one Barry Garelick as a Quote of the Day, and later in The George Orwell Daycare Center. He has a new piece out, linked at the Education News website, entitled Mathematics Education: Being Outwitted by Stupidity. Excerpt:
In a well-publicized paper that addressed why some students were not learning to read, Reid Lyon (2001) concluded that children from disadvantaged backgrounds where early childhood education was not available failed to read because they did not receive effective instruction in the early grades. Many of these children then required special education services to make up for this early failure in reading instruction, which were by and large instruction in phonics as the means of decoding. Some of these students had no specific learning disability other than lack of access to effective instruction. These findings are significant because a similar dynamic is at play in math education: the effective treatment for many students who would otherwise be labeled learning disabled is also the effective preventative measure.
He includes this graphic:
Preceded by this:
Over the past several decades, math education in the United States has shifted from the traditional model of math instruction to “reform math”. The traditional model has been criticized for relying on rote memorization rather than conceptual understanding. Calling the traditional approach “skills based”, math reformers deride it and claim that it teaches students only how to follow the teacher’s direction in solving routine problems, but does not teach students how to think critically or to solve non-routine problems. Traditional/skills-based teaching, the argument goes, doesn’t meet the demands of our 21st century world.
As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the criticism of traditional math teaching is based largely on a mischaracterization of how it is/has been taught, and misrepresented as having failed thousands of students in math education despite evidence of its effectiveness in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.
(My emphasis.) You know, the time period that produced the scientists and engineers who took us to the moon using slide-rules.
Reacting to this characterization of the traditional model, math reformers promote a teaching approach in which understanding and process dominate over content. In lower grades, mental math and number sense are emphasized before students are fluent with procedures and number facts. Procedural fluency is seldom achieved. In lieu of the standard methods for adding/subtracting, multiplying and dividing, in some programs students are taught strategies and alternative methods. Whole class and teacher-led explicit instruction (and even teacher-led discovery) has given way to what the education establishment believes is superior: students working in groups in a collaborative learning environment.
Remember that John Taylor Gatto placed “the great transformation which turned schools from often useful places (if never the essential ones school publicists claimed) into laboratories of state experimentation“ at 1965 – at least in the major metropolitan areas. I graduated from high school in 1980. This essay, and that graphic is just further evidence that I got out while the getting was still good. Read the whole thing.
Oh, and the comments, from which comes this from reader Caroline:
I have three kids and am a veteran mom of nine Fairfax County VA public schools. The math teaching here has been uniformly abysmal, but as a parent who bought into the FCPS public relations mantra that we’re the BEST, I wasn’t sure why my kids struggled (I’m pretty sure now). They are all gifted (one went to Thomas Jefferson HS for Science and Technology).
Example: In third or fourth grade, my daughter “got” how to calculate an irregular area using multiplication, but was told she had to do the math several different ways, one of which was something to do with counting all the little lines that extended from the area on a grid. I didn’t even get it. All it did was totally confuse her, and then lay the groundwork for many cries over the years of “I HAVE to do it the TEACHER’S way, or she’ll be MAD. I can’t do it YOUR way or MY way!” What a lesson!!
That’s what my grandkids are subjected to. Then there’s this, from reader “wintertime”:
After spending several years working with the cub scout and tutoring programs in our church, I am convinced that the **only** children in our county who are learning to read, and do basic arithmetic ,have parents who aggressively **”afterschool**! Honestly, in working with these kids who do **not** have parents who are literally homeschooling after school ( “afterschooling”) it is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.