Math Creates Spin, Reactionaries, Murderers and Even Worse: SOLDIERS!


The National Mathematics Advisory Panel released a few weeks ago its comprehensive report on the state of math education in the US. The panel recommends that algebra be treated as algebra again, among other things.

You can:

Alternatively, you can:

Pretend to read the 120page report, then select carefully a paltry 3 sentences to show your community, all of which support your political agenda and unyielding commitment to poor math education and a general lack of transparency. Although I usually find The Ridgewood Blog compelling, they’ve made a serious mistake here. They’ve assumed that Tim Brennan read the whole report to select those 3 sentences [doubtful].

Discard the report’s merits entirely. Even the Constructivists, who could embrace this report and align it with their calls for relevance, have chosen instead to be defensive and reactionary.

Friend/foe Gary Stager dropkicks the report:

“It’s easy to see how someone might think that several years worth of fraction study prepares a child for Algebra. Fractions have numerators over denominators, separated by a horizontal line. Many algebraic equations have something over something else, also separated by a line. That’s all you need to know. Right?”

He goes on:

“Children who struggle to manipulate fractions do so because the skills are taught absent a meaningful context in a culture where fractions are rarely ever used.”

Remember, Gary – fractions aren’t just numbers separated by lines, though it’s a convenient straw man. Fractions are ratios, which are, at the most basic level, comparisons of one thing in terms of another. Then we assign meaning to that comparison of values. Then we can apply it to context, if necessary.

We all do this a hundred times a day [not just in cooking recipes] – and the Constructivists should be the first to admit that.

Threaten to kill your teachers [and yourself] if they fail. It’s science, not math, but that’s ok. The issue is the same: do we meet the challenge, do we admit that we aren’t trained to meet the challenge, or do we just freak out and draw national attention? Well, someone chose that third option:

NEW BRAUNFELS — A middle school principal threatened to kill a group of science teachers if their students did not improve their standardized test scores, according to a complaint filed with the New Braunfels Police Department. [Hat Tip: Intercepts]

Lament that your students will use math. One thing schools of education don’t want its graduates to do is to make cannon fodder for that most evil institution: the United States Military!

“Patriotic or not, I feel like the Army is snatching my student away. College funding or not, I feel like the happy and prosperous life I wish for my students is somehow incompatible with conscription. Maybe it has something to do with the sentiment expressed by Kurt Vonnegut, who fought in the Second World War, that the US military today is “being treated, as [he] never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas.”” [snip]

“There’s an email in my inbox from the Conference on Math Education and Social Justice. It says teaching math in New York City helps create balance in an unjust world. It doesn’t know that it might actually send Stephanie into harm’s way.”

Please, dear diarist, if you care about Stephanie, don’t teacher her math. Keep her safe instead. Might our diarist be a former student of Monmouth’s Jim Horn?

Edwize is starting to be a daily source of black comedy. I’d enjoy it more if I didn’t know it was real and anything but uncommon.

And some just say to Heck with it! Is Algebra Even Necessary?

O math, why must ye causeth such deth and stryfe?

6 Responses to “Math Creates Spin, Reactionaries, Murderers and Even Worse: SOLDIERS!”

  1. Considering the fact that it took me two times to pass Algebra I (I barely passed it in high school, so I had to take the remedial Algebra in college before I could take Algebra II), I’m not going to touch this one. (wink).

    Although, I will say that I still hold a bit of disdain against my high school counselor who told me, “Don’t go beyond Geometry. You just don’t have a mind for math.” Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  2. ms_teacher says:

    Thanks for the link. Please understand I was speaking out of frustration. I strongly believe that if our students had a better understanding of elementary mathematics, they might be able to perform better in higher level mathematics. However as math is currently taught, I think that there are some serious gaps, but then the expectation is that ALL kids will take higher level math, even if they are not adequately prepared for it.

  3. Michelle,

    I wonder exactly how your guidance counselor would describe and diagnose that conceptual wall between Geometry and Trigonometry.

    I also wonder how he/she performed on the Quantitative portion of the GRE. If they were anything like the average guidance counselor in the United States – for the sake of argument, let’s put them at the mean – then they got exactly a 500 on the Quantitative section. That puts them at the 25th percentile among all test-takers.

    For comparison’s sake, those studying History at the graduate level averaged a 556.

    So, yes, the 25th percentile of math scorers [and remember, half of them scored below that] is advising students on which math courses to take.

    I’m not suggesting that one absolutely needs to be a scholar in a subject to make decent course recommendations, but when those with a full-time job advising students ought to be a bit further from the bottom than this disgraceful lot.

  4. ms_teacher,

    The panel’s report echoed your sentiment to a slight degree – that early mastery is an important part of succeeding in algebra and beyond.

  5. Lori says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. You make some good points.

  6. Gary says:

    Wow, this is sad. Here I am a “Gary” writing about how extensively used fractions are in our world and a different “Gary” says they are next to never used.

    Sheesh. We were left with no alternative but to home school our daughter because all public school or virtual public school options heavily pushed Everyday Math. After getting tired of seeing her lost on Math and losing interest in the topic, the Math major & teacher in me took over.

    Back to the basics. Only a solid understanding of the core or elementary math can help on the higher level math. The only calculator I really ever used in my Math major was your standard solar powered calculator. Trying to calculate e to the x was a bit time consuming.

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