The end of fuzzy math

By Murray Bourne, 01 Jan 2007

The US National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has reversed its 1989 stand on the best approaches for teaching mathematics. In the earlier attempt, teachers were encouraged to allow discovery learning and to move away from rote learning of multiplication tables.

In the article, Parents Know the Right Equation for Teaching Math, in "Human Events" we read:

Before the 1989 mistake, U.S. students ranked No. 1 in international mathematics tests. Since then, U.S. students have dropped to 15th, far behind the consistently high performance of Singapore and Japan and behind most industrialized countries.

The article is simplistic and one-sided, as expected from a "conservative national weekly". As usual with many commentaries on education, they are taking one variable and milking it for all its worth. Discovery learning is still important, as is rote learning. And there is far more to learning than international math tests.

Meanwhile, there was excitement in Tacoma, Washington about the new Saxon math textbooks (link no longer available) which were due any day:

The district is letting teachers and principals decide whether to use Saxon, a more traditional approach to math, in combination with the district’s existing “integrated” math programs that emphasize understanding of the concepts behind math.

Oh, so we make students learn facts and don’t worry about their conceptual understanding? I see. That will really help them to apply what they learned later.

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