November 14, 2006
Where's The Math Makes The NYT

And the front page, at that.   Here's the article.   And here are the opening paragraphs:

For the second time in a generation, education officials are rethinking the teaching of math in American schools.

The changes are being driven by students' lagging performance on international tests and mathematicians' warnings that more than a decade of so-called reform math —critics call it fuzzy math — has crippled students with its de-emphasizing of basic drills and memorization in favor of allowing children to find their own ways to solve problems.

If you are at all interested in math education, you will want to read the whole article.  And if you want to know more about Where's the Math?, the local group featured in the article, here's their site.

Posted by Jim Miller at November 14, 2006 12:13 PM | Email This
1. It was bad enough when they tried "new math" during the '70s, "fuzzy math" is, without question, worthless. The only people that seem to like are those that don't understand math to begin with.

Of course, we now have warm and fuzzy teaching, where every child is unique and special and their feelings are always of special consideration, so the kids are screwed over from day one.

Since the state of our schools is a direct result of a unionized government monopoly that resists all efforts to change the system, we essentially have ourselves to blame. However, a few mass firings would certainly help quite a bit.

Posted by: H Moul on November 14, 2006 01:07 PM
2. And now us old timers can say "in my day". . . well, let me tell you in my day we did drill after drill in multiplication and division, and it worked. First of all it was fun, secondly it gave us a solid grounding in basic math that 50 years later still sticks with us.

I am amazed at the young people who work for me who are "awed" at my ability to do simple math in my head. What a shame, what a waste. I hope that the schools recognize that a strong foundation in basic math will allow these children to learn the fuzzy stuff later on and do quite well, but they need the basics first.

Posted by: the duke on November 14, 2006 01:12 PM
3. But if we tell them they get a problem wrong, it will damage their self esteem, they might feel that there is something wrong with them.

As long as Johnny feels good about himself screw the math, the writing, grammar, civics, history.

Johnny can feel good about himself and the welfare check will come every week.

Lack of math skills is a symptom of a disease. If we want our kids to have the math skills treating the symptom is only temporary. The disease will kill us and the bloody math scores will be an afterthought.

The disease is socialism, cloaked in liberalism with is embodied in the Democrat party.

Math skills, or any skill makes a person independent, self reliant. Socialism requires that the individual be dependent upon the state. The "progressives" which in reality are socialist, has driven the school cirrcula agenda for too long and the math scores are a symptom of this agenda to make every individual dependent up the government.

It is getting close to reality given the last election. To many people are historically ignorant, ignorant of the meaning of individual liberty, consent of the governed and limited government.

Math skills are going to be a moot issue if the current trend continues. The goal must be the return to the roots of a Constitutional Representative Republic of Limited Government and Individual Sovereignty.

Posted by: JCM on November 14, 2006 01:14 PM
4. Nicely put JCM. I will use your last sentence in my blogs "limited government and individual sovereignty" is exactly what we need. I don't need the left or the right holding my hand through life.

Posted by: the duke on November 14, 2006 01:52 PM
5. "allowing children to find their own ways to solve problems."

like any astute WA trail hiker or Boy Scout/Girl Scout troop leader on a trail, allowing everyone to find their own way is a sure way for disaster.

some basics are in need. direction. guidance. discipline. hard work. sorry, no short cuts to success. learning is not pretty. maybe in your video game. not in life. back to basics.

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on November 14, 2006 04:53 PM
6. Don't look for anything too dramatic to happen to the math curriculum in this state. The dems, who got us into this mess in the first place, are even stronger. Their plan is to raise taxes big time and increase teacher salaries, at the behest of the WEA. In two years, there will not be a single change in math curriculum, and the WASL will still be an untested unmitigated disaster, but will still be inflicted on our students.

Posted by: Janet S on November 14, 2006 04:53 PM
7. Yesterday Bill Gates said we need look to TX to model our math and science education. What I found so ironic about that is that the current TX education systems was put into place under the leadership of a former TX governor, currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Posted by: JCM on November 14, 2006 05:21 PM
8. You know what this means, JCM...Bill Gates in 2012!

Posted by: Organization Man on November 14, 2006 06:13 PM
9. Actually, the new math was harder than we remember. Try to follow this explanation with example by Tom Lehrer:

Posted by: Ferndalien on November 14, 2006 07:18 PM
10. As several people said in the NYT article, the "math wars" are as ridiculous as the "reading wars". Kids need both math facts and conceptual understanding. They need to be taught strategies, and they need practice figuring out strategies for themselves to the extent they are capable of it. They need drills, they need challenge, and they need the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and creativity of mathematics. Good math teachers understand this completely and have no trouble with the balance.

Posted by: Bruce on November 14, 2006 08:17 PM
11. Ferndalien: I remember distinctly a story problem we had when I was in the second grade. We were talking about bases at the time, and the fact that our counting system uses base 10. In the story problem, people of a particular tribe thought that thumbs were ugly, so they cut them off and used 8 fingers. Although the point of the story problem was to show how to convert from one counting system to another, I was distracted by the fact that there had to be one person in the tribe who had at least 9 fingers - and he/she was the one with the knife! Unless, of course, one of them created a finger guillotine... weird and it still creeps me out!

Posted by: Peggy U on November 14, 2006 09:35 PM
12. It is interesting that when Marva Collins, the prominent Black educator, started Westside Prep in Chicago, she used a classic curriculum which included the basics along with the study of classical literature. She, first of all believed that all children could learn. Her school accepted
children that the Chicago public school system labeled as learning disabled and behavior problems. The children excelled. Because of the Wisconsin voucher program, she was able to open a branch in Milwaukee. A good basic classic education which actually emphasizes skill development and critical thinking is more useful to children, especially at risk children than a lot of the "education fad" curriculum that has been forced on the public. Well derserved kudos to Where's the Math.

Posted by: WVH on November 14, 2006 10:14 PM
13. WVH: I have to pass this along again! Steilacoom's online school (, is public and provides exactly the type of classic education you are proposing. Please, if you have school-age kids, give this program a look. You will be astounded that such a thing exists, and that it is offered by a public school no less! Many thanks to Marsha Michaelis of EFF for pointing us in this direction!

Posted by: Peggy U on November 15, 2006 08:58 AM
14. If the people know too much math, they might figure out that Social Security is a pyramid scheme with an unstable foundation. We can't allow that! Next they will be teaching the kids logic and the scientific method, which might lead them to realize that man made global warming is bogus!
Bread and circuses only, please. Ignore those barbarians at the frontiers.

Posted by: Steve on November 15, 2006 09:51 AM
15. Thank you Peggy U, I will pass the info along.

Posted by: WVH on November 15, 2006 10:28 PM
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