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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Narrow Margin

It seems that the majority of school board members in Olympia, Washington agree with me. They voted 3-2 to begin using the new textbooks that emphasize math concepts over math skills. They also seem willing to fund the changes and ensure teachers are trained in the new methods. To me, the overarching problem is that many who teach math in the early years have no earthly idea what math is. They can perform basic computations and believe that they are doing math, when in fact, they are only succeeding in boring students into permanently hating all things numeric. Why is it that we do not require math teachers to have math degrees? Why do we expect high school teachers to understand more math than elementary school teachers, when they are arguably teaching the more complicated concepts? This is a big part of the problem as I see it. If teachers are content to be just one step ahead of their students, their students will never glimpse the mysterious mathematical world ahead. They will only know drudgery and apathy.

1 comment:

H. said...

Interesting. I hadn't thought about how complicated elemenatary math can be until the past month or two, when I've been preparing high school kids for the CA high school exit exam. We've been working on place value, placing decimal numbers on the number line, and multiplication and division of multi-digit numbers. Those multiplication and division algorithms... they're hard to remember, and equally hard to explain! If students were to undertstand those algorithms, including the rules for placing commas, that would be as hard as any of the high school math they're supposed to learn now.