I’ve quite enjoyed watching You Tube’s’ and reading articles on both sides of the ‘math wars’ and just wanted to share another college professor’s comments as a counterpoint to the perspective offered above. Probably not the best one available but it will open up a few more videos on this hot topic. (Really, I secretly wonder whether his appeals to me because of his laidback and non-confrontational manner. What a cutie. How’s that for an intelligent and critical thinking response? Ha ha.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9skRrnN2_HU&feature=related

(BTW, he’s responding to another little movie available on You Tube called Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth. And, one whose ‘feel’, I have to admit, rubs me the wrong way.)

I’m thinking the age of the students is a factor here. The article is referring to elementary education and DebRoss’ response is more focused on high school math. I’m very interested in my little home-mathies (9, 7, 5) being able think through math as the ‘new math’ (not so new, actually) advocates. We’ve done no algorithm-based and even very little written math work and I LOVE the way they can think mathematically. My eldest recently had to write a provincial ‘foundational skills’ test and he basically figured his way through the math portion having previously done nothing that looked like ‘old math’ (knowing how to use standard formulas to divide, multiply etc.).

However, if my kids were preparing for some sort of profession-based college level math (for engineering or whatever), being able to use the complicated formulas and algorithms that they would actually need for those courses would be important! I’m guessing their math-play at a young age will give them the flexible thinking skills and confidence to learn all the formulas and algorithms they will need to work efficiently and competently with the complex ideas that high school (college prep) math requires.

However, the major factor, I think, is the trouble inherent in teaching any system (new or old) in an industrial-based school model. Me thinks new math is partly bearing the brunt of misplaced criticism. Kids likely aren’t learning their math because of the school system itself not the type of math they are learning.

A few thoughts on summer morning.

]]>Thanks so much for the info (eye-opening indeed) and the link to your post. I’m heading over to read it now.

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My husband is a mathematician at an engineering college. The ability of incoming students to do the math needed for college has been declining for a while. This summer, the math department hosted a seminar for high school math teachers so that they could learn the difference between what graduating high school kids need to know in math, and what the New York State Standards promote. It was a real eye-opener for the teachers. I write about this in the blog post.

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