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Don't Hurry Math

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Pennsylvania is learning the hard way that modernizing math instruction does not always further comprehension. The state’s students are faltering in math placement tests, in spite of demonstrating achievement elsewhere. As a result, colleges and universities are having to rewrite textbooks and add remedial courses so their students can catch-up on math concepts and skills.

The college math professors in the state blame the emphasis placed on student testing combined with introducing higher-level math to increasingly younger students. “Many bright students are hurried through algebra and trigonometry courses on their way toward statistics and calculus,” said Marie Wilde, chairwoman of the mathematical and information sciences program at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylavania. Wilde agrees that "teaching to the test" has contributed to the gap in student math skills.

Parents in Pennsylvania's upper Bucks County successfully lobbied their school district to add a traditional math program that focuses on the basics this fall.

9 Comments

As a kindergarten teacher, I learned early on that sometimes "the faster you go, the slower you get there." Although this is counter-intuitive, it's also true. In our rush to exceed, we are failing to excel, as this article points out. Some students, but not all, are capable of doing calculus in high school. By "raising the bar" for all students, we are, in fact, hurting the majority of them.

This article hits the facts. For the eight years I have been teaching, I have stated this same point. Legislators keep dictating that children at the younger ages are exploring such higher levels of mathematical concepts, that the basics are being lost. We need to focus on the basics at the younger levels and allow the students to explore the higher concepts at older ages. And please, would the "powers that be" accept that not every student needs to or should take calculus!

How many have considered the link between math acheivement and the use of Kodaly vocal music as the tool to internalize K-6 math formulas? For documentation go to tcjs.com and read an article in the March issue of the Twin Cities Jazz Society titled "March is Music in Our Schools" by Vicci Johnson. There is a doctorate thesis you will find of interest.

How many have considered the link between math acheivement and the use of Kodaly vocal music as the tool to internalize K-6 math formulas? For documentation go to tcjs.com and read an article in the March issue of the Twin Cities Jazz Society titled "March is Music in Our Schools" by Vicci Johnson. There is mention of a doctorate thesis you will find of interest.

This professor appears to remember a time that never was. Every generation going back to the 1800s believes that theirs was better than the new students coming up. The facts don't support it, and this college teacher has nothing but a personal impression. Considering the increase in students (both in numbers and percentages) going on to college, plus the increase in non-traditional students (with families and jobs going to school on top of that), is it surprising that the skill set she is seeing appears lower? Yet she lays the blame on a specific program. That isn't research: it's bias.

i will like to share the resources with you. thank for your information.

thanks

I agree with Michael--it's easy to err when making judgements based on memory.

There are two themes in the article that I am seeing more and more of. One is "teaching to the test," and the other is shoving the curriculum down into lower grades. Despite the fact that nobody advocates these approaches, they are frequently implemented--to the detriment of learning AND test scores. Why? It begins to look to me like self-sabotage, or some sort of passive-aggressive "you can make me do it but you can't make me like it," response to reform.

I teach middle school special ed. math and science. I also have a 13yo daughter entering high school in the fall and a 9yo son who just finished 3rd grade. My daughter is designated high honors, and my son is designated highly gifted. This year, I remember consoling my tearful son as he struggled with concepts that were simply DEVELOPMENTALLY inappropriate. He just could not get his third-grade brain around it, gifted though he is--it was stuff that should have waited til late fourth or fifth grade, when a child's ability to comprehend abstractions is more deeply developed. Fortunately, it wasn't a key element of the curriculum and the class quickly moved on. Elementary school is a place to learn how to enjoy learning math and engage in the concept development of math from a variety of perspectives. If they are trying to create a generation of kids who could be great at math but hate it, they are doing a good job.

I appreciated reading the insightful perceptions that the Middle school teacher brought up on the subject of enjoying math in Elementary school. My 9 yo son also finished 3rd Gifted. He was also ahead in Math but does come across the abstracted or way off the ordinary math problems or concepts that I have to break it down myself too. He has also been enrolled in several different types of Math enrichments courses. Kumon is one of them and the director is really pushing him to finish pre-algebra by 6th grade and finish algebra by 8th to concentrate on more advanced level math classes in HS for College credits! Is this too much or appropriate for parents to support this curriculum track? I don't want my son to be disillusioned by the subject in the long run.

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  • Sandy Seiler: I appreciated reading the insightful perceptions that the Middle school read more
  • Deborah Koslowsky: I teach middle school special ed. math and science. I read more
  • Margo/Mom: I agree with Michael--it's easy to err when making judgements read more
  • godwin ekerette imoh: i will like to share the resources with you. thank read more
  • Michael Paul Goldenberg: This professor appears to remember a time that never was. read more

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