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Back to Dec. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 143 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS DECEMBER 1997
What Happened to
Mathematics Education?

This is an introduction to issues that have been raised concerning changes to mathematics education in the public schools in San Diego and other areas of California.

In San Diego middle schools, the school district is implementing a math program called CPM (College Preparatory Mathematics). It is a part of a so-called Reform in math education being introduced from kindergarten to high school.

In practice, as implemented in San Diego and elsewhere, this approach:

  • Reduces the material that students are expected to learn ("dumbs-down math").

  • Virtually eliminates the teacher role as an information provider.

  • Demands a very large time commitment to writing about math at the expense of doing math.

  • Demands group work and group grades, and restricts questions of the teacher from individuals.

  • Reduces knowledge and accuracy in the parts of math that actually do get done.

  • Greatly reduces practice and drills as educational tools, so basic skills don't become automatic.

  • Promotes dependence on the use of calculators, and basic arithmetic suffers as a result.

  • Has been reported by teachers to produce inferior results.

  • Leaves students poorly prepared for later science and math courses.
CPM is just one example of the Whole Math that is coming to our schools. In spite of the fact that educators and school districts are recommending these changes to mathematics instruction, this new approach is meeting with opposition as parents become aware of what is happening to their children. Middle school and high school math is vitally important to subsequent mathematics and science education and to careers in today's society. These changes even affect elementary school children.

There is a very real possibility that our children will suffer due to the implementation of these unverified curriculum designs.

Glossary of Terms

Mathematics: The science of structure, order, and relation that has evolved from elemental practices of counting, measuring, and describing the shapes of objects. It deals with logical reasoning and quantitative calculation.

Math: A shortened version of mathematics.

New Math: A change in the perspective of mathematics education in the early '60s that emphasized set theory, and has nothing to do with the changes to math education today.

Whole Math: The current revolution in mathematics curriculum, akin to the Whole Language experiment, that emphasizes group discussion, essays, calculators and guessing, and de-emphasizes basic skills and direct instruction.

Complete Math: A term used by the math reform movement to avoid using the term Whole Math.

New-New Math: Another term for Whole Math, used in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Reform Math: Another term for Whole Math, used by the proponents of these changes.

Fuzzy Math: A reference to Whole Math, probably originating in Palo Alto, CA.

Fuzzy Crap: A reference to Fuzzy Math, attributed in print to Maureen DiMarco, then the California State Secretary of Child Development and Education.

Mickey Mouse Math: Another term for Whole Math, not believed to have originated in Anaheim.

CPM: (College Preparatory Mathematics) A variety of Whole Math to be given instead of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

IMP: (Interactive Mathematics Program) Another variety of Fuzzy Math to be given instead of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.

MathLand: One of many versions of Whole Math for primary grades, possibly related to the use of the term Mickey Mouse Math.

Algebra Lite: A reference to CPM and similar Fuzzy versions of Algebra.

Placebo Math: A reference to Whole Math from the biomedical research community.

MTV Math: A reference to Whole Math texts used in the Wall Street Journal.

Compulsory Pedagogical Manure: One parent's characterization of a new math program.

The above was taken from the "Mathematically Correct" web site:
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/mathman/

For further information about the controversy over math standards, see the Wall Street Journal,


 
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