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Education Reporter

Parents Speak out for Math Basics
Parents across the nation took the opportunity to share their concerns about math this fall. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (NMAP), created by President Bush last year, traveled to ten cities to hear public comments on the state of math education. The panel will incorporate these comments in a report to President Bush and Secretary of Education Spellings in February.

In many cities, parents frustrated with "fuzzy math" dominated the public forum. They complained that teachers confused their children by introducing convoluted ways of solving problems long before the students had grasped the basics.

"There's been a sizeable movement in many communities to counter the New Math movement," said Larry Faulkner, the panel's chairman. "We've heard some pretty passionate opinions."

Many parents also complained that schools had "cozied" them along by sending home A+ report cards in math. In truth, the students had learned to jump through a few hoops, but not to perform simple arithmetic operations. One St. Louis mother, for example, tried to enroll her 7th-grader in an honors math class, since her daughter had straight A's in math. "The coordinator stated our daughter was not honors material. I was shocked!" The student had scored only 37% on a standardized math test. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9-7-07)

NMAP released in September the findings from a survey of 743 algebra teachers, most of whom seemed to share parents' concern about student preparation in lower math. The teachers reported that students entering Algebra I were poor to fair in their understanding of fractions and decimals, and in their ability to solve word problems or real-life situations using basic arithmetic.

The algebra teachers blamed the students' lack of motivation and their parents' lack of involvement for the problems they confronted in Algebra I.

"This is pretty compelling data," said panel member Tom Loveless. "This survey shows that students not only lack the skills but also the study habits."

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