Skip to comments.School math books, nonsense, and the National Science Foundation
Posted on 11/12/2006 8:18:39 PM PST by wintertime
Problem: Find the slope and y-intercept of the equation 10 = x 2.5.
Solution: The equation 10 = x 2.5 is a specific case of the equation y = x 2.5, which has a slope of 1 and a y-intercept of 2.5.
This problem comes from a 7th grade math quiz that accompanies a widely used textbook series for grades 6 to 8 called Connected Mathematics Program or CMP. The solution appears in the CMP Teachers Guide and is supported by a discussion of sample student work.
Richard Askey, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, reported, I was told about this problem by a parent whose child took this quiz. The marking was exactly as in the text. Students instructed and graded in this way learn incorrect mathematics, and teachers who know better may be undermined by their less informed peers, armed with the solution. This example is far from the only failing of CMP. Among other shortcomings, there is no instruction on division of fractions in the entire three year CMP series, and the other parts of fraction arithmetic are treated poorly.
Is CMP just an anomaly? Unfortunately not. CMP is only one of more than a dozen defective K-12 math programs funded by the National Science Foundation. More specifically, the NSF programs were created and distributed through grants from the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Division within the NSF. In contrast to the NSFs admirable and important role in supporting fundamental scientific research, the EHR has caused, and continues to cause, damage to K-12 mathematics education.
At the elementary school level, one of the worst NSF funded programs is the widely used K-5 series TERC: Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. The program relies heavily on calculators and does not include textbooks in the usual sense. Harvard mathematician Wilfried Schmid evaluated it and concluded that by the end of 5th grade, TERC students were roughly two years behind where they should be according to the California, Indiana, and Massachusetts state mathematics standards, the best state math standards in the U.S. Schmid added, The TERC authors are also opposed to the teaching of the traditional algorithms of arithmetic, such as long addition, subtraction with borrowing, and the usual pencil-and-paper methods of multiplication and division. Not only do they refuse to teach the algorithms, they make clear their preference not to have the students learn them outside of the classroom, either.
(snip) The root cause is money badly spent. The NSF and corporate foundations maintain a gravy train of education grants and awards that stifle competent mathematics education. Although it is conceivable that ongoing NSF grants for new editions of defective math programs, such as those I have described, will improve matters, that is a poor strategy. It amounts to throwing good money after bad. The most that one can realistically hope for is that the original NSF-funded math programs will eventually rise to the level of mediocrity.
My own children used the Saxon Math books. They were admitted to college at the ages of 13, 12, and 13. By the age of 15, all had finished all levels of college calculus ( Calc III). The two younger were graduates of our flagship state university by the age of 18 with B.S. degrees in mathematics. The oldest of these two recently finished a masters degree in mathematics.
The oldest chose accounting.
So...Parents...homeschool, privately school, or be prepared to pay big bucks to the Sylvan Centers or for Kumon. But...even though the government school parent is doing the teaching or paying for the tutoring, the government school bureaucrats will take full credit for the high test scores.
Looks more like a specific case of x=12.5. That would be a line parallel to the Y axis. It should intercept the Y axis the next time I agree with a position taken by Nancy Pelosi.
My children were admitted to college at ages 12, 11, and 12. By the age of 14, all had finished all levels of college calculus. The two younger were graduates of Oxford and Harvard by the age of 17 with B.S. degrees in mathematics. The oldest of these two recently finished a Ph.D in mathematics.
So - parents - don't listen to those who utter platitudes and easy fixes to the complex problem of public eductation.
Widely-available education is a key advantage we in the United States have over the oligarchies of Europe and elsewhere. I believe anyone can achieve anything in the U.S.; provided they take advantage of public education, have sufficient innate intelligence, and work hard enough.
What is YOUR problem? Little sarcastic aren't we? Or jealous? Sheesh.
I took a math-for-teachers class that was taught by a Drama Major who insisted that there were 'many ways' to get a variety of answers. The PhD in Math guy, who was also required to take a SERIES of these inane classes, was just rolling his eyes. The Drama Major insisted on these 'new ways of looking at math.' She was from a well-respected university here in So Cal/ they were running the program for the state.
I left after 2 sessions. My brain hurt from the confusion the TEACHER was causing. I don't think teachers understand math, and the texts are awful too.
And that is why there are so many libs, I think. hahah.
Well, aren't they special?
Actually, my kids are not any smarter than any of the kids of the posters on this message board.
Hey...They haven't won any nation spelling bee, or published a New Times Best Seller.
I thought it was pretty funny. Reading it, I could really imaging the Jones' going on about their kids being just a little better than mine at everything.
Ummm-- They might be a wee bit smarter than some of our kids. My 12 year old is still doing pre-algebra and grumbling all the way about the Saxon books.
(age 11) in intermediate algebra.
By age 12 he will be ready for college level calculus.
What? Otherwise you wind up in Iraq?
I know a number of kids who have found the Saxon books to be excessively tedious and not really good at connecting the math to the real world. If you know a child who thinks that, be advised that there are other books out there, some of which may be better for that child.
Have found the Mathematically Correct website book reviews to be most helpful. http://www.mathematicallycorrect.com/
Oh, Saxon Math doesn't have any typographic errors at all, does it?
I've got no problem with homeschooling, per se. I do, however, have a beef with people who find every single isolated instance where the public education system - one of the largest industries of in the United States - messes up, and extrapolates it as though it applied to every school and every teacher.
So...Parents...homeschool, privately school, or be prepared to pay big bucks to the Sylvan Centers or for Kumon.
Horsecrap. There's still a lot of really good math teachers out there. They learn not to depend upon a book to the exclusion of their training and expertise.
I replied because I've grown tired of people posting unsubstantiated claims about public policy.
I could easily have said - my kid is well on his way to discovering a cure for Parkinsons made out of bicycle innertubes -- and he's only 9! So Mr. Fox can just stuff it!!!
The bottom line is: anecdotes may be interesting but they are ultimately irrelevant. In my opinion, what matters when discussing public education is not outliers who did not participate in public education, but rather real, tangible, repeatable solutions for those who do.
As a nation, we need to raise the level of our children's education, or else in 50 years they will be cleaning house and doing the laundry of others. Perhaps publicly funded education is not the answer; if not, please describe a well-thought-out alternative. My belief is that publicly-funded education is a fundamental part of how we as a nation will compete in the 21st century. The key question is: how we we improve it?
Yep. That's a huge problem. We should insist that only those who are properly prepared teach in public schools.
Step one in improving our education system.
Yup, unless the world has changed and nobody told me.
I wonder how much of the "another-reason-to-homeschool" obsession with every failing in the public schools is due to the individual parent's insecurity about their own decision?
heh heh heh, good one.
No. Of course not. I'm certain my kids are just as tangible as wintertime's kids. I'm simply trying to make a point.
Good one. That still ticks me off.
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