We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
If kids don't absorb the fundamentals, they will have difficulty going further. "New Math" set me back by years. The piece begins:
We need “new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test,” President Obama told the nation during his State of the Union last week. To which a clever tweeter responded, “There’s a high correlation between filling in bubbles on a test and knowing the right answer.”
I went to grade school in the 50's and 60's and did fine on good old math. Then came new math and it was all downhill from there. I don't remember any specifics about new math, but I think it was the abstract thinking that ruined me.
If kids don't absorb the fundamentals, they will have difficulty going further. "New Math" set me back by years.
According to one of my math professors, Max Beberman, one of the creators of New Math [UICSM, a.k.a. Illinois Math], told him that he did not intend for fundamentals to be slighted in favor of Illinois/New Math. Certainly the faculty brat students at the University of Illinois lab school who were Max Beberman's guinea pigs for UICSM/Illinois Math, did not lack for knowledge in the fundamentals. Unfortunately, in the hands of teachers less adept than Max Beberman,fundamentals did get slighted. I had a very good learning experience with Max Beberman's Illinois Math, but I already had a strong background in the fundamentals. From conversations with my classmates, I also got the impression that Illinois Math was good only for the top 10% or so. For others, it was confusing.
From the article:
Many of the problems with math curricula begin on the textbook level. Different states have different standards and textbook companies want their products to be used in as many states as possible, so they take a “kitchen sink” approach, putting in every topic under the sun. The results, Lawrence notes, are monsters, like one 7th-grade textbook that runs 800 pages. “If your school year is 200 days, that’s four pages a day and let’s hope no one has any questions about the material.”
Covering too many topics superficially instead of covering fewer topics in depth is certainly a problem with all to many primary and secondary math programs. While textbook creators wanting to cover as many standards as possible in as many states may add to the problem, I don't think they created the problem of too many topics.
Textbooks tend to get written by Ed School professors of math education. Many of these Ed School professors have little or no actual experience in teaching elementary or secondary math. They look at a math textbook they way they would a college class. Here is an interesting topic to cover. Here is another interesting topic to cover- remembering their undergrad years in math. Unfortunately, an average primary or secondary student will not have the capability to quickly absorb math topics they way an undergraduate math major will.
Similarly, the whole-language proponents of teaching reading took an adult's perspective. The repetition involved in a phonics program IS boring to an adult. However, a six year old doesn't find the repetition boring, but reinforcing.
The actual PISA results are very good. If you dig into them they tend to show that US school kids did very well indeed. A number of "countries" that finished above us on the list were just cities and by no means the entire country. If you look within our results you will see what you expect to find in a country with a Teacher's Union that sets lower education goals and targets for blacks and hispanics. No surprises there.