Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Salem Goes Fuzzy

As reported in the Statesman Journal, the Salem-Keizer School District has adopted a "fuzzy math" curriculum. Here we go again. Another gullible school board unable to detect the crap dished out by their district administrators and curriculum adoption committees.

To quote from the article:

The Pythagorean theorem states that the sum of the squares of the lengths of the legs of a right triangle is equal to the square of the length of the hypotenuse. But the students in Dawn Eppler's eighth-grade math class won't hear that from her. Instead, they'll grab scissors, tape, paper and a partner to figure it out for themselves.

"I will not be helping you until both of you have tried something, even if it's wrong," Eppler tells the pairs.

That's right.... the kids have to try to figure it out by themselves. Now that's a pretty efficient way to teach a theorem that's been around a few thousand years. No, the teacher can't actually directly teach the students something that she knows - how oppressive. Better to have the students spend hours cutting construction paper to shreds in cooperative groups.

Forgive my scornful tone, but it is richly deserved. I've seen this time and again. I've read all the research on these math programs. I have personal experience with their failures. I've dealt professionally with the publishers of the curricula. I've read the curriculum reviews. I know the philosophies upon which they are based are completely bogus.

And I know that the mainstream educators are completely bought it to them.

I've written at length on this issue. Just last month I wrote a long article in Oregon's Future Magazine about my own experience with this kind of math program. A math program similar to the one Salem has adopted almost ruined my daughter's math education. If we had not intervened, taken her out of school and home schooled her for a year and a half, I am certain she would be a complete math illiterate.

As it is, she struggles mightily to keep her head above water as a sophomore in Algebra 2.

As a layperson, we tend to be very deferential to the "professional" educators. So here are a few questions to see if you think what they believe is reasonable:

Do you believe that calculators should be used by kindergartners for basic computation?

Do you believe that math is best learned in cooperative groups?

Do you believe that it is harmful for a third grader to memorize the multiplication tables?

Do you believe kids should not be taught that the best way to subtract two digit numbers is the standard "borrowing" algorithm, but should decide for themselves how best to do it?

If you think these propositions sound ludicrous, you are on the opposite side of the charlatans who keep shoving their theories about how kids learn math down the throat of the schools.

Spend some time on the Mathematically Correct web site, and then tell me if you think these fuzzy math curricula are worthwhile.

I know it is hard to accept.... but these "professionals" are utterly, completely, and tragically wrong.

And our kids pay the price.

5 comments:

gus miller said...

And Democrat Mary Nolan used "fuzzy arithmetic" over at http://oregonhousedemocrats.blogs.com in posting that the $5.22 billion House Republicans allocated to K-12 for 2005-2007 is $180 million short of the "identified K-12 survival budget."

I wonder if Mary's "survival budget" recognizes that $5.22 billion is an 6% increase over $4.9 billion allocated for 2003-2005 and that additional funding increases are coming from local property taxes, state and federal grants etc.?

Anonymous said...

Rob:

It found it facinating that you described the problem and then Kimberly Cambell responded by making the very excuses you warned parents they would hear. My two favorite excuses from her were:

1) that one shouldn't place too much emphasis on the reasearch into these methods (since they don't support her theory)

2) that these theories aren't working because the teachers aren't doing them right.

Besides being condescending her overall point was "Yeah, we failed for last 50 years but it's the teachers fault. Just give us a few more decades and we'll get it right."

No thanks.

Instructivist said...

That's right.... the kids have to try to figure it out by themselves. Now that's a pretty efficient way to teach a theorem that's been around a few thousand years. No, the teacher can't actually directly teach the students something that she knows - how oppressive. Better to have the students spend hours cutting construction paper to shreds in cooperative groups.

Sometimes I think the very idiocy of the progressive/constructivist ideology is its great strength and helps its perpetuation. This may sound like an odd statement, but my reasoning is as follows: I think normal people -- who should be mounting the barricades and chase these constructivist charlatans out of town -- simply cannot imagine the sheer absurdity of making non-instruction one of the core tenets of an educational creed. Non-instruction in schools of all places! What sane person can conceive of something like that?

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