In “Too little math in math?,” the Seattle Times looks at the Washington state math revolt. While the governor is announcing plan to adopt “international standards for math and science education so students can compete globally,” parents have organized to demand better math textbooks.

. . . parents say the schools aren’t giving students a strong foundation in basic arithmetic. One example they cite is an October OSPI review of student mistakes on the 2006 WASL that indicated confusion about the meaning of “remainder” in division; how to represent fractions in decimal form; the differences among perimeter, area and volume; and when to use diameter or radius in a formula.

Parents in the protest group, Where’s the Math?, are buying Singapore math books for their children.

I have a 7, 8 and 11-year-old in public education.

I’ll tell you what the question is. It’s not “Where is the Math.” It is: “Where are the Teachers”?

I can tell you without hesitation that the teachers my children have had are deficient in math, spelling, grammar and other basic abilities.

They simply CANNOT TEACH WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW.

Yes, teachers are faced with a plethora of student behavioral issues and instructional/administrative issues. But the honest-to-god truth is, if all of those were removed (in my experience) many, if not most, teachers simply do not have the basic competence and understanding of any given subject to relay it to students. (And my district is realtively wealthy, high-reputation, and isn’t uncompetitive re: ability to recruit teachers.)

You cannot teach what you don’t understand.

University/college educational programs have foisted an imposter class on our children.

The following is from the early 1980s report on US education entitled: “A Nation At Risk”:

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Findings Regarding Teaching

The Commission found that not enough of the academically able students are being attracted to teaching; that teacher preparation programs

need substantial improvement; that the professional working life of teachers is on the whole unacceptable; and that a serious shortage of teachers exists in key fields.

* Too many teachers are being drawn from the bottom quarter of graduating high school and college students.

* The teacher preparation curriculum is weighted heavily with courses in “educational methods” at the expense of courses in subjects to be taught. A survey of 1,350 institutions training teachers indicated that 41 percent of the time of elementary school teacher candidates is spent in education courses, which reduces the amount of time available for subject matter courses.

* The average salary after 12 years of teaching is only $17,000 per year, and many teachers are required to supplement their income with part-time and summer employment. In addition, individual

teachers have little influence in such critical professional decisions as, for example, textbook selection.

* Despite widespread publicity about an overpopulation of teachers, severe shortages of certain kinds of teachers exist: in the fields

of mathematics, science, and foreign languages; and among specialists in education for gifted and talented, language minority, and handicapped students.

* The shortage of teachers in mathematics and science is particularly severe. A 1981 survey of 45 States revealed shortages of mathematics teachers in 43 States, critical shortages of earth

sciences teachers in 33 States, and of physics teachers everywhere.

* Half of the newly employed mathematics, science, and English teachers are not qualified to teach these subjects; fewer than one-third of U. S. high schools offer physics taught by qualified

teachers.

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I agree that it’s hard to find qualified math teachers. My eldest, who at 15 is doing math that is well beyond calculus, suffered through years of incompetent math teaching at an otherwise excellent school. But if the textbooks are decent, at least some of the kids will learn something. The Singapore Math program is pretty good, and vastly better than anything else I’ve seen in wide use for many years.

I’ve been using the Singapore Math program with my students for the past four years. I have noticed great improvements in the areas of mental math and problem solving. This year, I am also using an interactive program called Thinking Blocks that teaches students how to model and solve word problems in the Singapore style. Thinking Blocks is online and free to use. I highly recommend it. The link is: http://www.ThinkingBlocks.com