Are graphing calculators introduced too early? Most of the would-be math teachers in ed class with “John Dewey” thought so till a contrarian spoke up.
. . . he really couldnâ€™t see what cognitive value of teaching students the procedure for multiplying 36 x 7 when calculators were available. I was unable to keep my mouth shut. â€œDonâ€™t you think that students need an understanding of basic procedures and that place value is an important concept?â€ â€œWhy?â€ he remarked and went on to the uselessness of learning long division at which I drew the line and said â€œHow can you say that? Donâ€™t you think the distributive property is worth talking about?â€
â€œWho cares?â€ he pointed out.
In Portland, the student representative to the school board objects to the new constructivist math curriculum based on CPM textbooks. The curriculum director responded:
“In the past you just had a calculator, a book,” (Marcia) Arganbright said. “This has strings and blocks and hooks and rubber bands, it’s more like a lab.”
Ah, the good old days when students just had a calculator and a book.
Meanwhile, educators in Maryland and Washington, D.C. are trying to focus the math curriculum on the main concepts students should learn rather than introducing dozens of math topics without teaching any of them to mastery.
In the fourth grade, for example, Focal Points trims the list to three essential skills: multiplication and division; decimals; and two-dimensional shapes.
Virginia lists 41 “learning expectations” for fourth-grade math students in its statewide Standards of Learning. Maryland lists 67 in its Voluntary State Curriculum. The District has 45 standards.
Math educators are looking closely at Singapore, Japan and other countries where students can multiply 36 x 7 without a calculator.