Underground math — with right answers!

“Renegade parents teach old math on the sly,” reports AP.

On an occasional evening at the kitchen table in Brooklyn, N.Y., Victoria Morey has been known to sit down with her 9-year-old son and do something she’s not supposed to.

“I am a rebel,” confesses this mother of two. And just what is this subversive act in which Morey engages — with a child, yet?

Long division.

Some parents are afraid they’ll confuse their kids if they teach them problem-solving procedures, but others believe their children need to be rescued from the confusion of new math curricula.

There are renegade teachers too.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Charles R. Williams says:

    I am afraid what Mrs. Morley is doing with her son is a necessity. Parents can never assume that their school system is employing an effective curriculum.

    By the way, there is important mathematical content built into the long division algorithm. It is also very helpful to students to learn to execute complex algorithms smoothly. So many of my algebra students (college level) have some level of conceptual understanding but are unable to execute the simplest procedures with any consistency. Nothing they have learned has been mastered. As a consequence they will never get the chance to enter a technical field.

  2. “What Mrs. Morley is doing with her son is a necessity…”

    Absolutely agree. I’m appalled at the lack of math skills of the 5th and 6th graders I encounter substitute teaching.

  3. I have parallel taught my kids for years and they are better for it.

    Parents must not be intimidated. You can teach a traditional math at home while they go off to learn some new-new math. That’s all tutoring is. Traditional direct instruction.

  4. Here’s my question: if parents are having to work at home to teach children correctly, trying to reverse counterproductive teaching in math class, then what’s preventing them from leaving these schools entirely?

    Are the schools doing some things right, and just this one thing wrong?Is it a lack of self confidence on the part of parents as to their abilities? Is the social contact in school a sufficient reason to keep them there? Or are they working and unable to take on the responsibility of home schooling, only able to remediate at night?

  5. As someone who does teach my kids math at home while they get Investigations and Connected Math and the like at school, I can say that I never set out to homeschool my children in any subject. I believe there’s enough involved in the parent-child relationship that I don’t want to toss in power struggles over the capital of Sweden or whether or not a verb should agree in number with the object of a preposition.

    So, while we am ultimately responsible for my children’s education, we deliberately chose a location with good public schools so that we could outsource the day to day stuff. School provides the backbeat; our family integrates the melody and provides a descant over the supper table and as we go through our days. And life was pretty good until the new math curriculum showed up several years ago.

    My children will learn math, whether or not the school district teaches them well. Numeracy is as important as literacy, IMO. And my children are bright enough to give the teachers in school precisely what they’re looking for and no more. At home, I can push them and detect weaknesses that the current curriculum lets them talk their way around.

    So we do Singapore with all the kids. I don’t feel like I’m doing “underground” math, and my kids’ teachers know that we’re doing this.

    The overall value of having them in public school is still there, even if they’re not learning math up to our family standards at the moment.

  6. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Math teaching fads go thru the system at 20 odd years intervals. Thus anyone in authority is old enough to remember the last fiasco. Educators, like stock brokers and bankers, have a cultural memory less than an adult lifetime.

  7. Independent George says:

    Progressive education: fighting inequality by making sure wealthy, educated parents spend hours tutoring their own kids, while the children of poor, uneducated parents are totally screwed. Social justice!

  8. My mom did this with me 30 years ago when New Math held sway and was driving me up the wall. Set theory is nice and all, but in the real world we need to be able to divide and work with fractions, which is what I wasn’t getting in the mess of New Math.

  9. Independent George says:

    Ricki – at least the old new math involved actual math. The new new math involves more writing than math.

  10. Alpinejewel says:

    As a teacher, I am required to teach math this way. You need to remember that teachers are at the beck and call of the administrators. I have often had discussions with the math department about the lack of knowledge of basic math facts. I drill my students every week on basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts. I teach fourth grade and find that most students come in with little basic fact knowledge. Many teachers are afraid to drill because it is not what they are suppose to be teaching. I have been teaching for over 20 years and I know that this “Math” shall pass for something “new” is a few years.

  11. I’m afraid I don’t understand what the criteria schools use for passing students in mathematics would be. I homeschool, and someone from the district was kind enough to give me the Everyday Mathematics teachers manuals when the schools changed to a newer version. I’ve scoured all over and see no cut-and-dried “if Janey doesn’t have an 70 percent average, she remains in second grade” sort of cutoff. I see that the report cards are marked in “beginning, developing and secure” in a given area (say, “tell time to the minute accurately” or “identifies polygons”).

    I had been given to understand that this was a very scientifically-proven program, but without knowing what the standards are, I suppose I will teach the EM curriculum the “traditional” way and just move on to the next concept when I think my children understand it. I am simply marking down their grades on each “Unit Review” as a test and counting 80% and above as a passing grade in my teacher book. (I admit to pulling that number out of the air, just so I would have a standard to go by.)

    But I don’t understand the need for a math “war.” I have two older children in public schools and can think of other things to fight about. I’ve blogged on this and I think (!) I linked to your post. There is so much to this issue. Thanks for reading my novel.

  12. Having to teach “real” math at home to counteract the Mathland curriculum our eldest was being exposed to at school was just one more thing that led us down the path to homeschooling.

    I started to realize that my children were “doing school” twice a day — there were more issues than math, such as an almost nonexistent middle school English curriculum (the teacher liked her gifted class to regularly spend classtime listening to books on tape!) — and maybe once was enough.

  13. Mother Earth says:

    Give it a few years for this latest “new math” to go the way of “whole language” and “magic writing”. Intelligent parents will see this for what it is — another attempt to “mystify” education and perpetuate the misconception that only “experts” can teach. Parents who really care about their kids education will wisely ignore the trend and quietly teach their children how to actually DO long division, etc. How sad that they’ll have to educate their kids against their school’s wishes…..

  14. Carl M. Bennett says:

    The basic concepts of elementary math are few. Understand them and them learn to “Do the Math” using the common methods of arithmetic. see below: “PASS IT ON”! —
    “A Two Page Algebra Book”
    By
    Carl M. Bennett, BEE; MS3

    Mathematics is a language for expressing precise, logical ideas. The basic language of mathematics is common Algebra.

    Algebra is based on the definitions of two rules of how to “operate on” or combine two real numbers to form another real number, and five other definitions of the characteristics of these operations needed to make Algebra logically consistent and practical as a language of logical thought.

    The first rule is called addition or the “+” operation on two real numbers.

    For two real numbers a, and b, a + b is defined as the real number c which is equal to the combined value or “sum” of the numbers a, and b.
    For example 3 + 5 is defined as 8 or 3 + 5 = 8.

    The second rule is called multiplication or the “x” operation on two real numbers.

    For two real numbers a, and b, a x b is defined as the real number c which is equal to the combined value or “sum” of the number b added to itself a times.
    For example 3 x 5 is defined as (5 + 5 + 5) = 15.

    To be logically consistent and practical, both of the above operations, addition (+) and multiplication (x) must have the four basic characteristics defined below.

    1 – Both addition (+) and multiplication (x) must be “associative” in character.

    This means that the order in which we associate and add the numbers a + b + c, gives the same real number. That is to say, if we first associate and add (a + b) and then add c, or we first associate and add (b + c) and then add a, we get the same real number.
    For example, (3 + 5) + 7 = 15 gives the same result as 3 + (5 + 7) = 15.

    This also means that the order in which we associate and multiply the numbers a x b x c, gives the same real number. That is to say, if we first associate and multiply (a x b) and then multiply by c, or we first associate and multiply (b x c) and then multiply by a, we get the same real number.
    For example, (3 x 5) x 7 = 105 gives the same result as 3 x (5 x 7) = 105.

    2 – Both addition (+) and multiplication (x) must be “commutative” in character.

    This means that the order in which we add the numbers a, and b, gives the same real number. That is to say, if we add a + b, or we add b + a, we get the same real number.
    For example, 3 + 5 = 8 gives the same result as 5 + 3 = 8.

    This also means that the order in which we multiply the numbers a, and b, gives the same real number. That is to say, if we multiply a x b or multiply b x a, we get the same real number.
    For example, 3 x 5 = 15 gives the same result as 5 x 3 = 15.

    3 – Both addition (+) and multiplication (x) must have the “identity” characteristic.

    This means that for addition (+), there must be a real number, I, when added to any real number a, always gives, a + I = I + a = a. For addition (+), this “identity” is I = 0.
    For example 5 + 0 = 5.

    This also means that for multiplication (x), there must be a real number, I, when multiplied by any real number a, always gives a x I = I x a = a. For multiplication (x) this “identity” is I = 1.
    For example 5 x 1 = 1 x 5 = 5.

    4 – Both addition (+) and multiplication (x) must have an “inverse” characteristic

    This means that for addition (+), a real number b is the addition (+) “inverse” of any real number a, if and only if a + b = 0. The addition (+) “inverse” for any real number a, is the “negative of its real value”, defined as “minus a” or -a, since a + (-a) is always equal to the addition (+) “identity”, I=0, that is to say a + (-a) = 0, for all real numbers a, of both positive or negative value.
    For example (-5) + (-(-5)) = (-5) + 5 = 0.

    For simplicity we often write –5 + 5 = 0 = 5 – 5, but 5 – 5 is mathematically, actually 5 + (-5). The “minus (-) notation” only tells us that -a, is the negative in value of a. Thus minus (-) is not actually a valid algebraic operation on two real numbers like addition (+) is, since the minus (-) operation is neither “associative” nor “commutative” as defined above.
    For example, 7 – 6 = 1 is not the same as 6 – 7 = (-1).

    This also means that for multiplication (x) a real number b is the multiplication (x) “inverse” of a real number a, if and only if a x b = 1. The multiplication (x) “inverse” for any real number a, is the reciprocal of its real value, defined as the real number (1/a), since a x (1/a) is always equal to the multiplication (x) “identity”, I=1, for all real numbers except zero = 0.

    Zero has NO multiplication (x) “inverse”, since (zero) x (any real number) = zero, thus not the multiplication (x) “identity”, I=1, as required for zero to have a multiplication (x) “inverse”.

    This is why “division by zero”, for example, a x (1/0) or a /0, is NOT allowed in common Algebra.

    For simplicity we often write, for example, 25 / 5 = 5, however; 25 / 5 is mathematically, actually 25 x (1/5) = 5. The “divide (/) notation” only tell us that a number is the “inverse” of a real number. Thus divide (/) is not actually a valid algebraic operation on two real numbers like multiplication (x) is, since the divide (/) operation is neither “associative” nor “commutative” as defined above.

    For example, 8 / 2 = 4 is not the same as 2 / 8 = 0.25 or the rational, real number, one quarter, (1/4).

    To be logically consistent and practical, both of the above operations, addition (+) and multiplication (x) must have the one additional basic joint characteristic as defined below.

    5 – Multiplication (x) must be “distributive” over addition (+), that is,

    a x ( b + c ) = (a x b) + ( a x c ) and ( a + b ) x c = (a x c ) + ( b x c ) for all real numbers.

    The above “rules and characteristics” define common Algebra. Every logically and mathematically correct manipulation of any algebraic equation involves these “rules and characteristics” or a composite of them.

    © Carl M. Bennett, 18 August 2006. May be reproduced only for educational and research purposes.

  15. Carl M. Bennett says:

    Enjoy!

  16. When I read stories like this, I really begin to wonder if the “Deliberate Dumbing Down of America” theory is true. Why else would State and local governments around the U.S. demand public schools abandon Math teaching methods that have worked for 5,000 years in favor of methods that would obviously reduce numeracy?

    I guess that the less numeracy, science, literacy, history, and civics people understand, the easier it is for politicians to lie to them and get away with it. It also produces generations of good “worker bees” that will do what they’re told without question… Scary stuff.