“Math educators” have dumbed down math content in a vain effort to “engage” low achievers, charges Sandra Stotsky in City Journal.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) 1989 standards lead to “trendy, though empirically unsupported, pedagogical and organizational methods that essentially dumb down math content.”
Stotsky suggests emulating high-math-achieving countries, which “teach arithmetic in the elementary grades in a coherent curriculum leading, step by step, to formal algebra and geometry in middle school.”
Stotsky served on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, formed in 2006, which looked at how best to prepare students for Algebra 1, “the gateway course to higher mathematics and advanced science.”
The panel found little if any credible evidence supporting the teaching philosophy and practices that math educators have promoted in their ed-school courses and embedded in textbooks for almost two decades. It did find evidence for the effectiveness of a highly structured approach to teaching computational skills, called Team Assisted Individualization; of formative assessment, which entails ongoing monitoring of student learning to inform instruction; of the use of high-quality technology for drilling and practicing; and of explicit systematic instruction for students with learning disabilities and other learning problems.
Stotsky was the chief writer of Massachusetts’ highly regarded standards.
Reporter Beth Fertig of WNYC is following the fortunes of remedial math students at a New York City community college. Most hope that more education will qualify them for better jobs: 10 of 28 students passed the first quiz.
Also check out Math Matters by the Hechinger Institute. While written as a guide for education writers, it offers a useful perspective on the math wars.