A vote for new math standards

Common Core math standards are as good as the best state standards and correct common math misperceptions, writes Hung-Hsi Wu, a Berkeley math professor emeritus,  in the cover story in American Educator.

Dr. Wu, who helped write California’s math framework, praises the ”mathematical integrity” and logical progression of topics in an interview with Rick Hess.

The standards teach fractions over grades three to five, giving students enough time to learn and internalize the material, says Wu. He also likes the standards approach to learning negative numbers and moving from middle school geometry to algebra and high school geometry. Delaying algebra instruction till high school is not a problem, he argues.

However, he’s not confident teachers will be able to teach the standards.

. . .  we need better teacher preparation and improved professional development in order to stay educationally afloat no matter what the standards may be. If we cannot get better teacher preparation or improved professional development, then we would be better off with a set of standards that is at least mathematically sound.

Wu is wrong, responds Ze’ev Wurman, another veteran of California’s battle for math standards and a fierce defender of eighth-grade algebra.  Wu changed sides because he concluded “American elementary and middle school teachers are incompetent to teach algebra or prepare for it,” Wurman writes.

“School mathematics in this country is a sad joke,”, comments Michael Goldenberg, a math coach. “Knowing procedures and manipulations and calculations is great for standardized tests (which drive just about every contemporary education deform scheme) but say very little about mathematical reasoning, thinking, and or understanding.”

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