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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Algebra wins big in San Francisco -- but will kids learn times tables?

San Francisco schools should offer algebra in eighth grade, said 84 percent of voters in Tuesday's election. It was a stunning rejection of a 10-year-old anti-tracking policy that failed to achieve "equity" in math achievement. The school board had voted last month to restore a middle-school algebra option.

But many students won't be ready for algebra in eighth grade or ninth grade or ever, if they don't learn the fundamentals in elementary school, warns Michael Malione, creator of, and two colleagues in The Well News.

Students won't learn to memorize the times tables, if teachers follow the advice in California's new math framework, write Malione, David Margulies, a former IBM researcher, and Sugi Sorensen, a systems engineer and math enrichment instructor.

"Automatic recall" of multiplication facts enables students to learn multi-step math procedures, advise the National Mathematics Advisory Panel and the Institute of Education Sciences. The student struggling with 52÷7 doesn't have enough "mental energy" to understand new math ideas.

State standards require third-graders to "know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers,” the three point out. The old framework, which focuses on how to teach the standards, emphasized the importance of learning the times tables. The new framework eliminates the sentence stating third-grade students must memorize multiplication facts.

Memorization is disparaged throughout the framework with phrases such as “unproductive beliefs,” “facts devoid of meaning,” “low cognitive demand,” “arbitrary laws,” “not ‘blind’ memorization of number facts,” “unproductive notions,” etc.

The 2023 framework also changes the meaning of “fluency,” write Malione, Margulies and Sorensen.

In the 2013 framework, "fluent" meant "reasonably fast and accurate," adding that students should be able to use math facts “with enough facility” that it “does not slow down or derail the problem solver as he or she works on more complex problems.”

In 2023, that language is replaced by a warning to “avoid any temptation to conflate fluency and speed.”

"If it takes a minute to calculate 7×9," they ask, "what happens to that student when learning algebra?"

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18 comentários

Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Malcolm Kirkpatrick
23 de mar.

John Sexton: "Stanford Professor Behind California's New Equity-Focused Math Curriculum Accused of Bogus Citations", Hot Air, (ymd = 2024-03-21)

Brian Conrad: " California’s Math Misadventure Is About to Go National", The Atlantic (ymd = 2023-10-02).

Read Diane Ravitch, Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reform. The arrogance of people who would decide how other people's children must spend the waking hours between age 6 and age 18 will make your hair stand on end.

No Professor of Education paid a price for promoting the Whole Language fraud.


Chris Langland
Chris Langland
17 de mar.

Does anyone else find it amusing that the article implies 52=7*9?

Knowing math facts is critical to learning math, true. But understanding math makes handling 52/7 much easier, because no one memorized 7*7.428571....


Dennis Ashendorf
Dennis Ashendorf
09 de mar.

Sad. Remember the words "Chunking" and "Working Memory?" If it takes a minute to solve 7*9 (which my students don't know), then the problem is forgotten - that's why quick recall is critical on "facts." Facts can be considered Arithmetic, not Math. My PRACTICAL solution is to provide all students with the CASIO ES-300, 2nd Edition calculator in Pink. Show them how to use the super buttons and DEMAND that they use it on every problem, if possible. I walk around the room for over a month to help them use it smartly. A secret advantage: it gets them off their hidden phones. The Casio is a better calculator.


Bill Parker
Bill Parker
08 de mar.

I graduated in 1981, and I can remember math drills up through 7th grade making sure

we knew math facts without having to think about them (i.e. - just say the answer, boom).

I also went to school when grouping students by ability (aka tracking) was still being

practiced, and I was in a low level government class (misplaced by stupid computer)

and the teacher picked up on it, but I told him I didn't want to transfer classes, as I

saw the students in this class weren't as motivated to learn, but they learned the

material (at a slower pace)...

How things have changed since the 60's, 70's and 80's in the public school system...

No one will make…


07 de mar.

I was born in the second half of the 60's, and hit times tables about 10 years later. Already, learning math facts was gone from the curriculum. But, a teacher pulled my mom aside and told her to get flash cards and do it at home. We've had 50 years now of a de-emphasis on the fundamentals of math.

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