At one time not too long ago, it was a fairly safe bet that when you sent your kids to school they'd be learning how to read, write, do math, and a few other things. There was never a guarantee that the school would be teaching those subjects well, but you could at least rest assured that those subjects would be taught. This is no longer the case.
If you've ever taken a look at the standards set forth by such influential groups as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) or the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) (edujargon alert: high) you're no doubt aware that both groups are on a crusade to remove math and English from math and English instruction.
They've been wildly successful in this goal despite the fact that neither groups' "standards" have any evidence of success behind them. But why should a little thing like evidence stop our educators from changing what is and the way things are taught and engaging in widespread experimentation on millions of children.
For example, the NCTM are big on statistics and probability. As if it weren't difficult enough teaching plain old math, now educators are being encouraged to add in a probability and statistics strand to math instruction. Something will have to give to accommodate this extra material. There are opportunity costs and trade-offs whenever material is added.
Let's see how one state, Maryland, has handled it.
First let's take a look at Fordham's evaluation of Maryland's state math standards, instead of plowing through the edujargon ourselves.
Statistics and probability are overemphasized throughout the grades, and are sometimes too advanced. For example, in third grade, students are expected to make graphs of data using scaling before the appropriate mathematics (division) has been covered. The emphasis on patterns is excessive ... The pursuit of patterns in these standards is an end in itself with little connection to mathematics.Ya think Maryland's a little over zealous in the statistics and probability department. Wait until you get a load of their state test: Sample Items: Grade 5 Mathematics. About a third of the sample problems are statistics and probability problems. Of the math problems that remain, the math does not appear to be very difficult or computationally challenging. That's a lot of time learning stuff only tangentially related to elementary math. Come algebra time how much good do you think all that statistics is going to be? And, how much more difficult will algebra be if things like fractions aren't mastered?
Now let's take a look at what the kids in Singapore are learning in fifth grade: fifth grade placement test. Now that's math.
The Singapore kids are well prepared for algebra. The Maryland kids are well prepared for a night at the blackjack table.