February 20, 2007

Selling Snake Oil

(Cross posted at KTM II)

Now this takes audacity.

To the unsuspecting reader this article in the Cincinnati Recorder starts off innocently enough:

Elementary students in the Kings Local School District won't be learning arithmetic next year - they'll be learning mathematics.

According to Angie Thompson, Kings elementary curriculum specialist, there is a difference - and it can make a child more successful in math.

Can you hear the local tutors licking their chops? I swear they are behind all of this. Who else benefits as much?

Pity the elementary students of the Kings Local School District in Cincinnati--they're in store for a bumpy ride the next few years.

It's bad enough that they're going to lose arithmetic. But, they also going to be getting "mathematics" and you know what that's going to be:

The district is getting rid of arithmetic, which consists of memorization of math concepts and procedures for solving problems, in the elementary grades.

The replacement is mathematics, a more unprocedural, inquiry-based approach to math.

First they masterfully redefine "mathematics" but then they follow it up with a brutally honest description of the snake oil--"a more unprocedural, inquiry-based approach." New math now with 60% more poison.

Students will be asked to develop a deep understanding of number concepts and how numbers relate, so they can better understand how to solve problems, why they're solving the problem and be able to find their own method to reach the solution, Thompson said.

More honesty. Students aren't going to "develop a deep understanding of [math]." We know that's impossible. They are only going to be "asked to develop a deep understanding." Many will choose not to answer. We will call these kids unengaged slackers and label them "learning disabled."

The teachers' roles are no longer showing the procedure and having them practice over and over," she said.

"Teachers are being taught to teach in a way that's different from the way they were taught. The way they were taught was very fragmented. Nothing ever connected.

If they think that topics in the traditional curriculum didn't connect and were fragmented wait until they get a load of the amazingly incoherent and illogical structure of the wondrous inquiry-based math curriculum that'll soon be foisted upon them. Measuring shoe sizes one day, fun with tally marks the next, followed by each student deriving the commutative law from a pile of beans and twigs the next.

After building a solid foundation of number concepts, how numbers relate, place value and other number concepts, students will then use that knowledge to solve problems their own way and will be able to communicate their answers, Thompson said.

"As long as they can understand how they're solving it and can communicate how they're solving it, it's fine... This is what research is telling us we need to do."

Is it the research telling you to do it or the voices inside your head?

Who wants to start a Kumon center in Cincinnati?


NDC said...

What do you think of the revisions to the math curriculum in Georgia?

KDeRosa said...

Two glaring problems.

1. it was developed by people with no track record of knowing how to develop an effective math curriculum.

2. it's integrated which means i's easier to screw things up because it doesn't follow the traditional sequence.

My prediction is that it will not increase student performance.