Puff Piece, Dept.

Just read a rambling article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Maureen Dowd that points fingers and doesn’t come to any conclusions. Main point: math ed has been bad in GA for many years so why blame Common Core.

Citing parents’ laments that they wish math could be taught as it was 30 years ago, Dowd asks whether this is really a solution. She states: “But did students learn math more effectively a generation ago? When the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies evaluated numeracy skills of adults in 23 countries, 20 outperformed the United States.”

The study cited aggregates populations from ages 16 to 65. Thus, there are different types of math teaching people were exposed to based on age. However she leaves out this finding, stated in the study: “In the study, people from ages 16-65 in over twenty countries, including the U.S., were given the same exam consisting of math computations and word problems. According to the study, “the percentage of U.S. adults between 55 and 65 years old who scored at the highest proficiency level (4/5) was not significantly different than the international average for this age group.”

She also cites Elizabeth Green’s NY Times article from a few years ago (Why American’s Stink at Math) and pulls this quote:

“The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices. The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.”

In other words, the methods of math reform would work if they were only done right–but they’re never done right. There is much to contest there.

Lastly, she talks about Japan’s “integrated approach” to math, which Georgia will emulate. Japan isn’t the only country to take an integrated approach to math in high school; many European countries do this also. But they do it fairly well. The U.S. has done a horrible job of it; one need only look at the integrated approaches used here: IMP, Core Plus, MVP math.

In short: A typical puff piece that refuses to look at research that would upend the opinions expressed in the article.


2 thoughts on “Puff Piece, Dept.

  1. “There is much to contest there.”

    There are so many problems and so many layers and these people can’t separate them. It’s all guess and check. They claim to know about mathematical understanding and problem solving, but they fail at it miserably, especially the part that requires them to be honest about all of their cargo cult assumptions.

    The biggest changes since I was young are two related areas: full inclusion and less individual grade-level mastery enforcement of skills. The two go hand-in-hand and they are what Everyday math is all about. Spiraling (circling) through the same concepts year after year with the hope that kids will learn naturally when they are ready. I still remember one mother complaining that three of her kids in different grade levels were covering the same material over again. A related big change has been the lower slope CCSS from Kindergarten to grade 12 without regard to helping kids make the transition to high school traditional high slope AP/IB math starting in 7th grade. All of my son’s STEM prepared friends in high school had to have help at home and with tutors.

    When I was in grade school, if you didn’t pass specific mastery tests, your parents would see it on your quarterly report card and you had the possibility of summer school or staying back a year … in K-6. Nowadays, my son had wordy rubrics with portfolios of fuzzy feedback and little enforcement of mastery – only at a very low state test level. NOBODY is held back unless there is a real developmental problem. Modern ed-school think denigrates mastery and praises words because mastery separates and fuzzy rubrics and words do not. Students in K-6 never learn to properly do individual P-sets. By high school, it’s all over and no amount of Pre-AP math will repair the damage.

    Average yearly statistics won’t see all of the work being done at home by us parents to cover for those changes. When our K-6 school changed from MathLand to Everyday Math, they saw marginal improvements. That was partly because MathLand was so bad, and partly because they were trying harder to get everyone up to the minimal state test levels. Then we parents covered for them at the higher level with our kids at home.


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