Thursday, November 16, 2006

More on Math

I'd be negligent if I did not bring this recent New York Times article to your attention. It reports on the failure of 90's math techniques and the return of schools to more tried and true methodologies. It's a good read.

From: As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics by Tamar Lewin.
Across the nation, the reconsideration of what should be taught and how has been accelerated by a report in September by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the nation’s leading group of math teachers.

It was a report from this same group in 1989 that influenced a generation of teachers to let children explore their own solutions to problems, write and draw pictures about math, and use tools like the calculator at the same time they learn algorithms.

But this fall, the group changed course, recommending a tighter focus on basic math skills and an end to “mile wide, inch deep” state standards that force schools to teach dozens of math topics in each grade. In fourth grade, for example, the report recommends that the curriculum should center on the “quick recall” of multiplication and division, the area of two-dimensional shapes and an understanding of decimals.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Many readers of "As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics" will be interested to know that Milgram, Howe (Yale), Richard Askey (Wisconsin), Retakh (Rutgers), Fuson (Northwestern), the leaders of the math education system in Hungary (including International Mathematical Union President Lovász) and in Russia (including Ilyashenko (Cornell), Gutenmacher, Rabbot, Toom, Yashchenko and many Moscow Center for Continuing Mathematical Education team members), Namikawa (Nagoya), and Gardiner (Birmingham) and other European school mathematics leaders are behind the new mathematics programs (inspired early on by LiPing Ma) of ( The math programs are designed to bring the math competence of North American and Western European teachers and students up to that of their peers in the countries that consistently score at the top of international education rankings.'s Board group includes the likes of former Senator Bill Bradley, former Labor Secretary and current Berkeley Professor Robert Reich, Sun co-founder John Gage, and a growing list of European former Ministers of Education.

The mathematics programs encompass separate Master's Degree-earning programs for elementary and middle school teachers (starting 2007/January) as well as after-school programs (starting 2006/December), both for elite students and for students who need remedial guidance.

As will be expected by those who know members of the content team the learning approach is fundamentally different from the one of Kumon, in that it is based on fewer, harder, richer problems that develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. is at the absolute technological forefront in that the company's classrooms are set up so that the Master Instructors and program participants all see each other, from schools or their home, through high-quality Internet video, and in that the community knowledge is quickly expanded by the consistent use of wikis.'s infrastructure will soon allow it to serve, with much live and rich media interaction, some 300,000 teacher program participants and a similar number of student program participants.

In New York City is preparing to run sessions for math coaches - this as a stepping stone towards serving many of the more than 10,000 NYCDOE teachers who need extensive professional development even if strict subject specialization is introduced at the elementary school level.

For information email, with the Subject line preferably set to precisely
Policy and marketing/United States/National and Multi-State/Mathematics/General

Erik Syring

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