Ms. Green’s NYT article strikes several chords with me, Larry, geometry pun intended. 🙂
The first follows.
“In fact, efforts to introduce a better way of teaching math stretch back to the 1800s. The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices.”
Sadly, history tends to repeat itself in these efforts constrained in some sense by time-honored notions of a proper “set point” for developing mathematical proficiency. In this way, our national educational system, at least with respect to mathematics instruction, maintains a state of balance, or social equilibrium. As you’ve pointed out in earlier posts, implementation is a key element for successful, systemic change. Every earlier effort to change mathematics instruction across our nation appears to have failed miserably in this critical phase.
Math instruction took another big hit recently. “Big” because the New York Times, one of the top U.S. newspapers ran it as a cover story of its magazine section. So here again, amid the Common Core standards in math that ask teachers to go beyond the “right” answer and periodic efforts over the past century (yes, I mean “century”) to move math teaching away from learning the rules of arithmetic, algebraic equations, and geometry proofs, comes another blast at how teachers teach math.
Elizabeth Green’s well-written article (drawn from a forthcoming book) on persistent patterns (mostly ineffective) in teachers implementing the New Math of the 1960s, the New NEW math of the 1980s, and now the math Common Core standards shines yet another light on the puzzle of why teachers teach as they do. And why policy after policy adopted to change math instruction has failed time and…
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