Sunday, November 19, 2006
The first disturbing quote in the NYT article on math scores was made by a sixth grade teacher who said, "We don't teach long division; it stifles creativity." Give me a break. If students get through sixth grade without learning addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, basic word problems and basic algebraic expressions, they are in a pile of hurt. It is the teacher's job to teach these functions.
This reminded me of a co-worker's story from a few years ago. She hated anything to do with math. When I asked her how strong her fifth grade teacher was in math, her response was that the teacher didn't like math and didn't teach them. No wonder she had a math phobia.
Elsewhere in the article a parent says, "Honey, don't worry, I never could do math either". Hello. As the article states, math is a family occupation in Asian communities.
Teachers who use the excuse of "stifling creativity" are copping out on their responsibilities. Either they don't know the math or are too lazy to teach it. They give students As, parents think everything is ok, the student gets a false sense of what is required. Knowing math facts increases self-confidence. Teachers who don't or won't teach it are being unfair to students, parents, taxpayers, etc.
Perhaps we've had it too good for too long and have become too lazy. Learning math facts is not just training one's brain, it is also a key to success in a global environment. We are cheating our children and future by making excuses for students not learning math.