We don’t talk enough about math, which is one of the liberal arts and well-deserving of our attention.
We don’t focus on math, because as one of the “tested subjects” under NCLB, math gets more attention as other subjects get less. Yet America continues to rank far behind other nations in comparisons of mathematics achievement. And Education Next recently reported that the percentage of US students in advanced math puts us far behind most industrialized nations, more on par with developing countries.
Many blame the widespread use of so-called reform math programs, like Everyday Math, for our continued failure.
These programs aspire to help students gain deeper understanding of mathematics and to “think like mathematicians.” But programs like Everyday Math reject conventional algorithms in favor of allowing students to construct their own processes. For example: the curriculum skips the study of long division, encouraging heavy calculator use instead.
Outraged at the “fuzzy math” their children are learning, parents have formed groups like “Where’s the Math?” With almost 900,000 views to date, this video voices their frustration.
And critics are increasingly vocal. “The truth of course, is that no one claims that knowing how to think independently isn’t important. But thinking can’t take flight unless you do know some basic facts – and nowhere is this more the case than in math,” says a New York City teacher.
Not surprisingly, the curriculum doesn’t produce results. In spite of increased focus on math, US scores remain stagnant. California adopted the reform math in the 1980’s and subsequently watched their test scores fall. Today, Everyday Math makes California and Texas’ lists of “not recommended” text books.
Leading scientists and mathematicians have demanded that the Department of Education withdraw its endorsement. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics no longer supports the curriculum.
After reviewing the curriculum, a California State mathematics professor said, “In normal classrooms with normal teachers, I would characterize these materials (the second grade material) as “dangerous”. My impression is that it would be very difficult to be sure that appropriate material has been covered adequately. … There is almost no routine practice, although a small amount is built into the activities.”
Everyday Math is currently in use in over 185,000 classrooms by almost 3 million students.