Rainforest Algebra 800 pages of
junk vs. 200 page japanese book that just teaches algebra.
From: "B. Rice Aston"
Subject: Rainforest Algebra
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 1998 17:52:48 -0600
From: "B. Rice Aston" <
Subject: Rainforest Algebra
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, January 26,1998
CONTACT: B. RICE ASTON,
713-850-7186 VOICE
713-621-9312 FAX.
EMAIL: bra@hal-pc.org
RAIN FOREST ALGEBRA COMING TO
A SCHOOL DISTRICT NEAR YOU
HOUSTON, TX.
A sharply divided State Board of Education has adopted an Algebra
textbook that is well designed to preserve the low performing status of
Texas 8th grade algebra students. Addison Wesley's Secondary
Math: An Integrated Approach. Focus on Algebra ("Focus on
Algebra") has been jestingly nicknamed Rain Forest
Algebra because of its disdain for traditional math and its
over emphasis on non-math subject like the environment, hostility to
energy companies, chili recipes, myths of West African cave dwellers,
and marginal poetry. The book is over 830 pages long. A book on the same
subject in Japan, sans the sociopolitical rubble, is only 200 pages long,
and not surprisingly Japanese students do far better on 8th algebra exams
than U.S. students.
Focus on Algebra is available to Texas school
districts, thanks in part. to some members of the State Board of
Education who are more concerned with sociopolitical indoctrination and
self esteem than with education.
Focus on Algebra has been panned throughout the U.S. A
few of its critics are: Mathematically Correct, a California web site
for better math, Education Reporter, National Monitor of Education, John
Leo at US News and World Report, Marianne Jennings, a professor at
Arizona State University, Richard Askey, a professor of Math at
University of Wisconsin-Madison, and US. Senator Robert Byrd, D- W VA.
Senator Byrd went out of his way to make a speech on the floor of the
U.S. Senate to disclose the low quality of this book and the harm it can
cause. He said:
leftLet me quote from that opening
page.
'In the twenty-first century, computers will do a lot of the work that
people used to do. Even in today's workplace, there is little need for
someone to add up daily invoices or compute sales tax. Engineers and
scientists already use computer programs to do calculations and solve
equations.'
"What kind of a message is sent by that brilliant opening salvo? It
hardly impresses upon the student the importance of mastering the basics
of mathematics or encourages them to dig in and prepare for the difficult
work it takes to be a first-rate student in math. Rather it seems to
say,
'Don't worry about all of this math stuff too much. Computers will do all
that work for us in a few years anyway.'
Can you imagine such a goofy passage in a Japanese math textbook? I ask
what happens if the computer breaks down or if we forget and leave the
pocket calculator at home? It appears that we may be on the verge of
producing a generation of students who cannot do a simple mathematical
equation in their heads, or with a pencil, or even balance a checkbook.
"It is not just nonsense, it is unfocused nonsense, which is even worse.
Mathematics is about rules, memorized procedures and methodical thinking.
..Another useful purpose has been served by my personal perusal of this
textbook. I now have a partial answer to my question about why we don't
produce better students despite all the money that Federal taxpayers
shell out.
Ms. Marianne Jennings, a professor at Arizona State University, whose
daughter used the book, didn't like it either, for she wrote:
leftThey learn that fossil fuels are
The Devil's handiwork. They discuss toxins in the environment. They read
Maya Angelou's poetry. They write essays on why parallel sentence
structure is similar to parallel lines…"..chili recopies, the roles that
zoos play in our society, myths of the Dogon cliff dwellers in Central
Africa. It's a two Tylenol headache to find your homework assignment
amid all the rubble ---which ultimately fills 812 pages…In Japan a good
math book for students of the same age has about 200 pages. Yet Japanese
students regularly outperform their American counterparts (3d in the
industrialized world in 8th grad math vs. 28th)..I share mathematics
Professors Richard Askey's (Math Department of University of Wisconsin)
low opinion of this book.
The Textbook Selection Committee of each local school district is now
selecting algebra textbooks that will be used far in the future. The
committee members would be well advised to consider the problems with
Focus on Algebra raised by Senator Byrd and others when it selects an
algebra textbook. The child whose algebra education is affected, may be
yours.
B. Rice Aston
Texas Education Newsletter
Full texts of the above may be found at:
Senator Byrds' full speech is at http://www.intres.com/math/byrd.htm
John Leo's comments in US News and World Report may be found at
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/mathman/johnleo.htm. .
Marianne Jennings full comments may be found
http://www.csulb.edu/~ttl/math41.htm
Mathematically Correct web site is
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/mathman/index.htm
Professors Askey's comments are at
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/mathman/aw.htm
Alternatively, an email copy may be obtained by sending request and
identifying article desired to bra@hal-pc.org
<<<<<<<<
EDUCATION CONSUMERS CLEARINGHOUSE