Math Correct Cease Fire Terms
c:\doc\web\98\05\cease.txt
Date sent: 3 Apr 1998 09:28:36 -0800
From: "Mike McKeown"
Subject: Math War Cease-Fire?
To: "Mike"
Subject: Time: 9:18 AM
OFFICE MEMO Math War Cease-Fire? Date: 4/3/98
For Immediate Release
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/mathman/cease.htm
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Mathematically Correct
April 3, 1998
Toward a Cease-Fire in the Math Wars
On several occasions, Richard Riley, Secretary of Education, has called for
a cease-fire in the "math wars" that now rage across the country.
Concomitantly, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and
other educator groups have lashed out at the mathematics standards
development in California, have continued to develop their position through
the use of commercial public relations firms, and have dug themselves deeper
into the trenches of their so-called "reforms." These actions do not appear
to be directed at a resolution of the conflict or a resolution of the dismal
state of mathematics education in America.
Whereas, Mathematically Correct finds that compromise and resolution of the
"math wars" are not forthcoming; and
Whereas, Mathematically Correct seeks to promote greater mathematics
achievement for our children and all of the students of America; and
Whereas, Mathematically Correct finds that the so-called "reform" movement
in mathematics education has taken misguided directions that are not
beneficial to the students of America;
Therefore, we hereby offer to NCTM and its offshoot organizations the
following guidelines designed to promote both "math peace" and a more
efficacious mathematics education for all:
1) Demand greater mathematics knowledge for teachers
The deficiencies of the mathematical background of our teachers is an
embarrassment as well as a hindrance. Encouraging the placement of
well-prepared teachers in secure classrooms should be the first order of
business. Our universities must provide a deeper treatment of mathematics
for our future teachers, and greater mathematics knowledge must be required
for teacher placement.
2) Stress that standards of learning must have yearly benchmarks
Effective standards detail content-based learning objectives at least for
each year/course of the curriculum. While the NCTM documents belie this
approach by their use of the name "Standards" there is no excuse for not
clearly directing the development and use of real standards by states and
districts.
3) Admit that weak programs have resulted from following NCTM guidelines
Whether intended by the NCTM or not, seriously deficient curriculum
materials have been written in the name and spirit of alignment with NCTM
and now are found in many schools. This fact must be admitted and condemned,
otherwise there remains defacto support of these programs.
4) Refrain from promoting any theory of learning or method of teaching
Diversity in the student population is no excuse to promote methods such as
constructivism or cooperative learning over methods such as direct
instruction. The well-prepared teacher is skillful in a variety of
approaches and in deciding which approach to use in specific classroom
situations. Any guiding document on mathematics education should avoid
promoting one
approach over others.
5) Encourage frequent objective tests to monitor student progress
The use of objective tests of student knowledge and skills has been much
maligned. Regardless of whatever other measures are used, students should
also be able to do well on these more traditional, objective indices of
achievement. The importance of frequent measures of student progress
necessitates the use of these valuable tools.
6) Keep the focus on mathematics
The key to success is not just making mathematics fun and interesting --
mathematics achievement will continue to require hard work. Diverting time
and attention away from the mathematical focus with projects and activities
that contain little mathematics is self-defeating. Similarly, skipping among
unrelated topics in a misguided effort to increase interest destroys the
mathematical focus.
7) Refrain from promoting heterogeneous grouping or repudiating
homogeneous grouping
The use of heterogeneous grouping and disdain for homogeneous grouping is
without empirical basis and may detract from the learning potential for all
students. Any guiding document on mathematics education should avoid these
issues.
8) Admit that arithmetic and algebra are the key elements of the early
curriculum
Arithmetic and algebra have continually been stumbling blocks for many
students. Rather than a reason for mathematics education to shy away from
these areas, this is a reason for increasing the emphasis on and attention
to these subjects. The putative changes in mathematics have been used to
justify broadening the scope of math education to the point of detracting
from these important areas, and their rightful emphasis must be restored.
9) Include symbolic skill-building, abstract mathematics, and repeated
practice
Not all learning in mathematics must or should be based in applications.
Even when the ultimate objective is real-world application, the acquisition
of skills and knowledge may often require more abstract and fundamentally
pure mathematical material along the way.
10) Reinstate an emphasis on proof and mathematical justification
The de-emphasis on proof and the casual approach to mathematical reasoning
have been harmful to this important feature of mathematics. The gradual
development of formal logic and proof must begin earlier in the curriculum
and be given greater emphasis.
11) Emphasize that algorithms should be taught, understood, and used
Algorithms and operations are not evil, but in fact are techniques to be
taught, understood and then used to make processes more efficient and thus
make room for further advancement.
12) Delete the list of topics for de-emphasis
The NCTM "Standards" contain a list of topics for de-emphasis that has been
taken to an extreme, including NSF-funded programs that eliminate these
contents. Whether intended or not, the list has resulted in great harm and
must be eliminated.
13) Indicate that calculators and computers should be used sparingly
The advances of technology proceed at an alarming rate, making it all but
impossible to evaluate their impact on education. Introduction of these has
to be assumed to place learning at risk unless it is done conservatively,
including a large portion of class/curriculum/tests that do not allow
technology.
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Mathematically Correct is a nationwide organization of parents and others
concerned about mathematics education in the United States. For more
information about Mathematically Correct, see 2+2=4, the Mathematically
Correct Web Site at
Contact
Michael McKeown
Mathematically Correct Co-Founder
619-453-4100 x1683