K-12 Math Curriculum: A Visit With UW Math Professor Dick Askey

UW Math Professor Dick Askey kindly took the time to visit with a group of schoolinfosystem.org writers and friends recently. Dick discussed a variety of test results, books, articles and links with respect to K-12 math curriculum. Here are a few of them:

  • Test Results:

    Wisconsin is slipping relative to other states in every two year NAP (sp?) Math test (4th and 8th grade). In 1992, Wisconsin 4th graders were 10 points above the national average while in 2003 they were 4 points above. Wisconsin students are slipping between 4th and eighth grades. In fact, white and hispanic children are now performing equivalent to Texas students while Wisconsin black students are performing above Washington, DC and Arkansas (the two lowest performers). He mentioned that there is no serious concern about the slippage.

    30 years ago, the United States had the highest % of people graduating from High School of any OECD country. Today, we’re among the lowest. We also have a higher drop out rate than most OECD countries.

    Said that he has asked Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater twice in the past five years if our District asked for and received corrections for the current connected Math textbooks.

    Mentioned that CorePlus is evidently being used at West High but not Memorial

    Asked why these math performance declines are happening, he mentioned several reasons; “tame mathemeticians”, declining teacher content knowledge (he mentioned the rigor of an 1870’s California Teacher exam) and those who are true believers in the rhetoric.

  • Books:

    Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States

    The Schools by Martin Mayer

  • Links:

    Ralph Raimi’s Technical Commentaries on Mathematics Education and History

    Paul Gagnon Finding Who and Where We Are:

    Most college curricula offer no rescue. In the modern American university, nobody takes responsibility for what is taught. Faculty members avoid prescribing any subject matter in particular. The participatory democracy of curriculum making somehow always manages to end at the same point: Anything must be declared to be as good as anything else, lest the balance of departmental enrollments (and faculty positions) be disturbed. The arguments are not, of course, so crudely put. We academicians are too skilled at spinning high reasons for low acts. Letting students ignore the events and ideas that have shaped them and their world is called freedom of choice. Amnesia becomes liberation. The notion that freedom can proceed only out of requirements is too deep for us, especially at budget time, and as enrollments fall.

    If American education is ever to be made democratic, so that, as deTocqueville said, democracy may be educated, nothing will be more crucial than a common, sequential study of history throughout the elementary and secondary years. Only history, and particularly the history of Western civilization, can begin to help us find who we are and what choices we may have before us. But history is also, in Clifton Fadiman’s words, a generative subject, upon which the coherence and usefulness of many other subjects depend. It is essential to a serviceable view of art, architecture, drama, and literature, of the evolution of the natural sciences and social sciences. These are high claims for the uses of history, but they are justified by the aesthetic and intellectual experiences of countless Westerners, stretching back through time from Churchill to Thucydides. And such claims must be kept uppermost in mind, for otherwise it would prove impossible to decide what is most worth teaching out of the enormous mass of historical data facing us.

    Daniel T. WIllingham: The Cognitive Scientist: Do Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners Need Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Instruction?

  • Kathy Esposito’s Isthmus article: New Math, New Questions

I suspect we’ll be hearing much more from Dick on this subject.

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