Innovative Math: But Can You Count?

Samuel Freedman:

LAST spring, when he was only a sophomore, Jim Munch received a plaque honoring him as top scorer on the high school math team here. He went on to earn the highest mark possible, a 5, on an Advanced Placement exam in calculus. His ambition is to become a theoretical mathematician.
So Jim might have seemed the veritable symbol for the new math curriculum installed over the last seven years in this ambitious, educated suburb of Rochester. Since seventh grade, he had been taking the “constructivist” or “inquiry” program, so named because it emphasizes pupils’ constructing their own knowledge through a process of reasoning.
Jim, however, placed the credit elsewhere. His parents, an engineer and an educator, covertly tutored him in traditional math. Several teachers, in the privacy of their own classrooms, contravened the official curriculum to teach the problem-solving formulas that constructivist math denigrates as mindless memorization.
“My whole experience in math the last few years has been a struggle against the program,” Jim said recently. “Whatever I’ve achieved, I’ve achieved in spite of it. Kids do not do better learning math themselves. There’s a reason we go to school, which is that there’s someone smarter than us with something to teach us.”

This sort of thing is happening in Madison as well. Much more here.

One thought on “Innovative Math: But Can You Count?”

  1. The reported observations below of the school administrators on rising test scores are not surprising; the same education schools that turn out Investigations, Connected Math, and Core Plus also turn out the people who write the tests. It’s no wonder that the students score well on them. It’s not teaching to the test, but tailoring the test to the teaching.
    “Not surprising, school officials here paint a wildly different picture of the new math curriculum than do the critical parents. They point to a slip in Penfield’s scores on standardized math tests and Regents exams in the late 1990’s as a catalyst for changing the program. They also note that since the introduction of the constructivist curriculums – Investigations for elementary school, Connected Math for junior high, Core Plus for high school – those scores have risen gradually but steadily.”

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