Student Math & Writing Skills

I have a friend that teaches at MATC–she tells me that she is shocked at the lack of math and writing ability of the Madison high school students coming to MATC’s two year technical programs. MATC is very important to Wisconsin’s future. What is happening at the high school level that these students are not prepared properly? Anyone have any thoughts?

3 thoughts on “Student Math & Writing Skills”

  1. Is it just Madison graduates?
    How long has your friend been teaching?
    Where else have they taught?
    I ask these questions because a problem confined to Madison is different from a more general problem; because a new problem is different from an old problem; and because one’s impressions and expectations of skill levels are shaped by one’s experiences.
    Anecdotal evidence requires context.

  2. I shared some of my thoughts and experiences re math in a separate comment –
    As an approach, my personal feeling is to start with the question – Are Madison’s children prepared to be successful after high school in college, in a technical program, in a job, etc.? If not, in what areas are our children weakest in their knowledge skills? What do our children need to know, specifically, by what grade – and do they have this knowledge? I know there are standards, but I feel the standards are too general to be useful in many instances. This “feeling” is based upon reading the standards, working with the math curriculum, for example, and becoming increasingly concerned that a good “chunk” of our children do not have basic math skills down by the time they reach middle school. I don’t know if this has always been the case; but, given today’s world, I don’t believe children can be successful without these basics (addition, multiplication, subtraction, division, fractions, decimals, for example) in place by the time they enter 6th grade.
    I know there are those who speak of drill and kill. I always hated memorizing facts. When I took organic chemistry, I complained to my professor about the “waste” of time memorizing certain forms. I preferred solving the problems in organic chemistry – liked the puzzle aspect. Basically, he said “that’s tough.” He also said, to become better at solving the puzzles I enjoyed , I had to learn, and commit to memory, certain material. As I learned more organic chemistry, the memorization would become easier, and I would be able to solve more complex problems. Darn if he wasn’t right:)

  3. My feeling is that math has become so abstract for students and not just in high school. Many elementary teachers are supposed to be more concerned with “how” the student got the answer than teaching them ways that have worked for years. Learning addition, subtraction, multiplication tables, etc. seem not to be important to many administrators in MMSD anymore.
    It has long been proven by study after study that students who are good at Geometry tend to have a harder time with Algebra and vise versa. I would hope that the curriculum people can get back to what worked well for many years for many generations.

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