Monday, December 9, 2013

Another Very Inconvenient Truth About Math Education

I just responded to Daniel below. He was commenting to a NYT editorial on math education. I've included some of his response.

Daniel Willingham
What the NY Times Doesn't Know About Math Instruction
12/09/20131 Comment

"A New York Times editorial on December 6 called for improved math instruction, calling the current system "broken." Although I agree we could be doing a better job of teaching math, the suggestions in the editorial showed a striking naiveté about what it will take to improve."

Now for my reply...


Dave Marainlink12/09/2013 8:38am

Some excellent points made here but sadly one could read editorials and letters on this topic from every decade for the past 40 years and I have and little has changed. Experienced math educators have forever recognized the problems identified here but what substantive change has occurred other than more testing and expecting more accountability from teachers who are expected to change water into wine.

Helping young children develop conceptual understanding of numbers, operations, relationships (spatial as well) requires specialized training that is not currently the norm in teacher preparation. We are very good at appointing commissions to draft world class standards and creating more ambitious testing but not very good at providing prospective and current teachers with the training necessary to implement these ambitious changes. THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS HERE. It requires a sea change in teacher preparation and an investment of time and money that no one up to now has been willing to make. The money is out there to make this happen but saying we want to be the best is very different from preparing to be the best. There will always be fads and theories about how to improve the education of our children. But it's not rocket science to figure out that changing standards and assessments is putting the cart before the horse. Teaching children HOW to think isn't easy but it is doable. A young NFL player who happens to have majored in math was asked how math could help him with football. He replied, "It's all about problem-solving." Perhaps we should be listening more to young people like this...


Alana Gilliam said...

I completely agree about the teacher preparation. This is my 4th year teaching. The way I taught my first year was similar to my preparation from college but my teaching now is more problem solving based. I believe we need to create students to be problem solvers that can make sense of mathematical problems.

Dave Marain said...

Thank you, Alana. Imagine if we actually trusted professionals like you to determine what form of PD and preservice training would be the most effective. But that would require RESPECT for our profession. ..