I wonder how many parents are sitting around the kitchen table trying to help their children with their math homework. It used to be that children in elementary school could come home and if they needed help, they could turn to their parents. With the infusion of New or Fuzzy mathematics in many of the New Hampshire classrooms, many parents have no idea how to help their kids.
First let’s look at WHY this seems to be sweeping this state like the plague. For those who do not know how the No Child Left Behind Act works, essentially schools are now held accountable to state standards. Not a bad idea to have accountability among our public schools. The problem is that many of our states have set poor academic standards, mathematics included. The NH assessment (NECAP) is based on poor math standards per the Mathematicians at the Fordham Foundation.
New Hampshire set the math standards and geared them in a New/Fuzzy direction. Another name for this approach to learning is: Constructivism. This is an ideology where the student essentially is left to discover math rather than giving them direct instruction. In addition to believing children can discover math on their own, these programs introduce children to confusing and time consuming algorithms that many parents never learned. There was no need to learn them, the traditional algorithm worked well. What changed? Some people think that learning four different ways to add, subtract, multiply and divide is a good idea.
The problem is, many students become confused and often times, never fully master one of those concepts, leaving them deficient in basic math skills. In addition to these common problems and because this is so time consuming, these student begin falling behind their peers who use a more traditional systematic approach to learning math. Of course you also have the issue of parents who are unable to help their children with their homework. This is even more of an issue for children who maybe in a situation where parental involvement is lacking or simply not there.
This can be confirmed by looking at the top performing countries where students are ready for Algebra I sometimes by 6th or 7th grade. Most students in this country beginning Algebra I in 9th grade, putting our students a few years behind their peers in top performing countries.
Some students in this country fortunately do not fall into this trap. Angelicum Academy, a home-school curriculum, uses: Saxon Math. If you look at their web site, you can see how those students begin Algebra I by 7th and 8th grade.
The National Math Panel recommended that all students be prepared for Algebra I by 8th grade.
Students are not ready for Algebra I by 7th or 8th grade because of the slow process of these NEW/FUZZY math programs. No parent or educator wants to push students to perform at an unreasonable level, but since we know this is possible in home-schooling, and in schools who use a more traditional approach to teaching math, it’s obvious to see the National Math Panel’s recommendation is a reasonable expectation. One needs to ask their Superintendent, what they doing to meet this recommendation by the National Math Panel.
They could be ready if they would replace some of the NEW/FUZZY programs with programs like Saxon or Singapore Math. These programs use an approach that doesn’t leave students confused or behind.
If you’ve heard the criticism that schools now teach to the test, this could easily explain why so many NH schools are adopting these kinds of FUZZY programs. If the NH standards are geared towards FUZZY math, it makes sense that schools would want to align with that test. If students fail to meet state standards, schools risk losing federal funding. By NH adopting this Fuzzy approach through the State Department of Education, local school districts will and have begun aligning to meet those standards. Follow the money.
All across the country, many parents have formed grassroots organizations to fight these programs in their public schools. Web sites like www.nychold.com or www.wheresthemath.com or the New Hampshire math advocates at www.mathwizards.wordpress.com have all decided to try to educate parents and seek the removal of these programs from the classrooms.
If you find yourself unable to help your children on math homework or if you find your child frustrated over their inability to master basic math chances are good, your child is a victim of one of the NEW/FUZZY math programs.
Some of the more popular NEW/FUZZY math programs showing up in the NH Schools are: Everyday Math, Connected Math, Investigations, TERC, etc.
The first step to improving math education in NH is by changing the math standards. Many states have taken the analysis from the Fordham Foundation and improved their math standards. I keep wondering why this is not a priority of the Lynch Administration or the Democrats who now control the legislature in New Hampshire.
Once the standards are improved, only then will we see the quality of math improve in the classrooms.