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The History of New Math – Follow the Money

February 9, 2011


Here’s a fascinating article by a mathematician, Barry Garelick, who delved into the world of ‘math education wars’ through his children, tutoring others, and working at Capitol Hill.  While it was written in 2005, it is still relevant today.

Link to: The New A-MAZE-ing Approach to Math: a mathematician with a child learns some politics

He shows how all the new math texts – Connected Math, Discovery Math, Everyday Math – were all created through grants from the NSF (National Science Foundation) supporting NCTM’s (National Council on Teachers of Mathematics) new standards in 1989 which “de-emphasized memorization of number facts, the learning of proofs, and algebraic skills, but encouraged the use of calculators and “discovery learning.”

Small Case in Point:

Here is how EM explains its approach to the long-division algorithm, according to the Teachers Reference Manual:  “The authors of Everyday Math do not believe it is worth the time and effort to develop highly efficient paper-and-pencil algorithms for all possible whole number, fractions and decimal division problems….It is simply counterproductive to invest hours of precious class time on such algorithms. The math payoff is not worth the cost, particularly because quotients can be found quickly and accurately with a calculator.”

Even after outcries by parents, teachers, mathematicians, and college professors, the Dept. of Ed refused to back down from their recommendations.  “No questions were asked about why the Department of Education didn’t rely on mathematicians in the review of proposals for these programs, nor was anyone in the department ever questioned about the NCTM’s education philosophy and the millions of tax dollars ($83 million+) spent on texts that were the subject of fierce objections from 200 prominent mathematicians and scholars.”

From soundmath blog:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2011 4:30 pm

    Glad to see that people are still reading my article. And sad to say, it is still an accurate portrayal of what’s going on in K-12 today. Except it’s even worse. Common Core standards are being foisted on states with the promise of federal dollars. The Common Core standards will likely result in more of this obsessiveness over students “understanding” the deep math concepts. Never mind if kids can do it or not.

  2. February 17, 2011 1:31 pm

    Thanks for stopping by! It’s just a travesty what they’ve done to the math in many public schools. While I suppose I should thank them as they keep centers like ours in business, I feel terrible for the children whose parents don’t know what’s going on or can’t afford extra services like ours. Their future careers could be so limited.

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