Monday’s Links: Math Wars part 1!

Day 1 Website Review: Math Wars and Singapore Math

I apologize for getting this up late in the week. I actually did the legwork for this on Monday, but have been unable to get around to posting until today.

Today’s exploration takes us into the red-hot battleground of Math Wars. Venturing onto YouTube, we find a series of videos, starting with one by Seattle meteorologist M.J. McDermott called “Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth.” A take-off on the title of Al Gore’s bestselling book, this video is about 15 minutes long; please watch it now before you read on…

Wow! New-fangled textbooks are failing to teach basic skills, and kids are no longer learning how to multiply and divide (in the state of Washington) by the end of 5th grade! They arrive at college totally unprepared, and much of their college experience has to be spent as a kind of remedial camp.

That’s the impression one gets from this video. But we must back up and recognize that this is an ongoing debate. Ms. McDermott is really espousing a party line in what has become a math war – the philosophy of traditionalism.

Traditionalists, says The Irascible Professor, “favor a return to more traditional methods (direct instruction) that include greater emphasis on … multiplication tables, repeated drills…, and traditional word problems.”

Watching Ms. McDermott’s video, we get a demonization of the new math textbooks. Reading from the Irascible Professor, we realize this is a political-type of argument, and there is more than just one side to the story.

The Irascible Professor goes on to talk about Singapore Math — the approach taken to learning math in materials prepared in Singapore, the country that consistently ranks first in the world in its students’ average math preparation and test-taking abilities.

For today, I give the nod to the Professor for letting us know that there is more than one side to this story. I also appreciate Ms. McDermott’s contribution, if only for giving others the opportunity to respond to her on YouTube, which we will look at tomorrow!

But I also hold Ms. McDermott accountable for her decision to demonize her opponents and present this as a one-sided issue.

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