We are enjoying having our 11-year-old niece staying with TPK and me. She is a great kid. The other day TPK found one of Miss V’s homework papers dealing with fact and opinion. As an example of fact, she wrote “I am 11 years old.” And as an example of opinion, she wrote “I don’t like math.” After seeing some of the math homework she has been given, I can see why.
The math course used in our school district is Investigations in Number, Data and Space by TERC. Rather than teaching kids the best way to solve a math problem, the course asks the kids to develop their own methods. While I like the idea of emphasizing creativity in problem solving, what is the likelihood that anyone in a fifth grade class will come up with the same method commonly recognized as the easiest and/or most effective?
I’ll give you an example. One of the math questions she was given went somewhat along these lines: “Frank bought seven packs of gum at $0.78 each, five bottles of soda at $1.36 each, and two packages of cookies at $2.93 each. How much did Frank spend?”
Since this was “invent your own methods” homework, Miss V started off by adding stuff up. First she added $0.78 three times, added $0.78 four times, and then added the two answers together. At this point I noticed that she had already made two errors. I asked her why she didn’t multiply $0.78 by 7 rather than doing a bunch of addition. She replied that the teacher hadn’t explained how to do it. She told the students that they needed to figure out how to solve it on their own. With a lack of clear direction and instruction, it’s no wonder Miss V doesn’t like math.
I’m not the only one to dislike Investigations and other silly math curricula more concerned with how students feel and less about actually teaching math. A classic fill-in-the-blank problem from these “feel-good” math curricula is “If math were a color, it would be —”
Michelle Malkin has pointed to a video of a local Seattle meteorologist, M.J. McDermott, and her fight against Investigations and other silly fuzzy-thinking curricula. This video McDermott put together does a great job of showing the confusion caused by these badly-formed curricula.
Because Investigations sucks, I am spending time after school tutoring Miss V in her math. Why? As McDermott puts it, “Students who learn math via TERC Investigations rarely become efficient, confident, and fluent math users.” And with what I have seen with Miss V, I agree. At the next parent/teacher conference, TPK will ask the teacher why Investigations is being used in the school district when it’s been so widely discredited.
To end on a lighter note, here is a video mocking the New Math that died in the ’60s.
I’m hoping that the efforts of people like M.J. McDermott and others will succeed in derailing the New New Math train wreck before it runs over too many more kids.