Thursday, November 17, 2011

The New Teaching of Math

Recently, I reviewed an 8th Grade Algebra I text book at for our local junior high school since I was asked to tutor the subject.  My initial reaction was one of disappointment.   While I understood the content, I didn't agree with the teaching strategy, which didn't focus enough on the mathematical concepts.  After reading the additional chapters, I came to a shocking conclusion: the course was teaching students how to answer questions on the State High School Graduation test.

Now I understand better the experience I had with some of the students I tutored for College Entrance Exams.  Students that were getting A's in school were struggling with SAT/ACT math questions.   I think it's because they learned how to pass the High School Graduation Test instead of learning the key foundational math concepts.

For reference, I am not at all against preparing students for the High School Graduation test.    I'm just against spending multiple years of course work specifically preparing for the test.  If a student learns the foundational math concepts, preparing for the test should only take a couple months, at most.  The High School Graduation test should be a confirmation that a student has achieved a certain level of education and not a confirmation that he has learned how to answer questions on a specific test.

For those teachers that argue schools must teach to the High School Graduation test to maintain funding, I offer an alternative.  Fine, have the base (or perhaps remedial) math curriculum teach to pass the High School Graduation test.   However, also offer a math course that is dedicated to providing a real math education.  That way students will have an option of learning math in a way that provides a good foundation for a future engineering or science profession.

However, I don't expect our school system to pay much attention to what I think is needed.  Luckily, I have a degree in engineering and can augment my daughter's math education when she reaches junior high school.
For more on Crossing Generations, check back on Thursday for a new segment.
This is not financial or education advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2011 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

1 comment:

Shaun @ Smart Family Finance said...

It's the drawback to testing: learn concepts or learn to take a test.

In general, it's a shame Americans are so uninterested in math. If I had extra time and money, I'd be back in college taking more math. Being good at Math can make you money.