November 28, 2007 — DO you know what math curriculum your child is being taught? Are you worried that your third- grader hasn’t learned simple multiplication yet? Have you been befuddled by educational jargon such as “spiraling,” which is used to explain why your kid keeps bringing home the same insipid busywork of cutting, gluing and drawing? And are you alarmed by teachers who emphasize “self-confidence” over proficiency while their students fall further and further behind? Join the club.
From New York City to Seattle, parents are wising up to math fads like “Everyday Math.” Sounds harmless enough, right? It’s cleverly marketed as a “University of Chicago” program. Impressive, right? But then you start to sense something’s not adding up when your kid starts second grade and comes home with the same kindergarten-level addition and subtraction problems – for the second year in a row.
Then your child keeps telling you that the teacher isn’t really teaching anything, just handing out useless worksheets – some of which make no sense to parents with business degrees, medical degrees and PhDs in economics. Then you notice that it’s the University of Chicago education department, not the mathematics department, that’s behind this nonsense.
Then you Google “Everyday Math” and discover that countless moms and dads just like you – and a few brave teachers with their heads screwed on straight – have had similarly horrifying experiences.
Like the Illinois mom who found these “math” problems in the fifth-grade “Everyday Math” textbook:
A. If math were a color, it would be -, because -.
B. If it were a food, it would be -, because -.
C. If it were weather, it would be -, because -.
Then you realize your child has become a victim of “Fuzzy Math” – the “New New Math,” the dumbed-down, politically correct, euphemism-filled edu-folly corrupting schools nationwide. And then you feel like the subject of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” as you take on the seemingly futile task of waking up other parents and fighting the edu-cracy to restore a rigorous curriculum in your child’s classroom.
New York City teacher Matthew Clavel described his frustration with “Everyday Math” in a 2003 City Journal article: “The curriculum’s failure was undeniable: Not one of my students knew his or her times tables, and few had mastered even the most basic operations; knowledge of multiplication and division was abysmal . . . what would you do, if you discovered that none of your fourth-graders could correctly tell you the answer to four times eight?”
But don’t give up and don’t give in. While New York City remains wedded to “Everyday Math” (which became the mandated standard in 2003), Texas just voted to drop the University of Chicago textbooks for third- graders. School-board members lambasted the math program for failing to prepare students for college. It’s an important salvo in the math wars because Texas is one of the biggest markets for school textbooks.
Meanwhile, grass-roots groups such as Mathematically Correct (mathematicallycorrect.com) and Where’s The Math? (wheresthemath.com) are alerting parents to how their children are being used as educational guinea pigs. And teachers and math professionals who haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid are exposing the ruse. Nick Diaz, a Maryland educator, wrote a letter to his local paper:
“The proponents of fuzzy math claim that the new approach provides a ‘deep conceptual understanding.’ Those words, however, hide the truth. Students today are not expected to master basic addition, subtraction and multiplication. These fundamental skills are necessary for a truly deep understanding of math, but fuzzy math advocates are masters at using vocabulary that sounds good to parents, but means something different to educators.”
If Fuzzy Math were a color, it would be neon green like those Mr. Yuk labels warning children not to ingest poison. Do not swallow