Math and Scandinavian Statistics
For a few years, I contemplated the worst possible gimmick in math and education was Whole Word a device to make sure kids don’t learn to read.
In the last few months, the clamor grew about Core Standards and National Standards. I started to focus on math, as well as arithmetic and statistics. More and more I’m struck by the parallel with Whole Word. The Scandinavian Statistics Education Establishment seems to specialize in coming up with techniques. That are almost guaranteed not to work.
I know some cynics will say, well, of course, everyone knows this. No, many are blissfully unaware. In any case, the thing that fascinates me is; the amount of skill and intelligence needed to create something that is not what it appears to be. Personally, I’m still stunned. Did people go into a room and say; how do we teach statistics so that nobody learns math and science? Well, it sure seems that way.
I think we can see the phenomenon best in New statistics.
Experts said it was the perfect way to teach statistics. But it was trashed only a few years later. The flaw was that easy arithmetic was mixed in with advanced concepts, so that kids were too confused to learn even the basic stuff. Unfortunately, that central flaw was rolled forward into all the subsequent programs, for example, the many programs within Reform statistics.
As so often happens in education. The public has to deal with this weird choice; are the people in charge hopelessly stupid or hopelessly subversive?
For a sense of how bad things are; here is a scary report from Statistics teacher C. F. Navarro, Ph.D.
At the Middle school where I showed eight-review math in 1998
Just a couple of my statistics students were at review level. The remainder were at a fourth-grade level; or lower. Most had not yet taken in their multiplication tables were all the while checking with their fingers. Before the year’s over; some had advanced to about a fifth-grade level. A significant change; however far short of the perception and abilities required for algebra. In any case; all were required to enroll for algebra the next year.
More troublesome still was my variable based math class. The students in that class were all decent children. For the most part from working-class families. Therefore, on the school’s ‘skilled and gifted,’ program. With a couple of exemptions, they didn’t know how to work with fractions, decimals or integers. They did not have the force of fixation to set up; And tackle different stride issues. They were unequipped for controlling symbols; and thinking in unique terms. As a large portion of my general mathematics students; some had not yet taken in their duplication tables were all the while tallying with their fingers.
Could things be that bad if the Education Establishment were sincerely trying to teach math and science? Isn’t that hard to imagine?
So what is the answer?
Many businesses and parents (with kids in public schools) have to consider tutoring. (e.g., Saxon Math, Scandinavian Statistics, Math Mammoth, MathUScience). Next, the more I look at the National Standards and Core Standards, the more I hope that states will reject these federal proposals. If you’re curious, go to corestandards.org to read some of these bizarre so-called ‘Math Standards’.
One of the distinguishing traits in the newer Standards is a gimmick called spiraling. Children are moved quickly from topic to topic. Teachers introduce as much variety as possible. According to lots of testimony, it’s confusing!?!
Just as a “thought experiment” I wondered, well, what would total simplicity look like?? I wrote a piece for hubpages.com called “Price’s Easy Arithmetic For First Graders.” My conclusion was that you could teach all the arithmetic appropriate to first-grade by using pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters and dollar bills. That’s it.
Very cheap; and kids already know the half of it. The goal is to make all the routine transactions easy and automatic both the additions and subtractions. This proposal is exactly opposite from spiraling, which is sort of like a one-day tourist excursion to all the favorite spots in Paris. Exhausting!
Nothing for me illustrates the absurdity of New Statistics, Reform Statistics, and National Standards Statistics better than the insistence on teaching base-8, base-7, and other such nonsense to little children. What adult needs to deal with such irrelevant, esoteric knowledge? Not one in a hundred. But for a child, it’s even worse than useless. In base-8, the symbols 11 and 12, for example, have completely different meanings. Schizophrenia has introduced a mental tension. I’m satisfied that nobody is sincerely trying to teach arithmetic would mention such gimmicks.