Tuesday, July 1, 2008

National Council on Teacher Quality - responses

Three more recipients comment on the four-part posting concerning the National Council on Teacher Quality [NCTQ] report posted a few days ago ...

For every mathematician who claims mathematics is more important than pedagogy, there will be at least 10 educators standing out arguing that pedagogy is more crucial. As long as the majority of us hold such either-or kind of mentality, our math education community will be divided, and our students' learning will hardly be improved systematically and substantially.

Improving teachers' mathematical knowledge is certainly not the final nor only cure, but it should definitely be one of the first and foremost issues for American math educators to focus on. After all, the problem we are facing is not that we have too many pedagogy-ignorant math Ph.D's teaching our elementary school kids, rather, it is there are too many mathematically ill-prepared teachers trying to teach for conceptual understanding in mathematics.

Xuhui L.


Dylan makes an excellent point. However, what I am finding in a current professional development project is that teachers must change their understandings of the mathematics they intend that their students learn in order to make significant changes in their pedagogy. So, the two (changes in math knowledge and changes in pedagogy) go hand in hand. Moreover, at least in the United States, it is not where teachers study that matters, it is with whom they study. General educators cannot help teachers rethink their mathematics, and mathematicians cannot do it either. Mathematics educators who know students' mathematics and its relationships to adult mathematics, and who know the pedagogy that increases the likelihood that the two meet, must be involved.

Pat T.


Another strategy might be to postpone formal mathematical Instruction until kids are older! It may be that the misunderstandings and confusions that get imbedded in young children's mind prior to 10 years of age are more dangerous than the advantages of pushing this stuff earlier. It's harder to undo the nonsense, plus the sense of futility. Maybe plenty of play with numbers--dice games, card games, pattern blocks, board games, checkers, chess, etc etc would work better and make it easier for kids to learn - and require fewer skilled teachers who know both their math and mathematical pedagogy. Of course, we're actually moving in the opposite direction.

Deborah M.

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu


Anonymous said...

Once again, you are not understanding the intent of the message - Jerry P. Becker is another mouthpiece for math reform. The curriculum writers are blaming teachers, not their textbooks.


Another program (Everyday Mathematics) entered into extensive negotiations with the state department after it learned that its Content Review Panel had failed to reach consensus. Eventually, it was rejected after a mathematics professor prepared a second content review two weeks before the state board's vote. His criticisms are revealing, including, for example, that "students are never required to use the standard long division algorithm" as required by California's grade 5 standards. Inspection of the program reveals that students do indeed study a minor variant of the standard division algorithm that illustrates that repeated subtraction enables one to calculate a long division. And even though many students understand this process far better than the conventional approach, it is now unacceptable for California's students. Parrot math has scored a significant victory.

Here's a link to Jerry's newsletters at the AMTE (another propagandist website)


Its interesting because Jerry has found a large amount of historical info into progressive education, when it was near the end of its zenith in 1929 at the time Louis Benezet was using methods similiar to Waldorf in a public school district. These idiots seem to gloat over the romantic writing that I feel taints education more than it helps. Most of it is a waste of time and a crock, but nevertheless you begin to see some of the connections the reformers have with the past.

Jerry is most likely an educator, not a mathematician because his writing about kids and using long division isn't very thorough - he's talking off the cuff and his views amount to the same unintelligent garbage you hear from Joe the NCTM Schmo.

Anonymous said...

Becker can't accept that long division does more than repeated subtractions, like enable kids to divide numbers with decimal points.

Shysters think kids can learn to do without long division. Platoites believe its ok to hobble children, because some people prefer being slaves. (courtesy of NCTM/NSF-EHM slimeballs)

Anonymous said...

Becker even believes the solution to the math problem is delaying formal math instruction until adulthood when students will more mature and therefore receptive to abstract ideas.

HaHa, how lame can one be....this guy is living in rural new hampshire with benezet and brousseau. Great teaching if your students collect eggs and milk cows for a living.

Anonymous said...

Most of these fakers (HPB, Katherine Tingley, and Alice Bailey) went out with the great depression and along with their financial backers. Lakeside is another product of theosophy. I put McCune, Warfield, Wise and Bergeson in the same boat. What a bunch of quackers.

Interesting how these pseudo-science institutions come and go with the economy. Our society creates wealth to waste it on spendy benevolent parasites.

Anonymous said...

This is from 1986 - an eery reminder of how much things have changed and how much they've stayed the same. In 1986, Standardized test did not mean the WASL it was probably the Iowa or a normed test.


Hechinger wrote this article and commented on the work of Hassler Whitney (singularity theory d. 1989):

Dr. Hassler Whitney, a distinguished mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, says that for several decades mathematics teaching has largely failed. He predicts that the current round of tougher standards and longer hours threatens to "throw great numbers, already with great math anxiety, into severe crisis."

Dr. Whitney has spent many years in classrooms, both teaching mathematics and observing how it is taught, and he calls for an end to what he considers wrongheaded ways.

Long before school, he says, very young children "learn in manifold ways, at a rate that will never be equaled in later life, and with no formal teaching." For example, they learn to speak and communicate, and to deal with their environment. Yes the same children find much simpler things far more difficult as soon as they are formally taught in school.

Learning mathematics, Dr. Whitney says, should mean "finding one's way through problems of new sorts, and taking responsibility for the results."

"This has been completely forgotten" in most schools, he finds. "The pressure is now to pass standardized tests. This means simply to remember the rules for a certain number of standard exercises at the moment of the test and thus 'show achievement.' This is the lowest form of learning, of no use in the outside world."

One of the sources of confusion created by the reform movement was the coopting of old jargon to replace or redefine old ideas with new ideas.


Hassler Whitney, family ties to the early NSF and its stance on slavery are interesting.

Hassler Whitney was the son of New York Supreme Court Justice Edward Baldwin Whitney and Josepha (Newcomb) Whitney, the grandson of Yale University Professor of Ancient Languages William Dwight Whitney, the great-grandson of Connecticut Governor and US Senator Roger Sherman Baldwin, and the great-great-great-grandson of American founding father Roger Sherman.

Hassler Whitney's maternal grandparents were professor & astronomer Simon Newcomb and Mary Hassler Newcomb (the granddaughter of the first superintendent of the Coast Survey - Ferdinand Hassler).

Not mentioned in Wiki are that William dwight Whitney (Yale linguist) helped defend the Amistad mutineers in the Supreme Court (1841). Whitney's sister married Baldwin and their son became a Supreme Court Justice.