Saturday, October 11, 2008

A formula for lifting Washington out of its math mess

From the Seattle Times:

A formula for lifting Washington out of its math mess
"Reform" math, which Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson supports, is a failure, says a Ballard High math instructor.

By Ted Nutting

Special to The Times

I'm a high-school math teacher in Seattle. When I hear Mark Emmert, president of the University of Washington, say that this state is "at the bottom in the production of scientists and engineers," and warn that our graduates "will be washing the cars for the people who come here for the best jobs," I know what the problem is. It's math. We are failing to educate our children in mathematics. I know how that came about, and what we can do about it.

The problem is national in scope, but in Washington state our difficulties can be traced principally to Terry Bergeson, superintendent of public instruction for the past 12 years. She oversaw the writing of our state's weak, vague math standards, basing them on a "reform" idea to promote "discovery" learning.

Ted Nutting is the Advanced Placement calculus teacher at Ballard High School in Seattle.


Anonymous said...

Emmert ought to consider the faculty he oversees who helped design Washington's spoils reform. Emmert could have signed the faculty's letter, signed by 60professors from the math, science, and engineering departments.

In addition, the UW accepts students whether they are ready for advanced mathematics courses or not, so long as students are willing to pay for remedial classes the UW will accept these students because their other choice is to cut enrollment and faculty positions. Enrollment is arbitrary and a double standard. Worse, there is no guarantee that a large investment in college will yield a college diploma. Indeed, how many years will it take a student with a minimal knowledge of algebra to complete a four year degree from UW or WSU.

It might not be popular with alumni, but why not say no?

The formula for lifting Washington out of its math morasse will have to start with one curriculum that serves all students, not just elitists. It will have to teach what our society values, not what a publisher happens to be selling to school boards.

I'll give you a hint: If you see a man disguised as a little old lady addressing a math adoption meeting who says she is a retired math teacher, she isn't, she works as a math consultant for a publisher. That's how weird Washington's math reform is.

Anonymous said...

Despite the fact, Core Plus has been thoroughly discredited for the past 10 years, so that not even airhead Bellevuites use it anymore, there are still some districts who think education is like brushing teeth and use Core Plus like a whitening agent for their communities. Its easy to be tolerant when you don't have any Latinos or African Americans enrolled in your kid's school.

Teaching with Core Plus is like being tied to a television all day holding a calculator while the students drool all over their textbooks and the clock moves steadily backward.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget the pounding on the adjacent walls of shoes, fists, and flying erasers as another teacher sacrifices herself for the sake of students passing the WASL. Washington leads. Righto!