Archive for Monday, December 10, 2001

Input on math

December 10, 2001


To the editor:

I'm glad to see the school district is considering the upgrading of its math programs (LJW, Dec. 5, page 1B). At the same time, I am disturbed by language, of the newspaper article and school officials, that excludes input from parents and taxpayers on proposed massive program changes.

I am particularly concerned about the revelation that the new NSF math programs, "Trail Blazers" (for K-5) and "MathThematics" (for 6-8) are the programs of choice and that "the school board will be asked early next year to approve the NSF programs and a request for new textbooks," WITHOUT community input.

When I read this article, it jarred a vague memory of California communities and others rebelling against "fuzzy math." I don't want the children of our community to end up being an expensive experiment in math education. I'm a Ph.D. in science, with a substantial math background, but it doesn't take a Ph.D. to know that we need to tread carefully when we propose making big changes in our teaching curricula and methods.

Choices should be offered to both educators and parents. We need to know how the proposed programs and texts stand up against alternatives, including the current programs and texts used in our district. We need to see evaluations and studies of the various approaches.

Though I haven't seen the proposed textbooks yet, I've gathered from my Internet research that they use the approach of learning math through experience and real-world application. While I applaud adding personal relevance to the teaching of mathematics, I am extremely wary of a program dominated by that approach, possibly at the expense of fundamental math facts and procedures.

I know of at least one organization (Fairfax County Republican Committee) that is actively seeking public input to their board of education to request that middle school students be given more choices over their only text book, MathThematics, because it is "another 'fuzzy' math book...weak in content and presentation..."

While I won't place a great amount of importance on this one assessment, it steels my resolve to have a voice in the selection of mathematics text books and programs that will be used to educate my child.

Sharon Dewey,


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