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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New Math

A problem with the math curriculum was brought up at the District 186 board meeting last night:

“For your child to look at you and go, ‘I don’t believe you don’t know how to do third-grade math, Mom,’ it makes you feel very uncomfortable,” Morrow, whose son attends Pleasant Hill Elementary School, said as she shared her frustrations with the Springfield School Board on Monday night. (SJ-R: New math continues to be problem for parents.)

Hey, I know exactly how you feel. Going back a bit, I was a "victim" (for lack of a better term) of the real New Math:

New Math was a brief dramatic change in the way mathematics was taught in American grade schools during the 1960s. The name is commonly given to a set of teaching practices introduced in the U.S. shortly after the Sputnik crisis in order to boost scientific education and mathematical skill in the population so that the supposed intellectual threat of the Soviet engineers, reputedly highly skilled mathematicians, could be met. In the consciousness of many Americans in the late 20th and early 21st century, New Math is reputed to have been a relatively ineffective approach, sometimes the object of mockery. (Links omitted.)

Well, I never knew the part about New Math being designed to counter the Soviet threat. Could be. But, anyway... I believe I was in the second or third grade when New Math was introduced. I did not get it. My mom did not get it. And, sadly, my teacher did not get it. I know this because I remained friends with said teacher well into my adult years and New Math was always a major topic of conversation when we would get together (another being John F. Kennedy's assassination).

Unfortunately, I suffer because of New Math to this date. Math through the sixth grade might as well have been a foreign language and I barely passed. In the seventh grade, we were required to take algebra. I believe I passed 7th grade algebra only because the teacher constantly fell asleep during class, thus allowing the smart ones in the class to help us dumb ones. After that, I pretty much avoided math through the rest of my school years. Yeah, really. Get this: Only one year of math was required during my entire high school career. I was able to get through high school math by taking record keeping in my freshman year. (Huge sigh of relief when that was finished.)

So, you can imagine how I would be holding my breath when it came time to help the girls with their math homework. For the most part, I was able to get them through Fifth Grade math. After that, their math work zoomed right past me. They were on their own and I just watched. Fortunately, they turned out to be a lot smarter than me and math was not a problem. I'm in awe of their math abilities.

Posted by Marie at October 2, 2007 10:25 PM


me, too. I'm still math-challenged and hate it.

Posted by: karoli at October 3, 2007 12:31 AM

I was a New Math victim as well! I remember my parents alternating between being totally flustered they couldn't help me and being proud of their son who was learning really complicated math.

Posted by: Joe at October 3, 2007 8:01 PM