Chariho School Parents’ Forum

July 31, 2008

Straight from the horses mouth

Filed under: Math — Editor @ 1:01 pm

Anchorrising picked up a story on new math.  What I consider a weakness, the advocate of new math suggests is its strength.

One problem, [Pat Cooney, math coordinator for six public schools in Ridgefield, CT,] says, is that parents remember math as offering only one way to solve a problem. “We’re saying that there’s more than one way,” Cooney says. “The outcome will be the same, but how we get there will be different.” Thus, when a parent is asked to multiply 88 by 5, we’ll do it with pen and paper, multiplying 8 by 5 and carrying over the 4, etc. But a child today might reason that 5 is half of 10, and 88 times 10 is 880, so 88 times 5 is half of that, 440 — poof, no pen, no paper.”The traditional way is really a shortcut,” Cooney says. “We want kids to be so confident with numbers that it becomes intuitive.”

The problem is when an equation isn’t that simple, say with larger or fractional numbers.  The “traditional way” provides a foundation from which to build the more “intuitive” methods – not the reverse.



  1. Just a thought. maybe the teachers had problems understanding mathematics, so another way of teaching it was needed. I have coworkers living in CT that have issues with this type of math teaching and essientially have taught their children themselves. Their children perform the math problems the “old fashion” way, much to the disgruntlement of the teaching staff.

    Comment by RS — July 31, 2008 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

  2. RS you may not be too far off. Unfortunately, educators are taught more about the “theories” of teaching than the actual subject matter to be taught.

    This new math bypasses teaching of algorithms…as Mr. Felkner points out, when children are not taught algorithms they are unable to do higher level math. Coming up with individual ways of estimating numbers is great if you aspire to be a clerk at Walmart, but for a child to have any chance at a career in the sciences, engineering, finance, etc., then they need to be taught math the way we all have been taught for hundreds of years. Of course, if they can’t do math, they can always teach or become school administrators…maybe the budget nonsense isn’t Mr. Ricci’s fault after all?

    Comment by Curious Resident — July 31, 2008 @ 10:14 pm | Reply

  3. With this new math, they just go to the calculator. Hopefully, Walmart has plenty of those. Burger King does.

    I don’t know about you, but a great deal of this mental math that they claim we never learned is bull. A lot of this mental math is self-taught after all the basic algorithms and formulas are learned and practiced. Those that have the ability to think beyond concrete terms develop this ability. It comes with time and maturity.

    The foundation is where much of this new math is faltering. You can’t build a building without a good foundation. If there are holes in it, the building could falter. Without a good foundation of basic skills and math facts, a child’s learning will have holes, and their learning will falter.

    I would ask parents how frustrated they are while witnessing their child’s frustration with this math. No wonder they tutor their own children with the math they learned.

    I think many so called educational professionals defend this math because they don’t want to admit a mistake was made. So what! Don’t punish the kids further by letting your ego get in the way.

    I am glad that Chariho has made the decision to change the curriculum. I respect that. I understand it came with pressure. So be it! BUT, I still wonder what this new curriculum is before we commit so much into it. That’s time and money. If it is the same as TERC, then I hope they return to the beginning before it is too late, and before we end up sending more children down the wrong educational path.

    Lastly, what is the plan for the children who have been exposed to TERC extensively? Is there a plan to help them? I’m assuming that these kids are in the middle grades because some of the older children were not exposed to TERC? Yes or No, and what’s the plan?

    Comment by Lois Buck — August 1, 2008 @ 12:06 am | Reply

  4. You nailed it Mrs. Buck. I too hope Chariho is moving away from constructivist math. I don’t trust them. Sure seems like many “educated” educators have swallowed the Kool-aid. I’m sure Chariho will do little to compensate the TERC children for the lack of math skills. Per usual, it will be the children with the busiest and least engaged parents who suffer the most. Children of the elites will get tutoring to overcome Chariho’s horrendous decision to bring constructivist math into the school system.

    Comment by Curious Resident — August 1, 2008 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

  5. A parent has the right to tell the school system their child will not be using the new math. Of course they will need to teach the child on their own, but hey success does have a price and it isn’t the rates we pay Chariho. Unless in your book ther dismal record is success. Obviously some around here think that is just fine and dandy.

    Comment by RS — August 1, 2008 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

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