I’ve expressed my opposition to the latest permutation of math pedagogy to afflict schoolchildren several times, but I find it necessary to share the latest absurdity. Regardless of the semantics of a particular program (e.g. reform, constructivist, connected, or everyday) the concepts are not only confusing but also educationally unsound. Having a child “construct his own meaning behind math” is patently ridiculous.

By the way, theoreticians rather than practitioners designed the program. In other words, math educators, not mathematicians, are the responsible parties. When was the last time these college professors actually taught children in an elementary classroom rather than a laboratory? Perhaps these American math educators could have played with this idea if our students were so far ahead of their global counterparts that they were sitting on their hands waiting for everyone to catch up. But the opposite is true. Comparisons with students in other countries indicate that our children are woefully ill-prepared. Rather than stressing self-reliance and competence, the program advocates calculator use as early as the first grade classroom. Why not expect students to practice math facts as they do the alphabet? Or will children also have to construct their own alphabets next?

But the most recent excuse for implementing this method would be laughable if it weren’t so infuriating. In some convoluted formula that remains a mystery to most reasoning adults, students learn to subtract starting with the numbers on the LEFT (thousands, then hundreds, etc.). In one second grade class in New Haven, the teacher explained that this was the proper way to perform this mathematical operation, in order NOT to confuse the children into thinking that they were “borrowing” the numbers. Because then they would have the wrong impression about borrowing in general because “they can’t give back a number”! So now, political correctness has invaded the math lesson. My students will continue to learn the traditional approach, and they will continue to excel!

# "PC" Invades the Elementary MATH class

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