New-Math Multiplies

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Yes, New-Math is multiplying, but I am sorry to report that too many children are not learning to multiply with New-Math.

Without multiplication skills, those who pass through the New-Math classrooms will not be able to divide; or work with fractions; or handle algebra; or do advanced math; or earn ACT scores high enough for entry into their dream university or profession.

I cannot begin to convey how frustrating it is for traditional math teachers to attempt to clean up the messes left by New-Math enthusiasts. By the time children end up with me, either in my classroom or at the clinic, they have lost far too much time; have developed too many bad habits; and have failed to memorize the times tables at the point in their lives when their brains were ready to receive and retain such important information…

…information that, in order to be used well, must be learned to the point of automaticity. Without that automaticity, these unfortunate and damaged individuals will not be able to divide; or work with fractions; or…but we have already been through that list.

The depth and breadth of the harm being done to children should be clear to all. It should, except that New-Math pushers never are interested in having their vision, or their brains, calibrated to insure accuracy in clarity and judgment. These unethical individuals push crazy methods that damage all but those few who manage to learn in spite of the teaching and curriculum and those who are homeschooled or attend schools that value and provide traditional instruction. The New-Math pushers do as much damage to lives as do drug pushers, but the former do it under state licensure and get paid by institutions claiming to exist only to educate students. These Pied Pipers play to fools like themselves. Those at State departments of education, proclaiming that they are holding schools accountable, fiddle as the futures of children are burned on the alters to Progressive Education. Progressive Education…a misnomer if I have ever heard one! There ought to be a law requiring that anyone accepting taxpayer monies must speak honestly and accurately. New-Math is Regressive Education. (At least drug dealers have the courage to accurately describe their products.)

Multiplication is not all that difficult if one learns the multiplication tables and the logical, precise algorithm for the process. One day I was teaching traditional multiplication when one of the special education students wanted to show me the process she had been taught. Her problem even shocked me, and luckily I had my camera with me. This illustration should help the unaware to understand why so many children in special education, as well as most other children, are coming to believe that math is an alien life form. It is no wonder that, when such foolishness is passed off as an intelligent math procedure, math scores are dropping like stones, while confusion is rising to new heights. It is no wonder that our students grow up: seeing themselves as stupid, hating math, and actually mathematically incompetent!

I had been using the traditional algorithm for multiplication, carefully explaining the steps as I taught the students how to: multiply and carry; keep columns in line; keep track of which numbers have already been used in the process; multiply numbers containing a zero; mark place value with commas. I was shocked at the intricacy of the girl’s New-Math multiplication process — a process that she could neither explain nor describe. She could only do it by rote processing and it took much time for her to draw the pattern of spaces in which she would later write the numbers. I offered to loan her a ruler, but she wanted to draw it free hand.

So much for the claims that students, using New-Math philosophies, will create their own processes, construct their own knowledge, and come to understand the entire mathematical world more clearly. Yeah. Sure. Right. (Interesting that three positives can make a negative… Or is that New-Math?)

How are the math scores are in your state? In Michigan the scores have been dropping like stones since the New-Math sales reps arrived in the state. A close study should show that scores are dropping to lows inversely proportional to the number of school districts signing multi-year contracts with New-Math book publishers.

Many citizens are finally beginning to notice that the state department of education continually lowers the bar on the MEAP test in order to hide the fact that, with each year of education, Michigan children know less and less about more and more. The non-standardized MEAP test, with its unconscionably flexible scoring system, fools fewer people every year. However, what the sham scores are successful at doing is…making problems in other states look far worse. Those states that use standardized tests to evaluate their students lack the flexibility to fudge on their reports and so end up appearing to be educationally at the bottom of the fifty states. How unfair to those states brave enough to use normed tests and scores.

One year the math scores were very late in being sent to the schools and we were actually told that the state was readjusting the criteria for the various levels of ‘achievement.’ Achievement?!? Oh, Please! Really, we must insist that departments of education be honest; speak with honest vocabulary; use honest test materials; and represent the results with honest percentages. We would have far more respect if departments of education spoke the truth and announced the scores as measuring levels of “Non-achievement.”

That was also the year I learned that, in order to earn the coveted “#1″ score on the MEAP, a child has only to answer 60% of the questions accurately. 60%. That is only one (1) percentage point above failing any test or quiz in my special education room! But that demeaning score earns a child the highest rating on the Michigan MEAP tests. A 50% accuracy rate earns a child the #2 ranking. The criteria for the #3′s and the #4′s are too discouraging to mention. You can figure them for yourself. You will find that one percentage begins with a “4″ while the last division begins counting at zero.

Consider the fact that these highly embarrassing math scores join the equally embarrassing reading, science, writing, and social studies scores. What has happened to schools that once understood that they should be held accountable to the parents who entrusted them with their children; to the taxpayers who foot the bills? Are schools so drugged by compulsory attendance laws that they believe themselves impervious to taxpayer/parental/student censure?

Parents are encouraged to believe that no harm will come to their child in their local schools. Parents listen to the new edu-speak vocabulary with its use of terms like “No Child Left Behind” or “benchmarks and standards,” and parents want to believe. Be wary. Your child’s best interests are too often not the interests of your school district. At a local school board meeting I attended last spring, the elementary principal proudly notified the board members and the community that she had set the following goal: for 50% of the students to earn #1′s or #2′s in the reading portion of the MEAP. Yes, educational standards have certainly crashed when “50% of the students scoring 50% on state achievement tests” is considered a goal worthy of further demands that taxpayers continue to support public education.

I…don’t…think…so! I believe that few Americans, if they were to learn the dirty secrets behind state achievement tests, would think so, either. Well…other than the New-Math pipers and the rats who are fooled by such idiocy and so willingly follow their leaders in corrupting and destroying the educational and career opportunities of millions of Americans. These pipers and fools are not interested in educating children. They remain committed to doing everything possible to be sure that the problems they have created…multiply.

Let us make decisions for the education of our children that do not include public education, and let us make those decisions sooner, rather than later. Time is a wasting.

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.

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