Saturday, September 24, 2011

Explaining the New Math

Years ago when I got out of the service unemployment was high, and no one really wanted Vets, the general assumption was we were all crazy– a slight exaggeration.  The construction industry was a little different, cray was normal and it paid well, provided you were willing to get paid for what you produced, instead of the time you put in…   The only problem was you were on your own for things like insurance, and the winters were rough on cash flow.   That was when I started learning there was more money in selling the materials, then there was in nailing it together..

A couple years later I was managing a lumber yard.  One evening I wrote a guy up for 160 feet of baseboard molding, and set him to the kid in back to get loaded up.. and went back to what I was doing..  A couple minutes later the came to and asked how many pieces he should give the customer.  The kid was eighteen and had graduated from High School less than a month before..

I looked at him and said ” You’ve got sixteen footers back there, the stuff’s in ten piece bundles, the customer has a racks on his truck, so sixteens are fine.

The pride of the local school system just stood there for a full minute looking at me, then he said “Yeah, but how many pieces do I give him?”

I had to explain to this kid, who had just Graduated High School that ten times sixteen equaled 160-

Over the years I’ve heard people complain about the lack of very basic skills kids have when they finish High School.  Educators have demanded and gotten more money, smaller class sizes and the latest and greatest in modern educational tools.  The result is a lower quality finished product than we had fifty years and hundreds of billions of ago.  Now we’ve gotten to the point that everyone is blaming everyone, the parents blame the schools and the teachers,  In turn the schools and the teachers blame the parents.

Every year the experts come up with a new solution, but it will cost money.  Somehow the experts don’t get blamed– they just get more money out of the deal.. Before we go any farther, take a look at the video..

I’m not so sure if I’d have been able to solve a simple multiplication problem if I’d been taught bu any of those methods.  However that’s what the experts say works.. at least while they’re selling the school districts new curriculum models, and very expensive books to go with them.

I sat my almost eleven year old grandson down and we watched the video together, he’s been taught everyone of the algorithms except the lattice method.. Then he laughed a little..

He told me last year as Florida’s FCAT  Testing Season was approaching his teacher was having a really hard time getting her students to understand the clusters, thingamajigs and whatever’s the new math calls for..  She was getting desperate.  Finally she said “Screw this”, and started erasing  everything on the black board.

Then she said.. “You don’t have to show your work on the FCAT, let me show you how to do this stuff right.  It didn’t take long for the class to figure it out, when it was taught the way it had been for generations.. before the experts made it better.


  1. A comment sent and crossposted here:
    "The "new" math isn't written by teachers but by book publishers.

    We are under more and more pressure to use the "curriculum" that come with our new textbooks. After all, we have spent millions on new textbooks.

    First, a textbook should NEVER be curriculum. It should be one of many tools to teach students a curriculum that has been developed by educators. A geometry course shouldn't change just because there is a new textbook.

    Second, I find that my classes are more and more "scripted" and my ability to teach my students in the manner that is most effective is severely restricted. Administrators want to see more and more what the book dictates rather than what our students need."

  2. Another comment sent:
    "And don't get me started on calculators. A calculator should be a tool for an expert not a crutch for an idiot. Sadly we are using them as the second more and more every day."

  3. Sandra-- I'd have a real hard time arguing with either one-- best teacher I ever had handed out text book the first day of school-- While he was doing he said

    "The Board of Ed requires me to give these, they don't require me to use them.. take them home, some time between now and the end of the year, read them... please remember where you put them so you can give them back at the end of the year"

    He taught us everything in the book, and a lot more

    As for the calculators-- You don't want me to get started either