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Solving America’s Mathematics Education…

Solving America’s Mathematics Education Problem . American Enterprise…

by Jacob L. Vigdor

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Comment on Solving America’s Mathematics Education Problem by Jacob L. Vigdor. American Enterprise Institute. 2012

Our citizens need math skills on the job, as parents and citizens and to be financially self-sufficient. Our current math education is not keeping up with other countries.
A lot of work went into this study. However, it has a major flaw. It starts with the assumption that there is a one and only one way to improve American’s math skills. This is a large country with many cultures and languages. In Boston, a relatively small city, the Department of Public Health prints notices in over 30 languages. The USA is a very diverse and large country. Assuming one size fits all is unreasonable.
The assumption seems to be that students will learn in a classroom setting. The current system is focused on the curriculum and not the student. How many schools use the student’s interests as a source of motivation? Most teachers are forced to follow a fixed curriculum and somehow get the students to pass a standardized test.
Math students fall into three groups. The top group learns math in spite of classroom setting. These student feel held back. We need to let them go as fast as they want. They often prefer to work individually or in small groups with some teacher guidance.
The middle group lacks conceptual understanding, but can memorize how to answer questions. Classroom work focuses on solving problems in one and only one way. This enables the students to pass tests, but they cannot apply what they have learned.
The lowest level group has given up.
We are letting down all three groups. This is tragic. Everyone can learn math. But not everyone learns math the same way or the same speed. Not everyone needs the same skills at the same point in their lives. We need to make math education available in a variety of ways and mediums. We need to give people the math skills that they need when they need them.
Our educational system should be asking individuals what they need to know and them help them. Much of the curriculum is irrelevant. We need multiple curriculums the meet the needs of individual students.
  stevenlevymath | Aug 23, 2012 |
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