Monday, June 06, 2005

Another district goes fuzzy

The constructivist-friendly organization, the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education (ENC) reports that another school district happily went fuzzy:

From the Education Headlines: Oregon District Adopts NSF Math Programs for All Grades

Four math programs developed with research grants from the National Science Foundation have been called "new-new math," "fuzzy math" or "cognitive child abuse" by those who want to stay with traditional curriculums. In spite of this, the Salem-Keizer School District in Salem, Oregon, is moving toward adopting all four for grades K-12. Quoted in an article in the Statesman Journal (School District Is Testing New Way to Teach Math, May 28), curriculum director John Weeks points out that the district spent months researching national studies and talking with math leaders in the state before deciding on all four programs. The four are: Bridges in Mathematics (K-2); Investigations in Number, Data and Space, (3-5); Connected Mathematics (middle school); and College Preparatory Mathematics (high school). Although all four have been named exemplary programs by the U.S. Department of Education, their use has split some communities and prompted parent revolts. There even is a web site, called Mathematically Correct, devoted to fighting adoption of the programs. The bottom line, according to Salem-Keizer administrators and teachers, is the new curriculums are working by raising math scores in other Oregon and Washington schools.

I wonder what kind of tests they are giving that allegedly show higher math scores? Could it be fuzzy test?

Elsewhere on this site I read that teachers and the gifted demand fuzzy math.


Catherine Johnson said...

State and federal testing is a major concern to me, because of the potential (or the reality?) of NCTM & NSF-funded educators writing the tests.

Assuming I'm reading Tom Loveless correctly, NAEP has radically decreased the number of test items involving computation of fractions -- the single most important 'predictor' of future success in algebra &, later, in college mathematics as far as I can tell.

You frequently read that 'math scores have been going up.'

It is entirely possible that math scores are going up, because test difficulty is going down.

See here: (pdf file) and here:

I think it's essential for parents to 'administer' their own assessments using the items David Klein wrote for the Los Angeles County Board of Ed when he worked there. (You can find them at our site, at David's web site, at matheaticallycorrect and, I believe, at NYC HOLD.)

Instructivist said...


Real tests are a thorn in the side of constructivists. It can be expected that defanging tests will become the new front.

I am reminded of an item that appeared in The Education Gadfly:

New front in the math wars

One never ceases to be amazed by the inanity of many so-called "experts" in testing and instruction. In Illinois (which recently adopted a cracker-jack set of assessment benchmarks; see for more detail), the experts are bemoaning a new testing program that they say will dumb down math by focusing overmuch on basic computational skills. Twenty percent of the new test items will be what snippy math educators disparage as "naked math," i.e. number problems that emphasize computation rather than application to "real world" situations. Such an approach, of course, used to be called "math" before the experts got hold of it. So far, the state testing division is standing firm. Look for the impending Fordham publication, The Citizen's Guide to State Standards, Tests, and Accountability Systems, for a discussion of problems that many states have in developing high-quality, rigorous tests that truly cover what their standards say their kids should know. And keep watching Illinois for this latest skirmish in the math wars that have pitted reformers and concerned parents against the "experts."

"Critics: tests dumb down math," by Tracy Dell'Angela, Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2004

Author said...

I teach math in a university. The three greatest barriers my students face is 1) poor skills in symbol manipulation, 2) lack of content knowledge in geometry and 3) the inability to read and express themselve clearly in the sort of precise language used in math. This comment applies to students who want to be engineers just as much as it applies to liberal arts students.

I have seen some of the damage resulting from constructivist math curricula. Parents who do not make certain their children are learning what they need to know are predestining them to failure in any technical field. Unsophisticated parents are not equiped to do this. Their children are the big loosers.