Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Mathematical Rant

I am angry. I am angry this morning at know-it-alls who think that what works for me should work for everyone. I am tired of self-appointed experts in education who are actually ignorant of learning and how it happens.

This rant is brought to you by the people who share this and damn it with no understanding of why this type of thinking helps children to understand math:

And then there is this internet meme that’s gone around for over a year:

I’m tired of hearing “this is how I learned it in school and everyone else should do the same.”

Because it’s not working. Because I have to teach children 12 to 15 years old who cannot add, subtract, and multiply. Memorizing math facts with no understanding works for a few, not all.

Why don’t you know-it-alls try talking to a math teacher about what these techniques are helping children to realize? They are learning how numbers are put together and how they can be manipulated to find answers when performing basic operations. By the time the learning takes hold, the students will be able to do arithmetic in their heads and have the fluency to excel at higher mathematics: algebra, geometry, and calculus.

To Jack’s parent I say this: You have a college degree in electrical engineering and you can’t figure out the assignment? The termination you’re talking about, buddy, is yours. Employers do not need nor do they want employees who work out of recall with no understanding. They need workers who have flexible thinking processes to approach problem-solving with a confidence that they can find a method out of their existing knowledge.

To say that basic recall is all that’s needed for success—and these are TEACHERS talking—have you ever heard of Benjamin Bloom? His work is 50 years old and still relevant today.

Lastly, if the people who share these internet memes would bother to read the actual common core standards (you can download them here: , you would find out that fluency, the ability to perform arithmetic based on memory and recall, and standard algorithms, which those memes promote, are required. They are a part of the standards.

I do have questions and concerns about the Common Core standards, but enough is enough. I have had it with knee-jerking reactionaries across the political spectrum. Do your homework or zip your lips.

Rant over.