‘Newfangled’ Math Poses Problems for the Poorest

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To the Editor:

The article "Teaching Mathematics Requires Special Set of Skills" (Oct. 13, 2004) is both alarming and disheartening.

We’ve been working with inner-city kids here in Minneapolis for about eight years, and we find that the newfangled math, based on the notion that “there’s not always one way to solve a problem,” is literally destroying the math skills of poor children.

Contrary to what was reported, there is a best way to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. When you teach children to “do it their own way,” you handicap them for life. Add other modern notions, such as allowing students to use calculators to do math work, solving classroom math problems orally and in groups, and ridding math programs of memorization and testing, and you create yet more hurdles for poor students.

Rich kids get remediation; poor kids are stuck with the results of all the researchers’ experimentation. I don’t know exactly who created this particular mess in teacher education, but I can tell you that the results here in the middle of a poor neighborhood in north Minneapolis are an unmitigated disaster for the poor. If children cannot add, subtract, multiply, and divide, in their head, quickly, they will not succeed in higher education, and they will not compete successfully for good jobs.

Gregory J. Pulles
Plymouth, Minn.

Vol. 24, Issue 11, Page 37

Published in Print: November 10, 2004, as ‘Newfangled’ Math Poses Problems for the Poorest

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