Opinion
Curriculum Letter to the Editor

Other Perspectives on ‘Anti-Knowledge’ Math

October 17, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

In her Commentary on the “anti-knowledge movement” and its impact on mathematics teaching, Jo Boaler uses as a case study what she describes as “a [California] school that had changed the math approach it used for years with poor results, to one that engaged students more actively in their math learning” (“Where Has All the Knowledge Gone?,” Oct. 8, 2008). But by not naming the school, she continues a pattern of reporting her preconceptions and perceptions as historically accurate. The school is one of three—the pseudonymously named Greendale, to be specific—that she wrote about when she was a professor at Stanford University. (“Study: Teacher-Designed Math Curriculum Is Effective,” Feb. 16, 2005.)

The fact of the matter is that the school was doing very well academically (including in mathematics) until it imposed the Interactive Mathematics Program on all its students. Outrage among parents was great, and the best math teachers left. Although the move was strongly resisted by the school, eventually real math was allowed as an option for certain students and, eventually, for all. Subsequently, only eight students chose IMP, and it was phased out entirely. The damage to the mathematics component of the school, however, still reverberates.

Wayne Bishop

Professor of Mathematics

California State University-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Calif.

To the Editor:

How dare Jo Boaler accuse parents opposed to reform math of being “anti-knowledge?”

I oppose such instruction because I have seen what it has done to my child. I have two kids, one following a traditional math program and the younger being taught the Investigations curriculum developed by TERC, a math, science, and technology education organization. I have to teach the second child at home to maintain his math knowledge, because he gets confused by all the ways his teachers ask him to add things up when he used to be able to do it in his head.

The level of mathematics in these programs is ridiculous. My son is very bored, and because of the teachers’ huge involvement in “facilitating,” they can’t take care of the brighter students.

The details of the school that Ms. Boaler claims was ruined by the anti-knowledge movement are hard to verify without specifics—its name, for example.

Opponents of fuzzy math are not organized other than by school district. This battle is being fought at the local level with no funding of any kind and no central organization.

I can’t believe Ms. Boaler received a National Science Foundation grant to peddle this nonsense. It is academically devoid of any valid content.

Edmund Page

Haymarket, Va.

A version of this article appeared in the October 22, 2008 edition of Education Week as Other Perspectives on ‘Anti-Knowledge’ Math

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Assessment Webinar
The State of Assessment in K-12 Education
What is the impact of assessment on K-12 education? What does that mean for administrators, teachers and most importantly—students?
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Centering the Whole Child in School Improvement Planning and Redesign
Learn how leading with equity and empathy yield improved sense of belonging, attendance, and promotion rate to 10th grade.

Content provided by Panorama
Teaching Profession Webinar Examining the Evidence: Supports to Promote Teacher Well-Being
Rates of work dissatisfaction are on the rise among teachers. Grappling with an increased workload due to the pandemic and additional stressors have exacerbated feelings of burnout and demoralization. Given these challenges, what can the

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum Calif. Deletes Popular Affirmation From Curriculum After Suit Claims It's an Aztec Prayer
This lawsuit is one of the first major legal challenges to the state's model ethnic studies curriculum.
Kristen Taketa, The San Diego Union-Tribune
3 min read
Image of a gavel.
Marilyn Nieves/E+
Curriculum Librarians Fight Back Against Efforts to Ban Books in Schools
Book defenders have employed a variety of strategies, including petition drives, protests, and direct pressure on school board members.
David Montgomery, Stateline.org
8 min read
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in recent weeks on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Curriculum From Our Research Center The Topics That Lead Book Ban Requests, According to School Leaders
A new survey of teachers, principals, and district leaders sheds some light on book ban and censorship requests.
3 min read
Image show a page of fiction with black marks hiding sentences or words.
Getty
Curriculum Opinion The Evidence-Based, Broadly Appealing Way to Teach Kids How to Succeed
There is broad-based support for teaching that getting a degree, job, and married—before kids—makes one more likely to avoid poverty.
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty