Re: New Math Criticized

lou giglio (
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 16:14:21 -0400

Bro. Pat thought that I should share this letter which I sent to an
editor of the Wash Post in response to the article which Pat recently
referred. Regards, Lou.

lou giglio wrote:
> Mr. Morley: I am sending this letter to you because I couldn't find an
> e-mail address for Robert Greene in the Washington Post website. I see
> that his by line is AP education writer. Since I would consider this an
> outside source, his article seems to fit the description to your e-mail
> title.
> The title "New Math" is inflamatory in itself. The connotation leads
> one back to the curriculum developed by the NCSM in the early 60's.
> These materials were developed by mathematicians at the collegiate
> level, but effective staff development was never implemented on a
> national scale. Thus the term "New Math" rekindles the fires of anxiety
> in people of that generation.
> As a teacher of secondary mathematics courses, I, too, find that
> students are calcualtor dependent. However, I do not blame the NCTM
> Standards for this situation. As you know documents which deal with
> principles are interpreted by the user. Beauty is in the eye of the
> beholder, if you will. The Standards emphasize the need for students to
> develop a Number Sense. This is the Standard where fundamental
> arthimetic and algebraic notions are developed. Estimation techniques
> are one of the focuses of Number Sense. Likewise the Standards
> empahsize the use of tools appropriate to the problem. When to use a
> calculator or a spreadsheet is as important as how to use these tools.
> The phrase "basic skills" is another loaded expression. As long as
> there are liberals and conservatives, we will always have the argument
> over the role of basic skills in the math curriculum. The critical
> invective is usually founded in deep-rooted political leanings rather
> than pedagogical expertise. For every opinion, one will readily find
> legions of experts to validate that belief!
> Mathematics is the science of patterns. Mathematics is about the
> process of developing a model which helps describe a situation.
> Mathematical models do not always incorporate all the relationships
> between variables in real world environments. If such modelling methods
> existed, we would have perfect weather forecasts, be able to know when
> the stock market will gain and lose, and make precise forecasts about
> the economy. What are the "basic skills" of such a mathematics?
> Most people believe that mathematics is a set of rules to be learned.
> Under that assumption, we clearly know what the basic skills are.
> However, our culture has evolved from an agrarian, store keeper society.
> How many of the critics of the NCTM Standards rely on the medical
> practioner who knows only the "basic skills" of Hippocrates time! Yes
> there are fundamental mathematical constucts which are needed for one to
> be mathematically literate. However, the expression "basic skills" makes
> a nice sound bite not a meaningful prescription.
> Sincerely
> Lou Giglio
> 18 Choctaw Trail
> Ringwood, NJ 07456