Re: New Math Criticized

breuche (
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 21:02:21 -0400

lou giglio wrote:
> 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
> > lgiglio@dimacs.rutgers.eduDear Lou,

I am so glad you shared this letter with us. It is so right on the
mark. Thanks for all of us... math teachers, mathematicians, and all of
us who are deeply concerned about the future of our students and
citizens and their preparedness for the constant challenges that require
skills we don't even know yet. Except that problem solving, using
reasoning skills, communicating clearly and thinking logically will
always be needed.

As ever,