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[Xmca-l] Re: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?
I have to agree. From a BS in English, I went to an MA in mathematics.
No one has mentioned Dr. Ellen Langer and Meaningful Learning. Or Cooperative/Collaborative Learning. Or Paideia Seminars. Or a host of other methodologies.
The tools are there. Many students are getting excellent preparation in college for successful teaching. It is when they begin teaching in many of our public schools that everything changes. The new teacher goes from knowing that each child is different, in so many ways, to a system that demands they teach every child in the exact same way and that test scores are far more important than learning.
When I began teaching at a community college, all of my students had passed the basic skills test to graduate from high school. But few could add, or divide common fractions. When I asked them how this was, their answer was simple, "We took the tests so often, we figured out which answers were correct."
Let me share an experience that I had with a statistics class. The college was considering using a standard test to measure level of learning during the first two years. My class was selected to take the test in hopes of comparing the results with several other measures of student success. The test-ing took nearly 90 minutes. My students were angry. They felt that they had wasted the time that I needed to teach statistics. Of the 24 students, 3 admitted that they had Christmas-Treed the answer sheet, 1 stated that he had chosen every wrong answer, 4 more (all of whom I had determined were introverts) did not finish. A third of the results would be useless! The students shared that high school was a hell of constant multiple choice tests that had little to do with what they were learning. A math teacher in a local high school calculated that 45 of the 180 days of school were spent testing! More than 1 day a week!
- Roger Breen