When I was a child and had a question about my math homework, I was blessed (although probably at the time felt cursed) that both of my parents were Math Majors. On these occasions, my evenings would consist of additional math instruction typically accompanied by the ever familiar discussion over which of them graduated from the more prestigious Jesuit campus of Fordham University. My father claiming he graduated from the ‘real’ Fordham but my mother always held her own in the debate. In hindsight, I recognize that women from my mother’s generation typically did not become engineers but were encouraged to become nurses, teachers, secretaries. But, I digress. What is important is that I was well served by their instruction and encouragement and have since had every math class of an electrical engineer. For a decade, until I decided to stay home with the children, I was a programmer alongside some of the brightest analytical minds from around the globe. But now it’s my turn to take the role as a supplementary instructor to my children with their math homework.
So, I’ll admit when I first became aware of the ‘Math Investigations’ program adopted by the County, I wasn’t overly concerned with the program because my children are bright and the fifth grader would be ‘transitioned’. However, after witnessing the effect this program has had on my children I’m convinced it’s not a productive way to teach math. In fact, I’m convinced someone with a double ‘e’ major has developed it; and I’m not talking about an Electrical Engineer but rather an individual with an Elementary Ed Degree.
I have told this story before but let me repeat it for the edification of everyone. During my sophomore year of college, after my calculus class, where I most likely was working on differential equations or something equally as challenging, I went back to my apartment and found my Elementary Ed roommate cutting out squares and lining them up in rows and columns. She then proceeded to count the squares which completely dumbfounded me because I couldn’t understand why anyone would waste their time with this exercise. When I inquired about why she would bother counting them, she told that she ‘just wanted to make sure’. I remember being somewhat appalled at the time, and thinking that someone like her could one day teach my children math. It must have been a premonition of sorts because it IS exactly this same methodology that is now being used on my children.
My fifth-grader has completely forgotten the traditional way of doing double digit multiplication, instead she draws a crazy square ‘lattice’ . My second-grader is breaking down subtraction problems into ‘number statements’ in multiples of 5’s and 10’s, instead of stacking and subtracting. These added steps confuse and often allow additional opportunities for mistakes which increase the chances of her getting the wrong answer.
These methods are so strange to parents that the county holds classes to teach the parents how the children are doing math. It’s absurd. Then certain board members think that because the parent classes are well attended that the program is a success? No, it’s because the concepts are so foreign that they need to take the class to understand what the heck is going on.
So, tonight, I will attend the Prince William County School Board Meeting at 7pm to speak out in opposition to the ‘Math Investigation’ program. I understand there has been a growing resistance to this curriculum for quite some time and I always thought that the school board would realize the folly of their ways and abandon the instruction. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened. Now, I believe this school board might not realize the detriment of this program until a generation of children have been branded with this tainted methodology.
There have been a couple informational websites developed where more can be learned and there’s a petition that can be signed to show your opposition. Please consider adding your voice to those that believe this curriculm is detrimental to our students.
More information can be found here –