When it comes to Math education, less is more says Virginia teacher Patrick Welsh in a USA Today opinion piece. Virginia’s Standards of Learning features 64-pages detailing “what math gurus in Richmond think kids should absorb at every step in their 13 years in school.” Still he notes at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., where he teaches English, “we have been graduating hundreds of kids who need a calculator to figure out that nine times five is 45.”
One reason for the teacher frustration is that the state’s math gurus have de-emphasized memorization in favor of “conceptual thinking.” The same philosophy has crept into English classes, where “creativity” has been elevated over knowledge of grammar, and into history classes, where knowing historical trends — “the big picture” — has replaced knowing dates of important events. The result is seniors who are not just incapable of multiplication, but also unable to identify the verb in a sentence or come within 100 years of placing the Civil War.
“Kids also are taught the wrong material at the wrong time,” says Welsh, who counsels slowing down and giving kids the time and ability to master basics. “Students are not the only ones who must ‘get’ math. Many elementary school teachers are notoriously weak here.”
Related News: Every California eighth-grader will be tested in algebra — ready or not — under a policy approved Wednesday that could make the state the first in the nation to require an upper-level math class before high school, the L.A. Times reports.