Monday, January 21, 2008

Is our children learning math?

A math teacher who attends my gym told me she is teaching seventh and eighth graders math which they should have learned in third and fourth grade. These kids don't know multiplication tables--in fact, multiplication is unknown to them. She cited an example of one boy who was told to multiply 12 by 9. He wrote the number 12 nine times and attempted to add the nine columns up. He at least understood the concept.

Why are our schools so obdurate about avoiding teaching our children anything? They seem to have an absolute aversion to allowing learning to take place. Let me put it another way--why can't the children learn? Their parents learned to add, subtract, multiply and divide, so it's not genetic, because we are dealing with the same gene pool. Our children have not been stolen away and replaced by dolts.

I am far from being a math whiz, but I learned to add and subtract in first or second grade, followed the next year by multiplication, division, and--wait for it!--fractions! Yes, fractions were introduced into my muddled little brain when I was a child of tender years and appeared not to harm my psyche. I memorized the multiplication tables because we were made to. I can't say it was an enlightening experience, but I can multiply 12 by 9 even at my advanced age.

I do despair of our country's future when I witness this. Why is it children can learn to read, write and calculate in third world countries, and ours can't? Why does Iran, a repressive hellhole, have a better educational system than we do?

What are they doing in school all day, playing volleyball?

Welcome, Carnival of Insanities readers!


Paul Smith Jr. said...

I was a math major in college and tutored for a while. I had trouble tutoring because the students I was trying to help were studying math I had done in grade school. One time, I taught a student a method they hadn't learned yet and had to go back to their textbook to learn how they did it. (It was the sort of thing where there was a much easier way to do whatever they were doing, but it needed some higher math than they had, but once you learn it, you would never do it the way they had learned, so I had forgotten how to do it.)

Granted, not everyone has the ability to be a math major, but I was really depressed to see how these kids had been let down by their schools.

Steve B said...

My second grade daughter brings home really basic single-column addition as homework. A lot of it is essentially counting and telling what the picture says kind of stuff.

Part of it is that her teacher is a complete waste. If one of the kids missed as much school as this teacher does, they'd have to hold him back a grade.

That Broad said...

They don't make the kids learn multiplication tables anymore as far as I can tell. I had a long discussion with my college math teacher about the state of math education in our public schools, she said it quite perfectly, "they expose the children to many different subjects, but they become masters of nothing."

Last year, my daughter's teacher quit in the middle of the year. Just quit. She was not replaced.

That Broad said...

I also want to add, I think the biggest reason kids aren't learning anything in school is because they do not encourage them to learn anything by rote. Those multiplication tables, spelling words, and all the other things that were drilled into our little heads when I was a child are skimmed over, and that's the extent of it.

In all the years my daughter was in school, I have yet to ever walk into a classroom and find a teacher actually giving a lesson, or presenting a subject, or even demonstrating things on the board.

The children are regularly broken up into little groups where they are supposed to work on things. They would rotate around the room to various tables, ie a math table, history table etc.

At the math table, the children a group of 5 or so, would each pick a little piece of paper with a math problem written on it, and solve it. The teacher might be on the other side of the room helping kids work on a mural or any other thing.

If a child didn't know the answer, the other children told him, and they moved on. That was math. It was quite bizarre. In fact, a classroom of today looks nothing like what we had when I was a kid.

They look more like little social centers, it seems very unstructured.

I'm sorry to go on and on, but I've got one more thing to add. When I was a child, there was an unspoken agreement between parents and teachers, each did their part in educating the child. Teachers did not send home piles of homework that parents were supposed to instruct the child on, unlike today where they preach parental involvement, when in actuality, they want parents to do their job for them.

The homework that was sent home had already been presented to us, all we had to do was go home and complete it, and get extra practice in to make it stick. That silly memorization thing again. NO, today, they send stuff home that has not even been presented to our kids at all, and expect us to do it.

Just my take on things. I could go on, but I will spare you my endless ranting on this subject.

Dick Stanley said...

More to the point: Is our children learning grammar?

Dick Stanley said...

My second grader's math--called Math Excel, which you can find on the Web--seems way ahead of what I had fifty-some-odd years ago. He's already learning probabilities. I don't recall ever learning, which hampered me at the race track, I can tell you. It's also taught him in a few weeks to tell time on an analog clock. Now if it would just teach him to tie his shoes, we'd be home free.

Rachel said...

I gotta agree with that broad about learning things by rote. I was terrible in math, but I got those multiplication tables down cold. And percents, which is an invaluable help with the sales racks,

My son, who was "good" in math (though a horrible student altogether) can't add, multiply or divide anything in his head.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt that there are inadequacies with teaching whether in public or private schools. We have our daughters in private school and I can tell you that teachers are overwhelmed there, too.

Although, I don't agree that parents should be left to do the teaching, I do think we need to step in to make sure our kids succeed. If anything, we are helping them build confidence with things such as multiplication because they become familiar with it.

I found a bunch of websites that offer free multiplication worksheets and even a cool interactive site to help 2-4 graders memorize their multiplication. If they don't have it memorized, division and algebra will be a nightmare for them.

Feel free to check out my collection here - it's put together at this link which is like an online 3 ring binder - just go through the tabs to view the web page. The last tab has that cool multiplication game...

miriam sawyer said...

Tina: Thanks for the info. If any of my readers want to use the link, the multiplication tables are very helpful.