Consider this example of a new analytical math question for second graders: "You have 20 bats and balls. How many of each?" The answer is multi-faceted - 19 bats, one ball; 18 bats, two balls; 19 balls, one bat, etc. While this kind of analytical thinking is important, and many youngsters are now quite adept at it, too many of them need their fingers to figure out what 8+7 equals. Even some middle schoolers can't do simple math. This is why Mathematically Correct and its proponents believe so strongly that instructors need to teach these new skills in addition to the fundamental math that was taught years ago.
As early as elementary and middle school, students are now learning math in an effort to prepare for college acceptance. (John's Hopkins' programs require SAT scores from seventh graders!) The SAT was supposedly created to predict the success, or lack thereof, that students would have in college; it has never proven to do that. A major testing shift is taking place, with more students preparing for the ACT exam, a curriculum-based test. The math questions on both tests have word problems that cannot be approached mathematically until the student understands the written word.
Nothing is more important than these written skills. As a child reads, his comprehension and concentration improve. This has been shown to directly influence better scores in all subjects, math included. The thinking process may change, but the numbers will stay the same. Purchase flashcards and constantly review addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication with your child. These operations will always be a staple of our mathematical culture. No matter how New New New the math gets, the fundamentals will always remain.
MARC HOBERMAN is the director of the Grade Success, Inc. Tutoring Service and has been facilitating workshops, seminars, and courses since 1985. To learn more about his upcoming seminars, classes, and group and private parent consulting, email [email protected] or visit www.gradesuccessinc.com.