While in elementary school, I forgot how to do long division the summer after we learned it. Thanks to my paternal grandmother, a saint in her own right and a 6th grade teacher at PS 199 in Brooklyn, NY, I got the proper brushing up. As a high schooler, I struggled with algebra, aced geometry, and took “fusion math” in the eleventh grade from a strange duck who one day looked at his well-behaved (really) class of eleven students and said, “I hate you kids. If there was anything I could be doing besides teaching, I’d be out of here.” That was my last day in a high school math class. My Dad, also a high school teacher and WWII combat vet, decided that it was neither a healthy environment, nor physically a safe place to be.
And the math struggle goes on.
Today I read that Lehigh Valley (Pennsylvania) math professors are among the many nationwide who complain that rushing through high school algebra and geometry courses, or following an integrated math curriculum, is leaving too many students currently entering college unprepared for college math.
Their concerns — that students are not developing strong basic math skills because of the rush to move on — are well-founded, in my opinion, and I’m burning to know how our district sees this news item.
After a full year of college level statistics and studying algebra for the GRE, I lost my math phobia and even begged my principal(s) to assign me to a pre-algebra class where kids were struggling. (They never did take me seriously. I’m not math certified.) So I’m convinced now that although some kids might be somehow more predisposed to either math or verbal high achievement, all students who are well-taught can succeed in math and develop strong skills useful over a lifetime.
A fellow edublogger noted that although we seem to know what to do to achieve pedagogical excellence as measured by high student achievement, we just don’t seem to do it. There’s a connection here.