Monday, April 6, 2009


The Star Ledger ran an article on Sunday entitled: A new approach to an old math problem (The state looks to balance traditional and reform methods to improve learning). Once again the Commissioner was quoted as stating:
"I think there was a movement away from children mastering the basics of math -- the basics of division, multiplication, the basics around percentages. We began to rely on calculators," Davy said. "We need to wind up with a balance."
With all due respect, Mrs. Davy, movement away from mastering the basics? Where? I have visited hundreds and hundreds of classrooms across NJ and there is no elementary school teacher who has moved away from kids learning their basic facts. No where, no place. Such rhetoric is very disappointing and it shows a complete lack of reality of what is happening in the field. She also stated we began to rely on calculators? Who is the we? Do you blame the teachers of NJ? Do you blame their students? Calculator usage has always been balanced in the NJ standards. Always. It always seems to come back to calculators. That somehow these $1 tools cause students to not master their basic facts. It is such a sad and tired argument. Cathy Liebars, in contrast to the Commissioner, states:
"The traditional way of teaching math is to drill them until they memorize. That produced a lot of adults who hate math or don't understand math," said Cathy Liebars, a mathematician at the College of New Jersey and one of the founders of the Concerned Math Educators. "Kids don't just have to memorize things. They can learn basic facts while they are solving problems." And calculators help students "when the focus is not on doing the computing but on how to figure out how to solve the problem," Liebars said. "Teachers help them understand when it is appropriate."

I only wish the Commissioner was so eloquent.

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