Thursday, January 22, 2009

my remainder

I didn’t want to get into this discussion because it’ll make me sound like a crazy old man. Unfortunately, it has been forced upon my mind by current events. I’d like to refer you to a previous entry from the blog. Feel free to amble over and take a look, I’ll wait for you here.

The elementary school down the street – and one math teacher in particular – has determined that the kids in his or her class don’t know how to divide or multiply. They’ve attacked this great mystery by deciding to teach kids how to multiply and divide, huzzah! (I picture a sixty-year-old math teacher with a tidy brush cut, rumpled suit, and heavy black-rimmed glasses guffawing about the classroom as his minions fail to properly carry remainders; you create your own teacher.) A few weeks ago the house was suddenly overrun first with long division, and then with multiplication problems. The multiplication was not of the tables sort but the multiplying of three- and four-digit numbers with decimals. This new fangled math was met with suspicious eyes and minds by those under 5 feet, 5 inches. Who could have possibly invented this method? It’s mad! I think we should go back to coloring squares on a big square graph and then counting rows and doing magical tomfoolery. Ah ha!, I say. That doesn’t actually work in real life when you aren’t carrying around a bag of colored pencils, a pile of graph paper, scissors, and have time to sit on the floor at work and count squares. It makes you look simple. It warmed my soul in its mathematical corners to listen and watch as paper was gathered, pencil sharpened, brackets drawn, and numbers managed. The pattern and method, proven through time, had finally arrived at the Hilltop: a bit of multiplication, a dash of subtraction, the carrying down of the next digit, rinse, repeat, add a decimal, input another zero…voila! I was really beginning to get the feeling that all was lost in the educational system as I continued to watch a fifth-grader doing homework that required him to “underline” the tens place! Circle the thousands place! Color in the pie and then subtract the green stuff from the pink wedge!

Even with my old man bubbling over and seeming crazy (I’m not), there’s some evidence, if you can call consider standardized tests as evidence, of the mathematical ability of our children devolving, right? Maybe I’ll wander off and do some research to support that broad statement but I think it’s true. Once you get off the path of very strong suburban and / or private school systems, I’m pretty sure the maths numbers are staggering. Do you know why? I’ll tell you.

Grab a colored pencil, some graph paper, and take this down…

Hey to all


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