The claim that teaching kids math discriminates against children of color is the latest progressive gobbledygook. Professor Gutierrez's remarks are ludicrous and biased. We need to keep politics out of schools. (See Alert below)
E. D. Hirsch Jr. writes, "Critical thinking does not exist as an independent skill. The domain specificity of skills is one of the most important scientific finds of our era for teachers and parents to know about, but it is not widely known in the school world.”
The idea that learning "standard arithmetic" is not that important stems from the progressive self-esteem crusade and reformers who think calculators are a substitute for learning basic arithmetic. Furthermore, progressive reformers also believe that critical thinking and problem-solving skills should be taught independent of content. They are WRONG!
Children of color can excel in math when it is taught and practiced for mastery. But, this is often not the case. Also, Mark Manson points out that we have grade inflation, participation awards, and bogus trophies "to make low-achieving kids feel better about their lack of achievement." In my opinion, all teachers should teach standard arithmetic and standard algorithms rather than reform math.
(See Alert below)
Peter W. Cookson Jr., a sociologist, wrote about the future: "Teachers will need new pedagogies and curricula for their students that emphasize problem-solving, higher-order skills, access to machine intelligence, teamwork, and lifelong learning." It's the same old junk from progressive ideologues that failed in the past. Cookson seems to ignore the critical importance of content knowledge in long-term memory needed for problem-solving, learning, and innovation.
Cookson claims that "inquiry skills" will drive learning; however, inquiry learning and similar minimal guidance methods are inferior to explicit teaching, according to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, who equate minimal guidance with minimal learning. Also, Cookson stresses "skills without content," which is not possible. Critical thinking or problem-solving is domain-specific. You have to know some trig to solve trig problems.
Cookson is in a fantasyland. He talks about preparing kids (the digital natives) for an upcoming innovation era, but we have been in a technological innovation era since the invention of the transistor in 1947. Before that, the V-2 rocket that launched the space age. Then, there was Einstein.
The progressive narratives are everywhere in education. Most reforms have failed to turn education around. (I know it will work; we just need more funding, more resources, more tech, more innovation, etc.) Also, teachers are trained in progressive schools of education, so many misconceptions hang around decade after decade. Old ideas that failed in the past are revived with fresh language such as reform math.
Cognitive skills are important. "The cognitive skills of the labor force as measured by math and science scores are extremely important in an economic sense." There is a link between the scores in math and science, and economic growth says Eric A. Hanushek. In short, school quality impacts economic growth. Progressive ideologues talk a lot about school quality then downgrade knowledge and individual achievement. Knowledge and skills go together. (Quote from The 4% Solution)
The bottom line is that students need to upgrade their math skills to move forward. But, the progressive narrative from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM 1989) is for students to use calculators early on, including in kindergarten children. We are told by reformers that with calculators, the central role of learning standard arithmetic is no longer that important. WRONG! In contrast, Ian Stewart writes (The Story of Mathematics), "Without internalizing the basic operations of arithmetic, the whole of mathematics will be inaccessible to you ... You won't learn to think sensibly about numbers by relying on a calculator." The fact is that standard arithmetic (e.g., standard algorithms, auto recall of math facts, etc.) is not taught well in our schools. Kids don't learn basic arithmetic well because it is not taught well.
Alert, Alert, Alert...
An "education" professor claims that teaching kids math discriminates against children of color. How stupid! Comment: "Why would anyone think that minorities would be less able to do math than anyone else?"
Rochelle Gutierrez, an education professor, not a mathematician, claims that teaching kids algebra and geometry discriminates against students of color and perpetuates white "unearned privilege." She is wrong! In contrast, I go into urban 4th-grade classrooms to teach little kids algebra basics once a week. Virtually 90% of the students are children of color; most are Hispanic. I volunteer as a guest algebra teacher to provide opportunities for young students that expand their knowledge of mathematics. Indeed, factual and procedural mathematical knowledge in long-term memory is an asset to any learner regardless of color.
Gutierrez says her work is "scholarly," but how can that be if her premise is weaker than gravity and the so-called investigators are offering only their biased opinions. It is not the cognitive science of learning. "This white paper represents the impressions and insights of Sanchez, Kastberg, Tyminski, and Lischka, [principle] investigators (PI) ... The opinions included in this paper represent those of the PIs as of November 5, 2015." (Gutierrez used the wrong word for PI. She wrote the "principle investigators" rather than the "principal investigators.")
Students need higher-level math courses to expand their career choices later on. Some students may dislike math, but this attitude should not govern their education priorities. Saying algebra is discriminatory is like saying tests discriminate against those who do not study.
Unfortunately, the typical methods--discovery or inquiry math activities in small groups--hold kids back because the curriculum and instructional practices do not optimize the early mastery of standard arithmetic. The constructivist minimal guidance methods are inefficient compared to the explicit explaining of worked examples in math. Also, there is no substitute for drill-to-develop-skill.
Unfortunately, the minimal guidance methods are the same practices that progressive reformers, policymakers, and professors in schools of education advocate. Consequently, kids don't learn basic arithmetic well because it is not taught well.
Often, classroom teachers are asked to teach "items on the state test" using inferior methods. The state standards are Common Core rebranded.
October 25, 2017. 10-28-17, 10-30-17