Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Deteriorating Math Performance of College Freshman

Here's another Youtube.com re: the failure policy of "Reform" Math begun in Washington state in the 1980's. The latest video and data (above) is from a University of Washington professor who rues the deteriorating math performance of incoming college freshman on a Pre-Calculus placement exam. The students weren't any less selective, he adds, during the same period, the GPAs of incoming freshman were documented as higher than in the 1980's. Watch the new math video here. The rise in scores in 2000 was seen after the test was amended and made easier.

A common target for "irrelevant math" is long division. However, as a parent who had to tutor her kids through it, I could see how long division helps reinforce the relationship between numbers as fractions vs. decimals, how long division equipped kids to solve division or allocation problems with pencil and paper, and how factoring and approximations could become easier with this tool in the math arsenal. Long division is also important for many aspects of higher math.

What's the most common reason long division was eliminated from the curriculum? From NYT: "“When my oldest child, an A-plus stellar student, was in sixth grade, I realized he had no idea, no idea at all, how to do long division,” Ms. Backman said, “so I went to school and talked to the teacher, who said, ‘We don’t teach long division; it stifles their creativity.’ ”

Why Long Division
Math Education: A University View
EideNL Blog: Don't Do This Math
NYTimes: As Math Scores Lag, A New Push for Basics
Powerpoint from 2006 Community Math Forum at Bellevue High School
Fordham Institute: State of Math Standards 2005

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