Monthly Archives: June 2015

Three years later, this article is more useful than ever

Since the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) has been fully implemented, I have received more complaints from constituents about the CCSSI than any other subject. Most of these complaints have been about math, with parents of elementary school students being the most vocal. I recently reread this 2012 article by high school math teacher Barry Garlick. The entire article is excellent, but I want to quote for you the section that I think zeroes in on the gist of our problem:

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the criticism of traditional math teaching is based largely on a mischaracterization of how it is/has been taught, and misrepresented as having failed thousands of students in math education despite evidence of its effectiveness in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Reacting to this characterization of the traditional model, math reformers promote a teaching approach in which understanding and process dominate over content. In lower grades, mental math and number sense are emphasized before students are fluent with procedures and number facts. Procedural fluency is seldom achieved. In lieu of the standard methods for adding/subtracting, multiplying and dividing, in some programs students are taught strategies and alternative methods. Whole class and teacher-led explicit instruction (and even teacher-led discovery) has given way to what the education establishment believes is superior: students working in groups in a collaborative learning environment. Classrooms have become student-centered and inquiry-based. The grouping of students by ability has almost entirely disappeared in the lower grades—full inclusion has become the norm. Reformers dismiss the possibility that understanding and discovery can be achieved by students working on sets of math problems individually and that procedural fluency is a prerequisite to understanding. Much of the education establishment now believes it is the other way around; if students have the understanding, then the need to work many problems (which they term “drill and kill”) can be avoided.

The de-emphasis on mastery of basic facts, skills and procedures has met with growing opposition, not only from parents but also from university mathematicians. At a recent conference on math education held in Winnipeg, math professor Stephen Wilson from Johns Hopkins University said, much to the consternation of the educationists on the panel, that “the way mathematicians learn is to learn how to do it first and then figure out how it works later.” This sentiment was also echoed in an article written by Keith Devlin (2006). Such opposition has had limited success, however, in turning the tide away from reform approaches.
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Parents, students and educators need to be aware of changes from ACT

I recommend parents of college-bound students read Nancy Griesemer’s June 22 article, “ACT announces changes to college reports that could drive admissions decisions,” posted June 22 at The author explained that ACT is offering 450 institutional participants in ACT Research Services assessments of students’ chances of success in specific courses as well as core courses but these results are not to be found on the ACT report provided to the students and families. ACT’s evaluation include data reported by students but not necessarily verified by ACT. Griesemer wrote, “And admissions could choose to admit, deny or recommend another major based on this speculation….But students are left completely in the dark, as nothing appears on documents they receive that would reveal what ACT is suggesting about their chances of success.” For the full article, go to: “”>

A follow-up article on June 25,”Counselors react strongly to new ACT score reports,” brings up even more concerns. Griesemer explains that ACT is now offering colleges the opportunity to purchase individualized reports assessing an applicant’s “chances of success” in various majors and freshman-level courses.” [Remember, this is the same information that is not given to the student whose answers on the ACT exam and associated application are the basis for the “chances of success.” ] See entirarticle: