Monday, September 11, 2006

Teaching Math Today

Today's math curriculum is a disgrace. I just finished tutoring a bright tenth grader who was struggling with basic ninth grade factoring. The poor kid always worked hard and always got good grades. In fact, he got a 94 on the Math A regents. The problem is that he was never really taught any math. He was never taught or required to factor complex expressions and the little that he was taught was never reinforced. This boy has the potential to go on in the math and science fields but our schools are doing him a major injustice by not preparing him properly.

I plead guilty to also teaching this sham of a math curriculum. I encourage my students to use a calculator, rather than forcing them to learn how to perform operations with signed numbers and fractions. I show them how to work backwards from the choices when the questions are multiple choice so they can get the correct answer without actually knowing how to do the problem. I used to be a better teacher. Because the school system now wants everyone treated as an equal, our better students are being cheated. I am watering down my curriculum to get more to pass. I really don't want to do that but I have no choice. The poor kids in some of my classes don't want to take algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Not only don't they want it, but it has no relevance to anything in their lives. I want these kids to graduate. Even to work in Mc Donald's, they will need that piece of paper that declares them high school graduates. It is just too hard to teach to both ends at once. My classes all have 34 students in them. I just don't know how to reach them all without hurting some of them so I opt for a middle of the road approach.

3 comments:

Jonathan said...

We do what we can. The new Regents may help, some, when they arrive next year. In the meantime, remember that watering down the math to the easy stuff is not the same as distorting the math, and as long as you avoid the latter you are still teaching good stuff, even if not as much as you might like.

Good Luck.

karenk said...

My daugher, a junior with a 90+ average in everything excpet math, is in the same boat. She pulled a 65 on the Math A regents and we were doing the happy dance. I pulled her out of Math B (anothe useless subject) when I found out she only needs one math regents for a regents diploma. She is in intermediate alegbra and is still having problems because she was never really drilled in multiplication tables. She is amazed that I can do fractions and percents in my head and I was never a great math student either.

Pissed Off said...

I really believe that with lots of kids its all in the teaching. Bright kids have got to learn not to be afraid of math. I teach my kids to tackle the part they don't like first and that seems to work--from the calculus kids down to the remedial ones.