Thursday, March 11, 2010

It Hurts

The college course I teach does not permit calculators. It hurts to see these young adults struggling with including basic simple arithmetic operations, fractions, decimals and percents.

These students are unprepared for college and when I go back to the high school, I understand why.

I recently finished a section on percents both in the high school and the college. In both places, I stressed using the words to solve the problem. Both groups struggled. The high school group got off easy. All they had to do was set up the problem, plug a few numbers into their calculators, and presto, their answer appeared. In the college, they began the process the same way but had the tedious process of actually doing the computations. Some were able, many were not. One woman struggled to get 8 when she divided 160 by 20.

Since I have begun teaching this class, I cringe every time I show a high school student how to use the fraction button on their calculator. I know they will be able to pass the regents this way but they haven't mastered the math. They aren't prepared to go on to college.

NYS is talking about doing away with regents exams. This would be great if we could then do what our students need us to do, TEACH. I doubt that would happen. Everyone is so worried about statistics and graduation rates, merit pay and keeping schools open to keep their jobs that education is on the back burner. I wonder if there will ever be a return to real education in this country.


Kim said...

Unfortunately, students today are so tied to their calculators that they cannot solve math problems without them. I teach AP Environmental Science, and students are not allowed to use calculators on the exam. I have had to teach these kids how to add and subtract (carrying and borrowing), how to multiply large numbers, and how to do long division, including with decimals. Very challenging, especially considering I'm teaching it based on what I learned when I was a student many years ago.

Lsquared said...

I'm tutoring one of my childrens' friends (8th grade), and he really likes that fraction button. I see some serious fraction work in our future.

EFM said...

My son is half way through middle school and the only long divisions, sans calculator, he ever did were done at home with me.
He was also never taught how to write or read script in school.
Thank you NCLB.