I read the above pictured news story this morning about U.S. students' math deficiencies. Some of us like math; some don't. I personally have a soft spot for math.
Today's article rings true for me since I have a son in elementary school. His teacher last year had a master's degree in math, so I backed off when I noticed that The Child didn't seem to know his multiplication tables. He brushed it off, claiming that his teacher had taught him some sort of scheme which I didn't understand for "coming up with" math facts.
Well, now I wish I had stood my ground. This year, he seems to have forgotten that scheme which replaced multiplication tables. I now fear for his future.
Is it possible that there really is some validity to NOT teaching basic math facts? The longer I live, the more I realize that indeed, anything's possible. But I also have learned to speak for myself.
I have fond memories related to math from my school years. I was good at it and I loved it. What little self-esteem I had as a child probably resulted largely from math.
In New York State where I grew up, public education was top notch. Each course was offered in levels, and I was in advanced math, with challenges aplenty. As early as 6th grade, I was being offered college-level algebra problems.
My parents didn't have a clue how to solve such problems, but my big sister's husband, who was actually a math major in college at the time, did. He didn't give me the answers directly but he taught me how to come up with them myself. It was a thrill to solve a difficult math problem- even more so when I was the only one in my class who got the right answer.
After my sister and her husband split up, I missed his help, but he had taught me to fish, as it were. One time in 8th grade our school's math department gave all of the classes an extraordinarily difficult problem. I spent a long time on it, and when a friend called me on the phone for help, I broke down and gave her my answer.
Later that night when checking over my work, I decided upon a different answer. I didn't tell my friend though, figuring I had helped her enough since I had even given her the steps involved.
The next day, the school was turned upside down when my friend, known to be somewhat slow (especially in algebra) proved to be the only student with the right answer. The math teachers had never expected anyone to solve it, least of all this particular student! We never told anybody what happened, and our math teachers scratched their heads over that one for a long time afterwards. It was especially baffling to them because no other student had the right answer!
My job requires no mathematical ability, but I enjoy working with numbers whenever life calls for it. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on my budget, and I am an eager bookkeeper at The Child's school bookstore. I just finished doing my tax returns. I do own a calculator, and I use it to check myself. I derive pleasure from working with numbers, and still experience that old sense of accomplishment after I finish.
The Child doesn't know what he's missing.