The Decline of Math
In the 1960s there were some major changes in the way schools taught their students in the United States. Reading began to be taught in a more random and illogical manner. The teaching of systematic phonics was replaced with the "looksay" or "whole language" method, which relies on guessing and memorizing word shapes. The systematic teaching of phonics gives the students the tools they need to read any word. It is only logical. But our schools have given up on logic.
Paul has studied the old math books and found that they used to be much more logical and systematic in their approach. He began to teach math in the public schools in 1962. There was a big change in the approach to the teaching of mathematics at that time. There was a group called the "School Mathematics Study Group" or SMSG, which was formed to counteract the lead that the Soviet Union had taken in the space race. This group came up with something called "modern math", which was supposed to solve our problems. In fact, it produced a generation of mathematical illiterates. The notion of a "spiral curriculum" was also part of the changes in the approach to the teaching of mathematics.
This approach stresses the continual introduction of various concepts in mathematics without developing an understanding of the laws behind them. It is also based on memorization and guessing. In math, guessing is called estimating. Like reading, math is systematic and is best taught in a systematic manner. According to the 1999 TIMMS test, which compares the mathematical abilities of students in 21 countries, the students from the United States came in 19th. They did better than students from South Africa and Cyprus. All other students did better than those from the U.S. As of 2007, the U.S. has quietly withdrawn from participation in these tests as math scores in the U.S. continue to decline. If you use the materials and methods of the government schools, why would you expect a different outcome?
Want to see how far we've come (or not) in Educational Expectations? Download the following test and give it a try.
