Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Kids Math is Driving Me Crazy

Is there anyone else out there who finds it a bit draining to come home from work and check your child’s homework? The math that they give 5th graders today is so far ahead of the math I did in 5th grade that it seems like she is already in High School! Last night my daughter was reviewing some problems with area and perimeter of complex forms. The first problem almost killed me. So, my question is why? Why are we, as a nation, torturing our children with ever increasingly difficult math in the name of higher standards?

I do not believe it helps our youth to be forced to attempt complex math, in elementary or even middle school, because for most of them their minds have not developed enough to deal with abstract notions of math. There is a reason why in the past we were not asked to solve mixed fractions until the end of 5th grade, the normal development of the brain. Yet, our children are being forced to attempt problems their minds may not have developed enough to fully understand.

I can not tell you a single time I have needed or used Algebra in the 32 years since High School. I have used some Geometry when I worked in construction in my teens and twenties. I have a Masters Degree. I have worked in construction, sales, restaurants, and in education. Yet, I can’t remember a time I have used or needed Algebra.

I attended a school in England for a year when I was 20. The people I met from other countries had a different experience in education.  In none of the countries that we are apparently competing against do they try to make all their students take Algebra. Actually, by the time kids are in middle school they are being guided toward education that might help them in trades or whatever they show an aptitude for. In a way I guess that system makes teenagers think about what they are going to do as a profession simply by training them for one.

How does that related to my child (and thus me and you) being tortured by higher math? In most other countries only students with an aptitude for math take higher math unlike here where we force all students to take Algebra. That might explain the higher scores other countries score in comparison to the USA! I am an educator in a Middle School. Nothing produces failure, low self-esteem and drop outs like the unnecessary and ill-conceived plan to force our youth to take Algebra in Middle School. Nothing. 

Our educational system should help not hinder our children.

Thus saith me.

1 comment:

  1. I think that with the system we have in public school, the next option would be to lower everyone's standards for math. This, to me would be unacceptable. I don't favor the stress of all the tests kids have to take, so maybe if the teachers could spend more time with the kids that have difficulties with their mathwork, and allow the strong students to expand their knowledge, we would end up with the best of both worlds. Again, I love teachers, and honor them. Unfortunately, the "system" weakens their ability to adapt to the kids' needs.