Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Is You Is, or Is You Ain't: CCSD Doublespeak on Math Standards

Could someone who has never learned to write in cursive actually read cursive? Probably not. Think of all the letters and historical documents that must be filtered through typeface for those individuals lacking this centuries-old skill. Think about an educational system that proposes if something isn't on standardized testing, it's too unimportant to be taught!

This ridiculous proposition and doublespeak in mathematics standards are the reason for SC's "Back to Basics in Education Act of 2013 pass[ing] with little opposition. It requires adding cursive writing and the memorization of multiplication tables to the list of required subjects of instruction in South Carolina's public schools."

CCSD's Math Specialist, Cathy DeMers, appears well educated in doublespeak. She points out that the 2010 standards require "multiplication fluency" and provides the reporter with two nebulous examples:
In the third grade, students must be able to multiply single digits, such as 9 times 9. By the fifth grade, students must fluidly multiply using the standard algorithm for multi-digit multiplication; in other words, they must be able to solve 782 times 94, for example.
Notice DeMers avoids the obvious question--does CCSD require memorization of multiplication tables or not? Was the reporter too embarrassed to ask?

So tell us, please, how much are calculators used in these circumstances? Is the student learning to plug numbers into a calculator? If you ask a random third grader what is the answer to 8 times 9, will the student be able to answer without one? And does that fifth grader learn how to solve multi-digit problems the long way, with pencil and paper?

If you've taught the upper grades recently, you already know the answer.


Hungry Neck Tourist said...

Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31, except February...

Do we punish our students by requiring they memorize certain basic rules or do we cripple them by not giving them the short cuts and quick keys to a wider world of understanding and knowledge?

Cursive handwriting is as much an excersize in hand-to-eye coordination in the early years as it is a means of alternative communication. We also dropped 2nd language requirements, most notably Latin, and then we wonder why Americans struggle so with understanding basic English.

It's not the students who are fighting a return to basics. It's the ill trained teachers and the teacher mills that failed them. Why else are we having to hire reading coaches in the primary grades? Teacher training programs are no longer teaching primary teachers how to teach reading...or writing...or math, for that matter.

"i" before "e" except after "c"...

Oh, and we don't teach spelling either.

Clisby said...

Once they've learned multiplication the long way, they should be able to use calculators. To do otherwise is a complete waste of time. My child is in 6th grade, where they're still expected to multiply a 5-digit number by a 4-digit number by hand. If the kid really doesn't know how to do this, I guess it's helpful. Once a student has proven over and over that he/she GETS.IT. it's just dumb. Break out the friggin calculator, already.

Babbie said...

Clisby, I'm not against the use of calculators once students have memorized basic math facts, including multiplication tables. It's painful, though, to see an honors-level high school student pull out a calculator to figure out what percentage a grade of 35 out of 50 is!