EDUCATION FOR A FREE NATION
105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318
February 9, 2006
If We Really Hope to
Improve Mathematics Education
President Bush has clarified that his education agenda will now focus on
improving math and science education in K-12 schools. That is a noble
goal, but while President Bush attempts to add on to the many federal
initiatives in math and science education, he should also put a stop to
the severe damage being done by the federal government to the math
education of our kids.
By Allen Quist
The U.S. Department Of Education (DOE) interprets the 1994 education
funding bill, HR6, as giving it the authority to establish
"voluntary" national content standards in all subject areas
including mathematics. This reading has allowed DOE to
promote the national math standards which in turn advocate a new --
and highly controversial -- approach to teaching mathematics known as
" integrated math."
Over 1 billion dollars, most of it our tax money, has been
funneled through the National Science Foundation
) to promote these national math standards and integrated math.
Because of the role that DOE and NSF have played in promoting the math
standards, 1/3 of our kids are now being schooled in integrated math
instead of traditional math.
The problem is that integrated math does not work. The
national standards which
call for integrated math were not written by experts in mathematics
as one might suppose; they were written by the education establishment,
by the education innovators
George Will described as dominated by constructivist ideology. As a
consequence of this world view, the national math standards can be
math." This new math is more commonly identified as
integrated math" or
math," and is sometimes called
California formally adopted integrated math in 1992. The result was a
catastrophic decline in student math scores. The decline in math
achievement was so dramatic that California reversed itself five year
later. As could be expected, the consequences of the experiment
conspicuously manifested itself when students trained in integrated math
entered California's system of higher education. Nationally-recognized
math scholar David Klein reported what happened as follows:
The percentage of entering freshmen failing an entry level math test used
by the [23 campus California State University] CSU system and requiring
remedial courses, steadily increased from 23% in 1989 to 54% in each of
1997 and 1998. [" A Brief History of American K-12 Mathematics
Education in the 20th Century," prepublication edition.]
Other math scholars are well-aware of the devastating consequences of
integrated math. Dr. Fred Greenleaf, Professor of Mathematics at New York
University, commented on New York City's recent adoption of integrated
math as follows:
Why would the national standards advocate an approach to mathematics
that is clearly damaging to students as well as to our nation? The reason
is the standards are based on ideology, not practicality. They are based
on the politics and worldview of the education cartel.
- I had no idea just how bad the NCTM-based [constructivist] math
programs being introduced in the city really were. It is clear to us
[now, however,] that the NCTM programs, if they remain in place, are
going to have a terrifically negative impact on the prospects of all
students who aspire to college. [Paper delivered to the National
Association of Scholars Convention, May 22, 2004, p. 1]
They are based on the constructivist's love affair with discovery
learning, groups projects and the redefinition of teachers as
"guides on the side," not instructors. Integrated math has students
using calculators in the early grades instead of having them master the
basic math tables. Students are also taught the themes of
environmentalism and multiculturalism in their math classes. There is a
Robin Hood effect in educationstudents studying environmental issues in
math class are not spending the time they need on real math to prepare
them for college.
Many of the advocates of integrated math see math in postmodernist terms.
For example, Jack
Price, former president of the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (the authors of the national math standards), said:
"Traditional math is good for high socioeconomic-status white
males." The implication is that math was designed by powerful
white males to keep everyone else under their control. That is why the
first edition of the national math standards said that learning the
arithmetic tables could be bad for students! Why teach real math if it is
essentially a power-trip?
This constructivist (and postmodernist) ideology of the education elite
is echoed by the national standards for social studies which say:
All the national standards are based on this
constructivist/postmodernist ideology of the education monopoly. That is
why the U.S. Senate voted against the national history standards by a
margin of 99 to 1. Was that vote the end of the history standards? Not at
all. DOE simply had them repackaged and put into effect.
- Knowledge is constructed by learners as they attempt to fit new
information, experiences, feelings, and relationships into their existing
or emerging intellectual, aesthetic, and emotional constructs.
If President Bush really hopes to improve math education in our country,
he absolutely must take control of DOE and scrap the failed experiment
known as integrated math. While he is at it, he needs to eliminate the
other national standards as well. They are based on the same false
worldview that underlies fuzzy math.
Allen Quist is Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Bethany
Lutheran College, Mankato, Minnesota, and is a former three-term
Minnesota state legislator. He is also author of three recent books on
the federal education system.
"AN OPEN LETTER TO UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION"
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