Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

An Inconvenient Truth In Math Education: A Very Viral Video

CJW, October 1, 2010 7:00 AM


Math Wars: 3.0
The Top Viral Video 

--And It Ain't a Pretty Picture For"New Math"  aka Everyday or Terc Math--

With national standards in Math being introduced this week, we thought it might make sense to show one of the top videos (it's not new-new, but message works)  in the Math war saga since the teachers AND knowing which Math program/approach to teach with is more important than the standards themselves. 

Why not start with this video to get the conversation going . . . what has been your experience with the different Math programs, as a teacher, parent or student?  What have you heard?

Link here for the exclusive Four Part Series for The Daily Riff by Scarsdale teache,r Bill Jackson,  titled "Singapore Math Demystified!,"

See video below. (15 min)

Previously Published The Daily Riff 2/24/10




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What a polemic based on a deep misunderstanding of math and math education. We should strive to teach our students a deep understanding of math and the ability to use math both in everyday life and in technical disciplines. However, the skills to carry out multidigit long division problems, do not accomplish these goals. Calculators are found everywhere (does your cell phone or ipod have one?). I would rather an education system produce a graduate who understands what they are doing with a calculator than a system that produce quick human calculators. What skills do our citizens need to help our society really need to move forward into the 21st century?


What does the presenter have against the lattice method? It works fine, and gives a nice easy introduction to expanding brackets in algebra, and factorisation of trinomials.


To the first commentor..I just watched this video, and read your comments, and I'd like to help you understand a couple of things:
1. This is not a "polemic". Look up the definition of the word. What she is saying is not "controversial" in any sense. She is saying "Teach math the way that it was previously taught, using proven methods that educated the people who, for example, built the SR71 blackhawk, built the Apollo rockets which put a man on the moon, and built the transistor, the internet, and the basis of ALL PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES in the world. This is not controversial, this is smart.
2. You want everyone to rely on calculators, instead of actually understanding what they are doing? Ummmmm. no. Here's what happens when you simply punch numbers into systems without understanding them:

Dear Steven Carr:
Perhaps you too have an attention issue. She explained what is wrong specifically with the lattice method in the video. Watch it again. She says:
1. It takes awhile to set up the lattice.
2. The lattice method doesn't give any indication of the number placement significance relative to the decimal.
3. Parents don't know it, and so cannot help their kids learn it.
4. The proponents of the lattice method admit that that explaining, or understanding why it works is complex and non intuitive.

I'd like to add that, as a person who learned math the traditional way, I also find that my math skill are conssitently better than the 20 and 30 year olds I work with every day, and this this includes large numbers of engineering grads with B.S and M.S. degrees.

She's right.


Students get it wrong with the standard method.

They get it right with the lattice method.

I teach what works.

The lattice method is intuitive. It is the area of a rectangle, which is the maths behind multiplying.

It make teaching factorising algebraic expressions much easier.

As for multiplying decimals, I teach 12.34 times 4.5 as 1234/100 times 45/10

So we have 1234 times 45 then divided by 1000

This teaches place value, fractions and leads on to standard notation


'3. Parents don't know it, and so cannot help their kids learn it.'

So they had a really great maths education, which means they are now totally inflexible and cannot approach a problem in a different way?

What sort of maths education is it, when you are taught in such a way that you are baffled by any other way of solving a problem?

One problem I have with division not taught by long division is that when students get to highschool they are required to take algebra 2. Soon in NJ this will be tested. Students are required to divide by binomials/trinomials and so on. How can this be taught by the highschool teacher effectively if the students don't have any prior knowledge on long division. Synthetic division only works for binomials not trinomials.

It is painfully obvious that the speaker in the video knows very little about math or how mathematicians think.

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

I would trust a critique by a math professor or mathematician far more than one by a meteorologist.

"I would trust a critique by a math professor or mathematician far more than one by a meteorologist."

As a professional creator of mathematical models and a father of a child subjected to this Everyday Math nonsense, I wholeheartedly agree with the video.

"It is painfully obvious that the speaker in the video knows very little about math or how mathematicians think."

Is that right? Well, someone is painfully uninformed about how mathematicians think, and if you think it's us, why don't you explain it to these guys. They're 200 math and physics professors, including several Nobel Prize winners, from Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, dozens of major universities, and they aren't happy about Reform Math programs such as Everyday Math. Why don't you e-mail them and set them straight "about math and how mathematicians really think"?:


I have been previewing math programs as our school is needing to select a program for future years. Particularly I have been leaning about the Singapore math materials and method. There is a good deal of developing number sense, decomposing and recombining numbers, mental calculation, and alternate ways to solve computation problems in Singapore Math. In what ways is it different from the programs described?


Why does everyone think that they can "fix" mathematics education? This charming meteorologist probably has never spend time understanding pedagogy, methods of learning, how the brain works, and so many other things that teachers have to learn. Worst still, she does not see the connections to higher mathematics, and the problem solving skills that may turn out to be more usefull to mathematics education, since simple calculators are now everywhere, number sense is only one of the many skills missing from our children. Ouch! She is really cute, but why don't we get a video of how wheather forecasting is at times pretty wrong, despite the fact that it is a lot simpler than he human mind.

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