Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Progressive/Constructivist Math STINKS ON ICE

Just recently I posted this picture on my Jenni White's Education Page on Facebook. In one day, it had a reach of almost 169 THOUSAND views and it almost 2500 shares. Why? 

Well, I imagine that, no matter how many times the educrats running education today tell us Common Core (Constructivist/Progressive) math is going to make our kids rocket scientists, real moms and dads - once they get settled in for the night helping their kids with the homework they pick up in government (public) schools that use Common Core and/or Constructivist/Progressive math - realize that this idea is crap. Progressive math is not going to help our kids - and their parents - do much of anything except want to bang their heads repeatedly on their desks - or kitchen counters - all across America.

I was granted a Master's Degree in Biology in 1995. Oh, I understood descriptive science wonderfully well (human anatomy, ecology, etc.) - quantitative science (chemistry, physiology) not so much. In fact, I took the Graduate Record Examination 3 separate times in order to get into graduate school. Each time, I blew the top off the English score, but could barely come out with a math score better than a 3rd grader!

It wasn't until I began to school my kids at home (after removing them from public school for many reasons, but mainly because of the 1st grade math my son was doing) that I finally realized WHY. In the 1970's, when I was in middle school, there was a fabulous new fad in public education called, "Open Classroom". Here's an excellent explanation of this concept from the linked article:
In both Britain and the United States, open classrooms contained no whole-class lessons, no standardized tests, and no detailed curriculum. The best of the open classrooms had planned settings where children came in contact with things, books, and one another at “interest centers” and learned at their own pace with the help of the teacher. Teachers structured the classroom and activities for individual students and small work groups. They helped students negotiate each of the reading, math, science, art, and other interest centers on the principle that children learn best when they are interested and see the importance of what they are doing.
Here's how this fabulous concept translated for me; I LEARNED ABSOLUTELY NO MATH IN MIDDLE SCHOOL AT ALL. It floored me how, once I began having to teach middle level math to my kids, I had to teach it to myself first. Fractions and decimals were never part of my mathematical lexicon - EVER - because an educational fad derailed my learning process in my middle grade years. 

Take any standardized test - anywhere. The whole thing is full of fractions and decimals. If you don't learn them, you don't do well on any standardized test. I understand algebra well because I had some great algebra teachers in high school, yet if the algebra had fractional values anywhere at all, I was a big FAIL.

The Open Classroom concept came from Britian - bastion of Constructivist education - and was, of course, embraced by the educational Constructivists/Progressives in America. Without any real consideration of whether or not the process would work, it was foisted upon us unsuspecting students (and their tax paying parents) much to the educational detriment of our generation.

Now, the educational Progressives (unfortunately, most education is now Progressive in nature) have taken over yet again, and this generation's Open Classroom concept is Common Core. Though many states have fought CC and won - like here in Oklahoma - Constructivist math is becoming cemented in place in states all over the nation via large textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt etc., who have embraced Constructivist math and are publishing math books (like Everyday Math). 

I warned about this kind of thing - even during an interview with Dana Loesch for Glenn Beck. Here in Oklahoma, though we (ostensibly) have made Common Core illegal, I got a private message from a teacher friend the other day about English books that said,
Hey, Jenni. I am so irritated that I could spit nails. I just got back from a shindig thrown by the publisher HMH because Oklahoma is adopting language arts books next year. They were swearing up and down that their curriculum and books were not common core aligned. However, after a quick thumb through of the reading material, it was obvious to me that the only difference between the Oklahoma books and the Common Core books were that the words "Common Core" were not on the covers of the Oklahoma books. If this is the material we are going to give our students to read, what did we really accomplish by repealing Common Core? Do you have any thoughts or recommendations of other publishing companies that I can have my school look at? Thanks for your input.
Page after page of math worksheets from Constructivist/Progressive math books, being provided to classrooms of students by teachers trained in Construcitivst/Progressive math teaching, have been plastered across the internet showing the ridiculousness of Constructivist/Progressive math. Here is one below. The problem was 5x3. The boy wrote on his paper that 5x3 was essentially 5+5+5, yet he was docked a point because he didn't mention that it was also three, five times. So? That's worth a point? 

The next problem asks the child to construct an array describing 4x6. He does that in a 4 by 6 fashion. Again he's docked a point because he didn't also do the 6 by 4 array.

To be honest, this isn't really the worst of the ones I've seen. The one in this blog report is another that I've seen a number of times. The child is asked to estimate a number but then doesn't get the answer correct when she provides the EXACT answer and not a number rounded to the 10s place.

This stuff is ridiculous and will absolutely make kids frustrated enough to hate the whole mathematical process. 

The idea of Constructivist/Progressive math is that kids must know why they are getting the answer they record on their worksheet in order to be able to learn. The emphasis is on the WHY, not the HOW. Great. I think it's very important for kids to understand why math works. I teach my own kids that in their lessons. I do not, however, expect them to know the why as MORE IMPORTANT than the how, because that's dumb. You're not going to return change to someone at a cash register where you get your first job by explaining that you're subtracting what the customer gave you from the total owed and providing them change back by counting up that discrepancy in reverse. WHO CARES? The person you're giving the change to doesn't give a flip, they just want their money counted back to them so they know you didn't cheat them!

Last year, I put together a video explaining the differences between Constructivist/Progressive education and Traditional education. It's about 45 minutes, but I think it will help confused parents understand the differences among the two types of education and why 'Traditional' education is better, hands down - especially for math.

The bottom line is this: math requires SPECIFIC knowledge of SPECIFIC concepts. Math is a language and in order to speak the language you have to memorize its terminology. Can you imagine speaking Spanish by - instead of memorizing the vocabulary - explaining what every Spanish word means? No one would ever converse! Every student must know 6x5 is 30. Yes, it's good to know why, but why isn't going to solve a problem on an exam, rote memory of the equation 6x5=30 will accomplish that. Math is black and white - 6x5=30 upside down, on the moon or in Zanzabar - that will NEVER change. 

Educational fads like Open Classroom and Common Core are the definition of fadish; "a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal :  craze. Educational fads are destroying the ability of our kids to become educated. Traditional methods work. We need to stop spending educational time and resources re-inventing the wheel. If your child's school is using Common Core/Constructivist/Progressive math books, either get them a traditional math tutor after school, or TAKE THEM OUT AND SCHOOL THEM AT HOME. Math is not an experiment. Traditional math is a time-honored, time-tested way to provide students the tools they need to gain knowledge and lead successful lives. Period.