An anonymous poster sent me a link to this article in the Ledger-Enquirer, which reveals the latest front in the secondary school math wars: the state of Georgia.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Georgia's Department of Education is now calling on schools to switch from the traditional Algebra I-Geometry-Algebra II-Trig sequence to a program in which, in the words of "instructional specialist" Suzanne Evans, "It's all going to be integrated."
Pondering this--my Reform Math-afflicted children haven't yet hit middle school--I suspect that there's even more at stake here than in elementary school math.
At least, however superficial, haphazard, and sloppy the pedagogy, Reform elementary students still come across most of the topics that traditional students do. They get at least a passing exposure to most of the standard algorithms, and those that have been chucked--e.g., long division or inverting and multiplying--are still relatively accessible to them and to their parents. When all else fails, most parents can teach most children these topics at home. Especially if they are left-brained math buffs.
But mixing up and reconstituting algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculous into a novel, "integrated" stew opens up all sorts of opportunities for Reformists to ditch whole topics. Especially those that don't integrate nicely with those things they consider important: calculators and real world applications. Rotated parabolas? Polar coordinates? Proving properties of triangles from the axioms of geometry?
These topics won't be ones that most parents have at their finger tips, however eager their children are to learn about them.
Georgia's motivation for integrating math? Below average math scores. Its education experts may be thinking of continental Europe, whose secondary schools use an integrated curriculum. But one look this curriculum--I've used it myself--shows it to be much more rigorously mathematical than anything these American Reformers have in mind.
As with all our other reforms, we lament how poorly our students do compared with counterparts in Europe and Asia, but can't be bothered to look at how these countries educate their children.
American Exceptionalism--it rears its pompous head in the most surprising of places.