Monday, June 30, 2008

Parents and math homework

An MSNBC article about a recent study showing that 50% of U.S. parents rate their schools poorly asks why parents are saying that schools should spend more time teaching math. The answer they propose:  parents don't want to teach math at home.

In a subsection headed with this very (bold-faced) subtitle, the author quotes a certain education professor as saying that:

Parents may want more math in school because they feel unprepared to help at home.

and that:

"Math is the subject that parents are often intimidated by. We've allowed a lot of kids to just say, 'I'm not good at math,' .... and those kids become parents."

Said professor, one of whose interests is homework "as a boundary object that links home and school practices," overlooks the following:

1. Raising a generation of kids who think they're good at math but are actually poorly prepared is far worse for future generations than raising a generation of kids who esteem themselves more critically but are better prepared.

2. Reform Math programs prepare kids much more poorly than traditional math programs do, as I've argued here, here, and here.

3. Parents at Reform Math schools, including the "model school" my kids attend whose curriculum said professor has hand-picked, are assuming more, not less, responsibility for teaching their kids at home--precisely because they're so dismayed by the math curriculum.

4. In fact, it was only a few days ago that yet another parent asked me how to get her hands on Singapore Math.

5. The only complaints I've heard from parents about doing math at home concerns the Reform Math homework (the so-called "liaison object"), which is often so poorly explained and so apparently unrelated to actual math that many parents have no idea what they and their kids are supposed to be doing.

6. My parents never had trouble understanding my math homework, nor were they were expected to be anywhere near as involved in helping their kids as I am (all those math games, "applied math" arts and crafts activities, and "math projects.").

No, today's parents aren't shying away from teaching their kids at home; in fact, we are doing more of it--perhaps more than any previous generation. At least those of us who have the time, resources, and education to do so (there are some disturbing class issues here).

Furthermore, much of what we do is above and beyond what schools are asking us to do. Indeed, many of us view what we do as unsanctioned, on the sly, possibly subversive. "I taught my daughter how to borrow and carry last night; I hope that was OK," the parent of a mathematically under-challenged 7-year-old recently confessed to me.

My concern is about the next generation of parents, too many of them Reform Math graduates, not all of them enriched by their parents, who won't be able to do for their kids what these intrepid parents are doing.

And about the widening class rifts that all this so-called "progressive education" is causing.

2 comments:

VickyS said...

Awesome post, Lefty. Is there someway you can comment on that MSNBC article online? It needs a broader audience!

lefty said...

Thanks, VickyS! Must figure out a way to do this diplomatically, and/or anonymously, for various reasons.