In the last week, I've seen two articles expressing concern about the nation's school children: one about boys, and the other about girls. Both leave out one of the biggest underlying factors, namely, the grade school math curriculum.
Monday, October 13, 2008
First there's an article in Teacher Magazine about Peg Tyre's new book, The Trouble with Boys, which, quoting Teacher Magazine, "details the problems boys are facing in school and argues for a new, boy-focused “gender revolution.” As far as the curriculum's role in all this goes, Tyre faults it for being too narrow and test-focused.
Then there's an article in the New York Times about a forthcoming article in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society about how few American-born girls are competing in top math competitions like the Math Olympiad and the Putnam Math Competition. This article makes no mention of our country's new Reform Math, instead blaming the numbers on anti-nerd biases that especially ostracize female math students.
Once again, people are happy to blame everything but the math curriculum. But the boys I know who are languishing in school are doing so because of Reform Math's dumbed down math and emphasis on language arts.
This may also explain the disproportionately small numbers of American girls--which is accompanied, though outnumbered, by a disproportionately small number of American boys--performing well in the top math competitions. Perhaps, outside of school, gender stereotypes still have people identifying and encouraging boy math buffs more than their female counterparts.
And, as America's math classrooms dumb themselves down under the Reform Revolution, what happens outside of school--including ongoing sexist assumptions about math ability--wields an ever greater influence over who does well in math.