America's Fading Competitive Edge
Letters, The New York Times
May 16, 2005
Re: "Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?" Thomas L. Friedman, May 13 2005
To the Editor:
Recently, a New York City middle school teacher described to me the activities she used to engage students in learning probability theory, a required part of the state curriculum. When I inquired of her students' abilities to add and multiply fractions - an essential aspect of computing probabilities - she admitted that they were quite deficient. But since that material was supposed to have been learned in earlier grades, many teachers chose to ignore the problem and focused instead on teaching the new "concepts."
In the end, I wondered about the only probability that really mattered to her students: the near certainty that having been cheated of their basic skills in mathematics, they were doomed to a mathematics education short on substance and driven by increasingly meaningless evaluations.
New York, May 13, 2005
The writer is a professor of mathematics, City College of New York.
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