The New York Post
April 16, 2001
By Frank Dobbs (Manhattan), Woodrow J. Elmore (Bayville), Elizabeth Carson (Manhattan), Frank Minaudo (Brooklyn), Maureen Weinberg (Manhattan), Jonathan Goodman (Manhattan), and Jim Hall (Edinburg, Texas)
Rod Dreher's excellent column on PS 234 only scratches the surface of what goes on there ("School's Mathematics Don't Add Up," April 8). The teachers are afraid to criticize principal Anna Switzer. When a new school opened across the street, District 2 did not even give PS 234 parents the choice of applying there. Teachers are also not permitted to write letters of recommendation for students applying to private school (needless to say, the principal's children both attend a swanky private school). Parents beware.
As a high-school math teacher and curriculum writer, I found Rod Dreher's column very interesting. Parents need to be made aware that changes in the way math is taught, using the new so-called "constructivist" approach, are due to implementation of the New York state Regents curriculum. Students required to take the new "Math A" Regents exam are expected to use "constructivist" methods to solve problems. These include writing a paragraph, making a chart or table or drawing a picture. Blame the state, not Randi Weingarten, the Board of Education or the teachers.
Woodrow J. Elmore
Rod Dreher's column gives merited attention to an alarming trend in math education sweeping New York City schools. Quotes from the PS 234 parents perfectly distill a position shared by many parents in District 2 - both the concerns and the fear of retribution for raising questions publicly.
As a high-school English teacher, I see the results of the whole-language movement that was taught in the past in middle and grade schools. That curriculum destroyed any chance for many of the current crop of students to master even basic writing skills. This "new math" seems equally questionable and should be examined by parents with an ultra-wary eye.
I am home schooling my fifth-grader because of the poor math education she was receiving at one of the "finest" public schools, PS 6. On the 2000 New York state math exam, the numbers of students at PS 6 receiving a level 4, or proficient, score plummeted by almost 30 percent from 1999. It is obvious to me, but not to officials at District 2, that the "fuzzy" math program is responsible. District 2 is being seduced by millions in grant money to miseducate the children.
Rod Dreher's column is a big step in saving NYC kids from dumbed-down "fuzzy" math. The article does not say that mathematicians and scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, have been fighting with parents to keep content and competence in school math. Specialists in mathematics education who promote fuzzy math are amazingly ignorant of math itself, and most of the "research" they cite is bogus. This is a fight parents can win, and have been winning around the country.
Perhaps you could ask the staff at PS 234 if they'd like to commute on subways, or take trans-oceanic voyages on ships designed by students schooled in "feel good" math.
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