## New York teacher preparation and "deep understanding"

By Ralph A. Raimi

26 April 2001

To the Editor

New York Post

Carl Campanile's article on New York teacher preparation, citing a
report prepared for Schools Chancellor Harold Levy's office, notes
that "college teacher-education programs haven't required challenging
math courses... There is no substitute for deep understanding of
mathematics..."

All this is quite true, but if you ask the officials of District 2 if
anything is being done about it, you will get the explanation that
their 3.5 million dollar National Science Foundation grant, a five
year effort with two years yet to run, is the way to go. Their
project is called Reconceptualizing Mathematics Teaching and Learning
Through Professional Development. I think that means "starting
again".

But a well-informed group of NYU and CUNY mathematics and computer
science professors believes this is the wrong place to start again.
In particular, the text materials being used in the District 2
classrooms are a miserable excuse for a math program, as many
mathematicians -- and District 2 parents -- have recognized from the
start. To "reconceptualize" teaching with such materials not only
deprives today's children of the introduction to real mathematics they
all need if they are to avoid mathematical illiteracy, it is certainly
as bad an influence on the teachers as well, who are being coached by
their NSF-sponsored mentors (none of them mathematicians or computer
scientists) for a long future of exactly the "substitute for deep
understanding of mathematics" condemned by the Chancellor's advisors.

How many generations shall it take before sense is restored?

Ralph A. Raimi

Department of Mathematics

University of Rochester

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