Testimony of Bruce Winokur
Submitted to CSB #2
My name is Bruce
Winokur and I'm the father of a 5 year old girl who attends the
Since 1983, I've
been a teacher of mathematics at
Before I taught at Stuyvesant, I taught math at JHS 17 in District 2 for thirteen years. In addition, I have an extensive private tutoring practice which goes back 20 years. In that capacity, I've tutored students who are having trouble learning math. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree from RPI and an MA in Mathematics Education from NYU.
I believe that I am as qualified as anyone can be to assess the merits and demerits of the mathematics curriculum that is being taught to our children.
Mathematics is not like walking, in that it doesn't come naturally to a great segment of the population. It requires a great deal of structure, rigor, and practice to learn it properly. Mathematics fails when it is not well structured and rigorous, from the lowest to the highest levels. These are the main areas where the TERC, CMP, and ARISE curricula, which are being employed exclusively on the children of District 2, fail.
While it's important for students to actively explore and discover their mathematics, it's equally important for them to be taught the structure and rigor of the concepts and problem solving techniques they're discovering. A teacher must be able, in an authoritative fashion, to provide that structure to the learner. It is both inefficient and insufficient for students to spend the majority of their time exploring concepts and techniques on their own and then coming up with their own solutions, which very often wouldn't generalize. There must come a time, and very early in the learning experience, when a teacher provides the structure and rigor required. This must be ongoing.
TERC, CMP, and ARISE fail when it comes to providing the building blocks which lead to success in mathematics. At a very early age, students must learn their arithmetic facts and algorithms which enable them to compute with understanding, ease, and speed.
The argument that teaching standard algorithms to students causes them not to understand mathematics does a great disservice to the teachers who understand why they work, and work well in all cases, and whose responsibility it is to impart this to their students.
In addition, not providing a great deal of practice doesn't allow the student to develop the ease, comfort, speed, and certainty that's necessary not only at the lover levels, but that will also allow students to learn more difficult mathematics, and allow them to solve problems at higher levels.
Additionally, without a working knowledge and understanding of standard algorithms, a student is unable to learn many aspects of algebra. The students are behind the 8 ball.
Parents of District 2 students are sending their kids to tutors like myself in record numbers. I find myself tutoring many fast as well as slow learners.
Even if these curricula are taught expertly, they leave the learner with an inadequate grasp of and ability to do mathematics.
There are a tremendous number of math teachers in District 2 who are terribly frustrated with what has been forced upon them. These are the best and most experienced of them. You can only guess why they haven't spoken out publicly.
A vast majority of the mathematics community feels as I do. One only needs to look for the information to find all of the mathematicians, among them some of our most prominent discoverers and teachers, who share my beliefs.
While I applaud District 2's effort to be a leader in mathematics education, I implore you to address the inherent weaknesses of the curricula that you've adopted.