Remember when you were a kid and your parents complained about the "New Math" you were being taught in school? I don't know about you, but honestly, I just thought my parents weren't all that smart. How on earth they managed to do their jobs (my dad was an engineer and my mom was a nurse) with their incredibly limited math expertise was beyond me.
Interestingly enough, my parent's intellectual capabilities grew by leaps and bounds as I got older. It's funny how that happens isn't it?
I was reminded of my own math education (and my parent's reaction to it) last week when a friend posted this video on Facebook.
In Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth, M.J. McDermott exposes some rather alarming trends in math education which are clearly demonstrated in two popular math programs. (The video is long, but well-worth the time spent watching it!) Everyday Mathematics and Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space are examples of "new-new math," or what has become more descriptively known as "fuzzy math". I was first introduced to Everyday Mathematics (also known as Chicago Math) several years ago when I was substitute teaching in our local school district. At first, some aspects of Everyday Mathematics seemed to make sense. It made math fun. And practical. Great for use in...well...everyday life. But then I started to notice how much in the book wasn't even really about math. Huh? And I began to notice language and methods that seemed completely ludicrous.
My initial exposure to Everyday Mathematics led me to a quick investigation which revealed a virtual boatload of negative "press" about this highly acclaimed curriculum. I found numerous critical reviews written by everyone from math experts to parents to bloggers and journalists. Even a number of system-bucking teachers jumped bravely into the fight. Many of these critiques provide passionate testimony and firsthand knowledge of the damage that Everyday Mathematics has done (and continues to do.) In fact, just about the only vocal support I could find seemed to come from the program's own creators and from a few educational bureaucrats desperately trying to justify their own misguided decisions to inflict Everyday Mathematics on the unsuspecting parents and children in their districts.
After this initial exposure to the world of "fuzzy math", I began to encounter something else that I found very interesting. As a representative of a homeschool curriculum company, I attend about 10-12 homeschool conventions each year. The company I represent publishes a spiral-based math program that is quite popular among homeschoolers. Over the last several years, I've had a surprising number of parents indicate that the single most important factor in their decision to homeschool was Everyday Mathematics. More than once, a parent has done a double-take when I use the word "spiral-based" to describe our math program. The concerned look was followed immediately by a question: "If it's spiral-based, does that mean it's like Everyday Math?"
People homeschool for a lot of different reasons. It turns out Everyday Mathematics is more than just a "highly acclaimed" math program.
It's also become a GREAT reason to homeschool.