The "Math Wars" is a battle between two prevailing schools of thought
regarding the way kids ought to be taught mathematics in our schools. Although
the battle is heated, I believe that ignorance has played a huge role in
contributing to the size of the debate. I believe that philosophically, the
two sides agree more than they realize, and it is a shame that the fight
has been the way it is for the past few decades.
If you are not familiar with the Math Wars, here is an exaggerated depiction
of the two sides of the debate:Extreme Constructivists: Don't master your math basics...that's what
calculators are for. People who merely memorize formulas won't understand
what they are doing and can't solve real world problems. Let's teach a
curriculum that focuses on understanding the "why" of math. That will engage
the students effectively and prepare them for the real world.
Although the above depiction is exaggerated, constructivists often
view traditionalists exactly as depicted. At the same time, some
constructivists might take offense if you told them that
they didn't believe in learning basic skills.
However, tell a constructivist that you
believe in memorizing times tables, and you'll most likely get a response that
more time should be spent making math relevant to the real world.
As a "traditionalist", I strongly feel that "traditional" math has simply
been mischaracterized by constructivists. There is no such thing as a
traditionalist who thinks merely memorizing formulas and executing algorithms
is the key to being successful in math. The truth of the matter is,
traditionalists simply believe that mastery in basic skills is a
prerequisite to achieving a deep understanding of math. We still believe
that you need to do math in the context of real situations. If every
constructivist educator were to view traditionalists in this light, I don't
believe there would be nearly the debate that exists today.
Fortunately, on September 12, 2006, the
NCTM released the Curriculum Focal Points, a document that almost perfectly
reflects an accurate viewpoint
of traditionalist math educators. That
document specifically acknowledges basic skills as prerequisites for
achieving a deep understanding of math. At the same time, it
never backs down from the belief that applying math in the context of the real
world is important. Given the fact that the NCTM is best known for
constructivist philosophies regarding math education, it is quite
conceivable that the Math Wars have a chance of ending.
I invented MathScore.com to specifically hone basic skills because I believe
basic skills aren't getting proper attention in most schools.
Given today's plethora of demanding math standards in each state, teachers
just don't have the time to provide basic skill practice, and I don't blame
them. Most teachers are simply relieved if they can simply teach all of the
standards by the end of a school year! Fortunately, MathScore relieves
teachers of this pressure. In fact, one lab session of MathScore can provide
the rigor of one month's worth of timed math tests, and the teachers don't
have to do any paperwork. If one timed math test consumes half an hour
of a teacher's time due to time spent photocopying, grading, and recording
scores, one lab session of MathScore saves more than 10 hours of teacher
headaches. In addition, after our students hone basic skills, our more
advanced topics take over, allowing students to develop a very deep
understanding of math, which has been repeatedly reflected in high test scores.
Whether you are a teacher or a parent, I hope you find our service helpful.
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