Thursday, April 7, 2011

Still more “Why our education system is in trouble”

I have shown you a few previous examples of rather bizarre questions from a fifth grade mathematics book here, here and here. Here’s another. In case you can’t make it out, it says “Explain why you have to rename 4 1/4 if you subtract 3/4 from it."

Ok, the authors of the book apparently have decided that the only way a fifth grader could solve this question would be to “rename” 4 ¼ as 3 5/4 and subtract ¾. Several fifth graders confronted with this rather easy problem simply did the calculation in their heads without “renaming” the larger number.

However, in today’s math world, you absolutely must “show your work.” Thus, a child with even a modest flair for math is told that solving such a question “in your head” is not permitted. So instead of rewarding a kid who “gets it” without the need to “rename” anything, he must go to the trouble of showing his work for every similar problem.

This results in the child a) questioning the sanity of the system and the teacher and 2) seeing math as drudgery rather than enjoying it. And people wonder why China is surpassing the U.S. in science.

PS: Isn’t the instruction to “rename” the number oddly worded? Why not use the word “convert”?


XOXO Dr. Kay Elizabeth said...

Hi I was wondering if you could stop by and read my blog? Thank you and feel free to pass along my information to anyone who may be able to help.

Anonymous said...

The question asks why it's necessary, so the answer really should be, "Because it's not called 4 1/4 any more after you take 3/4 away from it."

Pam said...

I read it the same as Anonymous - it's not asking why you have to rename it in order to subtract, it asking why you have to rename it if you subtract (i.e. it becomes a different number). Brilliant!

adh1729 said...

I agree with Skeptical Scalpel. I was a math major in college, my dad was a math teacher, and I actually learned most math outside of school. I then saw the way others had to "learn" math and just wanted to gag. I highly recommend reading John Taylor Gatto if you want to know why our "educational system" is so inefficient.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks for the comments. I will look up Mr. Gatto.

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