Weekly Math Updates

September 27, 2006


  • Alumni Letter
  • Media Articles
  • Cool Math Knot Website
  • Weekly Comic

Hi all,

A few weeks ago at ASD's in-service meeting, the district shared this quote from Thomas Jefferson with the teachers:

“There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.”

Can anyone tell me why they would use such a quote? It seems painfully obvious that it speaks to their condemnation, not to their justification. I guess nothing should surprise me from people that made a conscious decision to remove teaching the times tables to children and then told parents NOT to do it at home, and actually threatened teachers to not teach them. Thank goodness for the teachers who stood up if not vocally, at least silently and shut their doors and taught the basics. Those are our "good Marines" that aren't afraid to stand in the line of fire.

“Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love the truth.” —Joseph Joubert

Alumni Letter

I received a copy of this excellent letter this week and thought I'd share it with you though I'm sure she's "biased and flawed" in her logic somewhere. ;)

18 September 2006
Kristin Brodie Domike
University of Cambridge, Department of Physics

To the Lone Peak Mathematics Department:

Through discussions with my siblings and parents, it has come to my attention that the mathematics department of Lone Peak High School has repeatedly defended their “Investigations” method of teaching.  As a woman who has excelled in the maths and sciences, I felt disheartened when I heard that once again, my mother has received a letter from a Lone Peak teacher defending their investigations curriculum--and most specifically the pre-calculus investigations curriculum.

I was shocked and saddened, when I visited the states this summer, to observe first-hand the sorry state of my elementary and high school aged brother’s math skills.  They are both extremely brilliant boys.  I quizzed them on questions that I knew, from studying math the traditional way, were straight-forward problems.  I watched stunned as they demonstrated that they could, in fact, solve the problems, but the methods they employed were long, tedious, and highly unnecessary—methods that will not aid them in their future University studies.  Word problems are an extremely important part of mathematics, it is more important to having a fundamental grasp of the basics.  Their grasp of basics had been skewed by this alternative mathematics curriculum created by educators attempting something “new”.

Throughout my undergraduate and masters work completed at M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), it was impressed upon us all that in order to apply the equations, we must first commit them to memory. We had to learn the fundamentals of the math, do countless exercises to ensure we could use them properly and had committed them to memory, and THEN we were expected to manipulate them.  It was never, ever done the other way around.  I have found the exact same philosophy true throughout England, where I am currently working on my PhD in Physics at the University of Cambridge.

Why then, has Alpine changed their system of teaching?  Why is it that they would change a tried and true method, a method which has produced countless math and science scholars (none of whom have lacked a deeper understanding of math concepts) for a method which has parents in uproar?  It is a question that perhaps the teachers and school leaders need to ask themselves.  I hope to hear of some compromise, at least.  Yes, include some of the “Investigations” ideas and problem-solving techniques at the earlier grade levels, but do not ever underestimate the importance of rote memorization. 

With best wishes for student education, from a concerned LP alum,

Kristin Brodie Domike
Cavendish Laboratory 

Media Articles

In this excellent write-up, Phyllis Schlafly gives us a nice look at the history of the problem.

"It took parents 17 years to overturn the tragic 1989 curriculum mistake made by so-called education experts who demanded that schools abandon traditional mathematics in favor of unproven approaches. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics finally reversed course on Sept. 12 and admitted that elementary schools really should teach arithmetic, after all."

Charter school cap met for 2007-2008

"For years, charter schools have been popping up all over the map in Utah, with about a third of those in Utah County.

But with a cap set by the state Legislature for new charter schools already met for the 2007-2008 school year, the future is uncertain for at least 13 groups of parents looking for new education options."

Cool Math Knot Website


This is a pretty cool site where you can actually manipulate complex knots using your web browser. It's all math driven. Cool pictures as well you could use for a desktop background.

Weekly Comic

Archive: http://www.oaknorton.com/weaponsofmathdestruction.cfm

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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