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Math: A Lot of Questions With Few Answers

T.C. Williams High School English teacher Patrick Welsh calls it the math meltdown. Montgomery Blair High School math teacher Eric Walstein calls the county's math program "narrow and shallow." And Fairfax County's Frank Atchison, who coordinates that county's math program, says that "in [the] end, it does look like a mile wide and an inch deep."

They are all referring to math curriculum and how it's taught. Here's the crux of the issue: Schools are working to push kids to take algebra during middle school. And often, that means accelerating kids through math in elementary and beyond. Montgomery's Walstein says that it's leaving kids in the county with minimal understanding of the subject. It starts early, Walstein says. Kids come in with skill and parents push the schools to accelerate them. And from there, Walstein contends, the schools teach the kids facts but not the concepts behind them or how to connect those facts into something meaningful. Often, the students score well on tests and continue to advance. In high school, they start taking math courses that are more theoretical. But by then, many students in Montgomery don't have enough understanding of the basics and struggle, Walstein says. Betsy Brown, Montgomery County's director of curriculum and instruction, meanwhile, disputes the claims, telling The Post's Emily Messner that the county's math curriculum better prepares students for calculus and college.

Like Montgomery, Fairfax -- which Walstein lauds as teaching math well -- accelerates students in math. Beginning in grade 3, some students in the county begin a compacted curriculum in which they'll take a year to learn a year and a half worth of math, Fairfax's Atchison says. The county tests kids for algebra readiness. A few (30 last year) take algebra in sixth grade. Others take it in seventh grade. And all students take algebra by eighth grade. Fairfax doesn't depend on rote memorization, Atchison said. "There's a fine line behind teaching procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding of why those procedures work. Ultimately, we want students to understand conceptually why procedure works."

So, what can we parents do to ensure that our children understand what they are learning? Walstein says parents face "a deep problem. There are no two ways about it. Parents are in no man's land." The solutions are few, he says, but recommends that parents who understand math concepts teach them to their children. A tutor himself, he hesitates to recommend it. "If I say tutoring is good thing, I just upped tutoring industry," Walstein says.

"Trust the teacher," Atchison says. They really do want what's best for kids. Stay in touch with them, seek out their advice, ask for specifics about what your child does and doesn't understand. Atchison also points to the Department of Education for ideas on working with your child in math. Those include estimating totals for groceries as you walk through the store, having your children write your weekly grocery lists from sales circulars and calculate the cost of the groceries or playing number guessing games. And perfect for August: Math on the Go for those long drives.

Are your children receiving the math education you expect? Have they encountered difficulties understanding math? What do you do to incorporate math into your child's everyday life?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 11, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Teens , Tweens
Previous: Forgotten Children | Next: Saturday Morning Laughs

Comments


As the parent of a rising 7th grader about to take algebra, I felt some hesitation about putting her on the accelerated math trail. Loudoun County Public Schools makes the parents of rising 6th graders pick the math sequence: 1) ending with AP Calc BC; 2) ending with AP Calc AB; or 3) ending with pre-Calculus. Teacher recommendations and test results are given, as a guide, but the child is placed where ever the parent requests.

But when I was asking questions at the parent-orientation night at the middle school, most of the teachers (and principal) couldn't provide answers about the high school curriculum. But I was expected to choose the path based on the ending curriculum.

My daughter struggled a little with the pre-algebra class last year, but luckily my husband (a math teacher at a different middle school) and I have enough of a math background to explain anything she didn't catch in school.

With two more children coming through the schools, I am hoping to feel a little more confident about the math system and where they should be placed to make sure they get what they need, without being overwhelmed and getting discouraged.

Posted by: pamsdds | August 11, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

"Walstein says parents face "a deep problem. There are no two ways about it. Parents are in no man's land."

I blame the math education problems on the the Lebanese!

Posted by: Math is evil! | August 11, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

My daughter took algebra in middle school and when she took the placement test to get into community college she failed the algebra part of the test and has to take it again in college.

Posted by: charlotte nc | August 11, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

"Ultimately, we want students to understand conceptually why procedure works."


http://www.theonion.com/content/news/local_idiot_to_post_comment_on

Posted by: Procedure this | August 11, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I just became a SAHM again, but when I was working, I actually had a secretary come to me in tears because she was so stressed out about her 4th grade daughter's math homework. No kidding.

I think kids should be taught to figure problems out in a variety of ways -- including the way we were all taught, the "old-fashioned" way.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 11, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

8/100 of a second. Math that the French now understand!

Posted by: take that! | August 11, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I just became a SAHM again, but when I was working, I actually had a secretary come to me in tears because she was so stressed out about her 4th grade daughter's math homework. No kidding.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 11, 2008 8:35 AM

Water seeks its own level. No kidding.

Posted by: Zzzzz | August 11, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

sacre bleu! that was magnifique. how does one say 'suck it' in french?

Posted by: to take that | August 11, 2008 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Bite me, zzz. It's trash like you that have turned this blog into a daily cat fight.

I sincerely hope you don't have children, and if you do, I pity them.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | August 11, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

how does one say 'suck it' in french?

Posted by: to take that | August 11, 2008 8:44 AM

20 bucks.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

The issue is we teach kids how to understand things just enough to fill in the bubble on the next standardized test. We should stop worrying about rushing them through accelerated clases to look the best on their college applications and actually start educating them. I took algebra in 8th grade and still completed AP BC Calc my senior year. Why does pushing it to 6th make it so much better? So the district can say they have so many high achieving students and they can look better on paper, too? It is really quite pathetic.

Posted by: Momof5 | August 11, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

This video says a lot:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr1qee-bTZI

But I don't yet have any real idea about curriculum either up here (Canada) or down there. I still thought that video was fascinating. :)

Posted by: Shandra | August 11, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Oh also,

When I taught in an elementary school I did notice that up here anyway, elementary school teachers tended not to be math specialists or have a strong math background - it was entirely possible at that time to qualify to teach elementary school without having taken any university-level math classes. I think to some extent this creates a weakness in the system - teachers at the elementary level have a good idea where they are going in terms of language arts, but in math they may be operating from a more basic understanding.

Posted by: Shandra | August 11, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't think kids should be forced to take advanced math too early. However, for kids that can handle the concepts, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Way back in '73, I was in the advance math group and took Algebra in 8th grade. I was not at all stressed, nor do I recall it being "too hard." As the parent of a rising 6th grader who is good at math, I am expecting her to be in "pre-Algebra" math this year and Algebra in 7th grade.

I'm not sure I understand how this situation occurs -- "Often, the students score well on tests and continue to advance. In high school, they start taking math courses that are more theoretical. But by then, many students in Montgomery don't have enough understanding of the basics and struggle..." What other method besides testing can we know if our children understand what they have learned?

Posted by: 12SLP34 | August 11, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

LOL, take that!

Another huge problem that the schools are running into with so many kids taking advanced math is finding teachers that can not only undersstand, but properly teach the upper level math ciriculem.

Usually a teenager who can diferenciate a triganomic function expressed by a multivariable quotient in terms of x and y by letting z = tan(x) can make a hell of a lot more money following a career path other than that of a teacher.

No, I wouldn't trust the teacher. I've had some real good ones, but some of the math teachers I've had along the way have been some real fruitcakes.

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

"As the parent of a rising 6th grader who is good at math, I am expecting her to be in "pre-Algebra" math this year and Algebra in 7th grade."


Oh, brother!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Some of you hit it right on the head. Elementary school teachers not only rarely have the knowledge to teach math well, many of them 'hated' math when they were in school, they love kids, so they became teachers. So kids - from a very early age - 'hate' math. Because that is what they are learning, regardless of how the teacher teaches it - if s/he doesn't have knowledge and doesn't like it, that's going to be translated to the kids.

In addition, anyone with aptitude in math goes to take statistics, or studies engineering (or geek that *I* am, just studies pure math) and your prospects are much better. In addition, the schools hardly encourage people to become specialty teachers, they treat all teachers the same, they don't see a difference - even if they have 20 applications for an english teacher and 2 for a math teacher. There is no acknowledgment of supply and demand...and then the schools many times have teachers who have no background in the specialties...

It's distressing me with my first grader...already. Mom and dad have good aptitude in this particular subject (less so in history), so hopefully all will be well. I took calc BC in high school - had no idea what was going on, as the teacher told us there were too many kids in the class, so he was going to make it difficult so as to get some of us to quit (none of us did, what were we thinking, I will never know). But I somehow made it through.

Anyway...it is a crying shame what we have going on in this country (we don't educate our own students in math and science, so we recruit from all over the world to educate others, THEN WHEN THEY GRADUATE - we send them home in a heartbeat cause we don't give them visas...etc...).

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

fr DandyLion:

>... I've had some real good ones, but some of the math teachers I've had along the way have been some real fruitcakes.

You and me both, although to describe two in particular as fruitcakes is insulting to fruitcakes! The worst one was Mrs. F in 8th grade. I begged to be allowed to change to a different teacher, but nope, not gonna happen. She had NO patience for a kid who was a little bit slower than the others when it came to math.

Posted by: Alex | August 11, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Modules and mastery. The answer to this is quite simple, and worked well for me 25 years ago. Have a pre and post test for each module. If students get 90% on a pre test, they can skip the module. They don't leave the module until they get 90% on a post test. Take the tests again every fall to catch up on what you missed over the summer.

Passing Algebra with a C doesn't mean you are ready to move onto the next topics in math. It is such a building subject that getting behind, even a little bit, makes the next module more difficult. The cumulative effect of this is destructive.

Give the kids that can go fast the chance to go fast. Give every kid the time they need to gain mastery before moving on.

Posted by: matt m | August 11, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"Elementary school teachers not only rarely have the knowledge to teach math well, many of them 'hated' math when they were in school, they love kids, so they became teachers. So kids - from a very early age - 'hate' math. Because that is what they are learning, regardless of how the teacher teaches it - if s/he doesn't have knowledge and doesn't like it, that's going to be translated to the kids."

AltMom, I completely agree. Worse, I've seen high schools, where students are starting to deal with theory of mathmatics and conceptual math shunt good math teachers to other programs. My Brother In Law has taught math for several years in a very diverse high school, with one of the highest percentages of "at risk" students in his district. He has a masters in math (not in education), and has won several awards for his teaching. So what is he doing this fall? Being shunted to a program designed to help at-risk kids develop skills to help them transition to college. It's designed for students that might be interested in college but who have never had a family member attend post-secondary education understand how to learn skills necessary for transitioning to a University program and how to succeed in college. He will work with the same group of students all four years until they graduate. He'll be working with them on all subjects, as well as life skills. He has exactly one math course he'll be teaching. It's intro algebra for students that have been kicked out of all other math courses. He's the only person in the whole department with an advanced degree in math. All other advanced degrees are in education, not math. He's had sunshine blown at him for this change, because, as he's been told, he's simply the best teacher at the school, and he can handle the "tough case" kids. Hmmm....maybe that's because he knows his subject so well, and can effectivly tranmit that knowledge to his students. I really worry that schools are doing this more and more, moving good teachers in a particular subject to a more broad based curriculum, because they're good teachers, and the teacher gets burned out and quits. My sister thinks he'll last about two years with this current program, and then quit out of frustration at not being able to effectively teach math any more.

Posted by: OrganicGal | August 11, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Some of you may remember Tom Lehrer's New Math. It is as funny now as it was then:


"Some of you who have small children may have perhaps been put in the
embarrassing position of being unable to do your child's arithmetic homework
because of the current revolution in mathematics teaching known as the New
Math. So as a public service here tonight I thought I would offer a brief
lesson in the New Math. Tonight we're going to cover subtraction. This is the
first room I've worked for a while that didn't have a blackboard so we will
have to make due with more primitive visual aids, as they say in the "ed biz."
Consider the following subtraction problem, which I will put up here: 342 -
173.

Now remember how we used to do that. three from two is nine; carry the one, and
if you're under 35 or went to a private school you say seven from three is six,
but if you're over 35 and went to a public school you say eight from four is
six; carry the one so we have 169, but in the new approach, as you know, the
important thing is to understand what you're doing rather than to get the right
answer. Here's how they do it now.

You can't take three from two,
Two is less than three,
So you look at the four in the tens place.
Now that's really four tens,
So you make it three tens,
Regroup, and you change a ten to ten ones,
And you add them to the two and get twelve,
And you take away three, that's nine.
Is that clear?

Now instead of four in the tens place
You've got three,
'Cause you added one,
That is to say, ten, to the two,
But you can't take seven from three,
So you look in the hundreds place.

From the three you then use one
To make ten ones...
(And you know why four plus minus one
Plus ten is fourteen minus one?
'Cause addition is commutative, right.)
And so you have thirteen tens,
And you take away seven,
And that leaves five...

Well, six actually.
But the idea is the important thing.

Now go back to the hundreds place,
And you're left with two.
And you take away one from two,
And that leaves...?

Everybody get one?
Not bad for the first day!

Hooray for new math,
New-hoo-hoo-math,
It won't do you a bit of good to review math.
It's so simple,
So very simple,
That only a child can do it!
Now that actually is not the answer that I had in mind, because the book that I
got this problem out of wants you to do it in base eight. But don't panic. Base
eight is just like base ten really - if you're missing two fingers. Shall we
have a go at it? Hang on.

You can't take three from two,
Two is less than three,
So you look at the four in the eights place.
Now that's really four eights,
So you make it three eights,
Regroup, and you change an eight to eight ones,
And you add them to the two,
and you get one-two base eight,
Which is ten base ten,
And you take away three, that's seven.

Now instead of four in the eights place
You've got three,
'Cause you added one,
That is to say, eight, to the two,
But you can't take seven from three,
So you look at the sixty-fours.

"Sixty-four? How did sixty-four get into it?" I hear you cry.
Well, sixty-four is eight squared, don't you see?
(Well, you ask a silly question, and you get a silly answer.)

From the three you then use one
To make eight ones,
And you add those ones to the three,
And you get one-three base eight,
Or, in other words,
In base ten you have eleven,
And you take away seven,
And seven from eleven is four.
Now go back to the sixty-fours,
And you're left with two,
And you take away one from two,
And that leaves...?

Now, let's not always see the same hands.
One, that's right!
Whoever got one can stay after the show and clean the erasers.

Hooray for new math,
New-hoo-hoo-math,
It won't do you a bit of good to review math.
It's so simple,
So very simple,
That only a child can do it!

Come back tomorrow night. We're gonna do fractions.
Now I've often thought I'd like to write a mathematics text book someday because I have
a title that I know will sell a million copies. I'm gonna call it Tropic Of
Calculus."

Posted by: Me | August 11, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

re: math teachers as fruitcakes. Well, ALL my teachers, through college and grad school - okay, most - were fruitcakes. Same with the high level physics people - wow, sometimes I wondered how they got dressed in the AM. Seriously. VERY bright with what they knew, but, wow, didn't seem to have many life skills.

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

i bet those frenchies are really trying to figure out the math on how they lost the gold to michael phelps and co.

vive USA

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Me -- you read my mind. Try this:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=a81YvrV7Vv8

Posted by: Laura | August 11, 2008 10:32 AM | Report abuse

The most important math for the vast majority of people is arithmetic and algebra. I see nothing to be gained by rushing every kid through those subjects so that they can get themselves totally baffled by calculus that they will never use.

All we're doing here is further lowering the percentage of Americans who can understand their credit card statements and mortgage applications. But heck if they couldn't do calculus for a semester.

Posted by: Bob | August 11, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Me needs to get a life.

Posted by: Big yawn | August 11, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I hated math as a kid -- had absolutely lousy teachers in elementary school who didn't put any emphasis on it. I didn't learn the multiplication tables in third grade and have been a math retard ever since. They didn't tell us how to arrive at an answer, just said 'this is the answer, too bad if you missed it.' Finally, there is no use whatsoever in this world for algebra. It should be dropped completely.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Big yawn needs to get a sense of humor.

Posted by: Me | August 11, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Finally, there is no use whatsoever in this world for algebra. It should be dropped completely.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 10:40 AM

You probably use algebra every day and don't even know it because you didn't understand it in school. I mean, "I need to get to work by 9am and it's 10 miles away and I can travel about 5 mph in rush hour traffic... what time should I leave?" is an algebra problem. Seriously. You use algebra constantly.

I think a lot of the problem with the way schools teach math is that they teach it in math class. Solving math problems for the sake of solving math problems is enough to make anyone who won't go on to major in math want to gouge his eyes out with a #2 pencil.

Why can't we make kids take econ, physics, statistics, etc. and let them learn their math while learning something else? At least then they might learn the math while studying something they find interesting (I was an econ major, and I never really "got" calculus until I started needing it to do econ).

Posted by: Bob | August 11, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I'm running into this math understanding problem with my daughter, a rising 4th grader. At her elementary school in Mont. County they want them to memorize basic math addition and subtraction facts and multiplication tables but also teach concepts and understanding of how to figure out the answer. She is in accelerated math but I feel like she doesn't get it. She gets As and Bs but cannot seem to apply the math concepts she supposedly already learned to new concepts. I talked to her teacher several times during the school year about the disconnect and she gave me suggestions to reinforce the concepts at home. We do that and I go over her papers with her to explain the wrong answers to try to make sure she understands how to correctly figure it out. I often will take a test or worksheet and make up new problems with the same concepts to help reinforce them. But when I watch her do her homework, I often get this nagging feeling that she is not really learning this material. If a problem is just slightly more complex than the example she will get completely lost. That says to me that she doesn't understand the concept well enough to apply it elsewhere.

My husband and I are going to monitor her closely this year and plan to ask the teachers to move her out of accelerated and into the on-grade level math if we are still seeing this disconnect. She's a little young for her grade and the teachers have said that some of math learning is developmental and it clicks in later for some kids. But, I think by this point, 4th grade, if she's still not getting it, she needs to slow down and learn these concepts better. I'd rather she take alegebra later and actually understand than take it early. But, there is a lot of pressure at her school to have as many kids "above-grade level" as they can. And, my daughter is very proud of being above-grade level b/c they make such a big deal about it. So, I don't want her to feel demoted. I wish they had never accelerated her in the first place but the teacher told me she was ready and able to handle it. I didn't really think so but the teacher said we should just give it a try and could always move her during the year. But, when I brooched moving with my daughter she got upset. So, now we're in this quandry. Lesson learned for me is to go with my instincts. I know my kid.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | August 11, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

"As the parent of a rising 6th grader "

"I'm running into this math understanding problem with my daughter, a rising 4th grader."

What's up with all the "rising" kids?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Luckily my husband is good at math so he can help the kids. Right now, step-son is still at the point of counting (just in kindergarten) so it is hard to see algebra on the horizon.

I can understand PT Fed Mof2 concerns. I was likely her daughter but 35 years ago in the old-fashioned system. There wasn't any accelerated program were I went to school so that certainly wasn't the problem. I can't say that I ever got the concepts although I got A's in math all through school. I went to take Math for math students in University and ended up dropping out in the first week. The 'review' was too difficult for me. I ended up in Math for Business Students which was our basic requirement.

What I discovered was that I really never understood math beyond the basic concepts. What I did was essentially memorize formulas and learn to recognize what word problem went with which formula. I was at least smart enough to recognize 'twists' on the basic problem and still be able to select the right formula and stick the appropriate numbers and letters where they belonged in the formula.

I wish I could tell you what would have worked for me. I always just figured I didn't have much of a head for advanced math.

Posted by: Billie | August 11, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I wish I could tell you what would have worked for me.

Posted by: Billie | August 11, 2008 11:31 AM

Not to worry, AB has all of the answers for this one...

Posted by: Anon for this | August 11, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I would bet a kindergartner is being taught algebraic concepts...sorting, describing attributes, comparisons of quantities, etc. I agree that math needs to be better integrated with the rest of the curriculum - math for the sake of math alone doesn't engage many kids. A well-done integrated curriculum can be a lot of fun, and engage all kids in using skills that are real.

Posted by: mlc | August 11, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

One of the problems most parents will encounter with early elementary math, especially those with active kids, is that the child will bring home worksheet after worksheet of single-digit computational problems for homework. Boring! Then parents have to put of with the frustration of getting their child to sit still while they *attempt* to do the teaching.

The temptation for many parents is to teach their child little tricks like counting on fingers and the thing with the 9s so the child could eventually complete the homework independently. I tried doing this, and it didn't work very well. It took way too much time to complete a worksheet, and if you ask me, math isn't just about getting the answer right or wrong, it's all about how *fast* you can get the answer right.

Out of pure laziness, and many hours of waiting for my daughter to complete her finger counting only to arrive at an incorrect answer, I dount out The most effective way to teach a child single digit computation: Give them one guess, if they get it wrong, give them the answer.

Her: "15 minus 6 equals 8, right"
Me: "No, 15 minus 6 equals 9. Next."
Her: "9 minus 2 equals 7. That's an easy one."
Me: "next"
...

Boom! Done! We knocked out what used to be a 45 minute worksheet in 7 minutes. Within 2 weeks she caught up with the rest of the class and her test scores improved dramatically.


Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Boom! Done! We knocked out what used to be a 45 minute worksheet in 7 minutes. Within 2 weeks she caught up with the rest of the class and her test scores improved dramatically.

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 12:13 PM

Fu4 must have gone off of the sauce for this.

Posted by: Al anon | August 11, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

"What's up with all the "rising" kids?"

It's summer break, so a kid that will be going into the 4th grade isn't technically there yet; hence rising 4th grader.

We're talking math here, accuracy is paramount!

Posted by: and the answer is... | August 11, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

"As the parent of a rising 6th grader "

"I'm running into this math understanding problem with my daughter, a rising 4th grader."

What's up with all the "rising" kids?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 11:12 AM

'Rising' means that the student will be starting that grade in the coming school year.

Posted by: SE | August 11, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I wish I could tell you what would have worked for me.

Posted by: Billie | August 11, 2008 11:31 AM

Not to worry, AB has all of the answers for this one...

Posted by: Anon for this | August 11, 2008 11:49 AM

Hahahaha. Seriously, I'm waiting for another windbag post from ArmyBrat, and then a followup one from ATB saying that math helped her get her flat stomach.

Posted by: anon. | August 11, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Hahahaha. Seriously, I'm waiting for another windbag post from ArmyBrat, and then a followup one from ATB saying that math helped her get her flat stomach.

Posted by: anon. | August 11, 2008 12:28 PM

LOL

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

a = teenage boy
b = teenage girl
c = adult authority figure


a + b - c = a/b

Posted by: Simple Math | August 11, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm a new Dad and have to deal with my own issues and problems with math when deciding how to best approach it for my son. I blame my own lack of success on two things, equally: my own lack of motivation and poor teachers (with the exception of one). I felt that in every class I took, the teachers taught to the smart kids only. It was like they were bored with their work and only wanted to converse with those who really got it. But to be fair, I could have tried harder. I tended not to take it serious enough. That could have helped make the difference. For my kid, I'll approach it like a sport - you need to train a lot in order to get better, it does not come to you overnight. Plus the earlier you start in life, the better.

Posted by: Another Bob | August 11, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

a = teenage boy
b = teenage girl
c = adult authority figure
d = baby

(a + b) - c = d

Posted by: One and One and One Make Three! | August 11, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"But to be fair, I could have tried harder."

Posted by: Another Bob | August 11, 2008 1:11 PM


Yup.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

One more thing: I am not a math-lover at all. But at 40, I look at some of the kids I went to high school with (had recent reunion). The four of five I remember to be tops in math and science are holding successful jobs while I feel I am struggling. It's hard not to wish I took a different path. I think kids need to be pushed into as much math as they can handle.

Posted by: Another Bob | August 11, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

a = teenage boy
b = teenage girl
c = adult authority figure


a + b - c = b/a

Posted by: The New (liberated) Math | August 11, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

a = teenage boy
b = teenage girl
c = adult authority figure


a + b - c = b/a


Posted by: The New (liberated) Math | August 11, 2008 1:14 PM

what about:

a + a + c = ???

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

other bob: your life is not over at 40. My cousin went back to school for his graduate degree in education and started a new career. It took time and money, but he had the fortitude (and lovely wife for encouragement).

So to say that you never knew something, and seem to have the attitude that you can't do anything about it is hogwash. If you want, you can go back to school, or get some sort of certification, or whatever. Life is hardly over. It's really just beginning....

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

PT Fed Mof2: My mom made me use math at the grocery store. I had to pick out the cheapest can of whatever which when I was a kid involved dividing the ounces into the cost to get price per ounce. Then I had to subtract to be able to tell her how much the difference was. She usually sent me a few aisles ahead on these math errands because it took me a while to do all of this (and practice since I had to do it in my head). Of course, the grocery store does this for you now. Also, after we checked out I got to balance the checkbook.

My other math lesson was my mom always asking "Do you know how many hours I have to work to buy you that?" It was more of a rhetorical question though.

Posted by: Em | August 11, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse


a + a + c = 10 to 20 at Statesville!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

My other math lesson was my mom always asking "Do you know how many hours I have to work to buy you that?"

Posted by: Em | August 11, 2008 1:33 PM

What a manipulative beyotch!

Posted by: Can't stand hypocrites | August 11, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Now that hubby and I are seperated, I have been checking into the finances. I always trusted him before as he is better at math. Imagine my surpirse when I found all his paycheck was not put into our joint check account! I found out that he has a seperate account but the bank will not give me any information. Can anyone help with this? Any idea how I can find where this money is going?

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

My other math lesson was my mom always asking "Do you know how many hours I have to work to buy you that?"

Posted by: Em | August 11, 2008 1:33 PM

Nothing manipulative about teaching children responsibility about money.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Actually, my mom was a math whiz. She would do all that math at the grocery store in her head, etc, and know exactly how much was in her cart to the penny when she checked out, etc.

She was a grandmaster at bridge, which is a very mathematical game. I guess that's where I got my analytical skills cause I don't think I got them from dad. She didn't have 'school' training, much, so I think she never thought to 'teach' us. We try with my son to talk through math stuff all the time - he got monopoly for his birthday so we play that from time to time. He doesn't get all the nuances of the game, but he's learning all sorts of stuff. And, as mentioned above, doesn't know he's learning. That's the best way to learn.

I agree that math shouldn't be a treacherous subject to be 'learned' all by itself. There should definitely be more integration between subjects.

And, whoever thinks that they don't use math concepts every minute...well, you're wrong. You do. All sorts of things.

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Any idea how I can find where this money is going?

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 1:48 PM

Ask Rielle Hunter about her new estate.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

How else are kids supposed to learn about money? I mean, seriously, my kids just think it shows up in the bank, and we get it. The oldest is just learning how it gets there. He's asking questions about why dad goes to work, and that stuff.
He lost his sunglasses the other day and said: oh, we'll just go to the store and get new ones. So clearly he doesn't understand how we get the money to get the glasses. He needs to learn that and at 6 he is starting to understand a little some of the concepts.

I think we should start him on an allowance, then he would see how long it takes to save up for things (i mean, like, a quarter each week or something).

Kids need to learn these concepts, and when you put a dollar sign in front of stuff, it makes it more tangible, and a much easier problem for everyone to handle.

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Any idea how I can find where this money is going?

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 1:48 PM

Live long and prosper.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Now that hubby and I are seperated, I have been checking into the finances. I always trusted him before as he is better at math. Imagine my surpirse when I found all his paycheck was not put into our joint check account! I found out that he has a seperate account but the bank will not give me any information. Can anyone help with this? Any idea how I can find where this money is going?

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 1:48 PM

Call a lawyer and try to get the account information subpoenaed.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Call a lawyer and try to get the account information subpoenaed.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:10 PM

There's one born every minute.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"see nothing to be gained by rushing every kid through those subjects so that they can get themselves totally baffled by calculus that they will never use."

but then you say, they should take physics.

duh.

Physics and calculus teach the same approach to solving problems in different disciplines. If physics has value, then so does calculus, and vice versa.

Why assume that everyone will be a lawyer? Doesn't the world need a few engineers, accountants, geologists, and surveyers? Physics and calculus are essential to everyday life, unless you can get someone to pay you a whole lot only to understand words without reality.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm still not sure that I want to take such a drastic step as a lawyer. I still hope to get back together with him. But the longer we are living apart, the more I find out about how he really is.

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Realistically, without calculus one will be completely lost in physics. It's all math. So is chemistry, but it's more about algebra than calculus. I loved chemistry for that reason - it was ALL math, and it came easy to me. If not for having to take more physics, I mighta majored in chem. It's not that I didn't get the math part of the physics, it was the theory. It did NOT make any sense to me.

Posted by: atlmom | August 11, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Physics and calculus are essential to everyday life


Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:18 PM

How?

Posted by: Whoa | August 11, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

We started my 5 year old daughter on $5/week allowance for helping with some work around the house. She was free to spend it how she wanted, but if she saved it, we paid 20% interest per week, in addition to her allowance, because we figured the amount had to be substantial, or she would not get the saving concept. At first she spent everything....
But now, about a year later, she is an amazing saver with a very real understanding about how much something costs. We have had to cut back on the interest rate!

Posted by: Scout Finch | August 11, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I was an "accelerated" math student not that long ago. I took Pre-Algebra in 7th grade and Algebra in 8th (geometry, trig, pre-cal, calculus in HS). There are so many foundational math concepts to learn that I can't imagine most students NEEDING to go any faster than that. The majority of colleges distrust students foundation in math anyway. The calculator is an excellent tool, and we used graphing calculators frequently in my HS classes. However, I meet many students now (I just finished grad school) who have no idea how to approach the math itself. Calculus was a struggle for me, but I had a teacher that pushed us to UNDERSTAND the language of math and the relationships the equations represent. I'm grateful for his insistence.

Posted by: understanding concepts | August 11, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

We started my 5 year old daughter on $5/week allowance for helping with some work around the house. She was free to spend it how she wanted, but if she saved it, we paid 20% interest per week, in addition to her allowance, because we figured the amount had to be substantial, or she would not get the saving concept. At first she spent everything....
But now, about a year later, she is an amazing saver with a very real understanding about how much something costs. We have had to cut back on the interest rate!

Posted by: Scout Finch | August 11, 2008 2:36 PM

You're gonna hear some ugly talk about this in school.

Posted by: Jean Louise | August 11, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"We started my 5 year old daughter on $5/week allowance for helping with some work around the house."

That's a great way to teach your kid to whine for money every time you ask her to do something.

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I was so poor in math that my Mom bought me a game to play (like Scrabble) that has you filling in simple equations instead of words. I didn't take to the game very well because my math skills were so poor at the time but I have played it on occasion as an adult and enjoyed it more.

I think I even knew as a child that it was bought to improve my skills so that might have turned me against it.

We haven't done much playing with Piero on math skills but he certainly knows how to count for Go Fish or Clue. We are much more focused on improving his English skills. We will often play "Whoever speaks Spanish first loses" In the beginning he would automatically start to speak in Spanish and lose but now he often catches his father speaking Spanish first. We also play "Translation" which really improves his vocabulary. He will miss a word a time or two then that word is forever lost as a way to win. Translation is played by the three of us. He says a word in Spanish and I have to repeat it back in English. If I can't... I lose. I say a word in English and he (with the help of his father) has to say the word in Spanish. If they can't... he loses. Of course, his father's grasp of the English language is better than my grasp of Spanish so I often lose.

At times it is interesting to see what words he has already picked up and it is very interesting to see what words sound alike to a non-native speaker. And sometimes you even get tricked by your own language. One day, I said 'watch' because his father had a watch on so I was expecting the word 'reloj' back. Instead he gave me back the word 'mirar' which means to watch something like in the context of TV. So my first response was "you lose" because it took me a minute to realize that he had given me a different meaning.

I find my step-children continually amazing in what they do, say and learn.

Posted by: Billie | August 11, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

That's a great way to teach your kid to whine for money every time you ask her to do something.

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 2:44 PM

How would you know?

Don't breed 'em if you can't afford 'em.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

You teach kids to whine by rewarding whiny behavior.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

You teach kids to whine by rewarding whiny behavior.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:53 PM

And setting an example as a whiner.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm still not sure that I want to take such a drastic step as a lawyer. I still hope to get back together with him. But the longer we are living apart, the more I find out about how he really is.

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 2:29 PM

First, if he's been hiding money from you, that should be a huge red flag about "how he really is." Second, since he has been hiding money from you, it's all the more important that you talk to a lawyer sooner rather than later so you can start protecting yourself. Third, if you consulting a lawyer is going to make him less likely to want to get back together, then that's another reason why you shouldn't get back together.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree with what a previous poster said, colleges do not trust high school math at all. I took AP Calculus in High School and scored a 4 on the test. I went to a prestigious university, and they did not take the credit. You had to get a 5 on the test AND take their own test, and even then they highly discouraged people from skipping. On another note, I agree that they do a horrible job at teaching concepts. Math has always been my strong point. When I got to Trig, I made it through with A's, however, I was just memorizing and never really understood it. It wasn't until I was almost done with the year that I suddenly had trouble and realized I didn't "get it." Luckily I sought the help of my dad who sat me down and taught me the concepts and it suddenly just clicked. But I could never understand why the teacher just couldn't explain it the same way that my dad did. He made it so easy.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"You teach kids to whine by rewarding whiny behavior."

Giving a kid money to do work that he/she whines about doing in the first place is essentially paying your kids to whine for you.

Posted by: Agreed | August 11, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

She has never whined about helping around the house.

Posted by: Scout Finch | August 11, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Bob- high level math skills beyond algebra and geometry are really only for a chunk of people, not the masses. I'd much prefer "tax prep" and "interest rates" and "budget management" to be pushed rather than calculus.

But of course in our system, if it doesn't have "AP" in front of it, no one cares.

AP is a great system and of course upper level classes should be offered, but we need to be teaching better, not faster.

Posted by: Liz D | August 11, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

"She has never whined about helping around the house."

Parent of perfect child alert!

Posted by: Agreed | August 11, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Liz, when it comes to math, better=faster.

Posted by: DandyLion | August 11, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't ASK my kids to do stuff, I TELL them. It's called leadership. Try it sometime.

Posted by: A different drummer | August 11, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

"Parent of perfect child alert!"

Moron alert!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

"She has never whined about helping around the house."

Parent of perfect child alert!

///////////////////////////////////////////////////


Nah, just learning to be a good housewife!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

AP classes are taught in high schools by teachers who sometimes have Master's degrees and rarely have PhDs. They have a curriculum to follow - and they are often hamstrung into "teaching to the test." I actually support AP classes - I think they provide a good stepping stone from high school to college - but I still think most kids should re-take their AP classes in college. It doesn't make too much sense to get all the way to Multivariate Calculus in high school - even if you're going to study engineering.....

Posted by: just sayin...... | August 11, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Bob- high level math skills beyond algebra and geometry are really only for a chunk of people, not the masses. I'd much prefer "tax prep" and "interest rates" and "budget management" to be pushed rather than calculus.
Posted by: Liz D | August 11, 2008 3:11 PM

I'm continually amazed at the basic life skills we don't teach in schools. No wonder people are duped by credit card companies and sketchy mortgages!

The best class my HS taught was Economics; the teacher went into the foundational concepts but also focused on things like "Here's how to buy a used car" and "Here are some things to keep in mind for household budgeting."

My DH is an engineer, and he claims to see the world fundamentally differently post-Calculus than he did before it. I never even took pre-Calc, and I can't say I've ever sensed something missing in my knowledge base...

I see that higher-level math is valuable for some people, so it should be offered to some students. However, the basic life skills classes are needed by ALL students, and should be required for all (except those who test out by proving existing knowledge of the concepts covered.)

Posted by: newslinks | August 11, 2008 4:00 PM | Report abuse

My favorite is when perfect mom brags that "my (11 year old) fourth grader is doing fifth grade math." As if that makes her a genius? Shouldn't an eleven year old actually be in sixth grade?

If you hold your kid back until they're really, really old and then brag about how accelerated they are, you look really stupid because everybody knows that actually your kid's behind. I think the reason we have so many sixth graders doing algebra these days is because most of them actually belong in eighth grade but their hypercompetitive parents have held them back.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Now that hubby and I are seperated, I have been checking into the finances. I always trusted him before as he is better at math. Imagine my surpirse when I found all his paycheck was not put into our joint check account! I found out that he has a seperate account but the bank will not give me any information. Can anyone help with this? Any idea how I can find where this money is going?

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 1:48 PM

Donna, thats so horrible. I'm in tears just reading about this. How could your husband sleep with your brother and then steal all the money?

Posted by: Nancy | August 11, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Whatever happens to Donna, she's so stupid she deserves it. Darwin rules!

Posted by: LMAO | August 11, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Donna, thats so horrible. I'm in tears just reading about this. How could your husband sleep with your brother and then steal all the money?

Posted by: Nancy | August 11, 2008 4:35 PM


Donna - your husband slept with your brother??? Umm, I think you definitely need to leave him.

Posted by: anon | August 11, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Whatever happens to Donna, she's so stupid she deserves it. Darwin rules!

Posted by: LMAO | August 11, 2008 4:46 PM

Dont be cruel. How would you like it if your husband had an affair with your brother?

Posted by: Nancy | August 11, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

How would you like it if your husband had an affair with your brother?

Posted by: Nancy | August 11, 2008 4:48 PM

///////////////////////////

I'd take pictures and put them on the Internet!

Posted by: To Nancy | August 11, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

If my husband and my brother were together - I like the take-pictures-post-on-Internet-idea, but I'm sure I'd be laughing too hard and drop the camera.

My SIL would *NOT* be amused though, and my brother would be lucky if he lived to regret it.

Posted by: Sue | August 11, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I NEVER said that hubby slept with my brother. That was just someone acting like me, IT WAS NOT ME!

Posted by: Donna | August 11, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

How does someone act like you? Make up a story and post it on the nearest blog?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 11, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Donna, here is a way to get at that booty your husband's hiding away.

Go ahead and take the pictures of him and your brother in the throes of passion, then blackmail your husband.

Either he reveals the details about the hidden booty, or you reveal his booty. On Youtube.

Seriously, though. Call the lawyer. No telling what else he's hiding.

Posted by: Boo Radley | August 11, 2008 10:41 PM | Report abuse

What amuses me greatly is that I went up through the Alex City schools (the system Pat Welsh was talking about), took both Calc AB and BC before I graduated high school and always counted on my fingers and never bothered memorizing my multiplication tables. I was in the system in the 80s-90s so this isnt' a problem that has just popped up by any means.

Also, I can say definitively that the most stand out memory I have of math teachers throughout school was a horrible woman who was mad that she couldn't retire the summer she wanted to and took it out on all of us 7th graders for the year. She called me a moron constantly because her class bored me, however she never tried to actually teach me anything. It took me until college to finally get back a little bit of self esteem in my ability to do math. We always remember the negatives.

Posted by: K | August 15, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

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