It’s sad and pathetic the way the Education Establishment pretends to care about math. In truth, they do everything possible to make sure that children don’t become good at arithmetic and math.
Close-up, their MO is to litter the landscape which so many obstacles, perverse instructions, and upside-down signs that most children give up. They tell the world that they are just not gifted at math. They don’t try any more math courses. And science is close to math, so they’ll avoid that too.
And that’s how the Education Establishment wins, even while mouthing pretentiously about their love for lifelong learners and the rest of it.
But let’s stand back a long way and try to see the one essential thing the Education Establishment does. Here it is. They make sure that the children, from day one, experience failure, only failure.
Conversely, good teachers and good curricula present things that children can master. They gain confidence. They want to move toward more adventurous challenges. That’s the way it is for all ages, in all subjects, all the time. If you don’t think you can do something properly and you’re experiencing failure day after day, you will run.
Joan Dunn, in her wonderful 1955 book “Retreat From Learning,” wrote what I think is the most profound statement you will find about education: “The children suffer academically because learning is neglected, and the time that should have been devoted to skull work in reading, writing, thinking, and speaking is given over to chatter. Nobody knows this better than the children. They want to be taught step by step, so that they can see their progress. The duller they are, the more important and immediate is this need.”
It’s the duller students that are most destroyed by the Education Establishment, those so-called experts who should be creating schools which make sure that slower students are given every chance.
To do that, you would want to look at how John Saxon designed his textbooks. You give students a morsel. You make sure they understand it. You give them little tests. You then review what they learned. When you’re sure the children have really got it in their brains, then you move to the next morsel. You never go ahead until the students feel in control.
That feeling of being in control is the key to everything. If you know anything about Reform Math, the very essence of it is that the children never feel in control. (“Everyday Math: Innumeracy By Design” is a collection of comments by irate parents about this diabolical curriculum.
To show how Reform Math works in practice, I put an article on hubpages (title: “Why American Kids Can't Do Math") where I said, let’s do a thought experiment; let’s imagine you are trying to make sure that a captive population never learns to do arithmetic. What will you do?? Very much what Reform Math does!
For contrast, here is an article about John Saxon and his ideas.