New Math – New Technology = Failure by Elizabeth Green

The Lonely American Teacher

  • Unlike other countries like Japan, American teachers have almost no opportunity to watch one another teach. In Japan, however, lessons are watched by other teachers and other experts. The lessons are then discussed in detail. This allows better methods to emerge and be shared. In Japanese classes, students spend more time inventing and thinking while American students focus on practice with very little inventing and thinking. American teachers often focus attention on an overhead or smart board while Japanese teachers have students sharing their ideas on blackboards. This results in far less student participation in American classes. Other countries also allow for much more teacher interaction while the typical American teacher has very little feedback.

In Conclusion

  • The problems we see in math classes extend to other subjects for many of the same reasons. What we see therefore, are large numbers of students who write weakly, read poorly, think unscientifically, and grasp history only superficially. What we have is a profession struggling to make the best of an impossible hand. Instead of acknowledging that changes like the new math are something teachers must learn over time, we mandate them as “standards” the teachers are expected to simply “adopt.” We shouldn’t be surprised that students don’t improve. (Doug: It seems like we know what to do based on experiences elsewhere. Unfortunately it looks like we don’t have the time or the resources to do things right so we just do the wrong things over and over.) Elizabeth has found pocket of promising schools that others should look to for advice if they really want to move forward.
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