Friday, September 10, 2010

How the educational establishment changed maths so my kids don't understand

If you don't have young children you won't be aware of how maths in primary school has been sabotaged by the educational establishment.

There's a useful video by the BBC ( yes actual public service broadcasting ) here. ( Its called Maths for Mums and Dads as of course we are at fault - if you think this is patronising you should see the briefings you get in the schools themselves. )

Picture below:

Lets be clear there are loads of these pseudo techniques and the kids are scared of using the wrong one and making a mistake ( because getting the right answer with the wrong technique is wrong). They don't understand and anyway the techniques aren't scalable and have to be forgotten and replaced with real maths for the work they have to do latter anyway.

Your only way out of this is to pay for private education.

Why can't I chose a state school for my kids that teaches maths the way that served us so well in the past and will give them a chance against the Indian, Korean and Chinese kids in the future world economy ?

This is why state provision sucks so much.

Also see Why parents can't do maths ( well of course they can - they just can't do the educational establishments new encoding of maths ).


Martha said...

My God, those are complicated and long winded methods .. no wonder our kids leave school dumb! And doesn't this go against all the "green" crap using all that paper to draw boxes for every little sum?

Mark Wadsworth said...

They have a point actually.

I have to do a lot of speedy calculations in meetings with clients to discuss how much tax would be payable and when, and by and large I resort to chunking or rounding two large numbers to the nearest sig fig and then adding the noughts on again, guesswork etc.

Man in a Shed said...

@Mark They claim that its jsut making explicit the tricks some people use in their own heads anyway.

I don't object to the methods - I just object to the Taliban style enforcement of them and the neglect of techniques that are the basis of more advanced work.

As I said my kids are confused by all the approaches they must learn and use only those approaches when asked to.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Of course it is best to learn it the proper way with long division and so on first, like wot we did, but just for a bit of light relief at the end of the week, the teacher ought to have a quick fire round getting the kids to guess the answers to quite tricky calculations.

It is really quite annoying when one's child lovingly multiplies two numbers and ends up with the correct digits but out by a factor or ten or something.

Man in a Shed said...

I can still remember the primary school teacher who wrote out a long list of number to be multiplied and challenged us to work it out. Of course we hadn't seen the implication of one of them being zero. Sometimes there a fast way to do things and its worth a quick second to check first.

I had a university lecturer who set us a design problem in the first year with false data - it took us 3 months to realise we had to challenge the question.

Valuable lessons. I'm not sure if you'd get away with teaching them today.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely fascinating.

I've noticed a boom in books for people to teach their kids basic maths, English etc at home. No wonder.

These techniques (which I've not come across - my kids seem to be still learning the traditional way) are ridiculous because they take away from the kids the notion of the columns in a number signifying something. That is, of course, what made the Arabic number system so superior to the old Roman one.

And don't forget that many primary school teachers can't read or write properly themselves either, so the teaching of the methods is likely to be rubbish as well. It's relatively easy to teach rule-based methods if you aren't much good at it yourself. If you're not too hot yourself, it's relatively hard to teach methods that depend on thinking about "concepts" and abstraction from the task in hand.

Anonymous said...

The methods demonstrated by Rob Eastaway on that BBC video struck me as rather good.

The rule-based methods - the "proper ways" with long division and long multiplication - are derived from the methods shown. And the grid method illustrates very clearly what you are doing when you multiply two numbers together.

It also illustrates that it's often a useful strategy in maths to see if you can reduce a complex problem to a set of simpler problems each of which you've solved before.