Panning The Panel
It is impossible to avoid offering some commentary about the recent recommendations by the President's Panel on Mathematics Education. And, I was sure to have counted to 10 before taking this on...
I cannot accept some of the Panel's conclusions, especially when they are short-sighted, shown ignorant of known research, and prescribe steps-backward. For example, the report claims a major goal should be mastery of fractions because that is "a severly underdeveloped area" that is linked directly to success in algebra.
Students always have had difficulty with fractions, typically because the focus has been on skill mastery and not on understanding. And, research has documented how computations with fractions (and ratios) become rote manipulations with two-decker numbers unless some meaning is attached (which is not gained through more skill practice). And, our educational focus should not be on algebra, but on powerful algebraic thinking, which is more connected to thinking proportionally than to manipulation of fractions.
Unfortunately, this report prompted memories of a recent short-sighted report that was written for Washington State. For example, the report claimed that more attention had to be devoted to long division because it was directly linked to success in calculus. What....!!!!
Unfortunately, these reports get lots of press and strike a chord with the public...and soon we have a band-wagon forming. I will not get on...but may be run over!