Home > Math News Archive Detail

<< Prev 3/23/2014 Next >>

My Lack of Trust

When it comes to matters of the teaching of mathematics, I distrust the federal government and their broad directives.

This includes their intervention in curriculum (e.g. the Common Core Standards), assessment (e.g. No Child Left Behind), and resource texts (e.g. current state "bans" on use of state funds for certain texts).

This distrust also extends to policy on teacher certification. Unfortunatley, expediency becomes the driving force, and not quality issues.

For example, in the mid-1980s, the crisis was a shortage of mathematics teachers (and an even greater shortage of quality mathematics teachers!).

In response, the U.S. General Accounting Office issued a report on mathematics teacher education issues....as if they know anything about the subject or issues involved.

Their claim: "content isn't really necessary as long as teachers are trained in certain procedures that are known to be effective....the best way to reduce the shortage of qualified mathematics teachers is to train teachers of other subjects for a summer in proven methods of raising test scores in mathematics and then let them teach mathematics."

Note the unfortunate focus on "training," test scores, "proven methods," no need for content understanding, and the short-term retrofitting of non-mathematics teachers.

Was this report of impact? Yes...for several years, a large amount of money was provided to colleges willing to provide "quickie" certification programs.

Was there ever a research follow-up of the effects of these programs? Not that I know of or can find anywhere in the research literature.

Why bring this up? Because it is about to happen again via alternative certification programs. And unfortunately, the one key part that always gets ignored is depth of content understanding of mathematics by a teacher. But then, everyone knows all a mathematics teacher has to be competent in is the orderly issuing of mathematics skill worksheets, with the current tests being reflective of the same.

It is a win-win situation for everyone except for students, quality mathematics teachers, and mathematics itself!

Source: Initiated Stephen Willoughby's NCTM President's Report "Mathematics Education 1984: Orwell or Well?" (1984)