Wednesday, January 7, 2015

1967 Math Reform: if only!

Philip Miles an old college friend, and a current FB friend, sent me this wonderful gift for Christmas. It is a copy of one of the texts we used during our "teacher training" years at the College of St. Matthias in England from 1968-72. The book was part of a series of math education books designed to help budding young teachers learn how to teach math so that children could understand what they were doing instead of just memorizing facts and formulas.

First published in 1967, this was the Metric edition that followed in 1971, the year before I
 graduated with my B.Ed degree.  As far as I remember the UK began to go  metric in 1972 at least with money with the introduction of pence and pounds to replace the pennies, shillings and pounds.

I remember these books so well because they were so different from anything else in that their focus was on getting children to truly understand the math they were learning. This was toward the end of the New Math era that began quietly  after WWII and rose to a crescendo of discontent at the end of the 1970s. My teaching experience in a fourth grade class in Bristol in the UK from 1972 to 1977 coincided with the start of the back to basics movement and the disillusionment of the math reform movement which was characterized by the mystical  set theory of number that virtually no-one could fully understand.

If only we had realized back then that young children still need to remember certain math facts to go along with their deeper understanding perhaps the current math reform movement would stand a better chance of succeeding.

Sadly, I don't think the cry of "back to basics" will ever go away, as misguided as it continues to be. 

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