Anybody that knows me now knows I am really big on math and math education. I have three girls and I drill math all the time. I have always thought their education was my responsibility and if they learn something at school, that’s great. But whether they do or not, what they eventually end up learning, I have either taught them or allowed them to learn. I try to watch their test scores and homework to monitor this but now I am realizing that it’s not just the test scores and homework, it’s the whole concept of the curriculum. If I thought this were the shit that my kids were being taught, I would turn the whole board of education building into a hotdog stand. I intend to look a WHOLE lot deeper into the issue really soon. This is a 15+ minute video but if you have kids in school you really should watch it. If you are a teacher, I’d love to hear your feedback – positive or negative, on it. I really would love to hear from a supporter of this stuff to try to wrap my mind around why anyone thinks this is a good idea.

Now, let me make a couple of things clear. I understand the concept of some of this stuff. I even USE a variation of some of this stuff. For instance: In the problem 133/6, mentally, I thought, “6 will go into 120, 20 times. 13 left over. 6 will go into 13 2 times and have 1 left over. Answer: 22.1667.

By trade, I am an engineer. I do not have an engineering degree so I am not a degreed engineer but it is what I do for a living and have done for the better part of 25 years. I have taught myself everything above 11th grade math. I use calculators on a regular basis but I have found that knowing the multiplication tables to 20 and the squares of 1 – 20 have served me very well to do most math in my head. My standard precision on a problem is to the 1/1000 place. In my line of work, I think in 1/1000 – not fractions so I automatically convert fractions to 3 or 4 decimal places. I can take a tape measure and tell you what the force of a hydraulic or air cylinder is to a precision that is negated by the coefficient of friction of the material used in the seal on the piston. In my head. I ain’t braggin’ – I’m just sayin’: I know a thing or two about learning math. Some of what was in that video are tricks I taught myself after I learned the basics of mathematics. The important thing to consider here is that for a 20 or 30 or 40 year old guy to learn this stuff is one thing; but to try to get a 9 or 10 year old kid to learn the mental shortcuts BEFORE he even understands the basic concepts is bullshit on an unimaginable scale.

My problem with math education has always been that it starts out WAY too abstract. Word problems are made out to be some type of demon for kids. But in reality, all math starts out AS a word problem. I want to buy 2 6-packs of beer at $5.95 per pk. and I need to know if that is more than $11.75 per 12 pack. (I like good beer – don’t judge!) When I walk in a grocery store, nobody hands me a sheet of paper that asks if 2X5.95 is <, >, or = 11.75 – I gotta figure it out. Word problem. I could go into all sorts of a bitchfest over how calculus is taught but I won’t. Suffice it to say, from some of the text books I have bought on calculus, you could master the subject and still not have a friggin CLUE what to do with it or when to use it. My point is, the basic concepts of math are hard enough for a kid who is brought up in a world of fluid definitions. There is very little that is “right or wrong” for kids today. There is very little concept of “go, no go” for them. But math is a game of “go, no go” – either you are right or you are wrong. There are no degrees. To throw a kid into abstract conceptualization before he comprehends the basic parameters is stupid.

It seems some people are trying to turn math into a social issue – colored in individual perceptions and judgments, as opposed to a defined science. Those people just need to cut it the hell out!

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