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Math anyone?

September 13, 2011

A young family member of mine was visiting us after school recently. When I came home, my wife was working with my son on writing his name and coloring inside the lines. I asked the young family member if he had done his home work and he said he had. So I proceeded to ask him a question; convert the fraction one-fifth to a decimal. Now, I have been asking the young people in my family and my wife’s family that same question for more than a decade. And during that time few if any have been able to answer the question without some guidance. What is distressing is that I ask them at a time in their educational development where they should know the answer, as well as know how they arrived at the answer. So I have to ask the question;  how is it that an 8th grader in middle school cannot convert a fraction to a decimal and vice versa? And when I say he could not do it, I don’t mean he attempted to work through the steps and came up with a bad answer, he actually had no clue how to tackle the problem. How do you get to the eighth grade and not know basic math concepts. There is something wrong with that. If a student cannot do basic math how is it possible for him or her to understand complex mathematical operations later in their education. He is behind, an will likely never catch up. When I look at the CRCT scores for schools, I tend to zero in on the math. If you look at math scores they generally get worse across the board starting around the fourth grade and never rebound. I know there tends to be a general dislike of math in our society, but math is the driving force behind so many, if not all,  of the advancements we enjoy today. Things as widely available as the internet in its foundation is based on mathematical concepts. Software that run the myriad of sites we spend hours at a time on are based in large part on mathematic principles. It is disturbing for me when I see middle and high school kids unable to solve basic math problems. This problem should be a concern for parents as well as presidents. The educational morass that our children are in cannot bode well for our country’s future.

  1. Dekalb Parent
    September 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree with this article! As exhausted as I am after a long day at work, I still go home and “tutor” both my 6th and 8th graders in Math so they’re at least one step ahead and won’t get frustrated during class. They’ve both told me they’re glad they study and practice at home because on more than one occasion they’ve asked their teacher for clarification only to be told there was “no time for questions now”. Well, if there’s no time during “instruction time”, when are the students who don’t grasp it supposed to be learning??

    I asked my 8th grader your question this morning and after a few seconds of thought he said “point 2”. No paper/pencil required.

  2. Bernadette Wilson Cotton
    September 14, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Thank you so much for this topic. I am also extremely dismayed about what our children are NOT learning in school. The children are being “dumbed-down” to meet standards which are set very low in order to meet testing goals. There is no mastery of subjects. I was at a parents meeting last week for high school seniors and the counselor was speaking to those who need to retake the writing exam. Her advice was to not write cursive but to print to make sure the reviewers could read it. Huh? These are high school seniors and your advice is to print and not write cursive. We absolutely must demand more and better for our children. As a parent, I supplement my children’s education with reading, current events topics/discussions and constant lectures on everything from global warming to the recent unrest in the UK. Education is the foundation to EVERYTHING!

    I hope that everyone who reads this realizes that we can make an impact. Our voices can be heard. We must mobilize regardless of whether we have children in school or not to ensure that our children are properly educated.

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