Thursday, May 3, 2012

Upper Level Math Instruction...Unnecessary???

I hope you take a minute to watch this video, "Why Math Instruction is Unnecessary." An excerpt from the written summary:
John is a teacher of math and a homeschooling parent who offers a radical-sounding proposal: that we cease to require math instruction in middle and high school.

If math education was done well...REALLY the lower grades, we'd have a bunch of kids who are mathematically fluent. If then, they liked math (which they might, if they were taught well!), and wanted to enter a career in which higher levels of math are required, they'd have the necessary foundation to move ahead. And, if they didn't want to enter a math-oriented career, they'd have what they needed to enter society with the skills necessary to thrive.

What do you think?


  1. I kept meaning to watch this and not finding the time. I finally watched it, and I agree with him. But he doesn't address elementary ed.

    Way back in the 20's and 30's L.P. Benezet showed that leaving out math instruction in elementary school helped 6th graders do better with mathematical reasoning. And more recently, Daniel Greenberg taught a bunch of Sudbury students (only after they begged him to) all the math one would learn in elementary school. (They had never had a formal math class before because Sudbury Schools are like unschools - the kids make their own choices about how to spend their time.) He was able to teach it well, and all the kids learned it well, in 20 hours.

    Sounds like the answer is autonomy. The best way to teach math is to students who have chosen to learn it.

    1. Sue, I was wondering what you'd think! :)

      I'm not surprised that leaving out math instruction would help 6th graders do better with mathematical reasoning...IF they were taught in ways that 6th graders in the 20s and 30s were typically taught. (Reminds me of some of the thoughts I had reading Jo Boaler's book.) But I'd like to think that they would do even better with math reasoning if they were taught in ways that researchers like Boaler have found to increase understanding. The question I'd ask about the Greenberg case is whether their environments were so rich with GOOD problem solving that they could learn it in 20 hours because all the foundation was there.

      Research says that great possibilities are out there...we just too often choose to ignore them.

  2. This thinking seems true - rings true - should be true - but there is always a little voice in my head that says - what if it's not?

    1. I hear ya. I try to ignore the voices in my head. :) There are so many! ;)

  3. Let me tell ya, I had a boy just like he was describing...I am not going to use this stuff...he HATED math and didn't do well in it. Fast forward...he is now 31 years old, a Software Engineer (completely self taught I might add) who thinks and talks MILES above me and his dad, and loves math. He told me that it wasn't so much that he hated math but that he hated how it was taught. He didn't see the purpose. And he hated the fact that if he knew something he still had to do 20 problems to show he knew it. So we need to re-think how and what we teach.

    But I do agree that if you are not going to be in a field that requires higher math then why should they waste their time on it. My son didn't learn higher math until it was necessary for what he wanted to do. But then again he found the books on his own (not textbooks) and learned that way.

    Just my humble opinion.

    1. I agree with you completely.

      I told my husband that I learned more in the last 10 years than in all my years before and college years. The reason: I was pursuing the knowledge.

      My DD9 taught me that it is senseless to do 20 problems if you can do 2 or 3 and shoe you know the subject.

  4. I am moving more towards this. I taught my first two the traditional way and they hate math. With my younger two, I have taught them to enjoy the beauty of math and they have a completely different attitude about it. I don't think I can bear to shatter that in the name of tradition.

  5. I believe strongly that math should stay mandatory in upper grades. Better teaching methods (like Khan Academy) might offer choices. US is already behind the rest of the world, and I see that this kind of attitude will really turn us one day into a third world country.


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