Rainforest, Reform "Math" Update: Long Division Is No Longer Taught: It Stifles Students' Creativity
Scary: Only 57% of college freshman at the University of Washington could solve this problem below (231 / 7 = 33) without a calculator, using old-fashioned "long division." Here's a hint why - according to a math teacher quoted in the NY Times, "We don’t teach long division; it stifles students' creativity.”
From Professor Cliff Mass:
Last quarter I taught Atmospheric Sciences 101 at the University of Washington, a large lecture class with a mix of students, and gave them a math diagnostic test as I have done in the past. The results were stunning, in a very depressing way. This was an easy test, including elementary and middle school math problems. And these are students attending a science class at the State's flagship university--these should be the creme of the crop of our high school graduates with high GPAs. And yet most of them can't do essential basic math--operations needed for even the most essential problem solving.
Here's a link to a PDF version of the full test and results, and here's a blank version to give your kids and friends.
Consider these embarrassing statistics from the exam:
The overall grade was 58%
43% did not know the formula for the area of a circle
86% could not do a simple algebra problem (problem 4b)
75% could not do a simple scientific notation problem (1e)
52% could not deal with a negative exponent (2 to the -2)
43% could not do a simple long division problem with no remainder (see above)!
47% did not know what a cosine was.
I could go on, but you get the message. If many of our state's best students are mathematically illiterate, as shown by this exam, can you imagine what is happening to the others--those going to community college or no college at all?
What explains this mathematical illiteracy?
Starting in the mid-90s colleges of education and "curriculum specialists" in districts become enamored with a new way of teaching math--called reform or discovery math. Instead of teaching the basics --followed by practice to mastery, the idea was that students could only learn math they "discovered" themselves. Working on problem sets was considered "drill and kill." Direct instruction by teachers and equations in books were out. Long division was out. Integrated math books where all topics were swirled together were in. Group learning and playing with objects (manipulatives) were in. Describing one's through process was considered more important than getting the right answer. Most of this proved to be a disaster, but those pushing it--professors in education schools and district curriculum types--were believers, even though there was no empirical proof that it worked.
See a video demonstration here of some "rainforest math":