Schools' "New Math" = Trouble For City Kids
Bad News For Children, Good News For Tutors

The New York Post
April 17, 2001

By Carl Campanile

Front Page Headline: Big Fat Minus Parents and Teachers: 'New Math' Doing A Number On Our Kids"

Inside Headline: Schools' 'New Math' = Trouble For City Kids

April 17, 2001 -- Parent and student frustration with "fuzzy" math has been a boon to city tutoring services.

"We've gotten more inquiries and more students as a result," said Judith Furnari, director of Huntington Learning Services in Union Square.

"We get a lot of students in District 2 who are learning the 'constructivist' math."

Furnari said parents can't help their kids with homework because the new math is "unrecognizable" to what they learned in school.

"The kids can't do it, and the parents can't do it," she said.

She said parents turn to Huntington - which charges $55 to $70 an hour for tutoring - to teach "skilled" math instruction, which includes familiar equations and algorithms.

Furnari said students who aren't fluent in English are particularly handicapped with constructivist math because so much is based on reading passages and writing answers regarding math problems.

"Children who don't have strong verbal skills can't get through a four-step verbal problem," she said. Students with attention-deficit disorder or dyslexia also struggle with the new math because it takes more time to solve a problem, Furnari added.

She said parents complain that under these programs, teachers switch classwork and assignments from addition to subtraction to multiplication and division day-to-day, before some students have mastered the concepts.

"The program doesn't work for students who need a lot of practice," Furnari said.

Instead, parents send the kids to Huntington to learn the math they're not learning at school. Other parents are using private tutors. Horacio Mercardo pays a tutor $60 per hour to help his fifth-grade daughter prepare for a math admission test to select middle schools. He complained she's ill-prepared after taking five years of the new math, the TERC program, at PS 11 in Chelsea.

"I have to pay for an expensive tutor because we got hurt by this program," he said.

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