Math Panel: Johnny's Teacher Can't Count

The New York Post
April 26, 2001

By Carl Campanile

Kids in city public schools flunk math because many teachers barely understand it themselves, an explosive report prepared for Schools Chancellor Harold Levy charges.

The chancellor's math commission, in a draft copy obtained by The Post, said there is a "crisis now facing thousands of New York children who are expected to learn mathematics without well-trained instructors.

"One can hardly expect teachers to teach what they themselves do not know," the report said.

While it's more likely that higher-grade math teachers have the requisite training in that area, lower-grade teachers, who cover all subjects, often avoided much math study.

Part of the problem is that college teacher-education programs haven't required challenging math courses, the report said.

"There is no substitute for deep understanding of mathematics, but this understanding is found in far too few graduates of teacher preparation programs," the report said.

In a stunning admission, the report said many teachers hate math.

Teachers chose the profession "in part because it did not, when they were [college] students, require mathematics," the report added.

Many of these teachers are now struggling to help students meet tougher state math standards.

The commission calls for more math instruction in the teacher colleges, particularly at the City University of New York. It also calls for revised teaching methods to prepare new teachers for the new standards.

The 15-member panel said the teacher woes are unfortunate because the Board of Education has done an "exemplary" job of revising its math curriculum to comply with new state standards.

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