The New York Post
November 6, 2003 -- A war over the city's new math curriculum erupted yesterday, with parents complaining they're befuddled by the new ways of teaching math - and so are their kids.
"I resent my daughter being used as a guinea pig! I don't want people monkeying around with her future," said Thomas Dooley, whose daughter is a fourth-grader at PS 150 in Queens, said during a City Council hearing.
Dooley was discussing the Department of Education's "Everyday Mathematics" program - called "fuzzy math" by critics. The program is now being used from kindergarten through fifth grade in most elementary schools under the new uniform curriculum selected by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.
"The last two months she has learned nothing," Dooley said. "They have five or six different ways of doing math. It's doing nothing but confusing them.
"It's terrible. The teachers don't like it. Nobody likes it."
Dooley complained that in some problem-solving, students are asked to give estimates rather than precise answers. "The correct answer doesn't mean nothing," he fumed.
Department officials defended Everyday Mathematics - and "Impact Mathematics" in the middle grades - as validated programs with proven track records in other cities across the country.
But even Klein admitted there's confusion.
"We are starting to get a trickle of complaints from parents that are having trouble understanding parts of Everyday Mathematics and Impact Mathematics. Providing forums for parents to meet to get information and ask questions will alleviate many concerns," Klein said in a recent memo to principals.
He suggested that math "coaches" should coordinate the parent prep sessions, and they have begun to do so.
Department math program manager Linda Curtis-Bey said the programs use a complement of traditional math equations - such as long division and memorizing multiplication tables - with other problem-solving techniques that are more applicable to every day life. That includes students working in groups and exploring a number of ways to get the answer to a problem.
"It's about solving the math problems and thinking critically. The traditional math is not serving those needs," said Curtis-Bey.
But one retired Bronx teacher complained that the new math is being emphasized over the basics.
And despite massive training by the department, complaints persist that teachers themselves haven't mastered the new way of teaching math. Teachers also complain of micromanagement because they're ordered not to veer from the program.
One expert said the math teaching staff is not up to the task.
"We have the weakest secondary teaching staff I have ever seen," said Al Posamentier, head of City College's teacher education program.
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