Can the "new math" help raise student test scores?

The New York Post
April 28, 2001

Letters to the Editor from Cindy Pardo, Blauvelt; Charlene Marchese, Livingston, N.J.; Barbara DePesa, The Bronx; Susan Erlanger, Manhattan; Maggie David, Dover, N.J.

April 28, 2001 -- THE ISSUE:
Can the "new math" help raise student test scores?

I'm writing to thank you for printing all of the stories and letters to the editor on this "new math" fiasco ("The 'New Math' Flunks," Letters, April 22). As a parent in the South Orangetown District of Rockland County, I have fought a long and hard battle for the past 21/2 years, trying to rid our district of the "constructivist" math program. Finally, after our district's math scores went down on the state test, the board and administrators opened their eyes and realized what a big mistake had been made. Hopefully, New York City will realize the same before it's too late.

Cindy Pardo

For the record, there is nothing experimental or fuzzy about the curricula we use in District 2. I found the examples of the various methods of solving the multiplication problem 14 times nine, which was sent to The Post by a parent, thought-provoking in their relationship to the district's work in teaching math to middle-school students. The paper states, "In each case, the students break down the problem into smaller ones to come up with their answers." The statement ends there and unfortunately misses a wonderful opportunity to illustrate the importance such strategies play in building mathematical understanding and algebraic reasoning. Through the act of decomposing numbers students gain both number sense and an understanding of number theory.

Charlene Marchese
Livingston, N.J.

From Chancellor Harold O. Levy: "For the vast bulk of students, the traditional program is the one that should be used." I am a high-school math teacher in The Bronx, and I want everyone to know that, starting in September, all freshmen, including honor students, in The Bronx - except those at Bronx Science - will take one of two "constructivist" programs. Our students will not have a choice.

Barbara DePesa
The Bronx

PS 234's scores do not accurately reflect the success of new math. This school is in a wealthy neighborhood where parents can, and do, hire tutors. Also, state-standard tests may no longer be an accurate benchmark, since most students' scores drop significantly on the PSAT unless tutored.

Susan Erlanger

I have just one question for those who are teaching the "new math." How does letting students discover their own personal methods for performing simple calculations help them to balance a checkbook?

Maggie David
Dover, N.J.

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