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`Not Teaching What I Should Know'

By Marielle Combier-Kapel

Submitted to The New York Sun

Edited version was published August 29, 2002

Parents are making tutors crazy calling them all the time because TERC
math ("On Way Out, Community Board Assails 'Fuzzy Math'," August 26,
2002). I a going into 5th grade at PS 6 in District 2 and kids don't
have time to do anything anymore because all they do after school is
get tutored in math. Citywide math scores are failing but Board of
Education officials say that the District 2 math scores on the
standardized tests are high and that means that the TERC math
curriculum is a good thing. But parents are spending money on tutors.

TERC math shouldn't be the only thing taught. Just because some
students aren't that smart, the schools are sending out flyers to
parents saying that they should not teach their kids long division:
"When your child brings home problems, encourage your child to explain
his or her strategies to you. Ask questions, such as 'How did you
figure that out?' and 'Tell me your thinking about this problem,' but
don't provide answers or methods. Show that you are interested in how
your child is thinking and reasoning about these problems. "Please
don't teach your child step-by-step procedures for computing
multiplication and division. Too often we find that children at this
age memorize the multiplication and division procedures but cannot
recognize situations in which multiplication and division are useful.
We will gradually support students this year in developing several
strategies fro carrying out multiplication and division problems, but
we would prefer they not memorize procedures at this time."

One of my sister's teachers at Stuyvesant told my mom that the
Stuyvesant math at the freshman level may have to be made easier, as
kids from District 2 who are getting in are having trouble. Middle
school teachers are surprised that kids in 7th grade from District 2
schools can't do long division.

Is it fair that I may be unable to compete for college places because
my math teachers are not teaching what I should know?

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