A flawed defense of fuzzy math

by Matthew W. Geherin

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
June 20, 2005

In his May 26 essay, Jeff Choppin makes an intellectually vacuous contribution to the math education discussion. His central argument in defense of fuzzy math may be summarized as follows: (1) Students demonstrate competence in basic computation but (2) perform abysmally in problem solving and conceptual understanding; therefore (3) we need to change the way we teach basic computation. Such a flawed formulation wouldn't get Mr. Choppin promoted to the sophomore class.

He offers further unsubstantiated assertions that the fuzzy math curricula are doing exactly what they were designed to do. He would be correct if the purpose of fuzzy math were to frustrate students, marginalize parents and drive increased revenue to Kumon Learning Centers and other private math tutors.

He considers that (1) "critics would argue that there is no systematic evidence that students learn better with reform curricula." Yes, that is true. However (2) "implicit in this statement is that there is systematic evidence that students learn rigorous mathematics in traditional classrooms." Well, no, (2) is not implied in (1). All that can be implied in (1) is that critics are unpersuaded; and Mr. Choppin says nothing appealing to a discerning mind. He does earn high marks however for providing compelling systematic evidence that fuzzy math inevitably leads to fuzzy logic.


For more about the Penfield, NY, Mathematics curriculum controversy please visit Parents Concerned With Penfield's Math Programs and see the NYC HOLD summary page Controversy over Mathematics in Penfield, NY, Public Schools.

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