Hedrick Smith "Schools That Work" Documentary and College Mathematics

From: W. Stephen Wilson
Sent: Saturday, March 26, 2005 7:49 AM
To: Hedrick Smith Productions
Subject: Schools that work

To the "Schools that work" project.

I understand that you are doing a "Schools that work" documentary using a select group of schools that are well known in the math wars communities.

I have a suggestion about how to show how well they have worked. Find 10 students who have gone to college but who have been through the so-called "schools that work" and interview them about their math experiences in college.

I can tell you what you will find because we have been there over and over already. If you manage to find a successful college student, i.e. one with an "A" grade in a real college math course as opposed to a remedial one, you will find that they learned their math out of school (parents, tutors, transfer student to the "school that worked", or some such) or that somehow in the "school that worked" the student found an alternate route to learn math than the reform math in the "schools that work." Maybe there was a rebellious teacher who insisted on teaching "real math" or maybe the school still had a choice of "traditional" math.

What you will not find is an "A" student in college math who went through any school using only these reform math programs loved by the "schools that work" without some sort of intervention. The reason I can say this with such confidence is that there is too much content missing from these programs, content that is essential for college level mathematics. (Remember that more than 60% of high school graduates go directly to college the fall after they graduate.)

So, the impossible challenge: find a college student with an "A" in a real college level math course but who went through all 12 years of pre-college in these reform math programs and never had any intervention in their math education.

If you think you have found such a person I would very much like to talk with them because you are probably not asking them the right questions.



W. Stephen Wilson
Department of Mathematics
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD 21218

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