A few years ago, in addition to our own little children, my wife and I were the legal guardians for a few of her siblings. One of her brothers, who at the time was 13 years old, was struggling with learning Math in the local Middle School.
I would spend hours every week sitting down with him to help him understand the math he was expected to be learning for his class. Even with my contribution he really struggled.
The next school year the Alpine School District adopted a new math curriculum called Investigations math based on a Constructivist philosophy of learning. To be fair there are some portions of Educational Contructivism that I agree with, but the applied Contructivism of the Investigations program turned out to be a really terrible way to learn math.
One of the biggest problems with Investigations was that it was nearly impossible for me, as a parent figure trying to help, to ascertain what mathematical concept or algorithm was being taught from the Investigations text and workbook that my young brother-in-law would bring home each night. Many educators know the importance of the contribution of parents in the success of math students. I remember that, as a child, both my mother and father spent many hours helping me understand my math assignments. So I found it preposterous that the district would adopt a curriculum that basically made it impossible for parents to look at the course materials and help their children understand what was being taught and what the home work required of them.
Many local citizens, lead by Oak Norton, protested the new curriculum and, after a few years, were finally able to force a change this past fall. But in the mean time, the math education of many, many students was severely damaged.
In any case, I tell you all of this as a prelude to the following 15 minute video to help you be aware of the differences between the Investigations Math Curriculum and the traditional Algorithmic approach:
Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth
Watch the video and make sure you pay close attention to your state and local school curriculum.
Also check out this article by a mathematician currently completing a Ph.D. in mathematics that cites this video with further discussion.
(Bad pun of the day: The video is subtitled “An Inconvenient Truth” so it really is…wait for it…”Algorithmic!”