Thursday, April 17, 2014

Innumeracy, Evolution, and Common Core

In a high school Geometry class we were solving problems involving angles measures. A student raised their hand and I took a moment to look at their work. The work in the notebook was correct and the next step was to add two whole numbers. I said, "Go ahead and add the two 15's together." Pause. Silence. The notebook was open, pencil in hand, and calculator nearby, yet the silence continued. I said, "What's 15 + 15?" Pause. Silence. "20" the student said. I said, "No, it's more than 20." Pause. Long silence. Eventually, the student said, "25". After another pause and silence routine, the student said "30". This is one of many similar student and teacher conversations I have been a part of for some time now. Trust me, I am trying to fix it. I address content relevance, enforce student accountability, and use cyclic review.

Innumeracy has gripped American high school children to the point of muting their ability to hold even a basic mathematical conversation. Many students arrive at high schools innumerate, unable to talk and use numbers in a manner consistent with the pre-requisite standards and skills. Even worse, are the statements used to support their inability to do math. These statements have become almost boastful. "I have never been good at Math." "I don't like fractions." "Math is my weakest subject." Interestingly, I never hear a student "bragging" about not being able to read. 

All of us must pull together on this issue...I can read and I can math* must be equal. No pun intended!

Note: The omission of "do" is intentional.

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