The political clashes that take place on the USMB actually have import if they inform views, and make us better able to fight the battles that should be fought in the real world. The following article should be read by those of us who have school age children, are interested in education, and especially mathematics education. The author, Sandra Stotsky, a nationally-known advocate of standards-based reform and strong academic standards and assessments for students and teachers, indicts progressive education as the culprit in the depredation of our childrens education, and indicates the reforms that would be cures. And she notes the difficulty in changing education due to the political milieu today. Who Needs Mathematicians for Math, Anyway? The ed schools' pedagogy adds up to trouble. 13 November 2009 Who Needs Mathematicians for Math, Anyway? by Sandra Stotsky, City Journal 13 November 2009 A summary of the article: 1. In 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the chief professional organization for mathematics educators and education faculty, issued Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. The document presented standards for grades K12, including algebra. The underlying goals of the standardsnever made clear to the general publicwere social, not academic. Some of the reports authors, for example, sought to make mathematics accessible to low-achieving students, yet meant by this not, say, recruiting more talented undergraduates into teaching but instead the employment of trendy, though empirically unsupported, pedagogical and organizational methods that essentially dumb down math content. Math educators proclaimed a brand-new objectiveconveniently indefinable and immeasurablecalled deep conceptual understanding. 2. The educational trends that led to the NCTMs approach to math have a long pedigree. During the 1970s and 1980s, educators in reading, English, and history argued that the traditional curriculum needed to be more engaging and relevant to an increasingly alienated and unmotivatedor so it was claimedstudent body. Some influential educators sought to dismiss the traditional curriculum altogether, viewing it as a white, Christian, heterosexual-male product that unjustly valorized rational, abstract, and categorical thinking over the associative, experience-based, and emotion-laden thinking supposedly more congenial to females and certain minorities. 3. Two theories lie behind the educators new approach to math teaching: cultural-historical activity theory and constructivism. According to cultural-historical activity theory, schooling as it exists today reinforces an illegitimate social order. The primary role of math teachers, constructivists say in turn, shouldnt be to explain or otherwise try to transfer their mathematical knowledge to students; that would be ineffective. Instead, they must help the students construct their own understanding of mathematics and find their own math solutions. 4. Teacher-directed learning goes out the window, despite its demonstrated benefits for students with learning problems; instead, schools should embrace student-centered math classrooms. The progressive educators, by contrast, support integrated approaches to teaching maththat is, teaching topics from all areas of mathematics every year, regardless of logical sequence and student mastery of each stepand they downplay basic arithmetic skills and practice, encouraging kids to use calculators from kindergarten on. The educators also neglect the teaching of standard algorithms (mathematical procedures commonly taught everywhere, with only minor variations, because of their general applicability), insisting instead on the value of student-developed algorithmsthis despite research by cognitive psychologists strongly supporting a curriculum that simultaneously develops conceptual understanding, computational fluency with standard algorithms, and problem-solving skills as the best way to prepare students for algebra. 5. [T]he president issued an executive order in 2006 forming the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. The panel, composed of mathematicians, cognitive psychologists, mathematics educators, and education researchers, would examine how best to prepare students for Algebra 1, the gateway course to higher mathematics The panel found little if any credible evidence supporting the teaching philosophy and practices that math educators have promoted in their ed-school courses and embedded in textbooks for almost two decades. Despite the proven effectiveness of these strategies [recommended by the Paned], many math educators view most of them with disdainmost likely because they entail more traditional, structured teaching. 6. Baseless pedagogical theories mean that the educators long-term captive audienceK12 teachers, most drawn from the middle academic tier of our high school population and the bottom third of our undergraduate populationwill know even less about authentic mathematics than they do now. Alas, so will their students.