PA Coalition for World Class Math

                Parent opposes Everyday and Connected Math in Medford (2/15/2012) NJ

Why does my child need a pre-math class in middle school?

To the editor:

You could tell your child to “Go clean your room,” or you can tell them “Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, make your bed, put your toys in the toy box and books on your book shelf.” Which of the two examples would teach your children how to clean their rooms? The first is an example of minimally guided instruction and the second is an example of guided, specific instruction.

There could be an example where minimally guided instruction is an effective teaching tool, but learning how to clean your room and learning grade-school mathematics aren’t two of them. Unfortunately, Medford’s math programs, Everyday Math and Connected Math, expect children to “discover” mathematics on their own with minimal guidance from the teacher. Many elementary school teachers don’t buy into that nonsense, so they provide the little kids with more guidance. In middle school, they offer a pre-math class where the student is taught directly, with examples, before they get to the actual math class where the student is expected to “discover” math for him/herself. Does that make sense to you? Why wouldn’t Medford just use a math book that directly teaches math instead of offering two math classes to cover up an ineffective Connected Math book that uses the failed method of minimally guided instruction?

But don’t take my word for it, the below-referenced article shows that minimally guided instruction goes against over 50 years of research on human cognitive architecture. There is overwhelming evidence that minimally guided instruction is a less efficient and less effective teaching style.

Connected Math wastes a lot of classroom time “discovering,” instead of directly teaching math problem solutions. Compared to other middle school math books, Connected Math actually covers less material. This means that all students, especially the kids who don’t need the pre-math class, could be learning more than what is presented in class. Unfortunately, the missing concepts will eventually catch up with a student when they enter high school algebra because you can’t learn what was never taught.

(Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist Discovery, Problem- Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41,(2), 75-86.)

Nik Stouffer