New Math: Another Example of Modern Education Stupidity

Dr. Raj Shah, founder of Math Plus Academy, released a video last week entitled, “Why Math is Different” in order to defend the new math utilized by Common Core-aligned curriculum.  In the video he sought to “clear up parents’ misconceptions” about the new math.

Truth in American Education asked two math experts to offer a critique of Dr. Shah’s video.

Dr. James Milgram, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Stanford University and member of the Common Core Math Validation Committee, wasn’t impressed.  He said Dr. Shah is being naive.

The first word that come to mind are “naive,” to put it mildly.  Yes, it is very helpful to make sure that students understand why the standard algorithms work, which demands that they (and their teachers) understand the base ten place value system and the difference between the usual compressed notation and the expanded form.  But this should occur in the classroom provided only that the teachers, themselves, understand this material.  All too often they don’t.  As a result, they put forward all sorts of alternative methods that they probably don’t understand either, and end up horribly confusing everyone.

Ze’ev Wurman is visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution. Between 2007 and 2009 he served as a senior policy adviser with the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education. Wurman served as a commissioner on the California Academic Content Standards Commission that in 2010 evaluated the Common Core’s suitability for California adoption.  He told Truth in American Education that the insistence on using the expanded form of algorithm is another example of “modern education stupidity.”

Teaching the expanded form during the initial explanation of the standard algorithms is an age-old practice that every competent teacher has been doing for decades if not centuries. Insisting on the expanded — and cumbersome — form as the routine way for students to calculate is simply another example of modern education stupidity. As is the false argument that in the past the “traditional” way of teaching — including the routine and fluent use of the compressed standard notation — reached only a minority of students. Almost every parent in this country knows those “incomprehensible” standard algorithms — decades after they have been learned. Close to 100% of children in the high achieving countries seem to have no trouble with memorizing those supposedly “mindless” standard algorithms. Yet our American educators argue that American children cannot comprehend them … it gives a new meaning to American Exceptionalism.

5 thoughts on “New Math: Another Example of Modern Education Stupidity

  1. While I enjoyed the newer algorithms in this clip I really do not see any child finding these “new rules” any easier to understand. Sure, they can be taught but there are still the rules kids have to learn which would not be any different from the “old” rules. I did like the rectangular example, but again, I do not see a child finding this any more understandable. To each child’s own learning style but to mandate these over others, I miss the point.


  2. As an engineer (and really just as a guy going through daily life situations), I can attest to the fact that I use Dr. Shah’s method daily. For me if you have pen and paper handy the “old way” is fine but Dr. Shah’s way is much easier to do in my head. I’d rather break one complex problem into multiple simple ones.


  3. You cant do math in your head until you have a solid foundation first! Many adults attest to doing math in your head, but I dare say that you could not do math in your head if you did not know your math facts first. Common Core Math does not emphasize a solid foundation first. You can not build a house by starting with the roof! Well I guess you could, but it would not stand very long.


  4. Where has he been? Good math teachers have used each of these methods for years. He said that you have a phone or calculator that will give you the correct answer faster. Only if you type the correct “keys.” I have seen too many mistakes with these devices and the student doesn’t even realize the error.

    By the way, there is no “:and” when you read whole numbers AND he needs to review his grammar. . . . “Work with your CHILD as THEIR peer”????

    He spoke of using the rectangular region as being useful in algebra. I wonder if by any chance he learned this from the “Algebra Models” by Nasco introduced in 1982. I created those. I don’t see anything that he created . . .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s