Re “Are You Smarter Than an 8th Grader?,” by Nicholas Kristof (column, April 26):A say: go with Singapore.
American kids aren’t inherently less intelligent than kids in Singapore, or so one hopes. That’s the good news. The explanation for the Americans’ continued dismal performance in math therefore lies elsewhere.
Having watched my kids navigate the local public schools for the past 11 years, I know that one of the problems is that educators still seem to be trying to figure out how to teach math. My daughters have been through the Singapore approach, with its traditional emphasis on mastery of number facts and arithmetic procedures; the reform approach, with its confusing inquiry-based philosophy; and now the “can’t we all just agree” Common Core standards approach. Why are we still trying to figure this out?
Math has been taught to children at least since ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, and those kids grew up to use their mathematical skills to build the Parthenon, aqueducts and pyramids, which are still standing. The math taught in K-12 hasn’t really changed much since Gottfried Leibniz and Isaac Newton invented calculus in the 1600s, so one would think that educators have had enough time to figure out how to teach it.
How about if educators stop experimenting with our kids, adopt whatever approach the Finnish or Singapore schools use, and get on with it?
The writer is a professor of psychology and biology at the University of Washington.
Our Students' Below-Average Math Abilities | New York Times | May 4, 2015