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Math Teaching in USA

Math Teaching in USA

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A critical article on teaching of math in schools and the poor quality and structure of math text books, indicating several suggestions to improve the text books and mode of teaching in schools. A complete example is given to improve the method of teaching. Certain topics not treated well or missing in high school math or precalc are indicated..the article meant for teachers, standards writers and text book publishers.
A critical article on teaching of math in schools and the poor quality and structure of math text books, indicating several suggestions to improve the text books and mode of teaching in schools. A complete example is given to improve the method of teaching. Certain topics not treated well or missing in high school math or precalc are indicated..the article meant for teachers, standards writers and text book publishers.

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Published by: Dr Srinivasan Nenmeli -K on Jul 19, 2012
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07/20/2012

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Why Johnny Can't Do Math in USA?N K Srinivasan Ph.D.Introduction
The standard of mathematics has been steadily declining inthe USA. Teachers, parents and University professors arementioning about the decline over the past 30 or 40 years.You might have seen many news reports and TV coverage onthis problem.I have been tutoring middle and high school students forthe past 10 years and I feel that basic mathematics---algebra for instance, is taught in a poor manner inschools in USA.. Of course there are exceptions such as afew high schools in Peninsular California, in Palo Altoand elsewhere.Oftentimes we find that the standards are so inadequatethat community colleges teach the same material taught inhigh schools and still do a poor job.What are the reasons and how to rectify the situation andimprove math levels in our schools?I am not going to blame the teachers...they are overloadedwith too much work and had taken much criticism. I might
 
blame the teachers who may write down the standards partlyfor this.What are the reasons for lack of math knowledge or skillsin our school children?
Textbooks
In the first place, I would state that the text books are written in such a bad fashion that it is difficult for thestudents to grasp the basic concepts directly.Pages and pages of texts with lot of photos and graphsclutter the text that essential facts are buried somewhere. It is alright for a bright, highly motivated student to plough through, but not useful for averagestudents.There are so many test questions and review questions which should be left for the teachers, not put in thetext.Giving hundreds of routine problems make the books bulkyand dull but do not add value to the learner.[The cost ofthe books also shoot up.!]Look at the problem sets.Instead of giving simpleexercises first, it is usually a jumble.Some text books dothe obvious easy apth--just give number of problems of thesame type, changing some numbers.
 
 Application examples are valuable and should be studied bythe student. But they rarely find a place in class room teaching except perhaps by a few teachers.Suggestions for the text book preparation:1 Study some of the British text books and follow thesimple pattern...meant for teaching the basic methods and concepts without cluttering.2 Divide the problem sets into two groups.1 easy problems2 Difficult onesEasy problems can be again of two types: routine,'substitution ' problems to learn formula and how to usethem.and enhanced problems which extend the concepts a littlefurther. Again give problems which are less cumbersome andifficult to compute. The main purpose is to learn theconcepts well...the detailed mastery or manipulativeskills can come later in difficult or extended problems.Here I illustrate my approach with a specific example of atopic.Example: Suppose you want to teach solving the lnearequation in one variable. The following set of examplesillustrate the easy and simple approach.

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