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Mathematics Education

March 19, 1995

* As a middle school math teacher, I was gratified to see your March 12 article dealing with mathematics education. However, I am equally dismayed to read the comments made by so-called experts in education and mathematics that are so critical of the textbooks that align themselves with California's math framework.

Maureen DiMarco, Gov. Pete Wilson's education adviser, asserts that those who embrace the framework are "radicals and are convinced that basic skills are not important." Nothing could be further from the truth. No one is advocating not teaching basic skills. The main focus of these new texts and the framework is to teach problem solving. The basic skills necessary to solve these relevant and interesting problems are taught within the context of the problem. If "learning math by solving interesting problems is going to die" as one math professor claims, what, then, is the alternative? Think about it!

A skillful teacher can combine the teaching of basic skills withing investigations of these new math texts. These investigations give students a reason for learning the basic skills so often referred to. Current educational theory supports this constructivist approach. Students taught in this manner can learn the basic skills and also know when to use them, something traditional math education never addressed. This is called critical thinking and problem solving.

Parents and school districts alike should ensure that teachers are exposed to, trained in and experiment with these new books and resources. They will find that students become excited about their math class and actually enjoy it. When this happens we will be defeating the socially acceptable attitude that says "I can't do math."

TOM FITCH

Torrance

* For those of us who, as children in the 1960s, suddenly had to endure the horrors of the "new math," your article is a deja vu nightmare! How can California educators even think of dismissing basics of math when much of this state's financial problems stem from simple mathematical debits and credits. Will a textbook question possibly be "How many financial experts did it take to bankrupt Orange County?" or perhaps "Based on the current State of the State, when will the sales tax in California reach 10%?"

This "new new math" for our children is a travesty and injustice to the education of every school-age child. The basic fundamentals of not only mathematics, but also literacy, composition and the sciences should use what this state should strives toward--not away from.

The old adage, "The more things change, the more things stay the same," has an almost surreal meaning when it come s to this new age math. Please Californiadon't repeat a mistake made over 30 years ago.

NADINE MACHA

Costa Mesa

* The new math will certainly place California into a Third World category in math, long with its equivalent present stature in English. Examples as illustrated (5 times 12) are generally (or should be) learned in second or third grade. They are not debatable. That information provides the base for further learning. How will those marvelous logicians solve 5.42 times 11.98? With their fingers? And wait until they get (if ever) to geometry.

ANTHONY MORRIS

Los Angeles

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