I’m growing more and more disappointed with math education in the US. I’ve heard many neighbors complain about the Everyday Math curriculum in our local elementary school. I won’t go into that in too much detail, but we have concerns.
My current frustration is with what I’m seeing in some kids I know. When I encounter young people in my neighborhood or at family gatherings, I like to challenge their math. As you can imagine, this does not make me popular with them.
Here’s a rough summary of a conversation I had the other day with a 14-year-old who gets very good grades in math:
Q: What’s 25 squared?
Q: No, 25 times 25.
A: I don’t know.
Q: Well, what’s 20 times 20?
A: Um … 40?
Q: No, not 20 plus 20, 20 times 20?
A: Oh … um … 200?
Q: Try again.
A: Oh .. 400.
Q: Okay, now what’s 30 times 30?
Q: What’s 3 times 3?
Q: So …
A: Oh, 900
Q: Good. So guess what 25 times 25 is.
Q: No, 20 times 20 is 400 and 30 times 30 is 900, then 25 times 25 has
to be between 400 and 900, right?
A: Oh … um … 500?
It seems to me that a 14-year-old should know 25 squared without thinking about it. And if not, they should be able to figure it out quickly. You know, 25 times 20 is 500, and 5 times 25 is 125, so … 625.
On the bright side, I’ve had similar conversations with a 9-year-old and he did better.
Makes me worry for America’s future. It also might explain some of our financial problems.