Math Education in the US

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?
A: 50

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?
A: 600?

Q: What’s 3 times 3?
A: 9

Q: So …
A: Oh, 900

Q: Good. So guess what 25 times 25 is.
A: 1200?

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.

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