'Fuzzy' Math: Does New-New Math Measure Up

Traditional teaching methods are being thrown aside in many cities and states to make way for new ways of teaching our students mathematics. Read on to learn more about 'new-new' math and if it can be an effective way to educate your child.

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What is New-New Math?

New-new math encourages children to construct or discover mathematical concepts on their own with little instruction from teachers. Teachers develop assignments that lead children in the right direction, but are strongly discouraged from directly providing important information or the 'correct' methodology. Instead of being lectured at, students form small work groups where they discuss the problem they have been given and work through the question together.

Many times these children are given representative objects to help them visualize the numbers in the problems. This could be the use of blocks, beans or beads; students often move these objects around to find a solution to their assignment. Class time is also used to write essays about mathematics instead of completing lengthy worksheets or textbook assignments. In fact, many 'fuzzy math' classes do not have textbooks for each child.

What do Parents Think of New-New Math?

Parents have varying opinions about this new teaching methodology. On one hand, children are feeling less pressure from their math teachers, because reaching the correct answer is no longer the ultimate goal. Instead, teachers focus on children's problem solving process and logical thinking. However, this has many adults concerned that their children will not have strong enough mathematical skills for math intensive careers such as medicine, science and engineering.

Where is New-New Math Being Used?

New-new math is not just an elementary phenomenon; some school districts use this methodology to teach their high school algebra classes. As many parents know, algebra is full of complicated formulas and principles that may be very difficult for some children to pick up on their own. The fact that teachers are dismissing memorization of math concepts such as multiplication tables increases many parents' worries.

The trend of new-new math programs came from a recommendation by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which prompted the federal government to give their seal of approval. Some states have allowed parents to homeschool their children in math while remaining in the rest of their public school programs.

Additionally, in 1996, after adopting this math schooling method in the early to late 1990s, California students scored among the lowest in the nation according to the National Assessment for Education Progress math test. Professionals acknowledge these new programs take some time to reach their maximum effectiveness, but they are still concerned about the proficiency of students at high school graduation.

How Can Parents Help?

If your child is enrolled in such a math class, you may want to monitor their progress. Some students excel in this learning environment while others have great difficulties. The success of a student depends on their learning style and problem solving abilities.

One way a parent can help their 'fuzzy math' student is by teaching them at home as well as allowing them to attend their math class. However, since most new-new math students do not have textbooks, you will have to remain in close communication with their math teacher to see what your child should be learning. You can also teach according to your state's educational standards, which should be located on your state's education website.

Some children need more than their parent's instruction when it comes to math skills. If your child is not benefiting from your at-home lessons they may need help from a professional tutor. The best tutors are those that are state-certified. This is because they have received formal education training and should be up-to-date on your state's standards. Many online tutoring centers employ state-certified-teachers to serve as tutors for their clients. Students who have completed online math tutoring programs often show improvement in many aspects including behavior, attitude, confidence, and grades.

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