To Whom It May Concern (New York State Common Core Administrators?),
Upon returning from a walk, I found my doorman speaking on the phone with a very concerned and frustrated tone. With little instigation on my part, he approached and showed me a math problem, the nature of which I have never seen before. His six-year-old son had been stuck on such problems for the previous three hours and my doorman and his mother were trying to help him to no avail. As I looked as the problem, I kept reading and rereading the problem with the eager hope that each subsequent reading would reveal something new to me about what it was asking, but my efforts proved useless. The picture and “math sentence” at the bottom only added to my confusion, and served no purpose to my understanding whatsoever.
After 10 minutes, with my husband’s (MIT dual degrees in Math and Computer Science) joined efforts, and numerous internet searches, we came up with what we could only guess was an acceptable “solution”. I write this letter, not so much out of anger which would ultimately serve no purpose, but more so out of SERIOUS concern for what and how our children are being educated. If we turn something which has been around for millennia and serves as the most basic building blocks of modern society into something obscure, difficult, and frustrating, what can we expect further down the road? The primary goal of an educator, especially at this level, is to instill a love of learning in his/her pupil and to make the wonders of the universe more transparent not more opaque. Surely, the Gausses, Newtons and Einsteins of this world evolved from a very different medium of learning and education.
Please reconsider your methods of education. Basic addition and subtraction, in whatever method you choose to teach them, should not make a mathematics PhD think 10 minutes about what the problem is asking and how “to make ten from 12-4”. The frustration and anger these kids feel now very much paints their understanding and sentiment of mathematics further down the road, when it matters even more. We need to bring as much light into math as possible, not add to the darkness, especially during such a formative and impressionable age.
Doris Dobi, Math PhD