Sunday, January 2, 2011

US Math Education vs Russian Math Education

I've mentioned the pathetic US Math education system in the past, and given a couple of alternatives like Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics and Kiss My Math.

Aleksey Nudelman had an interesting Guest View Editorial in the last weekly edition Software Development Times (It has gone to a monthly magazine format for 2011+, don't expect it to last long myself), Why public school math fails.

Aleksey young son had the opportunity to spend some time in the Russian school system. In their system mathematics is built from the basics of two plus two equals four, where each incremental concept builds on the last. This seems like a good way to learn just about anything. He then contrasts the US mathematics education system:

"...A random set of math topics is presented without emphasis on concept development.

The 'Everyday Mathematics' system is approved and recommended by the U.S. Department of Education; it presents mathematical topics in a random order and does not require students to master basic topics before they progress to more advanced ones.

In an open letter to the U.S. Department of Education in 1999, 200 mathematicians, including Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners, argued that "Everyday Mathematics" should not be used because it does not follow a logical order of the pupil's math skills. Yet it continues to be used by many school districts across the U.S.

Many parents protest the 'Everyday Mathematics' curriculum adopted by our school district, but they have had no discernible effect. The only way to get it removed is for a group of parents to mount a district-wide campaign against the curriculum. Unfortunately, given the cost of the campaign, it is cheaper to send a child to a private school..."

Aleksey also gives us all something to think about when he was doing job interviews: "the majority of [Russian] candidates were easily able to solve a logical puzzle that had proved difficult for their American counterparts..."

In closing something worth regularly checking out is the English version of the Russian newspaper Pravda. Where else would you learn about the Three giant spaceships to attack Earth in 2012? I don't know about you, but I don't care who is flying them, I'm going to look up 'Scottie' and find out how they fly. :-). There is of course serious articles as well, such as Russian Government Mandates Shift from Microsoft to Linux by 2015. Sometimes you can find out what is really going on in this country by listening to Shortwave Broadcasts and reading foreign papers like Pravda.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting account of the deficiencies of the American education system. Fortunately, there are resources available to the interested American student such as Russian style math circles and The Art of Problem Solving foundation. The American system of mathematics education is slowly headed towards a good direction. For the time being, it is the burden of the interested student to pursue her/his interest in mathematics.