a partial list of my objections to the TERC Investigations curriculum.
|1. It is at least 2 years behind where it should
|| For example, my son's second grade class has yet to do anything
beyond 1-digit additions. The very last problem in the program, a word problem
asking how many times 5 goes into 171 (with remainder), should be a third
grade problem. TERC puts it at the very end of grade 5 as a CALCULATOR problem!
|2. Important topics are omitted or superficially
|| Mathematics is sequential. To learn it correctly one must
throughly understand on level before moving on to the next (example, understand
multiplication of whole numbers before plunging into multiplication of fractions).
TERC covers NOTHING in depth except for whole number mental math. In particular,
the treatment of measurement, geometry, and fractions -- three major parts
of the elemetary curriculum--- is completely inadequate.
|3. In the early grades progress in math is held
hostage to writing skills.
|| Many TERC assignments require the student to give answers
in complete english sentences. This is extremely difficult for first or
second graders, and completely unnecessary. Mathematics has its own notation
--- numbers, equations, diagrams --- that are very efficent and are independent
of english. Indeed those notations were developed because ordinary english
is inadequate for the purpose. That mathematical language should be used
|4. The program actually contains very little mathematics.
|| Yes, there are lots of activities, but those often have little
mathematical content. Example assignment:
||Find a button. Write down all the words you can think of
that describe your button.
That is an assignment my son's class spent two days on. Such assignments
make teachers happy since they are easy to understand and create the illusion
that everyone is involved in learning. But the hours that are suppose
to be spent on mathematics are often spent on something else. In fact,
TERC students do a VERY limited number of problems per week. One simply
cannot learn math doing 4-5 problems a week. TERC is a program that is
only pretending to teach mathematics.
|5. Effective methods of mathematics and modes of
thought are not taught.
||In fact, nothing is taught --everything is left to be `discovered'.
That process is painfully slow, and leaves the students with cumbersome,
unmathematical ways of thinking and solving problems. They are left to somehow
muddle through mathematics without explanations.
Because nothing is explained there is no mechanism for correcting errors,
confusions, and misunderstandings. Students do not have books so never get
to see efficient elegant solutions, or even correct solutions. Parents do
not see any books so are unable to help, or even recognize how little their
children are learning.
The children are aware of this. They are unsure or what is expected and
why. They do not develop confidence about their ability to do math.
|TERC students will hit a wall, probably at the end
of middle school. They are not being given the grounding needed to understand
the abstractions of high school algebra and geometry. Their options for
careers in science and engineering are being closed off by their elementary
Professor of Mathematics