I try not to get myself in a bunch about curriculum content at the kids' schools. There are plenty of other things that I get myself in knots over, and I like to think that the Board of Education has some knowledge of what they're doing. I do think the whole "teaching to the test" is taking up room that used to be reserved for fun and useful information. It a shame that those tests start in third grade now...didn't they used to just be happy if we'd stopped eating paste by then? Perhaps tied our own shoes?
Four years ago a new math program was trotted out, promising more practical experience mathematical adventures. There were five year olds following maps around the school--hurray! I knew plenty of adults who could not follow a map, so starting this young should be fabulous. I was less enthused as time went on, and the kids were learning NEW ways to do old math...to make it easier. Easier to have kids ask their parents for help only to be met with "duh...I can get you the answer, but I have no idea how to help with your 'forgiving method' of division"! How about reserving that method for those who actually have trouble with regular old division!
Where I'm really headed with all of this (and eventhough I can read a map, I guess I started to get lost), is when do kids get to forget how to add? Clearly it is not a skill they need once in high school. I guess, in my day, our version of roughing it did not involve walking to school uphill; but rather, had to do with jobs involving money but no calculator. I worked at an ice cream stand where you had to come back to the window with cones made, as well as a grand total for the items prepared. Then you made change. Now that ice cream stand has registers that tally as you go, and when you punch in how much money's collected, it tells you how much change to give. The register is not a safety net-it is vital to keep an eighteen year old's head from exploding.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with an honor roll student who further demonstrated that whatever tests are being taught to , do not include being able to function in a money handling society without some electronic intervention. "What's $7.60 plus $1.70?" I gave the answer (as another woman was punching the numbers into a calculator). Then "What's the change for that from a $20?" Come on...try! To use my son's expression from earlier this evening "Dig Deep!"
Have you ever seen how befuddled you can make a clerk by giving them the coins for your total, but a different dollar amount....or more coins than your total AND more dollars? I am not a rocket scientist; but yes, I am good at math...whatever the hell that means. I really don't think it is strictly the logical portion of my brain that helps me figure out a sale price. I think it has more to do with using that basic skill of addition for over thirty years.
They will continue to teach to the tests. They may begin to stifle the creativity of some teachers by occupying more and more of their time with pressure to have good standardized test performances. The school report cards of how they function as a district will give people numbers to look at that may or may not make sense in the real world. As the schools prepare children for the next year ahead, and their student lives...I guess it's parents who might have to step in to provide them with life skills?