School Report - New Math Adds Up in Columbia
"For a lot of years, we have done poorly on tests that compare us to other countries," explained teacher Chris O-Gorman. "And the thing that we've always done about it is, go back to basics."
But, the new program isn't going back to basics, and that can be a problem for parents trying to help students with homework. So the Columbia Public School District says it wants to keep parents in the loop.
"Learning is a partnership," said Linda Coutts, math coordinator for Columbia public schools. "It's not something that we want to keep parents out of but really are working on having children understand what they're doing, not just having them follow a procedure without thinking."
How students learn math is new in some ways, but not in others.
"It's just new in this country because the Asian countries have taught math like this for a number of years," O-Gorman said. "And, the difference between the way we used to teach math and this program has a lot to do with that."
O-Gorman combines life skills, such as analyzing data and using statistics, for a hands-on math lesson.
"It's taking a look at how do we get kids to really understand math," he added. "So that when they get to high school they have a better grasp of all the underpinnings that make them successful in calculus and algebra and geometry."
O-Gorman said the biggest change is less emphasis on memorization so students better understand problem-solving step by step.
"The kids are learning the fundamentals of algebra, even in kindergarten now, so that they can build on that, and build on that and build on that," he added. "So that, by the time they get to high school, it's a natural thing. It's not just 'Oh my God, algebra, what's that?' They've already been exposed to so many concepts that it just helps."
O-Gorman said the new approach also helps students learn advanced subjects.
"The philosophy now is, all children in our global economy, all children, need to understand math at a high level," he continued. "And so we can't use math as a gatekeeper, but we have to include all children and get them to understand all these concepts which is not an easy task, but one that I think we can accomplish."
The Columbia Public School District has several programs to help frustrated parents who are trying to help children with their homework.