Harvard Professors Criticize New Math Curricula Report

Open letter to Education Sec. challenges K-12 teaching guides

Harvard professors are among the scholars responsible for sparking what is turning into a nationwide debate over mathematics curricula.

In an open letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, a group of mathematicians and scientists criticized the work done by a panel of experts on behalf of the Department of Education (DOE) endorsing new mathematics curricula for grades K-12.

The 200 signatories include Sheldon L. Glashow, Higgins professor of physics, David Kazhdan, Perkins professor of mathematics, and Graduate School of Education Research Associate Sandra Stotsky.

The panel was convened at the behest of the U.S. Congress in 1996 and produced its report in October after considering 61new mathematics programs.

The panel endorsed five programs as "exemplary" and five as "promising".

The committee's endorsement means only that local school authorities are encouraged to use the new curricula.

In general, the curricula represent a change from current policies because they focus on problem-solving rather than learning arithmetic by rote learning.

"In my position, I see test scores go up when the focus changes from rules and procedures to solving problems," said Stephen J. Leinwand, Mathematics Consultant for the Conn. State Department of Education and a member of the panel.

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