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Calling all math teachers: Should simple subtraction problem require full page of work?

A Forsyth parent sent me a copy of a note she sent to Superintendent Jeff Bearden with questions about why her young son’s math was so much more complicated than it needed to be. The mom is an engineer by training.

Any math teachers willing to tackle this question?

Here is the mom’s letter and the worksheet:

Dear Dr. Bearden

I know you have a very busy job and the last thing you need is one more parent complaining. However, I am very concerned about some of the methods of teaching happening in our county.

I was reviewing my second grader’s math worksheets and came across a subtraction and addition problem. My son is doing well in math, so this isn't a parent concerned about his struggles. I like the fact the students are being taught different methods to learn. However, it appears there are strong focuses in certain areas that I have a concern.

I have an engineering degree, which required tons of math. Often, it would take an entire sheet of paper to work just one problem. Yet, it involved many different formulas, rules, and variables (calculus, differential equations, algebra, etc).  I'm concerned about how our students are being taught the simple math when later they will be attempting the harder, more complicated math.

I assume there is data that backs up why this method of teaching math has improved results. Is there a place I can go to that shows this information?

There are many frustrated parents who share the same concerns. I believe we are ready to see and hear how we plan to move forward in the future based on data-driven results (not just trying and seeing if it is going to work out).

If there is any way I can assist in any way to help make a difference in our county, please don't hesitate to ask.


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.