Math Wars

Math wars is the debate over modern mathematics education, textbooks and curricula in the US that was triggered by the publication in 1989 of the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). The term “math wars” was coined by commentators such as John A. Van de Walle and David Klein.
Innovative curricula
Examples of innovative curricula introduced in response to the 1989 NCTM standards include:
Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space
Core-Plus Mathematics Project

Criticisms of reform
Critics of the “reform” textbooks say that they present concepts in a haphazard way. Procedural and traditional arithmetic skills such as long division are de-emphasized, or some say nearly totally deleted in favor of context and content which has little or nothing to do with mathematics. Some textbooks have a separate index solely for non-mathematics content called “contexts”. Reform texts favor problem-solving in new contexts over template word problems with corresponding examples. Reform texts also emphasize verbal communication, writing about mathematics and their relationships with disenfranchised groups such as ethnicity, race, and gender identity, social justice, connections between concepts, and connections between representations.
One particular critical review of Investigations in Number, Data, and Space says: It has no student textbook.
It uses 100 charts and skip counting, but not multiplication tables to teach multiplication. Decimal math is “effectively not present”.

Traditional textbooks
Critics of the “reform” textbooks and curricula support “traditional” textbooks such as
Singapore Math and Saxon math, which emphasize algorithmic mathematics, such as arithmetic calculation, over mathematical concepts. However, even many traditional textbooks such as Saxon math usually include some projects and exercises meant to address the NCTM Standards.
Supporters of the “reform” curricula, such as Thomas O’Brien , say that supporters of traditional methods, or “parrot math”, have “no tolerance for children’s invented strategies or original thinking, and they leave no room for children’s use of estimation or calculators.”

NCTM 2006 recommendations
In 2006, the NCTM released Curriculum Focal Points, a report on the topics considered central for school mathematics. Francis Fennell, president of the NCTM, claimed that there had been no change of direction or policy in the new report, and said that he resented talk of “math wars”. Interviews of many who were committed to the standards said that, like the 2000 standards, these merely refined and focused rather than renounced the original 1989 recommendations.
Nevertheless, newspapers like the Chicago Sun Times reported that the “NCTM council has admitted, more or less, that it goofed”. The new report cited “inconsistency in the grade placement of mathematics topics as well as in how they are defined and what students are expected to learn.” The new recommendations are that students are to be taught the basics, including the fundamentals of geometry and algebra, and memorizing multiplication tables.

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