October 7, 2008

Putnam Parent Questions Math

By Veronica Nett

WINFIELD - Elementary school students in Putnam County are learning the "fuzzy logic concepts" in mathematics before the basics, a parent complained to the county board of education Monday evening.

Skip Little said the investigation method used by county elementary schools to teach mathematics is ineffective.

"They're learning the tools before the numbers," Little said.

Elementary school is not the place for students to learn complex concepts and problems, Little said. That's an area that is more appropriately addressed in middle and high school, he said.

"There has to be a foundation," he said.

Little asked the board to review the use of investigation and to talk with middle school math teachers about some of the challenges they face when students come out of elementary school.

Little also asked the board to work toward eliminating investigation as the primary learning material in math in Putnam County schools.

He instead recommended the county go with the more traditional rote approach to teaching math, which emphasizes memorization of multiplication tables and division.

Karen Nowviskie, county director of elementary education, said after Monday's meeting the investigation method is one of several teaching standards approved by the state for counties to use.

If a teacher does not feel students are getting a concept with the investigation method, he or she has a number of other approaches to take, she said.

Teachers are now guided by a state-led approach to learning that focuses more on the 'why' in solving problems as opposed to rote memorization.

Investigation is a different approach to the more traditional rote method, she said. Most parents are most likely familiar with the rote method.

Investigation is designed to allow students to apply the basics to math concepts so they have an understanding of why there are doing it and how the problem works, Nowviskie said.

"The style of teaching is not the problem," Little said during Monday's meeting. "It's the material."

Investigation does not reinforce simple long division and other basic math skills, it instead places an emphasis on the use of calculators, he said.

Little emphasized he is not an expert, but "all I can say is the effects it is having on my kids."

Little has three children in the sixth and third grade and in pre- kindergarten.

Nowviskie said next year the county will consider a number of math curriculum options recommended by the state.

This is the fourth year the county has used investigation to teach math, with good results, she said. The county was ranked number one in mathematics in elementary education last year, she said.

Also Monday, Putnam County Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said the county will be "looking very hard" at state-funded needs projects and county-sponsored bonds to finance replacing portable classrooms.

"If Putnam County has a weak area, it is the area of facilities," Hatfield said.

He said the county maintenance department has done a great job maintaining the buildings, but "some of our buildings are not worth putting money into."

Reach Veronica Nett at [email protected] or 348-5113.

Originally published by Staff writer.

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