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[Susan notes: 3 cheers for an experienced educator who takes on Freedman, who gets constant adulation from the Progressive Policy Institute blog.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published
10/21/2004

To the editor

Yes, "Jimmy," mentioned in Samuel Freedman's education column (October

20) gave the right answer to the math problem posed by the district math coordinator, but he was asked the wrong question. Mr. Bhana could have asked him to figure out how long it would take to do all the problems on the worksheet, based on what he'd already done, or, better yet, why he thought his teacher considered those problems important to do. In answering either of those questions Jimmy would have demonstrated how much he understood about mathematics and its usefulness. As it was, all he showed with the

23X16 problem given him was that he can carry out basic multiplication operations.



From the information given about the lesson,I,too would have concluded that it was far too easy--mechanically and conceptually--for fourth graders.



But I have the strong feeling that Mr. Freedman deliberately selected a poor example to show his readers and that he was trying to further bias us by his choice of words to describe what students were doing: "filling in the appropriate boxes."



Here in Oregon I have watched the Investigations math program being taught in many elementary classrooms. In my opinion, it is not the best nor the worst commercial program on the market. But program quality wasn't really Mr. Freedman's point, was it? He was letting us know, none too subtly, that he thinks private religious schools do a better job of teaching math than public schools.

Joanne Yatvin


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