An interesting theory being put forth here: “Education reforms are driven mostly by what is fun for schoolteachers to teach.” Example:
After all, what is the standard rap against “traditional” math? The main complaint is that it’s “just” teaching “rote” memorization. But what’s wrong with rote memorization? Speaking as someone who got pretty far in math, I’d say that when it comes to the basic arithmetic kids are trying to absorb at the grade-school level, rote memorization is just fine. Arithmetic is one of those things that’s utterly boring once you know it, and once you absorb the patterns. But until that happens, “rotely memorizing” it is just as fine a method as any other. “Rote memorization” isn’t a bad way to teach, it’s just a dreary way to teach. So teachers refuse to do it, and will work up whatever education theories they need in order to not have to. Even if it works.
A lot of the pressure towards New, Fun Stuff originated with the fact that not everyone learns at the most effective rate in exactly the same way, but things just got out of hand after that:
It’s true that when it comes to a typical arithmetic problem, there are multiple ways to attack it, none of them “wrong.” If you get the right answer, using right logic, the method cannot have been “wrong.”
The problem is that this sort of observation — like the buzzword “STEM” — is dangerous. Once it trickles down into mainstream educational usage it becomes an elementary schoolteacher telling her class that this or that math problem “has no right answer.” Which is totally wrong! Of course there’s a right answer! There are even right and wrong (false logic/incorrectly-reasoned) methods! In the great game of telephone that is apparently schoolteacher theory, the (correct enough) view that “there’s no single correct algorithm, algorithms that use correct logic are all equivalent and must necessarily lead to the same right answer, so one should use whichever algorithm works for them” has gotten all garbled and reinterpreted to mean something like “all algorithms are equally ok and there’s no single right answer.”
Cue Professor Tom Lehrer: “But in the new approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you’re doing, rather than to get the right answer.”
Back in the Old Silurian times, we were told that 9 X 7 was 63 because if we had seven groups of nine items, or nine groups of seven items, we would perforce have 63 items, and we could test this on anything we had at least 63 of. Since counting items took up lots of time, it became easier just to memorize the tables up to 12 or so.
(You remember gozintas, right?)