Math Power: How to Help Your Child Love Math, Even if You Don't, Revised Edition

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9780132205948: Math Power: How to Help Your Child Love Math, Even if You Don't, Revised Edition

Any child can overcome the disadvantages of mediocre math teaching in school and parental math anxiety at home. Math Power offers easy-to-follow and concrete strategies for teaching math concepts. These lively techniques — including games, questions, conversations, and specific math activities — are suitable for children from preschool to age 10.
Author Patricia Clark Kenschaft maintains that rote learning and standardized testing weaken children's natural love of learning, and she shows how parents can effectively supplement students' math education. Her critically acclaimed guide is particularly valuable to homeschoolers, offering all parents the tools they need to help children achieve academic and real-world success.
"Should be required reading for all parents of elementary schoolchildren." — Max A. Sobel, former President, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
"I hope many parents will read this valuable book. It shows how parents can set positive switches in their kids that will help them enjoy mathematics both in school and out." — Henry Pollack, former President, Mathematical Association of America
Patricia Clark Kenschaft is professor emerita of mathematics at Montclair State University, where she was a professor of mathematics for thirty-two years. The mother of two grown children, Pat Kenschaft has taught mathematics to hundreds of elementary school children. She is the author or coauthor of five college mathematics textbooks, as well as the author of more than eighty published articles and the book Change Is Possible: Stories of Women and Minorities in Mathematics.

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From the Back Cover:

HELP YOUR CHILD LOVE MATH

In America today, many elementary school teachers are woefully unprepared to teach math. Parents are their children's primary hope. With Math Power any child can overcome mediocre math teaching in school and parental math anxiety at home. Pat Kenschaft, a mathematician and mother of two, shares with parents her easy-to-follow and concrete strategies for teaching math concepts. Her lively techniques—including games, questions, conversations, and specific math activities—are tailored for children from preschool age to ten years old.

Kenschaft shows parents how to assess the math education their children are getting at school. She argues that rote learning and standardized testing cripple a child's natural love of learning, and she shows how parents can effectively supplement their children's math education at home.

Math Power—now with a detailed appendix for homeschoolers—is the only book by a mathematician for parents of young children. It gives parents the tools they need to help their children achieve academic and real-world success.

"Pat Kenschaft's love for mathematics comes across in this dynamic guide for parents. This should be required reading for all parents of elementary schoolchildren."

MAX A. SOBEL, former president, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

"When I was reading Math Power, I didn't want to put it down until I got all I could from it."

ANGELA MCBRIDE, president, Parents' Advisory Council for Children with Special Needs, Newark, New Jersey Public Schools

"This book contains explicit, easy-to-follow instructions that can be used successfully by even the least mathematical adult to help children learn math and to see it in the world around them."

SUE GELLER, professor of mathematics and director of Honors Programs in Mathematics, Texas A & M University

"Thank goodness for a book which fills in the gaps between 'how to' and theory. Parents who want to help their child's growth in understanding, appreciation, and love for mathematics must add Math Power to their book collection!"

EVA L. EVANS, Ph.D., international president, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

"I hope many parents will read this valuable book. It shows how parents can set positive switches in their kids that will help them enjoy mathematics both in school and out."

HENRY POLLACK, former president, Mathematical Association of America


© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Ma+h Power

Ma+h Power

How to Help Your Child Love Math, Even If You Don't

Preface to the Revised Edition

The more things change, the more they remain the same." This old saying reverberates as I contemplate a reprinting of Math Power. Several significant changes with respect to education have occurred in our culture during the past decade. However, the need for parents of young children to be involved in their children's mathematical growth is as urgent as ever. Alas, Math Power remains the only book by a person with a doctorate in either pure or applied mathematics for parents of children from age one through ten. As I reread what I wrote almost a decade ago, it seems as timely as ever.

Several major changes with respect to education are worth noting. One is the pervasiveness of the Internet, which was just beginning at the time of the first printing. Now you can investigate almost anything by doing a google search. However, knowing what you don't know requires some level of knowing. Moreover, nobody has "refereed" or checked what is on the web; anyone can put anything "up," no matter how ignorant or misguided. Consumers beware! Also, surfing the web does not have the continuity of reading a book, and in mathematics the connections are the core. Furthermore, a computer is not as much fun as a book to snuggle up with.

Another major change has been the increasing number of families taking their children out of public schools, sending them to charter or private schools or homeschooling them. The jury is out about charter schools, but these schools are surely exploring alternative approaches and adding zest to a sometimes too-complacent public school system. A recent study indicates that students at private schools are not doing as well on standardized tests as students with similar socioeconomic backgrounds at public schools.1 I am sufficiently skeptical about the validity of testing not to take this conclusion too seriously, but it does help prop up the flagging belief in the quality of our democracy's public schools.

When my daughter was homeschooled for four months over twenty-five years ago, the law required a signed statement from a physician saying that homeschooling was necessary for her health. Now, parents can take their children out of school altogether with only reporting their intention, or perhaps their curriculum. The number of homeschooled American children rose rapidly in the past decade, and it now exceeds two percent of all children attending school.2 I have added an appendix to Math Power especially for the large number of homeschooling parents who need to know more about the mathematics education of their children. Because I do not know nearly as much about this topic as someone whose livelihood consists of helping homeschoolers mathematically, I have been delighted to have the advice of Susan Schaeffer, who homeschooled her own three children and is now a mathematical advisor of homeschooling parents in North Carolina.

The other two major changes in our mathematical education culture are far less pleasant than the Internet and alternative forms of education. One is the split between the mathematics educators and other mathematicians. I read with sadness my statement on page 250: "On the whole these two groups work well together." It is one sentence in the previous edition of Math Power that I now concede to be false. In 1997, the "Math Wars" broke out. When I began hosting a weekly radio talk show, Math Medley, in 1998, I believed I was in between the two sides. After interviewing leaders from both sides for a few years, I became convinced that I am solidly in both camps; I want both accuracy in subject matter and a variety of teaching approaches. The greatly publicized misunderstanding of the "Math Wars" has been a great loss to our children. But it reflects the widespread lack of understanding of both mathematics and education that is so destructive to our country.

Finally, the use of standardized testing has increased greatly. Contrary to previous commitments to states' rights, our federal government has mandated standardized testing. I believe that those who are inflicting this anxiety on innocent children share my basic concern for education; I am not convinced by those who suspect that politicians' primary motives are to enrich their corporate test-making friends as payback for political support. However, I am amazed at politicians' naïveté in not questioning the competence of test-makers. Making up tests requires no accountability whatsoever to either a government or a professional group. How can we trust unaccountable companies to implement accountability on defenseless children?

What is the impact of standardized testing on our nation's schools? What is a good school? How do we measure that? What "should" a child know after completing a particular grade? How do we measure that? These are very difficult questions to answer. Their trivialization in much public and political discussion provides increasing evidence of the mathematical ignorance of my fellow citizens. Not every set can be "linearly ordered." In other words, you can't put them in a line, like temperatures or volumes. In particular, it is deceptive to attempt to put children's educational achievements in a line with some completely superior to others. As I contemplate my country's propensity to arrange children in order by test grades, I am ever more impressed by the wisdom of my husband's observation about quantification quoted on page 205.

I am personally most concerned about the first question: the impact of standardized testing on our nation's schools. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is one of the most respected American producers of standardized tests, the most famous of which is the SAT. ETS recently published a booklet, One-Third of a Nation: Rising Dropout Rates and Declining Opportunities, that emphasizes the difficulty of measuring high school dropout rates.3 As the stakes get higher, schools become more clever at fudging figures, and counting any large real-world quantities is not easy at best.4 However, this publication provides convincing evidence that the dropout rate increased as standardized testing increased during the 1990s. It rose from less than a quarter to about a third of our nation's young people.5 In ten states, the high school graduation rate declined by 8 percentage points or more.6 The result is that although the high school graduation rate of the U.S. over-44 population is the highest in the world, the graduation rate of U.S. young people now places tenth, with fewer opportunities for dropouts than there were when today's middle-aged Americans were young.7

A related alarming statistic is from a study by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in 1998: Two thirds of the inmates in the Texas prison system are high school dropouts. The cost of having fewer high school graduates is high in crass taxpayer money, but the social cost is much higher. The costs are not spread equitably across our citizenry. Nearly half of our nation's African American students and nearly 40 percent of Latino students attend high schools from which a majority of students never graduate, whereas only 11 percent of white students attend these schools.8

Ironically, the national legislation called "No Child Left Behind" is causing more children than ever to be left behind. Having elementary school children repeat grades is simply not done in Japan,9 where test scores on international mathematics tests are far above ours. In Japan, it is considered cruel to remove a child from his or her friends. Thus the pressures are strong on Japanese children to help every classmate learn so there are no "drags" on the class. American research indicates that half the children who repeat a grade do no better the second time, and a quarter actually do worse.10 I believe our national attention should be more focused on including all young people in our culture and economy, and less on marginal improvement of the quality of our schools, many of which are already excellent.

Education should involve far more than any test can possibly measure. Preparing children for tests diverts schools from the core ideas of mathematics and other disciplines, does not encourage students to look at the diverse, non-standard approaches so needed for human and national survival, and teaches youngsters that learning is only to prepare for tests instead of being intrinsic to a good life. Who needs to take a multiple-choice test to be a good employee, citizen, or parent? We are squandering our children's precious lives by teaching them a useless skill! My students at Montclair State University (which is sufficiently selective to accept only one out of every five applicants) tell me that studying for tests has taught them not to think of even trying to retain what they were taught after the test. Test preparation becomes the end of education, and youngsters don't think about the importance of remembering later what they learned.

Because tests that have high stakes for schools and principals are typically administered in tenth grade, students are retained in ninth grade in ever-greater numbers. Thirty-eight percent of the ninth graders in Texas public schools in 1999–2000 left school prior to graduation,11 significantly higher than the 33 percent in 1985–198612 or the nationwide average in 2000. And this is the state from which the national secretary of education was recruited to craft the No Child Left Behind Act! Since then, there have been major exposés of serious cheating in the Houston p...

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