I remember hearing about "new math" when I was in school back in the 70s (yes, that long ago, we rode dinosaurs to school and did our homework on stone tablets and the bathroom pass was a mammoth bone, shut up) and wondering what "old math" could have been. I mean, what can change about math? Did somebody discover, in the late 60s, that 2 + 2 = 4? What on earth were they doing before "new math?" Why was "new math" supposedly so difficult for parents to decipher?

Now I know how those parents felt, because we have a New and Improved Math. It's called Math Investigation, or Math Exploration, or something like that. Right away you can tell it's going to be bad. Math is not something to be explored, like the Amazon, hoping you might find something new. 2 + 2 will always equal 4, and you do not need New and Improved methods of discovering that fact. Or so I thought.

It turns out that much of New and Improved Math is things I used to do in my head. For example, here's an equation using the Old New Math:3 X 5 is 15, carry the 1, 2 X 5 is 10, add the 1, there you go. Easy peasy. But with New and Improved Math, you break it down into smaller chunks. This makes sense. It's something I do if I don't have a pencil and paper handy. But really, is it any easier than Old New Math?

3 X 15 is 15. 20 X 5 is 100. Add 100 and 15 and you get 115. Seems easy enough. But what about when you get into larger numbers?

Old New Math seems logical and simple to me. Carry your 4s, add your columns, there's your answer. But with New and Improved math... I swear to God, this is how Boo is trying to multiply:

It makes my head hurt. They break it into little chunks and then try to put those chunks together. They haven't learned to carry a number. What is wrong with carrying a number? And don't even get me started on long division. Oh my freaking God.

Boo has been rocking right along on all of her progress reports, until the Big Math Evaluation last spring. And now I understand... it's because the child finally hit the limit of what she could do with New and Improved Math. In the school's defense, they have supposedly taught other methods as well, and this is the one Boo latched onto. But they should know this simply doesn't work with larger numbers. They should encourage the kids to use different methods at this point. Her teacher doesn't seem to thrilled with New and Improved Math. When it came up on Curriculum Night, his response was basically "this is what the state requires, so this is what we teach." Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

<sigh> Next thing on my to-do list... teach the girl some Oldie but Goodie math!

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