It was really hot this afternoon, so we headed down to our condo complex's pool to cool off a bit. While we were there, I overheard a woman talking to her daughter. The daughter, who appeared to be around 10, had noticed a sign limiting the pool to a maximum of 18 swimmers. The mom asked the girl how many kids were in the pool. The daughter answered "11". In actuality, there were 9 kids and 1 adult (me). The mom then asked the daughter how many more people would be allowed to go into the pool. The girl looked blank, so the mom prompted her: "you know, 18 take away 11?" The daughter thought for a moment, and then answered "8." Now, the girl had in fact stumbled upon the true number of additional swimmers permitted given that there were only 10 people in the pool. However, she obviously got the answer to her mom's question of 18-11 wrong.
The mother did not correct her daughter's mistake or give any sign that she recognized it was the incorrect answer. I rolled my eyes behind my sunglasses and probably would've forgotten the incident entirely had I not heard a little while later the mom rave to her friend about the math program at her daughter's school. Apparently, this school is using one of the "new-new math" curricula, known to its critics as "fuzzy" math. This woman was going on and on about how the kids "understand the concepts" when all I could think of is that this 5th grader got a simple subtraction problem wrong!
Now I can understand why a recent Gallup poll found that 76% of parents with children in government-run schools claim to be "satisfied" with the quality of education their children are receiving when there is so much evidence of the dismal academic achievement of U.S. students. Only 26% of students completing allegedly "college-prep" coursework are actually prepared for college-level work. Here in California, only 74% of sophomores could pass an 8th grade math exam. Nearly 60% of incoming freshman in the California State University system, who are supposedly in the top third of their high school classes, require remedial coursework. Average SAT math scores dropped 3 points from last year. Why aren't more parents outraged by these statistics????