Fuzzy Math

October 4, 1999

A month ago, I wrote a commentary about Connected Mathematics, often called "fuzzy math." Since then there has been an article about this issue in the Washington Times. When a major national newspaper does a story about a Plano math book, you know that this local controversy is taking on national implications.

The concept is called fuzzy math, because it reminds critics of what was done years ago with English. No longer was phonics taught, but a whole language approach was introduced into the schools changing the way students learned English and grammar. The same seems to be taking place in the textbook called Connected Mathematics. Math is taught through group work and through discovery learning. Math teachers no longer teach. Instead students are to teach themselves and to work in groups.

Six families from Plano have filed a class-action lawsuit claiming their children were not learning in the connected math program and were not given the option of a more traditional math course. The Washington Times article points out that other school districts have been testing the connected math program. So what happens in Plano will affect more than just students in the Dallas area.

Connected mathematics was designed "with the belief that calculators should always be available and that students should decide when to use them." The teacher's role is to pull the class together at the end of each program and help students explain the mathematical ideas, relationships and strategies they used to solve the problem.

It all sounds good, but apparently it doesn't work. David Klein, a math professor at California State University at Northridge doesn't have much good to say about programs promoting fuzzy math. He says, "From what I've seen, they are junk for everybody."

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.