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The Mathematical Miseducation
Of America's Youth

By Michael T. Battista

In Phi Beta Kappan, February 1999

ABSTRACT (start of article):
Recent newspaper and newsmagazine articles, public debates at local school board meetings, and even the California State Board of Education1 have aimed a great deal of criticism at the current "reform movement" in mathematics education. Exploiting the growing "talk show/tabloid" mentality of Americans, opponents of reform support their arguments with hearsay, misinformation, sensationalism, polarization, and conflict as they attempt to seize control of school mathematics programs and return them to traditional teaching -- that is, to the "basics." As they cite isolated examples of alleged failures of mathematics reform, they ignore the countless failures of traditional curricula. Their arguments lack understanding both of the essence of mathematics and of scientific research on how students learn mathematics.

Unfortunately, flawed as these arguments are, they nonetheless persuade citizens, legislators, and educational decision makers to adopt policies that are inconsistent with relevant professional, scholarly, and scientific recommendations about mathematics teaching. Consequently, they threaten the quality of the mathematics education received not only by the general citizenry but also by future mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. Thus they endanger the entire scientific/technical infrastructure of our country. In this article, I analyze the issues that are relevant to the reform of mathematics education from the perspective of the scholarly analysis that undergirds the reform movement and the current scientific research on mathematics learning.

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