Last year at a meeting of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel (a Presidential appointed panel charged with drafting recommendations on how best to prepare students for algebra), a woman named Sherry Fraser read a statement into the public record which began as follows:
"How many of you remember your high school algebra? Close your eyes and imagine your algebra class. Do you see students sitting in rows, listening to a teacher at the front of the room, writing on the chalkboard and demonstrating how to solve problems? Do you remember how boring and mindless it was? Research has shown this type of instruction to be largely ineffective." (Fraser, 2006).
Such statement falls in the category of "Traditional math doesn’t work" or "The old way of teaching math was a mass failure," heard early and often at school board meetings or other forums. I am always puzzled by these statements but Sherry’s was particularly vexing given that 1) I was not bored in my algebra classes, and 2) Sherry, like me, ended up majoring in math. So I contacted Sherry and asked what the research was that showed such methods to be "largely ineffective". Sherry is co-director of a high school math text/curricula called IMP, developed in the early 90’s through grants from the NSF, totaling $11.6 million, to San Francisco State University. She replied to me in an email that she is a "firm believer in people doing their own research" and added that I wouldn’t have any trouble finding sources to confirm her statements. I have assumed she is just trying to be helpful by having me discover the answer myself, rather than just tell me the answer to my question. I have been a good student; here’s what my research shows:
From the 1940’s to the