Inadequate math aptitudes

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ound as the IQ sinks” is an amazing example of chutzpah. In a column meant for readers in Los Alamos, certainly a mathematically aware county, he tells us that today’s kids’ aptitudes are being degraded by not doing enough long division exercises.
He harkens back to a better time when students learned how better how to do “real” calculations. Maybe some students need to do more rote exercises and can skip Euclid’s proof that the square root of two is irrational. (I change my mind. That proof is just too beautiful.) But we need to teach the students with the highest aptitude for science, technology, engineering and math too. Concepts-based math is just right for these students.
Sure, we all need to learn some actual methods, but in my view the old school way, teaching students to do endless long divisions like 1/7=0.142857142857… is not the whole story. I wished I had learned earlier the art of estimation — how to calculate on your feet an answer that is good enough, and knowing how good is good enough.
These are quick methods used in science and engineering but also for doubling recipes, calculating tips, estimating your gas mileage — and knowing that 29.787 MPG is not a better answer than 30 MPG.
I would have appreciated a column on this subject that interviewed parents and teachers, both here and elsewhere in the state, reporting on their responses and suggesting improvements based on those responses.
John Finn
Los Alamos