|Home Page Commentary 10 Dec 1997|
"Mr. Eisenberg," whined one of the students, "that's too hard."
"Use your calculator if you have to," I said.
"I have my calculator. It's too hard," came the anguished reply.
The moral of the story is that you can have the best calculator money can buy, but if the fundamentals aren't there, it's a useless collection of chips.
"Ah, but wait!" I hear you proclaim. "Nobody does multiplication or long division by hand any more. What is the use of forcing these poor children to memorize these boring facts? Can you not see that this will harm their fragile self-esteem?"
Memorization of the multiplication tables does give you these benefits: Students get an exercise in discipline and persistence, and they see that they can succeed at a long-term task. I would say that both of those are good for their self-esteem.
In other education news, the San Jose Mercury News of 30 November 1997 has a front-page story about an elementary school in Santa Clara that is emphasizing reading. I quote:
"At schools like Scott Lane, there are kids who haven't even noticed print till they come to kindergarten," [teacher Susan] White said.Of course, if any of these children don't turn out to be excellent readers, you can be sure the parents will blame the incompetent teachers.
Many of these students come from homes with no books...Until they started kindergarten, they had few experiences being read to, playing word games, practicing their letters or singing nursery rhymes.
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