As the new school year begins and thoughts turn to subjects, studies and scores, many discussions recently have focused on math.

Math skills arguably are more critical today, as technology – which relies on math knowledge – grows by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, some would say, that same technology has contributed to a lack of math skills among many young students.

Among them, math tutor Herman Wilson, a retired engineer in Cayman, who says he has noticed a decline in young students’ math skills, notably “because kids can’t multiply…they rely very heavily on calculators, and there are so many shortcuts on the computer that their ability to use their brains effectively is somewhat dormant.

“What I have found is that the fundamentals are lacking,” Mr. Wilson said, including multiplication, addition and fractions.

As another example, he says, “Calculus is a very important area, especially for kids who are studying the sciences. But if you don’t have a handle on algebra, you can’t do calculus – it all ties in.”

More illustrations

Further examples of declining math skills in youth have been chronicled by US psychologist Larry Larsen. Following are some of his observations and a not-so-tongue-in-cheek outline of the deterioration in math teaching.

“Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for \$1.58,” Dr. Larsen said. “The counter girl took my \$2 and I was digging for my change when I pulled eight cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and three pennies, while looking at the screen on her register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help.

“Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s”:

Teaching math in 1950s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching math in 1960s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or \$80. What is his profit?

Teaching math in 1970s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is \$80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching math in 1980s

A logger sells a truckload of lumber for \$100. His cost of production is \$80 and his profit is \$20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching math in 1990s

A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of \$20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it’s OK.)

Teaching math in 2000s

If you have special needs or just feel you need assistance because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, childhood memories, criminal background, then don’t answer and the correct answer will be provided for you. There are no wrong answers.

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Source: Caymanian Compass – http://goo.gl/hPhqF