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Flashback to 1920 Public Education – A Breath of Fresh Air
Some provocative thoughts crossed my mind the other day that might be worth exploring for the sake of public elementary and secondary education in America. I guess memories of my childhood learning experiences will always play a part in how I view the solutions to basic and advanced math, logic and science questions typically found in life, which are usually posed as solvable problems in an educational application. The way I learned to explore, intuit, deduce (or induce) and solve simple mathematical and logical problems, which were the same methodologies for solving other more complicated later problems, was the way my mother learned to doing so under the guidance of a master teacher at a one-room schoolhouse eight miles south of the east Texas town of Chandler. This master teacher, future US senator, insisted that all his students learn the basics of number operations in order to logically solve mathematical and conceptual problems in a systematic and intuitive way. This particular teacher required daily classroom recitation and memorization of rudimentary conceptual and numerical facts, and required his students to stand and pronounce orally.
In her fifth-grade equivalent, my mother, Dessie, was tasked, at the age of 10, with solving the following mathematical problem, which formed the basis of the agrarian conditions of a rural farming community in 1920. Some educators and philosophers of education might say that what was the basis of mathematical problem solving in 1920 is hardly applicable in a modern technological classroom of fifth graders in the 21st century, but I don’t I don’t agree at all. The problem he was given was the following:
A farmer sold his crop for $100. After deducting 4/5 of the amount for seeds and fertilizers, what percentage of the total amount was his net profit?
If the typical 21st century American fifth grader, graduating from fifth grade, were given this very basic problem to solve in class with only a pencil and a clean sheet of paper (no calculator) on their desk, would that be a random student? , graduating from sixth grade, will he be able to solve it? Well, I have my doubts. Why? My mom taught me multiplication tables (to 12) and fractions at home before I was eight, and she only had a sixth grade education. She made learning fun for me. Today, in the 21st century world, very, very few high school and college educated parents spend time at home in the evenings or on weekends, helping their children learn basic math, and Most (75%) of all seventh graders in public schools do not memorize their multiplication tables by the end of the seventh grade of public education. Indeed, pocket calculators have replaced rote math learning in the classroom, and multiple-choice tests for young minds have replaced the requirement of paper-and-pencil calculations where students must show their processes step-by-step. in an IT solution.
In order to solve the above problem, the student must be able to understand fractions and divide numbers. The intuitive student, who understands how to multiply and divide, will think that 4/5 of 100 is equal to $100 x 4/5, which equals $100 x 4 divided by 5, which equals $400/5 , which equals $80. Now the student looks at the problem again and thinks that the calculated $80 is the amount of money the farmer spent on seed and fertilizer. So $100 – $80 equals $20 dollars, or the farmer’s net profit. Now the student can solve the problem after determining that the net profit, $20, is some percentage of $100. So the student creates a basic equation, Percentage = $20 divided by $100, or 20%. As for percentage intuition, the 1922 fifth grader who understood fractions was logically able to see that 100% of $100 is $100, so logically 10% of $100 is $10 and 20% of $100 is $20, and so on, for fractions. and the percentages go together.
A famous math and physics teacher, who for 25 years has been very successful in helping high school and college students, who had not learned their fundamental number operations in elementary school, said that the reason why most 21st century students in middle school, high school, college, and universities struggle with basic and advanced algebra simply because they can’t factor numbers; and not being able to factor comes from not knowing how to multiply and divide whole numbers and fractions. This is a misstatement for the validity of current public school education. Also, extending this review, I very seriously doubt that even two out of ten random 21st century American eighth graders could correctly solve the previous problem, solved by a typical 1920s fifth grader left alone with only a pencil , paper and his mind.
Returning to the old one-room school approach of 1920 could be just what the doctor ordered to heal struggling public school systems. With master teachers who consider the memorization, oral recitation, and understanding of fundamental numbers and logical facts to be vitally important in a student’s education, and caring parents who regularly spend time at home with their elementary school children, helping them learn multiplication tables and how to add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers, such a beneficial step back in time would be a breath of fresh air in a 21st century America that calls for regression systematic student and federal intervention in the independent progress of state education. Such a shameful and stagnant place, where society does not expect public school children to properly develop and use their God-given reasoning skills to intuitively solve the mathematical and conceptual problems they will regularly encounter throughout of their adult lives, seems to be the America we live in now.
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