Flashback to 1920’s 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 the United States. I suppose that memories of my childhood learning experiences will always play a role in how I perceive solutions to basic and advanced math, logic and science questions usually encountered in life, which are usually posed as problems. solvable 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 later, more intricate problems, was the way my mother learned to do it under the guidance of a master teacher at a one-room school eight miles south of the East Texas town of Chandler. This great teacher, a future US Senator, insisted that all of his students learn the rudiments of number operations to logically solve mathematical and conceptual problems systematically and intuitively. This particular teacher required daily class recitation and memorization of rudimentary conceptual and number facts, and required his students to stand up and pronounce orally.

In her fifth grade equivalent, my mother, Dessie, was given the task, at the age of 10, of solving the following mathematical problem, which was basic to the agrarian requirements of a rural farming community in 1920. Some educators Today’s Educators and Philosophers of Education might say that what was basic to mathematical problem solving in the 1920s is hardly applicable in a modern technological classroom of 21st century fifth graders, but I strongly disagree. The problem you got was like this:

A farmer sold his crop for $100. After deducting 4/5 of the amount of seeds and fertilizer, what percentage of the total amount was his net profit?

If the typical American fifth grader of the 21st century, finishing their fifth year, were given this very basic problem to solve in class with just a pencil and a blank sheet of paper (no calculator) on their desk, would that be random? student, graduating sixth grade, be able to figure it out? Well, I have my doubts. Because? My mother taught me the multiplication tables (up to 12) and fractions at home before I was eight years old, and I 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 percent) of all seventh graders in public schools do not memorize the multiplication tables by the end of the seventh year of public education. This is because pocket calculators have replaced rote math teaching in the classroom, and Young Minds multiple-choice tests have replaced the requirement for pencil-and-paper calculations where students must show their processes step-by-step. in computing solutions.

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 tell himself that 4/5 of 100 equals $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 tells himself that the $80 calculated is the amount of money the farmer spent on seeds and fertilizer. So $100 – $80 equals $20, or the farmer’s net profit. Now the student can solve the problem after determining that the net profit, $20, is a certain percentage of $100. The student then creates a basic equation, Percent = $20 divided by $100, or 20 Percent. As for percent intuition, the 1922 fifth grader who understood fractions was logically able to see that 100 percent of $100 is $100, so logically 10 percent of $100 is $10, and 20 percent percent of $100 is $20, and so on, for fractions. and percentages go hand in hand.

A famous math and physics tutor, who was very successful for 25 years helping high school and college students who did not learn fundamental number operations in elementary school, stated that the reason most 21st century students in middle school, high school, junior college, and universities have difficulty with basic and advanced algebra simply because they cannot factor numbers; and not being able to factor comes from not knowing how to basically multiply and divide whole numbers and fractions. This is a poor statement for the validity of current public school education. Further, extending this critique, I very seriously doubt whether even two out of ten random 21st century American eighth graders could correctly solve the above problem, solved by a typical 1920s fifth grader left alone with only pencil, paper and your mind.

Going back to the old 1920s one-room approach to teaching might be just what the doctor ordered to heal ailing public school systems. With expert teachers who consider memorization, oral recitation and understanding of fundamental numbers and logical facts to be of vital importance in a student’s education, and loving parents who regularly spend time at home with their elementary school children, helping them to learning the 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 stale 21st century America that demands systematic student regression and intervention federal in the advancement of independent 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 faculties to intuitively solve mathematical and conceptual problems they will encounter regularly throughout their lives as adults, seems be the America in which we now reside.

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