July 14, 2009

Math curriculum needs remediation

The article written by Liz Bowie about the mathematics gap in Maryland ("Math gap hits many in Md.," July 12), was very refreshing. The gap is not unique to Maryland. It is a nationwide and a societal problem.

A 2004 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that more than 40 percent of all students and over 60 percent of community college students need remediation. The attitude of the K-12 system is that every student who graduates and enrolls in college should be considered as a success and anything that happens afterward is someone else's problem. On the other hand, the higher education system considers every remedial student to be a product of the K-12 failure, and, therefore, someone else's problem.

The disjoint between the K-12 system and the university system is at the heart of the problems and challenges that the current system is facing and needs to be tackled before remediation can be reduced. A strong K-12/university partnership is essential to get students prepared for college-level work.

What Professor Denny Gullick said about working with the public school teachers and administrators to determine what must be done to remedy the problem is overdue. I will be willing to help in that direction. What I am witnessing in remedial mathematics today has changed my attitude toward calculators. I pioneered the infusion of technology in teaching mathematics in 1977 in our department, but today I would prefer calculators to be introduced in middle school. The arithmetic concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division should be taught without calculators in the elementary schools. The reason is obvious if you are in my shoes.

Ojiabo Ukoha

The writer is coordinator of remedial mathematics at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Remedial math? Blame HSAs

Liz Bowie's article about the math gap in Maryland hit home. In high school in Baltimore County, I was in honors, gifted and talented and Advanced Placement classes, but when I arrived at Goucher College I was advised to take a remedial math course. While the remedial class was taught at a faster speed than the high school classes, the teacher did not allow calculators on the tests. He also explained where the mathematical ideas came from so we could understand them instead of memorizing information we did not comprehend.

I am not surprised that many more students need to take remedial classes as the High School Assessments have caused teachers to teach for the test instead of teaching for comprehension. When teachers' jobs are on the line if the students do not pass, what can anyone expect but a superficial knowledge of only the materials covered on the test?

April Kerns, Timonium

Nation ready to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell'

I applaud The Sun's editorial urging Maryland's congressional delegation to make a more concerted effort to repeal the utterly foolish "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which denies openly gay men and lesbians the right to serve in our armed forces ("Don't ask, just repeal," July 12).

The nonsense offered by the proponents of the status quo that openly gay soldiers in the ranks would have a negative effect on troop morale and unit cohesion is just that - nonsense. Two dozen nations, including Canada, Great Britain, Israel and Australia, allow openly gay and lesbian service members without suffering a decline in morale. What does that say about the confidence Congress has in our own troops? Other Western, civilized countries can handle this assimilation, but the U.S. - the land of liberty, freedom and equality - cannot?

Not only have 13,000 qualified, skilled service members been discharged since this discriminatory law was put in place, but a significant number of Arabic and other linguists were let go, which impeded our fight against terrorism and therefore compromised our national security.

In the meantime, the Pentagon has allowed the enlistment of thieves, drug dealers and those of substandard intelligence to fill the ranks needed to achieve enlistment quotas. How is that going to keep morale high?

Yes, our state delegation as well as others in Congress need to repeal this law as soon as possible. Our nation is ready for it. And our nation needs it. Steve Charing, Clarksville

Not my reality

As an attendee of an all-girls Baltimore school, I was insulted by Linley Taber's op-ed, "Reality TV we can relate to: The case for 'Baltimore prep'" (July 12). In her seven arguments for bringing a version of the popular Bravo TV reality show to Baltimore, six were about boys and preppy clothing.

What Ms. Taber didn't mention was that not every girl at Baltimore's private schools will don pastel Lily Pulitzer sun dresses to swoon over the St. Paul's, Boy's Latin, or Gilman boys because they have "the hair" or wear seersucker shorts to prom. Believe it or not, there is more to life at an all-girls school in Baltimore then boys and shopping. Like maybe, possibly, schoolwork?

The girls who attend these schools work hard and as a result are extremely intelligent, a fact that is barely mentioned in the article. Ms. Taber's idea of Baltimore Prep would be less a realistic reality TV show than a scripted stereotype.

Caterina Marzella