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Why Johnny can’t do math (Update: or English.)

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 30, 2008 07:40 AM

So, why can’t Johnny do math? Because Johnny’s teacher can’t even do fractions:

For kids to do better in math, their teachers might have to go back to school.

Elementary-school teachers are poorly prepared by education schools to teach math, finds a study being released Thursday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Math relies heavily on cumulative knowledge, making the early years critical.

The study by the nonpartisan research and advocacy group comes a few months after a federal panel reported that U.S. students have widespread difficulty with fractions, a problem that arises in elementary school and prevents kids from mastering more complicated topics like algebra later on.

The report looked at 77 elementary education programs around the country, or roughly 5% of the institutions that offer undergraduate elementary teacher certification.

It found the programs, within colleges and universities, spend too little time on elementary math topics…

…Francis Fennell, the past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said the report fails to examine the math instruction students receive while attending community colleges, where many elementary-school teachers start their higher education.

He also said the study’s authors should have surveyed teachers to get their views on how well prepared they were to teach math.

Fennell, who instructs teacher candidates in math at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., said a common area of weakness among his students is fractions — the same subject the national math panel described as a weak area for kids.

“Part of the reason the kids don’t know it is because the teachers aren’t transmitting that,” he said.

Another part of the reason? Too many teachers are too busy bloviating about the self-esteem benefits of Everyday Math to bother with the basics.

1 + 1 = I feel good about math, so who cares?

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UPDATE (See-Dubya): Meanwhile, English high school teachers want you to know that correct spelling counts, even if you’re having a grumpy day. (H/T Doubleplusundead.)

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