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By: Frode Jensen

While this example refers to math, the implications are clear also for English. In 1989 the NCTM, that's National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, began to issue advice that calculators were ok to use in math classes and that open-ended problem solving was better than drilling on facts.

Certainly not every math teacher was in favor of these pronouncements, but the professional association had spoken, and that's the way it was for 17 years.

A new report suggests that the fuzzy math method doesn't work. It seems Asian children learn math skills better than Americans. While the US children scored 504 on a 1000 point test, Asian countries did much better: Japan, 570; Taiwan, 585; Hong Kong, 586; South Korea, 589, and Singapore, 605.

So how do the Asians do it? Asian children work hard on a few skills, such as multiplication, division, and algebra; then they practice those skills by solving increasingly difficult problems. That sounds similar to the regimen I had while in school.

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