In Penfield, N.Y., high-flying math whiz Jim Munch looked to be the poster child for constructivist math curriculum. He scored a 5 on the A.P. Calculus exam, and hopes to become a theoretical mathematician. Turns out, he succeeded in spite, not because of, his school's progressivist training. Munch's parents (one an engineer, the other an educator) instructed him by night as his school teachers pushed "fuzzy" math by day. (See here and here for more on the problems of this fad.) "Kids do not do better learning math themselves," young Munch said. "There's a reason we go to school, which is that there's someone smarter than us with something to teach us." A novel idea, that. Ardent constructivists, such as the folks who lead the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Penfield School District, don't think "old-fashioned" math skills (including learning basic items such as multiplication tables) are necessary for academic success. That simply doesn't compute.
"'Innovative' Math, but Can You Count?" by Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times, November 9, 2005