Comment: You were incorrect . . (about) relativism

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You were incorrect . . (about) relativism

Actually, the problem itself (as you point out) is not relativism - the context in how it's used is.

With this sort of problem type, teachers can now grade students on something else besides the their mastery of the current topic - Addition in this case.

I've seen examples where the student is asked to write a paragraph about the problem in addition to doing the problem itself. Students can get most of the credit for the problem based on the paragraph, even if the math itself was wrong (relativism).

In the example, each student solves a different problem and gets a different answer. This allows teachers to encourage the belief that there's no such thing as a single correct answer to the problem (relativism).

While the example may be fine as an occasional exercise, it's not appropriate as the core methodology for teaching basic skills, in this case, Addition. Here, number problems should be used to teach basic skills, then a "ready to solve" word problem would be used to show the application of the skill learned. The k-8 texts adopted by California in 2001 had answers to odd problems in the back of the book (like in the 50's) since constructivist problems were not part of the texts. I know this since I was part of the review committee.

I think the new-new math of the 90's (which is still very much alive) had the best intentions. The idea was to improve the grades of women and minorities in mathematics as these groups typically under-perform when compared to white males and Asians **. The problem is those under-served groups still need to learn math while they're at it, which these programs did not accomplish. This is why university math profs were not happy with the programs - too much remedial work was needed at the college level. This is why Jaime Escalante disliked the programs (Stand and Deliver).

** One of the founders of Mathematically Correct debated the (past) President of the NCTM (Dr. Jack Price) on radio. In that debate, Price actually stated the new programs were aimed at women and minorities.