Northridge : Kids’ New-New Math Baffles Some Parents

When parents entered the Alfred B. Nobel Middle School gymnasium Tuesday for Parent Math Night, there was no mistaking what was in store for them: algebraic brainteasers.

“Please sign in and take a pencil for your classwork,” Assistant Principal Sharon Rose instructed the 200 Nobel mothers and fathers who had come to learn about the school’s new interactive method of teaching pre-algebra, algebra and geometry.

More than a few parents--who clearly remember the “new math” movement of the 1960s--were skeptical as math teacher and textbook consultant Debbie Orr excitedly explained the “new-new math.”

“How long will it take them to figure out if it doesn’t work?” one mother asked rhetorically.


Explaining new state math requirements and leading parents through problems titled “Fruit for Thought” and “That’s Sum Triangle,” teacher Orr assuaged many fears.

In “Fruit for Thought,” colorful plums and oranges replaced numerals in equations such as lime + cherry = cherry. Parents raised their hands, volunteering that the lime must logically represent zero.

“Algebra,” Orr declared.

As she pointed to overhead projector displays, Orr outlined the approach taken in Glencoe’s new math texts--hands-on, interactive math with an emphasis on teamwork.

But, she added, the 1,900 Nobel students still must learn the basics. She also advised parents who find themselves unable to help with math homework.

“If they simply cannot solve the problem, have them write down three questions to ask the teacher tomorrow,” Orr suggested.

After Parent Math Night, parent Carol Koprowski of Northridge said she was excited that her son would be attacking “real-life problems” in school.

Her husband Ed, still fiddling with “That’s Sum Triangle,” was dubious.

“My concern is that students first have to have basic mathematical skills established before they can participate in a program like this,” he said.