We are in the midst of paradox in math education. As more states strive to improve math curricula and raise standardized test scores, more students show up to college unprepared for college-level math. The failure of pre-college math education has profound implications for the future of physics programs in the United States. A recent article in my local paper, the Baltimore Sun: “A Failing Grade for Maryland Math,” highlighted this problem that I believe is not unique to Maryland. It prompted me to reflect on the causes.
Not a bad essay, but I disagree with his tying the problem to "standards". There's nothing inherent in "standards" that makes them bad; in fact, I'll bet there were plenty of standards in math when you and I (and he) were in school! He's correct when he talks about confusing difficulty with rigor, and about inappropriate content (middle school kids' working with matrices? Please!). His discussion of mistaking process for understanding is also very elucidating, and also explains why I'm against using graphing calculators in K-12 education.
Again, he's mostly right, but we'll disagree on standards. The standards may not be good enough, or may be too stringent, or some people may try to teach them in superficial way just to get students to pass a standardized test, but those are not faults of having standards.