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April 14, 2008 – Comments (19)

"I don't understand it. If we couldn't afford that much, why did they loan it to us?"

--Middle school math teacher in Northern Virginia complaining as his 2-year old ARM ratchets up beyond what he and his spouse can afford to pay.

19 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On April 14, 2008 at 12:14 PM, Gemini846 (49.65) wrote:

Man wish you had a youtube for that ;)

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#2) On April 14, 2008 at 12:32 PM, mandrake66 (82.29) wrote:

Umm, because greed impairs of the ability of both lenders and borrowers to do simple math even more than alcohol?

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#3) On April 14, 2008 at 12:35 PM, dwot (60.65) wrote:

I teach math and I haven't got a clue as to how to get it across that math is far more important than people realize.  There is a lot in math that gets trashed that is needed for the deeper understanding of number properties and to develop number sense.

There probably is also something to be said for the order things are learned.  I worked in banking for 5 years before I went to university, so I was applying calculus concepts to my understanding of the banking industry as I was learning calculus.

We have watered down calculus for business, that totally dilutes understanding of number sense beyond linear thinking, and most don't appreciate this is a really big problem and probably Greenspan's largest limitation in his thinking.  If he had the non-linear number sense he'd have never done what he did, and if the masses had it, they'd have stopped in by the 90s and he'd have served no more than an 8 year term.

Well, I shouldn't say masses, the masses never follow that which is important.  The voices of the watch dogs would have been louder and there would have been far more. 

Most people will not bash number operations, but they will bash algebra and higher math concepts that they perceive they don't need to balance their cheque book.

Success in education is highly dependent on children's values and I am convinced a change in values is making it much harder to teach children.

For example, I had a parent tell me that it was just rote learning for his kid to learn his multiplication tables and a calculator could do that.  His kid refused to learn his multiplication tables.  His kid had zero number sense to see factors and couldn't get him past that.  He was one of 247 kids I had in my teaching load, and teachers get blamed.  So why did I waste my time calling that parent?  12 hour days, I certainly wasn't being paid for the hours I was working...   You have no idea the amount of time I spend over a teenagers waiting for them to figure out what goes into say 24 or 36 when trying to teach a math concept dependent on being able to do that.  Good thing McDonald's has pictograms for the cash register for workers...

Another value that has changed in education is policy that moves kids ahead whether they've learned the material or not.  Sometimes it is due to serious learning disabilities and some of these children will never be capable of what is in the curriculum, but I think too many kids learn that it doesn't matter if they learn the material or not because they will still advance.  When I was a kid we had the fear of failure to make us work.  That has been removed from the education system and it has dramatically increased the underperformance of children and increased the number of children lacking prerequisite skills in a course.  I think multiplication tables is a prerequisite for high school, indeed, I wouldn't let them past grade 4, if I had my way, but I've had lots of high school classes where kids just don't know them.  

 

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#4) On April 14, 2008 at 12:51 PM, TMFBent (99.82) wrote:

You and my wife teach the same subject, Dwot. And she's the over-hearer in this case. And this in far from the first teacher she's seen get into a risky, underwater mortgage, then claim ignorance when the bills came due. And we wonder why kids don't know what to do with their money?

Personal Finance ecucation should be an entire class, IMO, but I think the best it gets in this school is a unit in a math class -- and that's probably more than it gets in most schools.

In my high school we got personal finance instruction (a little, which is more than most kids get now) in our home economics classes. Along with cooking and sewing, we got basic, well, home economics.

I bet if you tried to make a push for that kind of education today, some astro-turf banking lobby would try and squash it in order to protect the ignorance that fills the financial industry's coffers. It's a sad state of affairs out there, but how can you help people who don't even take the time to understand forms they're signing? At some point, people sitting at the big boy table need to act like big boys and girls.

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#5) On April 14, 2008 at 1:02 PM, Terok1313 (31.12) wrote:

The lack of personal accountability in this country is truly amazing, and never ceases to amaze or anger me.  This ties in perfectly with your last blog, that 9 out of 10 people blame someone else for their mess.  "Why did we borrow more than we could afford?" becomes "Why did they loan it to us?"

My brother is 50k in debt, and his plan to get out is to live large, max out all his credit cards fully, and then declare bankruptcy.

My sister-in-law routinely buys designer clothes and handbags, then gets her family to pay for her groceries because she can't afford them.  My wife never asks for a dime.

And these are the kinds of people our government wants to bail out.  Meanwhile I keep paying my bills like a fool...

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#6) On April 14, 2008 at 1:38 PM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

Bent- Middle School Math teacher? What grade. Seventh? They only know fractions and that is a little shaky. I taught High School Math for a while and worked with some Middle school teachers. Scary stuff. Some of them really do not have the qualifications to teach mathematics, but hey when you layoff teachers that don't get paid enough already, do you think the smart math inclined people are going to take to the profession. Education is in trouble and this statement hits the nail on the head.

"Success in education is highly dependent on children's values and I am convinced a change in values is making it much harder to teach children."

dwot - A small fraction of the kids have them today or at least the same values that teachers would like to have in the students they teach. 

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#7) On April 14, 2008 at 3:29 PM, mandrake66 (82.29) wrote:

dwot -- There is a lot in math that gets trashed that is needed for the deeper understanding of number properties and to develop number sense.

I majored in Physics as as undergraduate. I spent years doing integrals and derivatives. But even at this level I think the teaching of it was fundamentally broken. One can easily fill blackboards and notebooks with the 'how' while ignoring the 'why'. I never really understood what calculus was for or how it worked. But I could do a triple integral blindfolded at one time. A lot of math, science, and engineering education is like that. It's why I so lost interest in it along the way.

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#8) On April 14, 2008 at 4:20 PM, Toprope101 (99.71) wrote:

Hillary will fix all of this; one liberal socialist housing system for everyone.

Sorry for the sarcasm but I too pay my taxes which will go to bail out those living beyond their means.

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#9) On April 14, 2008 at 4:53 PM, FleaBagger (29.02) wrote:

In public schools in the USA, you're not allowed to teach math (or anything else) unless you get a "teacher certification," which I hear is predicated on taking some nonsense classes and is designed to weed out serious-minded persons. This would explain why private schools, which usually require a math degree and no certification, are generally more highly regarded.

(Personally, I still don't know how calculus relates to personal finance, and, though I'm sure dwot would be happy to explain it, I doubt I could understand it anyway.)

In my view, not getting an ARM is just basic sense (sense that used to be called "common sense" but is no longer common at all). Simple addition and multiplication (and reading) can protect you from most of that crap that anybody may try to stick you with. But people don't even think anymore.

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#10) On April 14, 2008 at 6:22 PM, StKitt (29.97) wrote:

Disappointment requires adequate planning.

The American public has been wasting away on "Easy Street" since the end of World War II, increasingly addicted to "modern conveniences." This unabated rush to convenience has caused irreparable and irreversible brain damage to every generation since the country last had to join together to do the hard work of winning that war. Having no more hard work to do (according to our leaders in the White House and Congress), the vast majority of Americans have squandered their lives in the mindless dissipation of consumerism. Indeed, this is what our leaders have asked us to do... be quiet, be stupid and be profligate. Hey, mission accomplished!

"There are two cardinal sins from which all the others spring: impatience and laziness." - Franz Kafka (1883-1924).

 

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#11) On April 14, 2008 at 11:46 PM, dwot (60.65) wrote:

Does your wife see differences in values affecting ability to teach?

I've tried teaching kids budgets, loans, buying a car, taxes and I find they aren't that receptive until grade 11 or 12.

When I read what you overheard again, I would tend to agree that banks lend out more than people can afford and if they do research independently they also get information that say they can afford more then they can afford.

We took about 55% of what we were told we qualified to borrow.  I was dumbfounded at the vast amount they were willing to lend.  I know a lot more about this than most people, but if checking credible sources was my only way of getting information, I would have been seriously misled and not realized what "affordable" really meant with the insane lending standards, and I would consider normal prime loans as defined today to have insane lending standards.  "Affordable" to a bank truly means house poor and debt slaves in reality.

Get him to look at the contract more closely as well.  Right now with the rates down his contract might be tied to the down rates.  I've seen Citibank putting out false information suggesting they are giving a deal by letting people convert to 30 years at around 6% when the legal writing in the contract means that with today's rates they should convert to about 5.25% because the contract was tied to prime or a group of prime rates.  Mish had a post about it on his blog. 

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#12) On April 14, 2008 at 11:51 PM, dwot (60.65) wrote:

I found the post.

http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2008/03/dear-citigroup-customer.html 

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#13) On April 14, 2008 at 11:52 PM, dwot (60.65) wrote:

Citigroup, not Citibank...

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#14) On April 15, 2008 at 10:23 AM, StockSpreadsheet (71.49) wrote:

The whole "pass the kids whether they learned the material or not" seems to me to have originated in the whole Modern Psychology movement.  People were told that "it would hurt the kids self-esteam" if they were failed in a class, so failing a class was not to be allowed.  (I actually read news reports a few years ago here in California where several psychologists argued this very fact regarding "child self-esteem" being more important than learning.  I guess these kids would grow to adulthood being paperboys or grocery baggers since those jobs wouldn't require a lot of learning to perform, but at least they would have high self-esteem!!)  I don't know how we let this mindset become prevalent, but it has.

A few years back, California decided that it was graduating a bunch of kids that couldn't even spell their own name, and so decided finally to do something about it.  They passed a rule that kids had to take a major test, (similar to an SAT), that would test their knowledge of many subjects and they had to pass it to get their high school diploma.  If they didn't pass it, they would have to take another year of high school to gain proficiency in the required skills.  The schools were given four years before the test was mandatory, (so that the current classes of high schoolers let down by the system could be flushed out and the newer classes, who were supposed to have recieved better instruction, could be allowed to be the classes to take the tests).  Well, when the students in LA Unified School District took the tests, over 1/3 of them failed it, showing they didn't even have 10th grade skill levels in math, english or science.  LA Unified then argued for an exemption to the state regulation stating that they didn't have enough classroom space to teach the more than 1/3 of their senior classes that failed the test in addition to the existing numbers of students in the district.  (I actually think the number was more than half, but can't remember for sure.)  Thus, kids that were known to be deficient in the subjects they were supposed to have been taught were graduated anyway and given diplomas.  And people wonder why a lot of our doctors and scientists are being imported from around the world instead of being home-grown.  I don't know the current status of this problem as I don't have any kids in school and haven't seen any news reports on the subject lately, but I doubt it has gotten any better, and with California's current budgetary problems, I doubt it will get better.

This isn't just a California problem, and it isn't a recent problem.  I'm in my 40's.  When I was in college, I had a roommate that didn't know the first thing about balancing a checkbook.  He bounced a rent check, and then in full seriousness argued with me that since he wrote the check, the bank had to pay it, regardless of whether or not he had any money in the account.  And this kid was persuing a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering!!  A field normally heavy on math and science skills.  Even with the modern inventions of computers and calculators, you still have to know how to set up most of the formulae to be able to plug them into the calculator or computer, though with software getting smarter, this is less necessary now than it used to be. 

I have seen friends leave home without basic "home skills".  Friends of mine have left home without knowing how to balance a checkbook, cook a simple meal, wash their own clothes or fill out their own taxes, even if they could use the 1040EZ form.  I have thought since high school that there should be a mandatory class in school that would teach these skills.  (If you have ever seen the movie "To Sir, With Love", that is the type of class I am talking about.  If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It is an oldie but a goodie.  The original is black-and-white.  I don't know if they ever made a colorized version of it or a remake.  The original starred Sydney Potier (sp?)).  These skills should be taught by the parents, but the parents are falling down in this regard for many kids.  (In fairness, some of this is probably due to the fact that we now have two-income families, so mom is no longer staying home to teach the kids.  However, I came from a two-income family.  Both of my parents always worked long hours trying to support us kids, (there are 7 kids in my family), but they still took the time to teach me these simple skills.   When I left home, I could cook breakfast, make a stew, wash my own clothes and balance my own checkbook.  It seems that most kids nowadays can't do that.  I have known grown men that whenever they didn't have a live-in girlfriend to do their cooking and cleaning would take their laundry home to have mom do it since they didn't know how.  That just boggled my mind.

Hopefully, change will come, but it will be slow.  I agree that bankers don't want the kids to know math, so that they can ding the kids with fees for overdrafts and other items.  But the "not knowing how to cook, clean or do laundry" is not the bankers fault, it is the fault of the parents that raised these kids.

Just my rant.  Now you may go back to your scheduled discussion.  Thanks for listening.

Craig 

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#15) On April 15, 2008 at 10:48 AM, TMFBent (99.82) wrote:

Thanks Craig.

Here's my thing: Why should we -- as the members of the society who know how to do our own laundry, balance a checkbook, and not spend our way into the poor house -- have to pay to pick up the pieces for those who couldn't be bothered to learn or teach their own family members those basic skills?

And I know people who never learn 'em, despite years of being taught, because it's just easier to spend their way into the poorhouse and cry than it is to give up the nights at the bars, the cable TV, etc. These are the "hardworking Americans" who, according to McCain, Obama, and Clinton, all "deserve" new loans, and deserve future prices on those homes to be greater than the price they paid, no matter what it takes from the rest of us.

Sj

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#16) On April 15, 2008 at 10:55 PM, HistoricalPEGuy (64.66) wrote:

I'll put $10 bucks down that says dwot's liscence plate says "SOLV4X"......

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#17) On April 18, 2008 at 12:11 AM, dwot (60.65) wrote:

lol HistoricalPEGuy...   I only just got it...

Craig, there is definitely a few kinds of students that are not making the learning outcomes.  There are those that it doesn't matter what you do they aren't going to get it, and they are in the classroom because of inclusion lobbied for by the parents of these children while other parents simply did nothing to prevent it.  It simply sounds like a good idea, but I think it a disaster for all students.

So, take a high school student that when you work with money with her she struggles to count $7.  We have $2 coins and she can get to $6 and she keeps going for a penny to get to $7.  It used to be that a child like this wasn't in a regular classroom but with a small group of students with similar needs.  Now you have students like that in high school classes where you are expected to be teaching algebra.  No amount of failing is going to enable these students, but now a teacher has to deal with "how come" so and so doesn't have to do the work?  And these kids become an anchor for lowering classroom standards.  And then you have to deal with behaviour issues because of have kids in what's equivalent to a lecture on quantum mechanics to them and with their level of development (6-7 years), well, they react as children bored out their minds react.

Then you have the kids that figure out there aren't any consequences for not doing work and they can to the work but they don't and they get into the pattern early.  They should be held back in grade 1 or grade 2.  In Britian they have sets to each grade, broken up by marks, top performing students together and so on.  You get kids actively underperforming to move to a lower set so they don't have to work.  So I had kids by choice and no requirement that they catch up and again no being held back, in a class where kids got stuck on 2x3 yet they had no problems with math at all.  This way they didn't have to do math because they had grade 5-6 math skills in class of students with grade 2-3 math skills.

You also have kids a third set, they just aren't ready to move on and a more solid foundation would enable them to do better.  Instead they are pushed through and just get more confused and frustrated.  It destroys their esteem not being able to keep up with their peers.  We age group kids, but just like some take longer to walk or talk, some just aren't ready for it at the age we start them and would be so much better off with an extra year.

 

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#18) On May 08, 2008 at 4:14 AM, none0such (71.77) wrote:

I'm an American living in Taiwan. I teach social studies and IT to bilingual junior high and high school students. The math classes here are very excelerated (combinatorics in 8th grade ... I wasn't introduced to this in detail until college - and I went to high school in NYS in what was considered a good school district). It is no wonder the Economist recently sited Taiwan as #1 in math out of select countries studied. http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10251324

Unfortunately, this skill set doesn't yield a better understanding  and appreciation of risk, responcibility, and the ability to know one's limitations: the real reason for the housing fiasco as pointed out in this thread already. 

Anyone posting here who wants to make a lasting difference - one that might pay off for us all in retirement - might want to volunteer to teach kids after school the fundamentals of
econonics. I have had loads of fun using what I have learned from TMF and applying it to my social studies classes (determining that a timid intellectual female 10th grader who is prone to reading Jane Austin novels is really a heartless manager-in-the-making is priceless). 

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#19) On May 08, 2008 at 11:52 AM, none0such (71.77) wrote:

I'm an American living in Taiwan. I teach social studies and IT to bilingual junior high and high school students. The math classes here are very excelerated (combinatorics in 8th grade ... I wasn't introduced to this in detail until college - and I went to high school in NYS in what was considered a good school district). It is no wonder the Economist recently sited Taiwan as #1 in math out of select countries studied. http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10251324

Unfortunately, this skill set doesn't yield a better understanding  and appreciation of risk, responcibility, and the ability to know one's limitations: the real reason for the housing fiasco as pointed out in this thread already. 

Anyone posting here who wants to make a lasting difference - one that might pay off for us all in retirement - might want to volunteer to teach kids after school the fundamentals of
econonics. I have had loads of fun using what I have learned from TMF and applying it to my social studies classes (determining that a timid intellectual female 10th grader who is prone to reading Jane Austin novels is really a heartless manager-in-the-making is priceless). 

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