Zoom School Was No Education for My Math Student

Zoom School Was No Education for My Math Student

In “The Weekend Interview With Edward Glaeser” (May 28), Tunku Varadarajan touches on a subject close to my professional domain: “the unmitigated disaster that remote learning has been for American children.” As a math teacher with 28 years in the trenches, I witnessed that unmitigated disaster.

It is obvious that all math courses have a prequel and a sequel. Academic year 2020-21 placed nearly all students in a remote-learning setting. That year, I taught—and I use the term loosely—algebra-I, the prerequisite for geometry and algebra-II.

It is obvious that all math courses have a prequel and a sequel. Academic year 2020-21 placed nearly all students in a remote-learning setting. That year, I taught—and I use the term loosely—algebra-I, the prerequisite for geometry and algebra-II.

Each day I kept track of the number of students who were actively engaged. All students had the option of clicking on the appropriate Zoom link, then tuning in or tuning out.

Each day I kept track of the number of students who were actively engaged. All students had the option of clicking on the appropriate Zoom link, then tuning in or tuning out.

On average, 20% were active, attentive participants. These 20% got a mediocre math education via distance learning. The 80% who opted out got virtually no math education along with a year’s worth of backsliding.

Each day I posted the names of active students on the classroom website, recognizing their focus, self-discipline and diligence when cutting class was such an easy option. Twice my principal, who invariably went on Zoom with a poster of Che Guevara in the background,

asked me not to acknowledge active participants: It was a mini-aggression to those students who tuned out. Can you believe it? She canceled participation trophies!

asked me not to acknowledge active participants: It was a mini-aggression to those students who tuned out. Can you believe it? She canceled participation trophies!

This school year, many of that active 20% cohort, along with the 80% inactive cadres, were in my geometry class. Their grades arranged themselves in a bimodal distribution: a cluster around A and B and a larger cluster around D and F.

This school year, many of that active 20% cohort, along with the 80% inactive cadres, were in my geometry class. Their grades arranged themselves in a bimodal distribution: a cluster around A and B and a larger cluster around D and F.

Thanks to generous grading during the pandemic, however, students have no way of recognizing the potholes in their math knowledge. Without remediation, few of that 80% will become STEM or knowledge workers. We can only speculate about where they will ultimately land on the political spectrum.