Fixing Math Education 1
The first thing we need is to put truly math-savvy people in the elementary math classrooms. The current crop of elementary teachers (not all of them, of course), whine because they don't know enough math and they want more "training." But the problem isn't really that they need training, it's that they need an intellectual capacity for doing math and a love for doing math that no training can give them. The best that any training can do is give them some techniques for presenting ideas to students at the grade level they teach. But what they need is a grand understanding of mathematics, including the development of mathematical ideas in the children they teach, but also including the future mathematical needs of these children...especially the ones who will go on to careers in the hard sciences, engineering, statistics, and even pure math. The average elementary teacher has no clue at all what lies ahead for these students. The result is an inability to foster the ideas and attitudes that are necessary for excellence in mathematics.
A political argument that will be made immediately is that not every student is going in this direction, or even has the talent for such a career. Yes, well, that is true. Is it really a solution to deny the necessary education to those who need it, because others do not want it? I find that unacceptable, don't you?