Ten is a good number notes a problem with mathematical education in the US:
In 2000, the state with students with the best mathematics proficiency percentage was Minnesota with 40%. That means that the best we could do in 2000 was 60% of 8-graders unable to apply mathematics to real-life problems. This is a sorry state of affairs.
He goes on to list many disturbing statistics that show just how innumerate most people end up. Towards the end, he adds a link to the sorry state of textbook production, implying that this is the biggest problem.
It might be the biggest problem. However, it's not the main reason (IMHO) that students end up having no practical mathematical skills. Let me run through the laundry list that I have:
- Calculators introduced in third grade
- No emphasis at all on basic computation skills
- An over-reliance on amorphous "computer skills"
I was very upset to find the local schools having the kids use calculators as early as third grade. Most students hadn't memorized basic multiplication (or even addition) facts; the school system seemed to think that "dull", and just handed out calculators. My wife and I had to do the drill work ourselves. Now sure, in "real life" you'll always have access to a calculator. But if you can't do basic computation, a lot of high school and college level math is really tedious. Go out and test anyone who's in their 20's (or younger) to get a feel for just how bad it is - now consider how they are going to make sense of whether a given sales price is of any value. If they can't do that, then they certainly can't make sense of political debate centered around budget figures.
What we've got is a completely innumerate voting population - which is every bit as dangerous as an illiterate one. It's not taken seriously though - do you ever see anyone making light of not being able to read in a movie or TV show? How many characters do you see saying "I'm no good at math" - or, on the other hand, why is it that most of the mathematically literate characters are portrayed as complete losers?
So yes, the way textbooks are prepared is a problem. There are simpler problems though, and yes: I'm willing to lay this one directly at the feet of the schools and the teachers. They know full well what they aren't teaching in this area, and there's no good reason for it.