As a secondary teacher with 30 years of experience, I recognize the "new" Connected Math Program in Maryland [front page, Oct. 17] as an old idea wrapped in new jargon. Connected math reminds me of the Dewey approach used in my Mississippi laboratory school classroom in the late 1940s. My "group" made a model house to scale out of cardboard when mastering the concept of proportion. We also painted our fifth-grade classroom after figuring out how much paint we needed to cover the walls. But we still memorized multiplication tables and learned to do long division -- without calculators.

The crux of the problem is not "new" programs. The problem is the attitude that there is only one way to approach any field of learning. Nothing is wrong with "connected math," and nothing is wrong with mastering the multiplication tables and long division either.

Good teachers know this and vary their approaches -- excuse me, "strategies." However, supervisors still jump on the latest educational bandwagons and condemn teachers who do not comply 100 percent with the "whole language" approach or the "cooperative learning" model or the "connected math" program.

MILDRED STEWART MENNARD

Reston

I read the Oct. 17 front-page article, "Divided on Connected Math," with some bewilderment. But that bewilderment rapidly turned to disgust. Connected Math is just more snake oil from the education establishment. While I applaud the notion that students should enjoy learning math and understand how it is used, I do not see how that justifies a fancy new name for teaching math.

Our schools are not failing to teach students math because they are not using the latest teaching gimmicks. We have a people problem. Our schools do not make enough effort to hire enough people who understand math and want to make it interesting and relevant. At the same time, private industry wants these people badly and offers them exciting work and top dollar.

Instead of operating our schools as socialist money pits, we should turn them into private enterprises. Private schools do whatever it takes to hire competent teachers. Private schools allow parents choices. When parents have a choice, they take their children to a school where teachers know how to teach math. Private schools that do not hire teachers who know how to teach math are soon out of business.

RICHARD T. SALMON

Gainesville