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Ellicott City Math Man Wants a Focus on Technology in School Board

David Gertler is running for the Howard County Board of Education for the second time.

Graduation and summer break is still months away, but Howard County Board of Education candidate David Gertler hopes students won't be the only ones doing their homework over the next few weeks and months.

This is Gertler's second time running for the board, but he explains his electoral philosophy in anecdotes.

"Last election, I was standing outside a high school handing out my fliers to people. Some of them would take the flier, look at it for a few seconds and then hand it back. On the way out, some of them would point to me and say, 'I voted for you!'"

While he appreciates the votes, Gertler says he wishes people didn't rely on gimmicks or name recognition to make voting decisions.

Every so often, while he was standing outside that polling place, someone would pass by him, refusing to talk because they had already made their decisions.

"I was saying 'Thank you' to those people for actually doing their homework before they showed up to vote," Gertler recently told Patch.

Gertler, a New York transplant, moved to Howard County more than 20 years ago as a krypto mathematician–commonly known as a code breaker–for Fort Meade. He and his wife live in Ellicott City and have had two children in the Howard County Public School System.

Gertler has four degrees, including an MBA from University of Pennsylvania. From there, he began advising Fortune 500 companies on technology investments. Currently, he owns Kryptocore, a technology consulting business, doing just that out of the comfort of his own home.

This focus on mathematics and technology carries over into his philosophy of where he envisions his involvement on the board of education.

"To me, the thought that education is static is a complete fallacy," Gertler said.

He compares the progression from the abacus to the slide ruler and then onto the digital calculator as an example of how the evolution of teaching is nothing new.

In order to maintain a high level of success, Gertler says teachers and administrators must constantly be looking toward ways to improve the curricula–from incorporating new technology to reassessing the value of foundational subjects like mathematical log tables, which have been scrapped since he was a kid.

"Yeah, there's a little bit of loss, because kids don't know how to do log tables anymore…but they don't need that," says Gertler.

He says time spent on learning the intermediary task of creating log tables, for example, is time that could be spent understanding more advanced mathematical concepts with the assistance of a calculator or computer.

But Gertler also says technology will help revolutionize how teachers do their jobs, by making more time for individualized teaching and assessment. A key to that is reducing the amount of time teachers spend doing administrative work–also known as not teaching.

"Think about that–learning at home, learning at a distance, interacting, collaboration, tests that grade themselves, feedback that's individualized to students," Gertler said, listing what he said were examples of the possibilities of teaching with technology. "I think we are just so early in terms of what education is going to look like."

Gertler was one of three challengers recently endorsed by the Howard County Education Association.

bill bissenas March 16, 2012 at 06:47 PM
The first thing Mr. Gertler should do is a mathematical analysis of education spending in Howard County vs. comparable counties nationwide to determine the appropriate level of education spending in Howard County.
Jack March 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM
"Yeah, there's a little bit of loss, because kids don't know how to do log tables anymore…but they don't need that," says Gertler." There is American Math Forum in New York I would like to see Mr. Gertler loin this group and discuss the "they don't need that" aspect and see how well it goes over.
Jack March 17, 2012 at 05:51 AM
I pulled this from Howardpubliced to give readers a place to start understanding what goes on in our math class Call Bill Barnes, coordinator of secondary mathematics at HCPSS. I first heard the statistic from him in a presentation on the Race to the Top initiative on Sept 21, 2010. He said that 25% of all HCPSS graduates (almost 1000 students) enter Howard Community College. Of those, over half are required to take remedial math. This is not just a problem in Howard County, but for all of Maryland. Read "More Remedial Math" by Jerome Dancis, a professor at the University of Maryland at College Park: http://www.facultyvoice.umd.edu/All%20past%20issues/2009-2010/FV_V23_N3.pdf. He points out that only 1/3 of MD high school graduates have enough math to enroll in STEM courses in college. The cause of the problem appears to be changes in the curriculum of Algebra 1 when the HSA tests were introduced. Read: http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/2639. The curriculum switched from the traditional Algebra 1 (factoring polynomials, exponents, radicals) to data analysis which is not the basis for the upper level math courses or the sciences. It appears the UMBC's president (Freeman Hrabowski) also agrees: http://www-users.math.umd.edu/~jnd/On.MD.MAA%20.htm
edb March 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Thank you Jack for citing the 2 articles. This is the reason my children will continue with Mathnasium tutoring throughout their school years. Sitting in Mathnasium with my 2 elem. age children it is truly sad to see the middle/high school students who can't calculate fractions, use percentages and decimals yet are taking Algebra I and II classes. These articles confirm my gut feelings about the current Math program (or lack of) in HCPSS.
Brook Hubbard March 25, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I support David Gertler. 1) He has shown common sense severely lacking from BoE and County Council during past incidents (such as Turner's proposal for appointed members). 2) He encourages a broad focus on all subjects, not just those necessary to pass state standards. In addition, Gertler encourages teaching of application, not just information, educating children on how to use knowledge in the real world. 3) He has a broad view that recognizes education concerns for what they are, rather than what the media or mass panic suggests. Gertler brings critical thinking to concerns like achievement gaps and redistricting. 4) He looks to the future and use of technologies to not only encourage education but also to help with costs. Gertler also recognizes issues that may surround the use of modern technology in schools.

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