Dennis DeTurck, an award-winning mathematics professor, who is now dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks so. DeTurck, who favors teaching elementary students decimals in lieu of fractions, stirred the debate first with a short speech a few years ago that found its way into the blogosphere, and now with a book to be published next year. But some educators disagree: "Arithmetic is the basic skill. If children do not know arithmetic, they can't go on to algebra, which leads to calculus," said George Andrews, a Pennsylvania State University math professor and president-elect of the American Mathematical Society.

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