from Making Schools Work School-by-School reform:

[Hedrick] Smith: Okay. Does KIPP have a fifth grade math curriculum?

[Mike] Feinberg: No, KIPP does not have a fifth grade math curriculum; it has a fifth grade math philosophy, it has a fifth grade math scope and sequence but not a curriculum. We realized early on that trying to view the solution as reinventing the wheel and creating a brand new curriculum didn't make a lot of sense. There're a lot of smart people in this country who've already spent a lot of time working on what is good curriculum at first grade, fifth grade and ninth grade. The issue is not that we don't have good curriculum; the issue is that we're not getting the kids to learn it.

Smith: But what's that all about then, getting the kids to learn?

Feinberg: Getting the kids to master the material.

Smith: No, I understand that but what's the key to that? If the curriculum is reasonably good, then what's the key?

Feinberg: Instructional delivery, being very good at teaching in front of the room, very good at using those resources. Being very good at assessing the students and where they are and re-teaching and whatever, doing whatever is necessary to get the kids to really, truly master the material.

You know, talk about curriculum, if I put in front of you a fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade textbook in math and opened up to page 200 and I jumbled them up, and said, “order them from fifth through eighth grade in order,” you'd have a very tough time because they all look the same. That's because, unfortunately, we have this national strategy of “we're not really going to teach to master, we're going to teach to exposure and over lots and lots of years of kids seeing page 200 in the math book, eventually somehow they're going to learn it. We're going to teach them how to reduce fractions in fifth grade, in sixth grade, in seventh grade, in eighth grade, in ninth grade and continue until finally somehow magically they're going to get it.” Instead of thinking, “let's teach the kids how to reduce fractions at a mastery level in fifth grade, maybe spend a little time reviewing it in sixth grade but let's move on to pre-algebra and let's move on to algebra then.” And that's been our take and so it's not that we have a different math curriculum as much as we have a different math strategy and a different math philosophy.

the semiotics of PBS

This passage tells you why the media continues to carry articles on the need for progressive education to replace ineffective traditional practices:

[Feinberg]: The issue is not that we don't have good curriculum; the issue is that we're not getting the kids to learn it.

Smith: But what's that all about then, getting the kids to learn?

Feinberg: Getting the kids to master the material.

Smith: No, I understand that but what's the key to that? If the curriculum is reasonably good, then what's the key?

The interviewer, whose company produced this program, does not know that teaching to mastery is a practice unique to a handful of schools like KIPP.

Nor is he aware of the term "spiral curriculum" and its meaning.

The number of education writers in this country who know and understand these terms is very small. Jay Mathews, Andrew Wolf, Linda Seebach in Colorado, Debra Saunders in California....

What names am I missing?

Levin co-authored KIPP Math, a comprehensive fifth- through eighth-grade math curriculum that culminates in students completing a two-year high-school Algebra I course by the end of eighth grade.

So now I've heard 3 things about KIPP Math:

- they use Saxon Math
- they combine Saxon Math with Everyday Math
- they have a new constructivist teacher who invented her own curriculum in just one school year
- David Levin wrote "Kipp Math"

I'm thinking "KIPP Math" is probably a scope and sequence, not a curriculum.

Everything else is probably true.

The common thread is teaching math to mastery.

## 12 comments:

"Feinberg: Getting the kids to master the material."

In the old days, mastery was requierd, but the only systematic method used was grades. If you didn't master enough, you went to summer school or stayed back a year. This was a great motivator; maybe not the best, but it worked.

The problem was that a passing grade was no guarantee of enough mastery. You could move on to the next grade, but the chance for enough mastery dropped each year.

If I understand correctly, programs like Kumon try to define "enough mastery" for each topic. You can't move on until you've reached that point. (kind of like requiring an 'A' before you can go on to the next topic) Does anyone know what KIPP does? The key ingredient is how they decide when a student is ready to move on.

For reform math, they've decided that "deep" conceptual understanding, rather than mastery (drill and kill), is more important. Mastery requires hard work; hard work is a filter; they don't like filters; Ergo, no linkage. Spiraling allows them to ignore mastery but say that mastery will come over time.

"Spiraling allows them to ignore mastery but say that mastery will come over time."

Yes.

TRAILBLAZERS says this explicitly: kids will reach proficiency in math facts through using them a lot in class. Any direct memorization will be done at home, with parent's help.

Incidental learning is good; direct memorization is bad.

In fact, direct memorization is probably the least efficient mode of committing material to memory; Saxon does almost none of it. (I haven't used Saxon with the math facts; I dont' know how he handles them.)

Hirsch says that constructivism always leads directly back to drill and kill, because constructivism doesn't work. So constructivist schools and teachers, facing the state tests, panic and start in with drill - exactly like what happened with Lynn's child.

I've started to think of this kind of memorization not as "rote memorization," but as "brute memorization."

OK, the kids didn't get this through incidental learning and practice; let's tell the parents to make them memorize the stuff.

Here's a list; memorize it.

The proper way to help kids move this material into long-term memory seems to be to "pre-chunk" it for them--group separate math facts into one big unified math fact that can be memorized as a unit. (Not sure that's the way to put it....)

I'll have to copy Parker and Baldridge's section on teaching math facts.

They don't call what they do "pre-chunking," but that's what it is.

Apparently our K-5 schools have been sending home completely unrelated math facts and asking parents to have their kids memorize each one separately.

Makes memorization that much harder.

In KUMON you don't move on until you have master - I think that in other countries mastery may be defined as 100% correct, which isn't right.

KUMON here has clear standards for mastery.

Unfortunately, a friend of mine has a child who's gotten stuck.

She's very bright & loves math, but she's too slow on the KUMON tests so they won't let her go on. She keeps having to do the same level.

The mom was going to ask if they could move on anyway - don't know what the answer was.

I have no idea what to think about that.

The KUMON motto is "speed and accuracy," which of course makes sense.

I suspect this child was going for perfect accuracy at the expense of speed....

"I suspect this child was going for perfect accuracy at the expense of speed...."

You can tell your friend's child that for all of math and programming I do, accuracy is very much more important than speed. Speed may be good for the times table, but after that, the emphasis on speed should diminish - within reason, of course. I also detest math competitions that are based on speed.

Steve -

Thanks; that's good to hear.

KUMON's tests are all timed, and they're pretty demanding.

I thought I was going to flunk one of them, though I ended up doing OK.

You have to take the tests in a very noisy, distracting room, too. I forgot to drink my coffee one morning when I took one; I was in a

daze.It's a miracle I made it through that thing.

You have to take the tests in a very noisy, distracting room, too. I forgot to drink my coffee one morning when I took one; I was in a dazeI’ll have to remember that for my 9-year old daughter. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures!

Our pediatrician, who is a perfect fit for us, once told me with a straight face that perhaps a little vodka in the bottle would help with my first-born’s crying episodes. And, of course, the next part of this advice was for mom to take the bottle!

The proper way to help kids move this material into long-term memory seems to be to "pre-chunk" it for them--group separate math facts into one big unified math fact that can be memorized as a unit. (Not sure that's the way to put it....)Saxon math starts with 7 days in one week, 14 days in 2 weeks, etc. They will keep practicing up to 10 weeks. They use a calendar as a tool. My daughter easily learned her times tables this way after struggling with flash cards and whatever else they were doing in her school.

OK, the kids didn't get this through incidental learning and practice; let's tell the parents to make them memorize the stuff.The flash cards were recommended by the teacher after all the “exposure” in class failed to teach my daughter her multiplication tables.

TexIf you feel like writing a post about this, that would be great.

"Brute memorization" is probably the single worst way to commit material to memory.

Constructivist educators all know this, but since they don't value knowledge and memory they don't use the efficient and effective modes of committing material to memory.

Their solution to the problem of state tests is:

* have the parents make their kids memorize math facts

* incidental learning (TRAILBLAZERS)

Wasn't there a blurb recently about a calculus professor who could predict which students would get the A's based on a first day algebra test. The A students weren't the ones who necessarily got the answers right, but the ones who got the answers right as quickly as they could write them.

That's interesting.

I didn't write it - I wonder if rightwingprof did & I missed it?

I need to read his posts on formalism and commit them to memory.

That's the struggle I'm having with Christopher now.

One of them.

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