kitchen table math, the sequel: You won't believe this. No really.

Friday, March 2, 2007

You won't believe this. No really.

An unsuspecting reader of the Columbia Tribune sent in this question to the paper's education expert:

Q: I have a 5-year-old daughter, and I keep hearing about the way math is taught now. I am afraid I will not understand it.

Why is this stirring so much controversy?

The answer is so over the top I'm still not completely sure it's not a parody. (Beware extreme educrat opinions expressed as fact. You've been warned):

A: Change in education is hard. But if business resisted change like education does, we would do accounting like Henry Ford: This bag of money is what came in. This other bag of money is what goes out.

So why is change so hard in education? Change is uncomfortable. Change causes us to feel unsettled. But often change is worth it.

The math we call "investigations" helps young children and older students have a better understanding of math. Isn’t that what should happen?

The mystery is being taken out of math. Is that bad? I think not.

Young children are manipulating objects to help them understand that 2+2=4. They do not memorize, but they actually understand the problem.

Then, as children get older, they learn several different methods of doing long division. These are not the same as the one most of us used, but you can more easily understand how to arrive at the answer.

Math is more than just getting the right answer, just as reading is more than saying the correct words. Understanding has to be a component of both math and reading.

When reading instruction became more meaning-centered in kindergarten and first grade, parents and others feared phonics was being neglected. Phonics was still being taught, but comprehension was no longer ignored in the primary grades.

Change in any subject area is not easy for parents. When parents learn one way and their children learn another, confusion is likely.

Parents must be given the opportunity to learn the new concept through parent meetings, observing in their children’s classroom or through written information. But parents need to have an open mind and give the new method a try. They need to refrain from thinking that the way they learned is the only way.

Research is done in education just as it is in medicine. Would parents want their children to have only the medical care they had available when they were children? Certainly not.

So why do parents fear and dislike change in education?

When your daughter enters kindergarten, ask questions about math. Go observe your daughter’s classroom. Tell her teacher you are interested in how math is taught. Then do that every year. This might make a great difference in the understanding of the changes in math.

Parents should have a handbook available to them at each grade level so they can help their children with math homework. To keep costs down, parents who want the book could pay the amount that the printing costs the school for each book.

Parents need to be positive about how their children are learning math. Parents should not dig in their heels and say, "This method is no good because it is not the way I learned math."

An open mind, reading about math and listening to the explanation about the way it is taught can do wonders for parents.

Sweet Fancy Moses.

11 comments:

SteveH said...

I believe it. I've heard it before. They believe it. They are just so sure of themselves. It's all quite incredible. It comes out of their mouths. It doesn't seem to bother them that they know very little math.

Barry Garelick said...

Research is done in education just as it is in medicine. Would parents want their children to have only the medical care they had available when they were children? Certainly not.

I think this was talked about here:
http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/2007/02/educators-arent-doctors.html

SusanS said...

So, it's just a "who-moved-my-cheese" problem for parents.

Instructivist said...

"Change in education is hard."

It's hard to bring about change leading to quality education. It's easy to bring about change leading to educrap, Mr. education expert.

Advocating change for change's sake is also moronic. There must be good reasons for change. Those good reasons are certainly not provided by the bulk of what passes for "research". "Research" done in a vacuum is also moronic. Good research must try to answer questions that fit into some ideas of what is desirable. There must be well-articulated goals to be reached and the pathways to these goals must be shown. There is no agreement on desirable goals in education. The "research shows..." crowd would dismiss one of the goals of education that I would consider desirable (being a knowledgeable person) as seeking "superficial knowledge".

Comparing educrap research to medical research, as this expert does, is also moronic. Medical research tries to be scientific (even though there is also a fair amount of sensational fluff), whereas most ed research is mired in edufog.

Catherine Johnson said...

So why do parents fear and dislike change in education?

I know the answer to this one!

Because it's always the wrong change!

Catherine Johnson said...

Go observe your daughter’s classroom

Good idea!

I would be happy to do that.

If I were allowed inside my child's classroom.

Which I'm not.

Catherine Johnson said...

Then do that every year

ditto

not allowed inside the classroom

locked out

Tex said...

The questioner says: “I am afraid I will not understand it.”

This reminds me of the advice I’ve received here and elsewhere about how parents should not use this argument for opposing constructivist math. Positioning it like this leaves the door wide open for the type of moronic response shown here.

Catherine Johnson said...

Here's the author bio:

Joycelin Brown Hulett, Ph.D., is an educational consultant and has been an elementary teacher and a principal. She was language arts consultant for 17 years with Columbia Public Schools. Send questions to Hulett in care of the Tribune, P.O. Box 798, Columbia, Mo., 65205, or e-mail them to editor@tribmail.com.

note: her specialty is language arts

not math

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm persistently hitting the theme, now, that administrators need to "choose their battles."

Do you really want to spend the next 6 years fighting parents over TERC/Everyday Math/Trailblazers?

Catherine Johnson said...

An open mind, reading about math and listening to the explanation about the way it is taught can do wonders for parents.

Tax revolts are good, too.