kitchen table math, the sequel: The root cause

Friday, September 28, 2007

The root cause

(Cross-posted at D-Ed Reckoning)

One persistent problem in education is the ambiguous teacher presentation. A presentation is ambiguous when it can be interpreted in more than one way by a student. Since we know that children differ in their ability to learn, it should not be surprising that some of them will interpret an ambiguous presentation incorrectly. And, more often than not, it will be the less smart kids that will tend to make the most misinterpretations.

Here's an example of the typical ambiguous teacher presentation from Engelmann's book Your Child Can Succeed from 1969.


"Look at what I have," the teacher says, holding up a card that illustrates a red ball. The teacher then points to various cards on the floor in front of six four-year-olds. "who can find a card that is the same color as this card?"

The little boy next to Andy holds up a card with a yellow ball on it. A little girl picks up three cards and puts one of them into her mouth.

Andy looks at the teacher for a moment before returning his attention to his shoelaces.

"Listen, boys and girls. I want you to find a card that is the same color as the card that I have here."

Two of the children hold up the cards that they have selected. A girl shows two cards. None is identical to the teacher's.

Apparently unperturbed, the teacher picks up a card with a picture of a red apple. "This card is the same color as the other card that I have. Andy, look at the cards. Andy . . ."

Andy looks tentatively at the teacher. He doesn't look at the
cards. Instead, he looks intently at her face, trying to figure out her game.

"Andy," she continues, "look at the two cards. They are the same color, aren't they?"

Without removing his stare from her face, Andy nods yes.

The teacher says, "And what color are the ball and the apple?"

"Re . . ." a little girl shouts.

"Re . . ."two other children mimic.

The teacher says, "They are red, aren't they, Andy?"

Andy nods yes.

"Can you find something else that is red?" the teacher asks.

Andy looks at his shoes. He then points cautiously in the direction of three or four cards.

"Is one of these red?" the teacher asks.

Andy nods and says, "Yeh," almost inaudibly.

The teacher picks up a card that displays another red apple.

"This is red, isn't it?" she says. "Were you pointing to this
card?"

Andy glances quickly at the card and then back to the teacher's
face. He nods yes.

"Leon," the teacher says, "what color is this?"

"Re . . . " Leon says loudly with his hands over his ears.

The teacher then holds up a card showing a green evergreen tree." And what color is this?"

"Re . . . " Leon says.

"Re . . . " one of the little girls says.

"Re . . . " Andy says.

Has the teacher actually taught anything through this activity? Was it possible for the teacher's presentation to teach all of the children? It seems that the teacher assumed that the children understood the concept of "color" when they did not. This might be an assumption in a middle-class school. But, it probably is not a safe assumption in a "poverty" school. But let's forget about the children's abilities for a moment and focus on the concept of color that the teacher was trying to teach and see if her presentation was capable of teaching it to a very intelligent being who didn't happen to know what red meant. Engelmann continues:

Since red is the same for all people, it is reasonable to begin with a simple analysis of the concept to see what it is that all people must learn about red. Red is a visual property. It is not dependent on the size of the object or on the object's position, shape, or texture. The first requirement of a demonstration designed to teach red, therefore, would be that the demonstration make it clear that red has only to do with that visual property of redness. Andy's teacher did not satisfy this requirement. All of the red objects were round, implying that red may have something to do with shape. Therefore, we could expect that a being with superior intelligence might come away from the teaching demonstration confused about the meaning of red. Specifically, this being might show us through his behavior that he thinks that red is another word for round object or that red is something that only applies to two-dimensional objects on a card.

Since the presentation would not be consistently capable of teaching a naive being with superior intelligence, maybe Andy, Leon, and some of the other children are not completely at fault for not learning from the demonstration. Maybe they would have responded well to a demonstration that carefully showed what red means. We can't make any clean assertions about the problems the children might have had, but it seems presumptuous to declare that the children ... should have been able to extract the appropriate interpretation from the teacher's presentation even if it was not logically possible to do so.


It is difficult to explain the difference between a demonstration that will teach and one that won't. So, Engelmann makes up an example that adults can better relate to since adults understand the concept of color.


Let's say that a teacher presented each of these objects:



The teacher says that each is a "glerm."

Next, the teacher presents this object and asks you if it is a glerm:



The response of virtually any child or adult would be "Yes."

Now the teacher presents this object and asks if it is glerm:





We cannot predict what your response will be. If we present the task to thirty different people, we can predict that over half of them will say, "Yes, it's a glerm." The others will say, "No, it is not a glerm."

In any case, some who respond will fail the task. The response of those that fail, however, is a reasonable response. Both responses are consistent with the presentation of the objects. One person might interpret the presentation this way: "The teacher showed a group of objects. All were rectangles and all were called glerms. Then the teacher presented another rectangle and asked if it was a glerm. I said, 'Yes.'"

Another person might interpret the presentation this way: "All of the initial objects were vertical. It seemed more than accidental that they were all vertical. The teacher then presented a rectangle that was not vertical and asked if it was a glerm. I said, 'No.'"



Now imagine that glerm did in fact mean vertical, but you thought, quite reasonably, that glerm meant rectangle. What happens when the teacher starts teaching more advanced material that relies on the concept of glerm and uses the word "glerm" in later presentations to describe the glerminess of objects? Do you think your ability to learn these advanced concepts might become more difficult because your understanding of glerm is wrong?

What is education but a series ambiguous teacher presentations designed to teach increasingly difficult concepts. Sooner or later someone is going to label an understanding of these advanced concepts "higher order thinking" and your inability to engage in this "higher order thinking" is eventually going to get you labelled a dummy or worse. Is it true that you're incapable of engaging in higher order thinking or is it simply that you lack the understanding of a bunch of prerequisite lower-order concepts, like "glerm," that prevents you from engaging in higher order thinking? We don't know, but that won't stop us from theorizing about your deficiencies.

Some people will notice that you and people like you tend to have lower IQs. People with low IQs tend to have a difficult time engaging in the kind of abstract problem solving that is needed to tease out and synthesize the correct concepts from the thousands of ambiguously presented concepts, both in and out of the classroom, one needs to understand in order to become "educated." Your low IQ will become a severe burden in becoming educated and will ultimately be a brutal predictor of your academic success under such less than ideal learning conditions.

Other people will notice that you and people like you tended not to have the kind of parents that made sure that you entered formal education knowing what the typical middle-class kid is expected to know. This is because teachers base their presentations on the typical middle-class child. That's why the hypothetical teacher's presentation of red in the beginning of the post would tend to convey the concept of redness to a typical middle-class kid who came into school with an understanding of the concept of color and probably already understood the concept of red. It's also why the presentation would almost certainly fail to teach the concept of red to a child who does not understand the concept of color in the first place. This is one reason why balanced literacy/ whole language finds some success with kids who come into school with a good understanding of the alphabetic principle, with good phoneme aware, and some rudimentary phonics skills. Same goes for fuzzy math.

Others will notice that having good parents correlates with academic success. Good parents make sure the child goes to school on a regular basis, well fed and ready to learn. Good parents also tend to monitor their child's academic progress and will ensure that the child understands imperfectly presented concepts and will help the child learn these concepts outside of school (reteaching or hiring a tutor if necessary). In short, good parents will maximize a student's likelihood of academic success and will make sure the student successfully navigates the shoals of choppy academic waters.

Others will notice that having a good teacher, say a hero teacher, also correlates highly with academic success. Maybe the hero teacher is able to present a better academic presentation that is less likely to induce wrong interpretations. Perhaps the hero teacher is better at monitoring student progress and ensuring that students are understanding the right concepts. Maybe the hero teacher is a good motivator of students and is able to keep the student motivated while he struggles to learn the concepts he is expected to learn. Maybe the hero teacher is able to act as a substitute for bad, uncaring, or incapable parents. Hero teachers tend to have some or all of these skills which correlate highly with academic success.

Lastly, others will focus on your motivation. More specifically, they will notice your lack of motivation to learn. It is the rare child that enters kindergarten unmotivated to learn and it is the rare child that leaves fifth grade motivated to learn unless that child has experienced academic success in the ensuing six years. Clearly, something inside the school environment went horribly wrong from a motivation standpoint during this time, yet for some reason motivational problems rarely get blamed on schools. Perhaps it's because elementary schools are quite adept at labelling students to excuse their inability to learn from the ambiguous teacher presentations. You didn't learn because you are learning disabled, brain damaged, not ready to learn, have a different learning style, and the like. Eventually, however, middle school and high school teachers will notice this lack of motivation to learn. They didn't see the six years of academic abuse that was experienced in elementary school. But, they do see that the students are unmotivated in their class. These students lack the gumption and drive needed to not only remedy all their past academic deficiencies but to also engage in the same punishing presentations that have failed them in the past. Should the student have the Sisyphean motivation to do the work now, the student's likely reward will be to graduate at the bottom of the class with real skills far below grade level. That's quite the plum. Some students may be dull, but you're not stupid.

Here are a few recent posts from some teacher blogs venting because their classrooms are full of unmotivated and/or disruptive students. (Make sure you read the comments.) I do sympathize with these teachers. They find themselves in an impossible situation, the direct result of bad school policies enacted to deal with students their schools have been unable to successfully teach. I'm not quite sure any tenth grade teacher is capable of teaching tenth grade material to a classroom full of students with skills ranging from 3rd to 12th grade, to give but one example.

But do notice the reasons these teachers are giving as to why some students aren't learning in their classrooms. It's usually one of the following: it's the students fault, the student's parents' fault, society's fault, or some other excuse external to the school environment. Sometimes, it'll be a school specific factor that is other than an instructional factor. More funding and smaller classrooms are the usual recommended cures despite the fact that both of these panaceas have a long history of not living up to the research base they supposedly have. At least not in the real world. Occasionally, a teacher will question his teaching ability and the ability of the string of teachers that have profoundly affected the students before they got to his classroom. But that questioning is usually fleeting and generally doesn't result in any teacher changing what they are doing instructionally. At least not in a way that improves instruction except in the most superficial of ways. Things have not really changed on an instructional level since Engelmann penned his passage on glerms nearly 40 years ago.


While the "glerm" example may seem far removed from the classroom situation, the "glerm" format is perfectly analogous to the one that the naive child encounters in the classroom. The teacher says a strange or unfamiliar word. She then gives an example that illustrates the word. She may say the word red and present an object that is an example for red, perhaps a picture of a red apple. "See? It's red," she says. And from this kind of demonstration the child is supposed to figure out what red means, just as you had to figure out what glerm means. The child must try to figure out whether the word red means an apple, something shiny, something the teacher is holding, the color of the object, or the position, or whether simply a word that the teacher uses arbitrarily.

Since any of these interpretations is consistent with the teacher's presentation, we shouldn't conclude that the child is "slow" for selecting a wrong interpretation. The labeling should be deferred until the teacher has provided a presentation that is far less ambiguous.


It does not follow from:

bad instruction + one or more external factors = academic failure

that

academic failure is caused by the one or more external factors.

especially since

good instruction + one or more external factors = academic success (at least in some cases)

As Engelmann suggests, let's save the excuse making until we clean up our instructional act.

38 comments:

Catherine Johnson said...

As Engelmann suggests, let's save the excuse making until we clean up our instructional act.

yes

SteveH said...

Great post Ken.

I've said in the past that many teachers think that the problem of education is defined by what walks into their classroom. As kids get older, it's very easy to blame the kids and external causes.


"As Engelmann suggests, let's save the excuse making until we clean up our instructional act."

Unfortunately, this is done by trying to bring more kids up to very low cut-off levels. I'll call this the guess-and-check approach to educational improvement.

This reminds me of students trying to fix a computer program that has many different internal errors. The errors interact and produce all sorts of odd results. There are no clear cause and effect relationships. Invariably, students try to fix the program by changing something and looking at the results. The program might be fixed in one area, but the fix might cause a problem in another location. This happens because they don't take the time to really understand what is going on in the code line by line. Things change, but they don't really know why.

A lot of research abhors individual anecdotes. It's almost a dirty word. However, by performing a detailed analysis of individual cases, one really understands what's going on. You see a direct connection between cause and effect. Fixing this problem won't fix all of your problems, but it is a necessary step in the process.

Statistics hides problems. It's a process of reducing large amounts of data (many errors) into a more manageable amount. In doing so, information (problems) can be lost or confused. You might think you know what's going on, but you don't. If you want to understand why some kids are successful and some are not, you have to analyze a lot of individual cases. You aren't looking for one error and one solution. You're looking for many.

Why do so many educators try to find the "one thing", like better teacher preparation, that will solve the problem?

Guess and check.

Mr. Person said...

Perfect analogy, Steve.

KarenA said...

Just chiming in to agree--Ken's post is indeed a great post.

Steve--your discussions and analyses of the problems with programs like Everyday Math are so beneficial. You not only state what the problems are, but you explain why it is that this approach will lead to deficiencies later on for most students.

concernedCTparent said...

Steve needs a blog!

KarenA said...

"Steve needs a blog!"

I agree! I find myself sometimes thinking that I could almost bring myself to take a math course with Steve as the teacher. : )

Catherine Johnson said...

What are you talking about, people???!!!

Steve does not need a blog!!!

Steve needs to write MANY, MANY POSTS FOR KTM!!!!

Ken, too.

AND THE REST OF YOU!

Catherine Johnson said...

That said, Steve definitely needs a blog.

Catherine Johnson said...

Seriously, though, I've been keeping a list of Steve's comments to re-post up front, where we can find them.

I'm probably missing some, but I've got quite a few. (Looking at the list on the side, I see only TWO comments by Steve -- that's not good. I'm going to have to find the missing ones.)

SusanS said...

What Catherine said!! At first, I mean. NO BlOG for STEVE!

What can you people be thinking??

We'll lose him forever! He'll drop by once in a while. I'll have to click on another blog. Have you no pity?

I won't know what to say to teachers and administrators!

I will be at a distinct rhetorical disadvantage and, well, it is all about me.

KarenA said...

SusanS--You make a very good point about Steve providing us with the language to use against the proponents of the fuzzy math programs.

It would be great to have his comments and thoughts organized and accessible and made available in some format, particularly as to the flaws with Everyday Math.

Catherine Johnson said...

Clicking on another blog is my issue.

Definitely.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think I'm developing blog agoraphobia.

Can't get out of the kitchen.

Catherine Johnson said...

This brings up an important issue, though, which is that we've got far too many Memorable Comments buried in Comments, which can't be searched.

Hey--it strikes me that anyone can put a good Comment up front.

Maybe everyone should just start doing so.

I'm just not going to get to my list, and I probably miss comments from time to time (not many, but I'm sure there are some....)

SteveH said...

Why do I need a blog if I have KTM? Catherine does all of the work and I can chime in (or not) whenever I want.

To some extent, I am preaching to the choir (except for recent long threads at MathNotations). After studying this for 7 years my goal is to get other parents up to speed faster.

concernedCTparent said...

KTM is kinda like Grand Central. I can get just about anywhere that matters right from here. That said, Steve's stuff needs to be upfront and searchable.

Mr. Person said...

Why do I need a blog if I have KTM? Catherine does all of the work and I can chime in (or not) whenever I want.

Chiming in whenever (or not) you want is not a position.

And, dude, you HAVE a position. Why keep it bottled up in "reaction"? How's about ACTION?

And, well, I've only been following this site for two years, but I can tell you, given my expert insight into the written personality, that there is some angst--some SERIOUS angst--in this message:

Steve needs to write MANY, MANY POSTS FOR KTM!!!!

Ken, too.

AND THE REST OF YOU!


There are 50+ "contributors" to this site. Yet, as of this moment, there are 32 posts on the front page--nearly two thirds of them authored by Catherine (including some while she was on vacation).

The other third belong to a total of about 7 people (some of which were cross-posted).

C'mon, Steve!

Tex said...

I will be at a distinct rhetorical disadvantage and, well, it is all about me.

Me too! You don’t want to know how many times I’ve used the cut & paste feature on Steve’s comments.

Wasn’t there a recent post about plagiarism? But, it’s not plagiarism if it’s just an email to the board, right?

SusanS said...

Lol, Tex! We'll never tell.

I have my own Steve folder. I have a Doug folder, too. I could have many folders from everyone around here.

Catherine Johnson said...

A couple of things....

First of all, preaching to the choir is important. Believe it or not, this is something I've thought about pretty often, sometimes in terms of journalism & its role.

The fact is, the choir needs preaching to. We need to be reminded of what we know; we need content experts to refresh our memories. (For this reason, I've re-read Barry's A-Maze-Ing Math article several times, and I need to re-read the Singapore Math article. I've also re-read Willingham's articles.)

The second issue, which is getting other parents up to speed **fast**, is extremely important...and the way to do this best continues to elude me.

I have a "Greatest Hits" category that is a start on this, but no one knows what it is or where it is, etc.

At a minimum, it means we need to have a category of "Comment Keepers" (and, actually, that's not a bad name - what do you think?)

One other thing: I am now faced with this issue in my own political life here in my own district. I think that's all I'll say specifically, other than to add that my challenge is to "boil it all down," to "find the basic principle" (a Temple Grandin line), and to communicate that basic principle to people who want to know what it is and don't have 3 years of their lives to spend thinking about these things.


To some extent, I am preaching to the choir (except for recent long threads at MathNotations). After studying this for 7 years my goal is to get other parents up to speed faster

Catherine Johnson said...

Wasn’t there a recent post about plagiarism? But, it’s not plagiarism if it’s just an email to the board, right?

Tex raises an important point.

A few years back, Ed and I staged an intervention at the NIH, when we discovered that my 7 years of full-time work on the board of NAAR (National Alliance for Autism Research) had resulted in the NIH systematically defunding behavioral researchers and "transferring" their money to brain researchers.

(This is not the way the NIH would see it, obviously. But in fact, this is what happened. All of the brilliant behavioral researchers, with lifetimes of important work, were de-funded. Brain researchers who were know to the party and had nothing to show were funded. EOS.)

Ed and I staged an intervention by writing a letter protesting this state of affairs, and then sending it out over the FEAT newsletter network, telling parents what had happened, and telling them that our letter was their letter.

We told everyone to cut and paste the entire letter if they wanted, to use parts of it if they wanted, to edit it with their own details if they wanted...we covered the gamut.

We said, "Here's the letter; it's yours."

The NIH was flooded with a zillion letters and emails.

We were told later, by a source we trust, that shortly after this onslaught began, people at the NIH were "running through the halls."

Of course, we were all pretty tickled by that image.

Exactly why would people at the NIH be running through the halls, and where exactly would they be running to?

Were they trying to find a behavioral proposal that had been funded somewhere in the stacks?

Point is: I consider everything I've written to be usable by everyone else, without attribution.

I need to get a post up front about this (and have been meaning to).

I especially consider everything I've written at the Irvington Parents Forum to be "shareware.

If anything there will work in another situation, it's yours.

Catherine Johnson said...

I do think Steve, years ago, had the right idea about how to get the message across quickly, which is simply to show parents a Singapore Math placement test for the 6th grade.

I've done this more than once; it leaves a lasting impression.

Parents pick up on these things pretty quickly -- especially when you add an element of "precision teaching" or "efficient learning," i.e. when you make clear you aren't promoting even more school drudgery than the kids are already dealing with.

The big question is how to get change out of school districts.

I fear that the only way to induce change in a school district, in many cases, is to de-legitimize the administration first.

If an administration won't work with parents, and ours, in the recent past, refused absolutely, then that's the way you have to go.

You have to convince to the broader community that the administration isn't doing its job.

Catherine Johnson said...

One last thing.

So far, this year, the tone is radically different.

I don't know what conclusions we can draw from this.

Tentatively, I conclude that the political work of reforming one's district may have identifiable stages.

In my own case, I had two years of pain, not to put too fine a point on it.

This year, suddenly, Ed and I are being personally escorted to our child's classroom on Back to School Night.

Nothing has changed, but, otoh, a tone change is a change. The message to other parents is that one can work politically to reform one's district and live to tell the tale.

Here's the part that I think is important.

Those 2 years are now sunk costs. (If I'm not using the term right, pls correct.)

I did the time; I don't have to do it again, it appears.

I seem, now, to have a role, and to some degree a public identity, as a "school reformer."

At the same time, several other parents have emerged as activists (these parents were working just as hard as I've been working, and taking more heat, in some cases. We just hadn't met.)

That's another lesson.

Where there's smoke, there's fire.

If you're unhappy with your district, how likely is it that you are the only parent in the entire community thinking your thoughts?

One reason why school districts control the flow of information and the ability to communicate is to keep activist parents from finding each other.

So.

After two years of "free-lancing," I'm no longer free lancing.

A corps group of parents has emerged; more will probably appear. More importantly, a reasonably large group of parents who want improved academics and accountability are making their views known in a less political manner that, in its way, may be more powerful.

hmmm....

I'm going on too long, and I may not know what I'm talking about...though this is the way things feel to me and to others.

So we'll see.

Realistically, I expect to lose every battle this year, and that will be fine.

The public image of a district choosing to do battle with educated parents, instead of working with us to improve the schools, isn't a winning position for the district.

Catherine Johnson said...

Brain researchers who were "know" to the party?

NEW to the party

sheesh

Catherine Johnson said...

Brain researchers who were "know" to the party?

NEW to the party

sheesh

Catherine Johnson said...

wow

(just finished reading the whole post)

tour de force, 2

incredible

Catherine Johnson said...

This is exactly what we're living through, in math instruction.

Exactly.

This year probably won't be much better overall

SteveH said...

" Yet, as of this moment, there are 32 posts on the front page--nearly two thirds of them authored by Catherine"

Catherine cheats. She has lots of short posts. But then again, she would win on word count too.

SteveH said...

"I do think Steve, years ago, had the right idea about how to get the message across quickly, which is simply to show parents a Singapore Math placement test for the 6th grade."

What I've noticed in the last couple of years is that once you get past the superficial arguments, nobody (!) says that Everyday Math or TERC is better than Singapore Math. In fact, when you get down to the details, the argument from schools is that Singapore Math is too rigorous for average students. The big fallacy is that reform math is better. Even the Singapore "culture" argument is a form of low expectation. My son's (ex) private school curriculum head told me that she really liked Singapore Math, but she thinks that EM is best for their students. Low expectations.

Catherine Johnson said...

a corps group?

where was my brain yesterday?

Catherine Johnson said...

Catherine cheats. She has lots of short posts. But then again, she would win on word count too.


lollll

This is probably obvious to everyone else, but I had to read a book on AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE to really get it: ktm-2, for me, is practice.

It's a lot of other things, too: remediation of my kid's education, politics, op-eddery, structured procrastination, and LIFELONG LEARNING!

But it is also practice.

I learned this year that, apparently, musicians practice "parts" of pieces, not whole pieces. They also practice scales.

Writing short posts for ktm-2 is my way of practicing "parts."

SusanS said...

Catherine cheats. She has lots of short posts. But then again, she would win on word count too.

Yeah. What Steve said.

Caterine's a freak of nature. She has more "reach" than anyone I've ever read. She covers an amazing amount of ground in one day.

She's gifted that way, you know.;) Maybe it's a special kind of ADHD.

Early on with KTM, I used to picture Catherine sitting at a huge round table with 5 other people firing off comments to her while she thoughtfully answered each one.

concernedCTparent said...

Lately, when people ask me why I don't like Everyday Math, I've been getting better at summing it up. People want a sound-bite. Anything more than that and they just tune out. If I work "Singapore Math", "TIMSS", or "math & science community" into a well crafted line, I can almost see the cogs turning and once I do, I leave them hanging. I want them to go home and google the heck out the sound-bite and not take my word for it. I want to be provocative and for them to own the knowledge.

In fact, when you get down to the details, the argument from schools is that Singapore Math is too rigorous for average students.

A parent, convinced by U of Chicago's involvement and the flashy presentation that the publisher put together for parents, is having trouble reconciling the marketing with the reality. Everyday Math has one of the slickest educational marketing machines ever, by the way. Boy can they sell the sizzle. Her skeptism is in play despite the fact that her neighbor, a biologist, agrees with my take on EM (and reform math in general).

So, this weekend I offered to let this parent review Singapore Math textbooks so she could compare them to what her child is learning in EM. She said "Oh, that's okay, I think it's beyond where my child is." She was afraid to see for herself and chose instead to avoid it altogether. It's easier to keep believing what you want to see than being confronted with something so painful it takes your breath away.

PaulaV said...

"Oh, that's okay, I think it's beyond where my child is."

I've heard "I just want my kid to be happy."

It is easier to believe what you want to see or hear. It is much harder to dig deep...it is painful as well.

Tex said...

This is probably obvious to everyone else, but I had to read a book on AFFECTIVE NEUROSCIENCE to really get it: ktm-2, for me, is practice.

Oh gosh, reading this comment too quickly made me want to get that book on EFFECTIVE NEUROSIS. lol! Someone should write that book, it would be a bestseller!

Tex said...

People want a sound-bite.

I need to start a sound bite folder. I struggle trying to explain issues succinctly, with just enough of a hook to get people thinking.

SusanS said...

A parent, convinced by U of Chicago's involvement and the flashy presentation that the publisher put together for parents, is having trouble reconciling the marketing with the reality.

Totally agree on that.

I have had this exact experience with various parents over the years. The last few times I just tried to gently mention that they need to make sure their kids know their math facts. I've had reactions ranging from blank faces to condescension (since it is, after all, the great University of Chicago.)

Most of the time there is this glazed look on their faces before they change the subject. I've learned to wait until they ask about it later when things start to tank.

I've also found that if there is a math literate parent you get your point across better, especially when there is an emerging problem. Then, they're ready to hear what you have to say and what you did about it.

SteveH said...

"People want a sound-bite."

I don't know if they want a sound-bite. I think that's all you have time for when you run into parents at the grocery store or at soccer games. I've thought a lot about this and I don't have a great answer.

I've told parents that my son does really well with Everyday Math, but I use Singapore Math at home. Maybe they think I'm just trying to make him into a super student. It's comforting for parents to hear from the school about all of the kids who do well in math in high school. Forget the fact that many of these kids are math brains or got help at home.

I don't think I can change their minds by myself. Maybe, however, they will hear the same thing from other parents and start to think. I always thought that there should be something other than grocery stores and soccer games. Parents should start POs - Parent Organizations (not Pi**ed Off). I find that most parents are VERY interested to hear what's going on. I know I am. It's just that many would consider a parents-only group very divisive.