kitchen table math, the sequel: who's the boss?

Monday, October 8, 2007

who's the boss?


Following instructions is important.
But does there come a time when following the instructions is actually injurious?
Some background:
The student had previously demonstrated the ability to go far beyond the work currently being done in the classroom. But yet in this case, the instructions became more important that the content.
Look closely at the picture.
You can see the erasure marks.
When a student is more advanced than the work being given, would it be better to have FIXed the worksheet?




Catherine here, parachuting into Vormath's post

I wouldn't normally post an anecdote about my own kid inside someone else's post about her kid, but in this case, because we've had so many Comments, I think this material belongs here.

For new visitors, I'll explain that quite a few parents here have mathematically gifted kids.

I do not. Nor is my child studying a constructivist math curricula (thank heavens for small favors). He is in the 8th grade & taking New York state's standard Math A course, which you can take a look at here or here, if you're interested.

The material in Math A is not hard.

Here are a couple of questions from the 2006 Math A Regents exam:

While solving the equation 4(x + 2) = 28, Becca wrote 4x + 8 = 28.
Which property did she use?
(1) distributive (3) commutative
(2) associative (4) identity

What is the product of 10x4y2 and 3xy3?
(1) 30x4y5 (3) 30x5y5
(2) 30x4y6 (4) 30x5y6

A micron is a unit used to measure specimens viewed with a microscope.
One micron is equivalent to 0.00003937 inch. How is this
number expressed in scientific notation?
(1) 3.937 × 10-5 (3) 3937 × 10-8
(2) 3.937 × 105 (4) 3937 × 108

The test contains some short answer word problems, too:

In Clark Middle School, there are 60 students in seventh grade. If 25 of
these students take art only, 18 take music only, and 9 do not take either
art or music, how many take both art and music?

Running at a constant speed, Andrea covers 15 miles in 2 hours.
At this speed, how many minutes will it take her to run 2 miles?

A recent survey shows that the average man will spend 141,288 hours
sleeping, 85,725 hours working, 81,681 hours watching television,
9,945 hours commuting, 1,662 hours kissing, and 363,447 hours on
other tasks during his lifetime. What percent of his life, to the nearest
tenth of a percent, does he spend sleeping?

So that's Math A.

I took the exam after working my way through Saxon Algebra 1. I passed with distinction:

Raw score: 76 out of 84.
Scaled score: 94 out of 100.

I missed 4 2-point items. One was a logic problem, one was on probability, and one asked me to determine the equation of a perpendicular line. I had never seen any of these topics before, so I missed the answers.

I missed only one item on a topic I had studied, and that was a graphing-a-linear-equation problem, a procedure I could do in my sleep when I took the test. So I chalk that miss to temporary brain freeze.

In short, I worked my way through Saxon Algebra 1 without benefit of class or a teacher, I took Regents Math A, and I missed one question I'd studied before.

Not a hard test.

C., my child, is your basic bright, industrious, middle-class kid with parents who happen to have 2 Ph.D.s and 3 Distinguished Teaching Awards between them (sorry, I know that's boasting, but it's relevant) so he gets a lot of teaching at home, both direct and incidental. A whole lot.

The reason I'm posting here, inside Vormath's post, is that C. is experiencing the mirror opposite of what Vormath's gifted child is experiencing; he is being given work that is far over his head, work he can't possibly do on his own without extensive parent reteaching and/or expensive tutoring (rates start at $80/hr), and my school is not going to do anything to fix this situation.

The result is that he is having the same experience V's child is having: he is being forced to do work that is not at his level, and his parents cannot persuade the school to provide him a curriculum that is at his level. The school does not respond to parents. Period.

I'll add that it's not just C. who is "struggling," the middle school term of art for kids in C's boat. Quite a few of the kids are struggling, and the school is well aware of the situation. Kids have always struggled in this course; suffering, struggling, and failing in the middle school accelerated math track is a time-honored tradition at the middle school.

Why is C. struggling?

He is struggling because the "Phase 4" track, which is simply the regular math track accelerated by 1 1/2 years, is and has always been built to serve as a "wash-out" course. In Irvington, Phase 4 math has been to academically inclined middle schoolers what biochemistry always was to pre-med students and probably still is.

It's the course that separates the men from the mice.

I suspect that no one in the math department would admit this today; I don't know that anyone admitted it in the past. The steady failure of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in accelerated math has always been seen as natural and inevitable, nothing to do with the curriculum, the pedagogy, or the teaching. In fact, the math chair, who was respected and even revered, seems to have been widely viewed as fair and caring, a teacher who tried her best to keep faltering 12 year olds in her class. The one time I spoke with her directly, I liked her very much myself.

At home the "tries hard" children -- I owe this expression to Rudbeckia Hirta -- would cry over their homework and their grades (I know the stories firsthand); at school parents would meet with the math chair; together the grownups would search for some solution. Finally the child, or the parents, would give up. "It's not worth it," the parents would say, and they were right. It wasn't. It wasn't unusual for the regular-track kids to fare better on the state tests than the accelerated kids. Parents who lived through those years told me these things, and I believe them.

Watching this scene unfold year in and year out, parents and students have drawn the appropriate conclusion. Last year one of the kids on C's bus, who is mathematically talented, as are his sibs, told the other kids, "Ms. X [former math chair and, I assume, developer of the course] was a great teacher. She washed kids out if they couldn't do the work."

In case you're wanting specifics, here's how you take a group of bright kids who've tested into a beginning algebra course and set them up for failure. Consider this schedule:

  • Friday, 9-21-2007: first homework containing word problems assigned
  • Friday 9-28-2007 test on consecutive integer problems & motion problems

We're talking about perhaps 5 days of class time. These students had never set up and solved a simple algebra problem; they had never written -- or even seen, unless their tutors taught them outside class -- a "let x equal" statement. Starting from nothing, then, in 5 days the kids were taught:
  • number word problems
  • consecutive integer word problems
  • distance word problems (2 trains left from a station)
  • coin problems
  • age problems
And there you have it. If this is Tuesday, it must be consecutive integer problems.

The district flatly refuses to address the situation, or even to acknowledge that it exists. This is just the way it is. Math A is a "hard" course; at most 10% of the kids should be taking it according to one of the teachers at the middle school. Instead the course is oversubscribed with 25% to 30% enrolled because pushy parents got their kids in where they didn't belong. (So they get what's coming to them. This, too, is not said, but we hear it.) This has been the narrative for many, many years, and it will take a paradigm shift to change it.

Meanwhile we have no disadvantaged kids taking algebra in 8th grade; we have virtually no middle class kids taking algebra in 8th grade. On back to school night, when you look around the classroom, you see that the children we do have in the class are the children of doctors, lawyers, scientists, and professors.

And a number of these children are struggling.

In Irvington, you (almost) need to be the child of an internationally known research physician to survive algebra in the 8th grade.

What this group blog is about, in part, is the fact that nearly every parent (and many of the teachers) here is dealing with a school district that simply does not respond to parents, to dissident teachers, or to the broader public.

By and large our schools, at least in my experience, do what they do. It seems they always have.

What's different now is that parents, teachers, and the broader public have blogs and YouTube and Yahoo. We can protest in plain view.

And we do.

118 comments:

SusanS said...

But does there come a time when following the instructions is actually injurious?

Yes. This happened constantly with my one son.

Advanced students are also expected to "go back" a few years on the state tests even though they have moved into more abstract ways of solving math problems. They have to pretend they don't know what they know.

These tests, like this homework, has a "ceiling," although a sharp teaacher should have seen what was going on.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the problem. The instructions clearly said to add or subtract...NOT multiply or divide. It doesn't do the child any good to know how to multiply and divide if he can't follow instructions.

The teacher seems nice enough to have let the child re-do it...something I would certainly NOT have done. Show off on another person's time.

I had a teacher who would give you extra credit questions that were more difficult than the test. You took a gamble if you chose to answer them because it would count against you if you got it wrong.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Doug Sundseth said...

Yes, we should clearly follow the pattern of Harrison Bergeron. I hold Levellers in great despite, in large part because they want to pull everyone else down to their subterranean level.

Again, Anonymous is an exemplar of whining teachers and the horrors they inflict on the children (a vast majority) that are smarter than they are.

SusanS said...

In this case, yes, I agree about following the instructions. It would have been worse if it were simply a "solve this..." kind of problem.

Show off on another person's time.

Wow. I don't even know how to respond to that. Do you have a problem with your bright kids?

The kid found a more advanced way of looking at it. Sure, he needed to stick with addition, but as a teacher, wouldn't you notice that he understood multiplication rather than see it as a smart ass response?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm not a teacher...rather a grad student. I'm also not the anonymous from the previous posts I see you all bashing because you can't take criticism. I came over from the wsj.com blogs and this is my first time at your site and am posting "anonymous" because I don't feel like creating an account.

The only ones here whining are the parents...and therefore you are not teaching your children to suck it up and follow directions.

You can analyze teaching methods until you're blue in the face but it won't benefit your children.

Catherine Johnson said...

Are you a graduate student in education?

Anonymous said...

"The instructions clearly said to add or subtract...NOT multiply or divide."

No argument here ...


"Plus, the kid is a little show off...look at the large numbers chosen to subtract.

This is what kids (boys, mostly) who already know the material do when they are bored. Note that the question as asked, "Find as many way as you can to make 5," has an infinite number of answers for a child who understands integers. By asking "as you can" and not indicating to stop at five or ten or whatever, the question invites a *lot* of busywork from a conscientious student. Where should the child stop?

Can anyone tell me what grade this is?

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

""Can anyone tell me what grade this is?"

Ah ... looks like TERC 2nd grade from the name of the image file.

I was ready to guess TERC ... I acquired a bunch of 3rd grade TERC books this weekend and this looked similar :-)

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

Actually, I myself was a bright kid...skipping third grade and all...full ride to college...summa cum laude and all that jazz. Big deal. Being bright is meaningless if you can't follow directions. I was like this kid...the one who would try to show off and push the boundries on the homework.

You put this it out for the world to see on this blog, so you have to stomach the critics too. Again, the teacher was nice enough to let the kid correct the mistake.

Catherine Johnson said...

Wait!

I don't quite follow.

I don't think I'm seeing the erasures.

Did he/she multiply to find 5, then erase and subtract instead?

Anonymous said...

by the way...i'm female and a premed student.

Catherine Johnson said...

It doesn't do the child any good to know how to multiply and divide if he can't follow instructions.

Well, that certainly appears to be the philosophy of my own school.

I think I mentioned that last Thursday C. went in for extra help, and the guard wouldn't admit him to the building because he didn't have a pass.

Also, the guard added, the teachers were in a meeting anyway.

This is the designated time period for Extra Help.

The important thing is the pass.

The non-important thing is the algebra.

The reason the pass is important, not the algebra, is that the school knows all of these kids will pass Regents and our school will be high-performing for all time.

Catherine Johnson said...

Plus, the kid is a little show off...look at the large numbers chosen to subtract. Again, a story about whining parents and the children they beget

You guys ----- can I get an opinion?

Carolyn and I, when we set up ktm-1, made a rule against ad hominem attacks.

This is an ad hominem attack on a child.

It's way out of bounds.

Anonymous said...

actually, it's an ad hominem attack on the parent. does the kid even know you're posting his homework on the internet?

Catherine Johnson said...

You put this it out for the world to see on this blog, so you have to stomach the critics too.

No, that is incorrect.

There are no laws governing any form of speech; we can do as we please.

Our rules aren't your rules, clearly.

No one is allowed to criticize children on this blog.

Jeff H said...

"Plus, the kid is a little show off...look at the large numbers chosen to subtract."

Yep, and look at all those engineers out there showing off their math ability by designing spacecraft, aircraft, cars, etc. They are nothing but showoffs who just want to make everyone else feel bad because they can so all that hard stuff and others can't. They should hide their abilities so others don't feel inferior. The worst part is how much they get paid for being "little show offs."

Yep that is the last thing we want, kids showing how good they are in mathematics.

Anonymous said...

Again, I came to your site from the wsj.com blog where parents spent plenty of time whining about their kids homework. You guys posted a link to this site, meaning that you want this attention.

You spend hours railing against homework and then claim you are strapped for time. Give me a break. You're traumatizing your kids.

Go ahead and remove my posts if you're afraid to hear criticism. However, the fact remains that the child didn't follow directions. And now I see that they learn this behavior from their parents.

Catherine Johnson said...

Being bright is meaningless if you can't follow directions. I was like this kid...the one who would try to show off and push the boundries on the homework.

I don't intend this to sound mean, but this situation is a bit analogous, don't you think?

We have a rule, here, about the kinds of comments that are and are not acceptable.

You disagree with the rule, and I understand; a lot of people would disagree.

Nevertheless, it is our rule.

I think one could characterize your comments as a case of not following directions & pushing boundaries.

Catherine Johnson said...

fyi -- I've removed the above comment because it attacks a child (though I should add that ad hominem attacks in general are out of bounds.)

I have the comment, so if people want to see it I can email.

Catherine Johnson said...

by the way...i'm female and a premed student

I thought you said grad school?

no?

Catherine Johnson said...

actually, it's an ad hominem attack on the parent. does the kid even know you're posting his homework on the internet?

we don't allow ad hominem attacks

Anonymous said...

I know several engineers. They are great at math and do love to show it. However, if the guy designing your car did the wrong calculations for the type of problems and you got hurt as a result, you'd sue him.

Jeff H said...

Anonymous

If you look very carefully you will see my comment was only directed at the part about being a showoff by using big numbers to do the subtraction. I made no mention at all about following the directions. In that part the kid did follow the directions and yet was attacked for his knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Re:"There are no laws governing any form of speech; we can do as we please."
Yes, and part of freedom of speech is the freedom to disagree.

And...catherine...I'm leaving my masters in biology program to pursue a career in medicine. I like to be more hand-on than where this path is currently leading.

I'm also telling you from experience as one who was a little show-off that it does NOT pay off. Your kids need to learn self-control and how to be smart and still get what you want.

Catherine Johnson said...

Yep, and look at all those engineers out there showing off their math ability by designing spacecraft, aircraft, cars, etc. They are nothing but showoffs who just want to make everyone else feel bad because they can so all that hard stuff and others can't. They should hide their abilities so others don't feel inferior. The worst part is how much they get paid for being "little show offs."

Yep that is the last thing we want, kids showing how good they are in mathematics.


I love it!

Sadly, we have precious little showing off around here.

Catherine Johnson said...

Re:"There are no laws governing any form of speech; we can do as we please."

Yes, and part of freedom of speech is the freedom to disagree.


Yes, right. People here often disagree -- though not strongly, generally speaking, since this is a community of like-minded folks.

The question isn't disagreement.

The question is civility.

If you look back through Comments threads you'll see that people here strive to "keep a civil tongue."

It's true that there is a fair amount of "constructivist-bashing," but the "constructivists" being bashed are abstractions, not real people with real names.

Except for Skip Fennell, of course.

Oh, and Lucy Calkins.

Anonymous said...

"The kid found a more advanced way of looking at it. Sure, he needed to stick with addition, but as a teacher, wouldn't you notice that he understood multiplication rather than see it as a smart ass response?"

obviously, the teacher did...see that the child was given the option to "fix" the assignment. I, as a teacher, would have seen it as failure to read directions.

Regarding showing off...please show off many creative ways to get at the right answer and still follow the rules.

Catherine Johnson said...

We are a gentle lot, all sweetness and light.

Catherine Johnson said...

I still don't understand the problem.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm a little behind the curve.

Catherine Johnson said...

Also, I'm supposed to be writing my book.

And today's email to the principal.

Anonymous said...

RE: It's true that there is a fair amount of "constructivist-bashing," but the "constructivists" being bashed are abstractions, not real people with real names.

Exactly. And this abstraction that I'm bashing is "helicopter parents" that feel the need to whine about their kid's homework. If the kid is smart, he/she will do well regardless of the hoops. This homework was neither difficult nor limitting.

Catherine Johnson said...

And this abstraction that I'm bashing is "helicopter parents" that feel the need to whine about their kid's homework.

heavens!

you are responding to a particular child's scanned and posted work, and you have written and posted the sentence "the kid is a little show off."

LynnG said...

Why should we assume the child was showing off?

You are making assumptions that simply aren't supported by the work.

Some 2nd and 3rd grade kids just enjoy math. A good teacher might smile ask Johnny if he enjoyed the challenge. See it for what it is.

At that age, kids just aren't capable of holding back or acting dumb. If a teacher had treated him like his effort was unwanted, the lesson learned is that it's not okay to be smart.

Sadly, we get that around here quite a bit.

Catherine Johnson said...

abstraction:

a general concept formed by extracting common features from specific examples

Catherine Johnson said...

You are making assumptions that simply aren't supported by the work.

I didn't quite get that, either.

Of course, I'm still trying to work out the meaning of the whole thing in the first place.

I'm going to look at the sheet again.

Anonymous said...

RE: "you are responding to a particular child's scanned and posted work, and you have written and posted the sentence "the kid is a little show off.""

Actually, I'm following a thread from "The Juggle" on wsj.com: http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2007/10/02/when-parents-are-overwhelmed-with-homework/

One of your guys posted a response there with a link to you.

So, I come here and what I see are parents whining about the homework. That's two places with parents complaining and over-analyzing things. Do you realize that you are teaching your kids to whine, too? Schoolwork sucks...homework sucks...job work sucks, too. Deal with it.

By the way...that was an abstraction.

Peace be with you.

Catherine Johnson said...

oh!

now I see

(enlarging the image helps)

ok, I agree with Vormath.

This child is beyond the assignment.

I don't see "showing off"; I see a child not reading the directions beyond "Find as many ways as you can to make a 5."

Reading all the directions is a challenge for most kids; reading the directions is a HUGE challenge for adults.

This is why we have the acronym RTFM.

Without knowing the child, my thoughts are these:

* the class should be teaching the child at his level

* the teacher should point out to the child that he (probably) didn't read the other directions, simply reminding him that reading the directions is going to come in handy when he grows up and has to assemble a basketball hoop for his kids (joke)

* the teacher should have praised the child for being so far ahead; I certainly would have (and did when I taught Singapore Math)

I would leave it at that.

IF -- and I'm pretty sure I know this isn't the case -- but IF the child has a problem with "showing off," not following directions on purpose, etc.....then the child should DEFINITELY be taught at his level, and, when doing work at his level, should be given problems that will help him see the value of "RTFM"

Anonymous said...

"If the kid is smart, he/she will do well regardless of the hoops."

5,000 fewer math majors than there were 40 years ago seems to indicate to me that this isn't true.

The fact that the US scores so low in math in international studies also seems to indicate that there are quite a number of bright students and average students who didn't do well because of the hoops.

What I see here isn't a denial that these are hoops, busy work, under the level of the student, what I see is simply "that's just tough" attitude.

Anonymous said...

Catherine, a teacher gave a student's homework back with a note to "fix" it because he/she performed multiplication and division to show many different ways of arriving at the number 5 instead of addition and subtraction as the instruction said. The student erased his previous answers and then put answers for addition and subtraction.

Your friends are seeing this as a system that should be "fixed" instead. I see it as a student who got a second chance to do an assignment after not following directions. I also see it as parents giving a bad example to their children by whining about a dumb assignment instead of doing it right and putting it behind you to learn something more advanced.

Independent George said...

Anonymous -

The issue isn't whether the kid is following directions, the issue is why those directions were even given in the first place. What math knowledge is the student being asked to demonstrate in this question? What are you actually teaching with this problem? Why limit it to addition and subtraction? What is the point of 'fixing' a correct answer?

Questions like this are usually done in reverse - ask the student to evaluate (8-3), (15/3), (1/2 * 10), etc., in preparation for algebra - you show that different operations can be used to evaluate a number, and then you gradually add complexity to demonstrate the order of operations (21/3+2) vs [(21)/(3+2)], then switching to variables, then putting them in the form of an equation.

In this case, though, the question is largely void of mathematical content. Here's a number, find another way of evaluating it. Great. Now what? It'd be a wasted question even for a student who was on grade-level; for a student - like this one - who's already beyond that point, it actually hurts his development by asking him to essentially 'dumb down his answers.

concernedCTparent said...

My second grade son, in particular, does stuff like this all the time. What is he supposed to when he's waiting for everyone else in class to answer something he's done with in a few seconds? Sure, he can follow directions but at times it proves to be torture.
He challenges himself simply to keep his own sanity.

These kids desperately want teachers to notice that they are ready for more. They are begging for a challenge for pete's sake. Some are lucky enough to have parents that keep them challenged outside of school or teachers that believe that meeting the needs of every learner means the bright kids too. But what about those very bright kids that aren't so lucky? Too many of them end up just giving up.

That is just a terrible waste of talent.

Independent George said...

I, as a teacher, would have seen it as failure to read directions.

But, if you were the teacher, would put that in the directions? If you're teaching addition/subtraction to a class, and found a kid who could already multiply & divide, would you keep him in the same class going over material he already knows? Would you penalize him for being ahead of the game?

concernedCTparent said...

I see it as a student who got a second chance to do an assignment after not following directions.

And I see it as a teacher and/or administration missing important cues. Instead of "fixing" the answers, this child needs an appopriate assignment.

concernedCTparent said...

I also see it as parents giving a bad example to their children by whining about a dumb assignment instead of doing it right and putting it behind you to learn something more advanced.

And when, exactly, does learning "something more advanced" happen?

Anonymous said...

But the kid DID correct it and do it right! The parent DID have their kid correct the assignment. What's the problem? The parent comes to a forum, read by adults to discuss what's going on at the kids school. There's no kids here being "taught to whine."

LynnG said...

If parents are not allowed to call attention to poorly designed assignments, who is?

As a nation, we've blindly followed the educational establishment into the dark holes of ignorance. Isn't it time someone starting asking, begging, even demanding higher standards in education?

If not us, who? and when?

How bad must it get before we are allowed to complain without being labeled "whiners"?

The truth of the matter is that the posted assignment is a fair representative of most of the work our kids get. It seems like a good piece to mull over because there are many more "dumb assignments" to be found just like this one.

Anonymous said...

What math knowledge is the student being asked to demonstrate in this question? What are you actually teaching with this problem? Why limit it to addition and subtraction? What is the point of 'fixing' a correct answer?


They are being asked to demonstrate that they know what integers exist between 0 and 5...and that they understand the concept of unlimited ways of reaching a simple number with only addition and subtraction.

Regardless, the teacher obviously did not miss the important cues as he/she gave him/her a chance to correct the error of NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS. Let's be real, assignments are meaningless and something more advanced will "happen" when the child learns to properly function in the system. A.K.A. do your work quickly and correctly so you can pursue those things you desire.

Or do you whine to your boss when you need "an appropriate assignment."

Independent George said...

Also: did you happen to notice the question posed in the post?

Vormath:
Following instructions is important. But does there come a time when following the instructions is actually injurious?

Anonymous:
I don't see the problem. The instructions clearly said to add or subtract...NOT multiply or divide. It doesn't do the child any good to know how to multiply and divide if he can't follow instructions.

The problem is the instructions themselves.

concernedCTparent said...

Or do you whine to your boss when you need "an appropriate assignment."

No, you can find a new job.

Jeff H said...

"I also see it as parents giving a bad example to their children by whining about a dumb assignment instead of doing it right and putting it behind you to learn something more advanced.
"

I see it as taking initiative. You can debate as to whether the kid went about it the right way or not but it does appear his abilities are not being challlenged.

Possibly he could have done it the right way on the front then on the back done the division to show that he does know how to do work beyond what the class knows.

The problem is, he is being taught to sit and wait for everyone else to catch up with him and he is being taught to wait to be told explicitly what to do. This can be a very bad thing.

I work with a lot of young engineers who will not take initiative. They finish an assignment and sit and wait to be told what to do instead of looking around and jumping in to help out or coming to me or one of the other senior engineers and asking for more work. They will make good "technicians" but they will never rise to the top of the profession and get the more interesting and fun assignments.

Anonymous said...

OK, LynG, I agree with you....I've also spend more time on the site browsing other posts and see that you guys are actually looking for resolutions and admire that.

I'm sorry that I came with some agnst from the wsj site.

However, I still see this as a menial homework assignment to complete and move on to bigger and better things. Even if this child is more advanced than the rest of his class, the teacher must give the assignment to everyone. Maybe the other kids in the class couldn't arrive at the right answer. If so, this child needs to be challenged more. He also needs to learn to follow directions and be more careful.

Independent George said...

Let's be real, assignments are meaningless and something more advanced will "happen" when the child learns to properly function in the system. A.K.A. do your work quickly and correctly so you can pursue those things you desire.

That's the whole point - if the assignments are meaningless, then why even have them? Either make them meaningful, or don't waste time on them.

Or do you whine to your boss when you need "an appropriate assignment."

If my boss asks me to make coffee and take everybody's lunch order for the meeting, then yes, you can be damned sure I'm going to 'whine' about needing an appropriate assignment.

Anonymous said...

Who's the boss?

The taxpayers?

Doug Sundseth said...

"...a chance to correct the error of NOT FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS."

Multiplication is normally presented to children as iterative addition. Apparently this child believed that presentation.

"However, I still see this as a menial homework assignment to complete and move on to bigger and better things."

You see it that way. I see it that way too. I would not have seen it that way in elementary school. As adults, we have the maturity to suffer through useless makework without much complaint. It's faster, it's easier, and it's so common that we have lots of practice. For kids, that maturity is just a goal; it shouldn't be an expectation.

Anonymous said...

RE: "I work with a lot of young engineers who will not take initiative. They finish an assignment and sit and wait to be told what to do instead of looking around and jumping in to help out or coming to me or one of the other senior engineers and asking for more work. "

This has nothing to do with following directions. I've worked alongside a student in the lab who caused an explosion with sodium over a burner because he did not follow the instructions in the lab manual. I was sharing the hood with him at the time and could have gotten hurt. Does his failure automatically make the lab exercise a failure for all students? No...nobody else blew up the lab. I see many college students who fail to follow directions on examinations and then waste the teacher's time (which could be spent teaching ME something useful) whining about how unfair the exam was when the instructions were clear. This syndrome has it's beginning early in the person's education. Let's face it, children must learn to follow intructions in grade school.

If this child is smarter, place him in more advanced classes or an enrichment program. You can even learn some math and teach him yourself.

SusanS said...

My god, how can you keep the anons straight?

Maybe you guys can do anon1 and anon2 or something.

And if this is second grade, then multiplication hasn't been officially taught. You have a bored (probably a boy) kid here.

Find out how much he knows and then give him an appropriate worksheet. How hard is that?

And we don't whine about homework around here, we whine about BAD homework. We whine alot about that.

concernedCTparent said...

If this child is smarter, place him in more advanced classes or an enrichment program. You can even learn some math and teach him yourself.

You really need to read more of this blog before making such a statement.

Catherine Johnson said...

"If the kid is smart, he/she will do well regardless of the hoops."

boy, I have to disagree with this, too (I think a bunch of you have disagreed)

I'm definitely seeing, at our school, some of the very, very brightest kids go off the rails

I'm not talking about C (not that he's not bright!)

I'm talking about two kids I know in particular who just can't "take it"

These are incredibly bright kids, both boys

One of them, one day, was being harangued by a teacher in a "Special" (non-essential subjects the school forces kids to take and, now, grades them on)...and he actually screamed, "I can't take it" and ran out of the class

This is a kid getting 90s to 100s on tests my own kid is scoring in the 60s

I certainly do believe that kids have to learn to "play the game," "follow directions," and etc. -- and I don't mean to sound quite so cynical as I do.

But when you see a kid cracking under the strain, and I have seen that more than once around here, then the school needs to find another way

Catherine Johnson said...

let me say something a little creepy

I have actually felt glad, on occasion, that C. is in the "regular bright" category instead of the gifted category.

I don't know how we'd be managing if he were in the scary-bright group.

I'll add that as far as I can tell, girls in the scary-bright category seem to be doing fine; I also know a boy in that category who's fine, too.

So I'm overgeneralizing a little.

susans said...

If this child is smarter, place him in more advanced classes or an enrichment program. You can even learn some math and teach him yourself.

Uh, you might want to bone up on this site before you make statements like that.

Oh, go ahead, I'll give you a shovel.

Susans said...

Good lord, Catherine, you got in three posts before I could get mine in.

Independent George said...

If this child is smarter, place him in more advanced classes or an enrichment program. You can even learn some math and teach him yourself.

That's kind of what we're getting at here (it's a recurring theme at KTM). (1) The student in this case very obviously should have placed out of this lesson long, long ago. (2) TERC, Everyday Math, Connected Math, etc. manage to combine lower standards with lousy instruction in such a way as to cause irreparable harm to students without significan afterschooling by parents/tutors. Students whose parents either lack the knowledge/time to afterschool, or the money to hire tutors, get the shaft.

vormath.info said...

ok... I am commenting without having read ALL the previous comments - so I will apologize NOW if I repeat something or whatever.

The key point in this for me was "the student had previously demonstrated the ability to go far beyond" the work shown in the picture.

What wasn't written as I was sure it would elicit comments of "your child not you little angle" remarks was the fact that this is a well behaved, instruction following child.

For all the boredom and "easy" of the work, the child is not disrupting others - kudos for an adult to do, even larger kudos for a child to do.

So my title "Who's the boss?" really is asking - who is in charge here? Is the teacher beholden to that which cannot be changed because of the teacher's boss? Is the parent beholden to the school because there is not true "school choice"? Is the child beholden to instructions that are in a very subtle and continuous way telling the child - do what we ask not what you can do, even though at other times we want you to do more and so forth.

And by the way. The student NOR parent (that would be me) wasn't showing off.

I am asking for intellectual thought behind the purpose of all of this.

Because as a parent I question whats the purpose.

Because as an intellectual I think what a waste of this student's time.

Because as a taxpayer I wonder, if this assignment wasn't an opportunity for "differentiating" instruction, when will my tax dollars actually be used to differentiate if ever.

VORMATH.INFO

Doug Sundseth said...

"If this child is smarter, place him in more advanced classes or an enrichment program. You can even learn some math and teach him yourself."

8-)

On the latter: You might want to go to the football coach at the school you attend and suggest that weight training might help his athletes. Because I totally heard that it would. You might also want to make sure your grandmother knows the correct technique for egg sucking.

On the former: Acceleration, not enrichment, please. And could you contact the administrations of our various kids' schools and let them know? Because when we have done it, over and over and over again, they've chosen not to listen. I'm sure that you would be much more persuasive, though. (Not being whiny and all.)

LynnG said...

I see patterns similar to what Catherine sees with the regular bright and scary bright. The scary bright kids usually do okay, but a big number of them are not very easy to detect.

The worst situation I see is of really, really bright kids that are not "attractive" to teachers. They might challenge the teachers, they disrupt the class, they might have other issues (OCD, Asbergers, etc.), some are just not pleasant. These kids don't do okay. I have in mind a young girl in my daughter's class that has tremendous behavior problems + she's scary bright.

She does not get challenging work at her level because nobody likes her.

Catherine Johnson said...

My dad always told us girls to learn to type in case anything happens to your husband.

Good lord, Catherine, you got in three posts before I could get mine in.

Catherine Johnson said...

wait!

we have TWO anons??

that is going to blow my tiny little brain

Catherine Johnson said...

a system that should be "fixed"

I would say that is a general theme of ktm-2

VORMATH.INFO said...

Some facts.

This district "differentiates" and has no "gifted" programs.

This district does not believe in acceleration. They believe in "enrichment" which they do with exemplars.

This was an IN CLASS ASSIGNMENT. If it had come home, the parent (that would be me) would have marked it with a red pen and replaced it with more appropriate work.

My further opinion:

This student correctly (IMHO) identified exemplars as brain teasers. For me, they are way to opened ended to "enrich" a particular skill. But just so we know where this student is at, last year (1st grade) the child completed 6 when the expectation was to do 1.

Another suggestion made here was "teaching at home" - my beef (and its a huge beef) is WHAT IS THE PURPOSE THEN OF CLASSROOM TIME?!?!?!?

Catherine Johnson said...

YES YES YES:

The worst situation I see is of really, really bright kids that are not "attractive" to teachers. They might challenge the teachers, they disrupt the class, they might have other issues (OCD, Asbergers, etc.), some are just not pleasant. These kids don't do okay.

It is so painful to watch this happening.

Catherine Johnson said...

This district "differentiates" and has no "gifted" programs.

ditto here

Gifted children are not allowed to accelerate here.

I repeat: Gifted children are not allowed to accelerate through the curriculum here

Catherine Johnson said...

Speaking of teaching our kids ourselves, I spent my entire morning reteaching algebra to C.

Started at 8:00 pulling materials, finished around noon.

I'm sure my editor would be happy to hear that.

Catherine Johnson said...

If this child is smarter, place him in more advanced classes or an enrichment program. You can even learn some math and teach him yourself.

yes, you can learn some math yourself!

I have been teaching myself K-12 math for 3 years now in order to remediate my child's ineffective mathematics education.

see, e.g., on the beach

concernedCTparent said...

This district "differentiates" and has no "gifted" programs.

Ditto again.

In fact, our supt is proud to have been the one responsible for dismatling gifted ed. In theory, we "differentiate" in my neck of the woods, whatever that means in practice. It doesn't look very differentiated from where my kid is standing.

Catherine Johnson said...

Good point, Myrtle!

Thank you!

Why didn't I think of that?

You're exactly right. The student did "fix" his answer; there are no kids here being taught to whine, etc.

Our own child is highly compliant with schoolwork, including schoolwork he shouldn't be asked to do.

We settled this particular issue last year, when C. had some kind of writing assignment from one of the Specials that he didn't want to do, and was going to blow off.

I told him he had to do it, and he went ballistic. (I'm going to omit the back story, but basically it was a case of a boy reacting to schoolwork for an audience of other boys....)

He went so ballistic we had to wait for his father to get home and tell him he would, in fact, be doing the assignment.

It was quite a scene.

But that was the end of it. The rule is: you do your schoolwork, whether you (or we) like it or not.

Then I complain about it on ktm.

But the kid DID correct it and do it right! The parent DID have their kid correct the assignment. What's the problem? The parent comes to a forum, read by adults to discuss what's going on at the kids school. There's no kids here being "taught to whine."

LynnG said...

We differentiate and enrich, we do not accelerate. Ever.

Even the differentiation is ineffective. If a 6th grader is testing out at an 11 to 12 grade level, is it effective to give her "above grade level" materials at the 7th grade level?

On the one hand, it's better than keeping her even lower. But it really isn't a solution.

Catherine Johnson said...

Interesting.

I've heard this before.

I will say, though, that I was the same way when I first graduated college.

I remember, one day, my boss giving me a look of utter exasperation when I asked my umpteenth question about what he wanted me to do (I was eager to please!) and after that I semi-got it.

Oh, I'm supposed to figure out what to do next and not interrupt constantly.

Until that moment, I hadn't known that.

I work with a lot of young engineers who will not take initiative. They finish an assignment and sit and wait to be told what to do instead of looking around and jumping in to help out or coming to me or one of the other senior engineers and asking for more work.

Catherine Johnson said...

If my boss asks me to make coffee and take everybody's lunch order for the meeting, then yes, you can be damned sure I'm going to 'whine' about needing an appropriate assignment.

love it!

after a couple of years dealing with a middle school, I'm not a big fan of unquestioning obedience to authority (uh...not that I ever was)

middle school will do that to you

VORMATH.INFO said...

If this child is smarter, place him in more advanced classes or an enrichment program. You can even learn some math and teach him yourself.

I did LEARN some math myself. All the way through college. I hold a Bachelor of Science in EE and am 3 credits shy for a similiar distinction with mathematics.

I also have a masters in CS.

I've also studied advanced statistics.

Not that any of that is relevant.

I learned math. AND YES I AM TEACHING MY KID MATH.

So ... why is my kid in school for math?

Solution:

Maybe the first step in public education is to allow homeschooling of single subjects if chosen by the parent. In this case, I would home school in mathematics my children.

Unfortunately that is not a choice. Although it is one I would readily jump on (and I would keep quiet while doing it!)

There would probably be alot less debate with school districts if this was a viable option for parents.

Logistically, classes would have to have a dedicated math hour for the parent to then take the child out of the class. That doesn't seem to hard to accomplish.

Catherine Johnson said...

And we don't whine about homework around here, we whine about BAD homework. We whine alot about that.

Again, I say: why didn't I think of that?

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually, I feel entitled to whine about anything I like.

It's my party, I'll whine if I want to.

Catherine Johnson said...

Because as a taxpayer I wonder, if this assignment wasn't an opportunity for "differentiating" instruction, when will my tax dollars actually be used to differentiate if ever.

hear, hear!

Catherine Johnson said...

Doug!

Catherine Johnson said...

I think I'll just say again that my own kid is having the mirror-image problem; he is being given homework he does not have the first clue how to do, and we are being relied upon to reteach & hire tutors (some of whom work for the school).

I think the predicament gifted kids find themselves in is worse, but what we're dealing with is he**, not to put too fine a point on it.

And, again, when we raise this issue with the school we are told, "Come in for extra help," in spite of the fact that we have spent months of our lives shlepping our kid in for extra help and it hasn't helped.

My school -- I would say all of the schools people are writing about here -- takes no responsibility for students actually learning subjects at an appropriate level.

Our schools are about inputs; they do not concern themselves with outputs.

Doug Sundseth said...

Yes?

Since you're not a grandmother, shall I explain the proper technique for sucking eggs? I'm about to be a great-uncle, so I suspect I almost know by proxy.

Heck, that should be good enough to get a union job teaching the subject.

Doug Sundseth said...

Oh, wait. I don't have the right credentials. If I had the right credentials, then almost knowing about a subject by proxy would be enough to get a union job teaching the subject.

Sorry. What was I thinking?

Catherine Johnson said...

I may have to tell my football-in-Irvington story.

Catherine Johnson said...

Maybe the first step in public education is to allow homeschooling of single subjects if chosen by the parent. In this case, I would home school in mathematics my children.

Other states have this.

It's illegal here in NY.

I would have pulled C. for sure; he'd still be out.

concernedCTparent said...

No can do in CT either. Therefore, I am the reluctant homeschooler, afterschooler and before schooler.

PaulaV said...

Wow...91 comments so far! This is a record for 2007, is it not?

I have to say that the reason I come to KTM is to read and learn. Some of the time I feel out of place, but still I come and always, always, I learn something.

Does Anonymous(the premed student) have children? Obviously not. I am not saying you have to have them to understand them, however, most of us here at KTM have kids...bright kids, slow learners, in-between...whatever. IT DOESN'T MATTER!!

We want what is best for ALL children. End of story.

Catherine Johnson said...

ooh! ooh!

Now I'm thinking about posting a whole bunch of irrelevant STUFF so we can break 100.

most of us here at KTM have kids...bright kids, slow learners, in-between...whatever. IT DOESN'T MATTER!!

We want what is best for ALL children. End of story.


wow

you said that a whole lot more succinctly than I did (inside Vormath's original post).

Anonymous said...

If the teacher wanted him to follow instructions but also let him use his advanced knowledge she could have had him subtract 91 from 96 or add -1 and 6.

Seeing he had a high conceptual understanding of 5 that would have taught the child to follow instructions but to be creative and challenge themselves.

But the ideal teacher doesn't exist, that is why good curriculum is always a important fallback.

Doug Sundseth said...

Catherine: As an aside to this discussion, I almost missed your addition to the original post. With the "Recent Comments" widget installed, I only really look at the top of the page and the recent comments. A full post buried in the middle of a previous post will usually be lost to me. (I don't know whether others have the same experience.)

I'd have much preferred it if this had been a separate post referencing the original post, not because it interferes with the original, but because it's much more visible.

I hope the feedback is useful.

Ridgewood Math Mom said...

A comment on what a parent must bear from a teacher...

I recently moved my child to a private school because I would not allow him to be taught TERC math. The homework he gets is far more challenging than he was getting in public school, but sometimes it is a bit boring or seems redundant. I still have my child do those assignments because the curriculum as a whole makes sense so I overlook some of the pedantic exercises sent home.

When my son was learning TERC math I would ridicule the assignments because the whole program simply stunk.

My point is this mother would less likely ridicule this assignment if it was one bad piece of a comprehensive math education, but it is not. It's an example of why TERC kids will be a mathematically illiterate generation.

They are trying to make 5 in 2nd grade instead of learning some basic concepts like a "fact family" or expanded notation. My son went through an entire year of TERC math not understanding that addition was the "opposite" of subtraction. Key mathematical concepts like that are simply not taught because children are asked to think backwards like this and make 5 instead of being given the building blocks to go forward and make 5.

A second grader should be seeing this 2+3=5, 3+2=5, 5-3=2, 5-2=3 and maybe this 555=500+50+5. The point is always what is omitted not what is given in TERC.

PaulaV said...

ooh! ooh!

Now I'm thinking about posting a whole bunch of irrelevant STUFF so we can break 100.

Catherine,

You crack me up!!

le radical galoisien said...

"And if this is second grade, then multiplication hasn't been officially taught. You have a bored (probably a boy) kid here. "

Meh, I remember simple multiplication facts being taught in kindergarten ....

I can't remember whether it was Singapore or New England though ....

SusanS said...

Must

susans said...

Break

susans said...

Record!

Woo hoo.

Must get a life, too.

LynnG said...

Like Doug, I never noticed your parachute act into the original post. I'm glad I've finally read it.

TERC, EM and MathA all appear to suffer the same flaw, lack of a coherent plan to achieve mastery of defined skills in a cumulative fashion.

I so wish we'd toss out all the rhetoric, all the edu-babble, and just use a curriculum that systematically moves from point a to b to c until mastery is achieved. Of course, there's not likely to be any huge mathematical breakthrough for decades on end in elementary math and so, most schools would not need to purchase new books or new editions quite so frequently.

Susans said...

lrg,

It had to be Singapore, unless you were at some special school here.

After our school decided to accelerate my son, he got through some long division by the end of first grade. When the gifted teacher showed the upcoming second grade teacher his work she said something like, "Oh, we don't do that in 2nd grade."

Luckily, he didn't have her.

Anonymous said...

Does Anonymous(the premed student) have children? Obviously not.

You're right, I'm not. But I was a gifted kid who WAS accelerated...right through the 3rd grade...which is where you learn to multiply, divide, and do fractions. Let's just say the 4th grade teachers didn't know how to deal with me. Plus, it kills your social life.

Regardless, whithout mommy and daddy carrying on about teaching methods, I turned out alright. And when I do have kids, I won't be stressing about the system so much as learning how to manipulate it.

Catherine Johnson said...

yup -- thanks!

I wondered about that.

I'm glad you didn't miss it, because I think this may be the best and most succinct desciption of the difficulties here I've written.

And, of course, it really is quite different from what other parents are struggling with ----- different and yet "the same."

Find the basic principle!

hey

We could assign a compare and contrast Ridgewood-to-Irvington paper as an exercise in critical thinking!



Catherine: As an aside to this discussion, I almost missed your addition to the original post. With the "Recent Comments" widget installed, I only really look at the top of the page and the recent comments. A full post buried in the middle of a previous post will usually be lost to me. (I don't know whether others have the same experience.)

Catherine Johnson said...

I won't be stressing about the system so much as learning how to manipulate it.

aaaauuuuuggggghhhhh!!!!

famous last words!!!!

I DON'T SAY THAT TO BE OBNOXIOUS, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW IT SOUNDS OBNOXIOUS

Believe you me, I am intent upon manipulating the system.

I am here to tell you that manipulating the system, or attempting to manipulate the system is not a stress-free undertaking!

In fact, I would go so far as to say that manipulating the system is more stressful than merely stressing about the system. I'm in a position to know.

Seriously, though, I agree with you --- figuring out some way to manipulate the system is a good idea.

I recommend direct political action, as well, except for the fact that it (generally) doesn't work and direct political action is WAY stressful.

Catherine Johnson said...

Susan

woo hoo!!!

ding! ding! ding!

you win!!!

Catherine Johnson said...

that's a keeper

Catherine Johnson said...

Must get a life, too.

Absolutely not.

I forbid it.

Catherine Johnson said...

TERC, EM and MathA all appear to suffer the same flaw, lack of a coherent plan to achieve mastery of defined skills in a cumulative fashion.

It's not Math A; it's the way Irvington has chosen to teach Math A to the accelerated kids.

They teach Math A just fine to the regular-track kids, or so I'm told.

This is a particular punishment visited on accelerated students.

Catherine Johnson said...

Why would you teach 5 classic algebra word problems -- the first formal instruction in word problems these kids have received -- in so many days?

You wouldn't.

The state doesn't mandate it, and the Regents test doesn't depend on it.

I hear --- and I know this is true --- that some of the regular track kids do better on Regents than the "accelerated" kids.

This course, intentionally or not, has been put together to make life very, very difficult for the bright, ambitious children of bright, ambitious parents.

Catherine Johnson said...

Same deal with the Earth Science course.

We now have our kid getting pounded into the ground in TWO "accelerated" classes.

Catherine Johnson said...

This is justified by the fact that we have bulletproof kids who can learn anything you throw at them and learn it fast.

Ed has taken to calling it "teaching to the top," but BG pointed out to me, in an email, that this is not really teaching.

The top kids aren't being taught, either; the top kids have been radically slowed by this course.

The top kids should be in....geometry at now, at a minimum.

PaulaV said...

113 and climbing

SteveH said...

Let's see. I posted last night and I come back to this. Wow. I missed the deleted comment and it's difficult to follow the rest.

My impression is that it's hard to have a good discussion over one assignment or example. It's also hard for those new to this blog to get a good idea of what we're all about. Complaints about "whining" are pejorative, indicate a bias, and show an unwillingness to argue about specific issues that are raised.

It is difficult, however, for newcomers to get up to speed on our main issues. We should link to some of these issues, like algebra in 8th grade and grade-level mastery of basic skills.

I find it odd that some of the comments were about homework. We KTM parents torture our kids with extra homework because the math curricula used by many schools are awful in so many ways. Our kids have to do their schoolwork and they have to do the parent or tutor work. The only LESS homework arguments I ever see on KTM have to do with BAD homework, and there is a lot of that. [Once again, this is a plug to pursue the idea of a BAD homework award.]


This is not about which algorithms to use or even how much constructivism to use. It has to do with mastery of skills and algebra in 8th grade. K-12 educators have redefined math and lowered expectations based only on their own opinion.

They want math to be a pump and not a filter. What they have created is a giant pump in grades K-6 into a huge algebra filter in 8th or 9th grade. Kids are not prepared properly and schools just tell the kids to "suck it up" without any thought or concern over the quality of the curriculum and teaching. Some kids pull it off so everything must be fine. Right? Wrong!

As I have said many times before, it's easy to blame external causes when kids get older. It's easy not to expect many to get into algebra in 8th grade when educators have redefined math. Many educators are more concerned about "life skills" and reading graphs.

le radical galoisien said...

"It had to be Singapore, unless you were at some special school here."

Well actually I was just at the public school system in Cape Elizabeth, one of them sort of suburban (but really more like forested, woody, sort of rural and agricultural, etc.) towns.

The thing though is that I remember my kindergarten teacher teaching arithmetic on his handy doodle-board (this was 1995 or so :D), whereas I can't remember that much arithmetic being taught on the whiteboard in my Singaporean kindergarten (although I think it gave me a strong sense of it). It's possible I just forgot the worksheets we did in Singapore -- the only ones I can remember are ones concerning Chinese calligraphy and colouring an even or odd number of students.

The things on the whiteboard I remember from Singaporean kindergarten were photosynthesis and the life cycle (wonderfully duplicated when I came to the US), some random Chinese words, even and odd numbers, and the fact that when you put nine individual squares together you don't get nine squares, you get fourteen (because you form larger squares too). I think that lesson had a very profound effect on me, because it forever changed the way I looked at patterns (and the teacher was expecting us to "get" it -- the first time we said "nine", she reprimanded us and said we should have known better).

Whereas in the US kindergarten we did the infiniteness of the number line, how many days there are in a school year (175), place value, etc.

In the US by second grade, I remember my school would be doing "mad minute" problems with like dozens (a hundred?) multiplication problems (e.g. 12*11) to do within 1-2 minutes. The part that I attribute to Singaporean education is being able to complete the assignments in half the time -- but I remember we *did* do 12x12 multiplication by second grade.

Jo Anne C said...

Do I really want to punish my kid by keeping him in honors math class in 4th grade?

We are in the process of removing N from the “honors” math class in his private school and negotiating for independent math study. Unfortunately the administrator who had promised me Saxon Math last June (if honors proved too difficult) has yet to return to the campus and probably won’t.

So I had the private school test our son (he’s just starting 4th grade) and the results were impressive, he is at 6th grade 9th month. I’d like to point out N isn’t what I’d call a math brain, just a hard worker. He has been taught math at home to MASTERY because we “discovered” that no school (private or public) could be trusted to do so.

So why are we taking him out of honors math?

I see no benefit to the punishing routine of long homework assignments and extremely difficult tests, which take valuable time away from our ability to use the very effective Saxon Math curriculum to after-and-before-school my son.

N scored 3 points away from a “D” on last weeks “Guess and Check” word problem exam in honors math.

These were problems that would require multi-variable equations and knowledge of how to set up a function table to solve them. It consisted of brain teasers, guess and check, or make-a-table problems that were way above grade level. None of these problems had been assigned as homework, so it was shocking to see an exam containing these difficult problems along with the very low grade.

N might have earned an “F” had he not received partial credit on two problems for what appears to be “guessing.” There was no evidence of understanding, just an attempt at drawing a table and putting 2 wrong numbers in it. He also received full credit for a problem he guessed wrongly how to solve, but was lucky enough that the number he came up with was correct.

This test lowered his solid 97% GPA in honors math down to a B according to his progress report. My kid works way too hard to get that kind of discouragement thrown at him.

N has been on occasion the only student able to solve the daily word problems; thanks to bar graphs learned from our work in Singapore Math’s Challenging Word problems. He was asked to go to the board to demonstrate how to solve one problem, but he told the teacher, “I used fractions to solve the problem; I don’t want to confuse them.”

It just burned me up when this teacher wrote on N’s progress report, “Strong math skills, concentrate on improving problem solving”

SteveH said...

"It just burned me up when this teacher wrote on N’s progress report, 'Strong math skills, concentrate on improving problem solving'"

That would burn me up too. I would go in and ask for specific examples of what the teacher based this on. I would tell the teacher that I want to make sure that my son has no further difficulties in problem solving. I would also ask how many kids don't have these difficulties.