kitchen table math, the sequel: 5/27/07 - 6/3/07

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Singapore Math in Israel

Prof. Ron Aharoni. The local method of teaching is "a colossal failure."
photo by: Adi Mazan

You do the math!

Shocked by the abysmal level of math instruction in the country, a group of math professors is now challenging the Education Ministry and trying to implement the Singapore method.

When Prof. Ron Aharoni of the mathematics department of the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology volunteered to participate in a project to improve math education in Ma'alot-Tarshiha, he never imagined how shocking the experience would be for him. The textbooks used in the first and second grades, he says, described in fact a kind of new math that no one - children, teachers or parents - understood.

"When I came to Ma'alot," says Aharoni, "the teachers explained to me that there are two equivalent approaches to teaching math that compete with one another: the structural approach and the environmental approach. It took me a whole year to realize that it's all a fraud. There is no `environmental math' - there is normal math and there is delusional math, which is unique to Israel. You have to have a distorted mind to invent something like that."

Distorted mind or not, the achievement level of Israeli children in math is low. On an international mathematics test administered in 1999 by Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Israeli children placed 28th. In May of this year, TIMSS will once again conduct the test. However, following the deplorable results of last time, the Education Ministry has rolled up its sleeves, and at record speed - over a period of six months instead of years - it has published two new books for the development of quantitative thinking. It then sat seventh- and eighth-grade students down to prepare for the test at full steam.


Who is to blame for the fact that Israeli children fell from first place in the same test in 1964 to 28th, 25 years later? The Center for Educational Technology (CET) blames the level of teaching - or, in other words, the teachers. The Ministry of Education believes that perhaps the teaching materials developed by the CET (with the approval of the ministry) are problematic. Mathematicians point an accusing finger at the schools of education, and the educators say that the mathematicians do not know anything about teaching.


A few months ago, the Israeli Association for Excellence in Mathematics was established.


The rights to the Singaporean book were donated to the organization by entrepreneur David Garbasz, an Israeli-born mathematician who lives in New York.

Why Singapore? "They consistently place first in international competitions," says Garbasz, who wanted to donate the rights to use the texts to the ministry for free, but did not encounter any enthusiasm there for his idea.


"The educational establishment is currently controlled by a culture that is known as `New Math,' which has its source in California of the 1960s. It was imported into Israel and since then, has taken over all the learning materials. I see the catastrophe in this system as a father of young children. I open up their textbooks and I cannot understand what they are being taught in school. As the dean of a computer science faculty, I see the results of math instruction done according to this method on the students that come here to study. They lack basic understanding of mathematics, something they didn't learn in grade school." 

The method was brought to Israel in the early 1970s by Prof. Pearla Nesher. She returned from Harvard University with a doctorate in education and began to work as a consultant to the Ministry of Education and in CET in the development of new curricula for elementary schools. 

Of rods and patterns

The result was a series of math textbooks called "One, Two ... Three" for the first and second grades, which have dominated the educational system ever since. The method used in the books is called the investigational or structural method, at the center of which is use of the celebrated Cuisenaire rods. . "One, Two ... Three" was supposed to create a revolution in thinking. Each rod has a different color and size. Two rods placed side by side are not two. Instead, they represent a particular number, depending on the color and length of the rod. The child reaches the result not using the intuitive method of counting items, as he is used to doing in his natural environment, but rather by means of trial and error. He puts the rods down lengthwise, one after the other, and looks for a pattern that fits them. Their combined length, if it fits exactly into the pattern, is the result.

Those who do not understand will find themselves in the distinguished company of numerous parents, teachers, math professors and, of course, the pupils themselves. The idea is to teach first-grade children to investigate the "pure number." The authors of the book explain in the teacher's guide that the right way to teach math in the lower grades is to disconnect the students from their natural environment and from reality, and to teach them in a pure, clean environment that has nothing to do with prior knowledge. Further along, pupils learn concepts invented by the CET that have no parallel anywhere else in the world, such as Zanavgufim ("Tailbodies"), imaginary creatures that are used to teach the decimal system. 

[ed: sounds a bit like the Trailblazers fractohopper]


"Through the years, I was always concerned by the level of math education in Israel and I sent letters to ministers of education, but I never received an answer. Somehow, I assumed that someone was taking care of the situation and I dropped it. Now that I have retired, I have decided to pitch in." 

Amir was not satisfied with the level of his students. He felt that the problem was the result of a postmodernist approach to life that undermines education.

"They said that you have to take the students' happiness into account, to understand them, not to pressure them, not to ask, not to demand and not to harass them. No more learning by heart and no more homework. Even so, the standard is not particularly high. In the view of ministers of education, everyone should have a matriculation certificate, and that creates a conflict between excellence and egalitarianism. It is an international trend that is beginning to be reversed today, and is particularly salient in two subjects: reading and math. 

"Suddenly you realize that we have an entire generation of illiterates. In mathematical research, Israel is in the absolute third or fourth place, thanks to the previous generation and the immigration from Russia, but down below, the branches are drying up and I don't want to think what will happen in the coming generations." 


"At a meeting with teachers that we had in the framework of the association, we told them that they would have to learn the new method and to stand in front of the class and teach," he recalls. "It was very difficult for them because in the `One, Two ... Three' method, the teachers don't teach - they hand out work sheets, sit the children down in groups and move among the groups. In this way, for years, a situation was created in which teachers taught less and less and became more and more afraid of math. And suddenly, the same teachers that were afraid are now managing quite well with the new books and are proud to teach. A large proportion of the teachers are really quite happy now." 


The post-Cuisenaire era is already here, says Weiner: "We have returned to simple, natural things from which basic arithmetic began. The children are finally being taught to reckon. Those who know how to reckon, concentrate on it and discover their intellectual abilities and start thinking."


"In recent years, Israel went a little too far to please math teachers," maintains Nevo. "They say the children have to learn by means of investigation and discovery, so that they remain interested and happy. And I say that you have to know the basics, too. The mathematicians say that there is no need to rediscover the multiplication tables each time anew, just to learn them, that there are laws and rules and they have to be learned by heart, too. In my view, the explanation for the failure is that with all the involvement in the method, the message was lost. Now there is a clear message coming from the system - that children must be required to have achievements." 

Because of the failure in 1999, voices were heard demanding that Israel stop participating in the TIMSS test. 


Why did you have to wait 25 years to realize that the system didn't work? 


Pearla Nesher says that yes, she brought the knowledge from the U.S., but the textbooks in the "One, Two ... Three" series were written in Israel, and were not influenced, she maintains, by what was being done in America. On the contrary: "My doctorate is about the `New Math,' but it is a critique of it," she says. "And the method we developed here was a reaction to the methods used in America." 

Apparently, the system was not that good because the students here are having difficulty in math. 

Nesher: "The system is intended for elementary schools and they are having difficulty in the upper classes. They know the material for the first grade. They know it. That is not what they are failing at." 


So why are the mathematicians saying just the opposite? 

"It is their right to claim whatever they want and they have the right to disseminate the Singapore program. Mathematicians in the U.S. started the war and our mathematicians are jealous and decided they want a little noise and publicity. The Singapore books are very similar to ours, the same approach, the same structures. Except that they have an economic interest in distributing the Singapore books and those nice mathematicians don't know anything about teaching math. They don't understand it and it is not what they do. If they are now proposing that we get back to basics, then they don't know what is going on in the world. When they suggest going back to teaching the way we taught in the 1960s, when only 9 percent of the students passed the matriculation exams and today 50 percent pass, then they are completely cut off from the world of education."

But at that time, we were No. 1 in the world. 

"When only 9 percent do the matriculation exams and only the top classes are tested, then of course we made first place. Twenty-eighth place now is not the right picture either because the students didn't take the tests seriously and didn't prepare. And the sample was not suitable and testers included weak schools as well as the Arab sector, which previously had not been tested. But there are people that wanted to be able to point to a terrible catastrophe so that they can push forward some program that someone has the rights to." 

I'm trying to find out exactly what Nesher's program actually is. It sounds like an amalgam of the old New Math with the new new math: highly abstract content (the kids know the commutative property but don't know how to add) teamed with discovery teaching.

I wonder.

Pearla Nesher publications
Learning Numbers: A Linguistic Perspective

Ron Aharoni in American Educator, part 1 (ktm-1)
Aharoni on teaching fractions
Ron Aharoni on the fifth operation of arithmetic
American Educator - math issue - subscription info
What I Learned in Elementary School by Ron Aharoni

questions and answers from Niki Hayes

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS on Reformist Math and Its Students … the Disadvantaged ~ Boys ~ the Gifted ~ Special Needs and ELL…
And On Politics & Power ~ And How to Convert a Non-Believer

By Nakonia (Niki) Hayes

(These answers are based on generalities, which are used to reflect patterns. There are always exceptions to generalities, but patterns do allow us to offer predictions about outcomes. I now avoid using the term "progressive" because I don't find the results of reformists' math to be "progressive.")

Q: Why is the achievement gap growing?

A: Disadvantaged students of all colors live in environments that require survival on a day-to-day basis. Survival in poverty is concrete, whereas survival in school and work is usually abstract. Mental models must be built with basic strategies to teach organizational skills as well as concepts of abstraction—such as issues of time, space, appropriate language according to its setting, and part-to-whole relationships (cause and effect), according to Dr. Ruby Payne.¹

In addition, the “hidden rules” of each environment, which are the unspoken cues and habits of a group or place, should be taught directly, rather than by discovery. Students and parents in poverty usually do not know the hidden rules of the middle class, which has been the dominant view within public education.

Thinking patterns of deprived learners, whether due to economic or emotional circumstances, are considered random or “episodic” and are often based on feelings, which can result in flight or fight. Therefore, it is cultural deprivation (the lack of adult-led mediated learning experiences that connect both the what and the why of a lesson), and not cultural differences, that is a primary cause of learning deficiencies, according to Prof. Reuven Feuerstein.²

By turning mathematics learning into a discovery process, the sequential and logical thinking of the discipline is lost to learners from poverty situations. They also lose opportunities to learn planned, specific steps modeled by adults for successful outcomes.

Q: Since we know boys and girls have different learning styles, is reform math designed to teach to these differences?

A: No. The literary and discussion-based learning style of reformist education depends on verbal intelligence, which is correlated to girls’ learning styles. Group work and “processing” are also considered female learning traits.

Girls, who have been underrepresented in math and science, are expected to feel better about math with the reformist approach. This, in turn, is expected to encourage more women to enter mathematics and science fields.

Boys are goal-directed, action-oriented, and more independent learners. Sharing feelings, defending decisions, and debating details are not recognized male traits. Long appreciated for their “natural abilities” in math and science, boys are resisting the reformist approach with its emphasis on discussion and written explanations.

Literary-oriented teachers, predominantly female, who admit disliking math (and being weak in math skills), feel more comfortable teaching reform mathematics. It is subjective with more interpretations allowed for answers. However, it is more difficult to teach reform mathematics effectively, according to education leaders, themselves, in the field.

Q: How is reform mathematics education working with English language learners (ELL)?

A: ELL students are unable to participate fully in the English literary-based lessons of reform math. Computation, with which ELL students can often be successful (since skills of math and music are international languages), is ignored or denigrated in reformist math.

Q: How does reform mathematics work with learners in Special Education and those with ADHD or gifted traits?

A: Both special education and ADHD learners need specific, goal-directed instruction. Losing track of discussions or processes is a common characteristic of students in both groups. A common reminder for their teachers is to “Act; don’t yak.”

Excessive color, pictures, and graphics in books (or classrooms) create distractions and more confusion for students who already have trouble following directions or one train of thought.

Gifted students are the most likely to succeed with the “whole” learning of reform math because of their ability to work with abstraction. However, at some point they must also learn basic skills, not only of the content area, but skills on “how to learn.” Otherwise, they often become underperforming when confronted by a topic they don’t comprehend easily. They resist learning what they consider tedious skills, as do most learners, but these can ultimately provide the learned analysis of operations needed to solve problems.

Q: Should the primary functions of mathematics education be to help learners feel successful in mathematics, and to support a declared, social engineering plan to establish egalitarianism among students?

A: The purpose of mathematics is to teach respect for its historical role and its benefits in building a culture and society across all domains of life. If the curriculum is designed to comfort individuals’ feelings, rather than to prepare them for the rigor of college or a competitive job market, that should be made clear in the math materials. (This is clearly stated by Jaime Escalante.

Q: Is the failure of reform mathematics the fault of teachers, the curriculum, or both?

A: Schools of education and school districts say the fault lies with teachers’ lack of preparation in reform methods. They maintain the curriculum doesn’t matter if teachers are not prepared to teach it. There can be no argument with this statement. Yet, the claim that math curriculum isn’t important, that “books don’t teach,” is misleading at best and dishonest at worst.

There have been and always will be those who learn from classic literature and ancient math texts without the guidance of a teacher. There are also millions who study the Torah, Koran, and Bible in the privacy of their homes. Many civilizations have been based on traditional, centuries-old books. Teachers are indeed golden, but user-friendly and ageless lessons in books should be honored, not discounted.

Q : Why do teachers trained in schools of education that promote reform instruction and who have entered the field in the past 15 years need intensive professional development? Why should this teacher “remediation” be a district’s expense?

A: I don’t know. Maybe the schools of education can answer this question.

Q: Do supporters of basic skills instruction want to replace the conceptual math approach of the reform educators?

A: No. They want basic skills to be a respected partner in all mathematics curriculum, especially at the elementary level. Basic skills are not to be “supplemental” lessons, inserted only when thought necessary, but fully integrated.

Q: Why are supporters of reform mathematics so resistant to including a well-planned program of basic skills?

A: Reformists maintain they do include basic skills. Yet, their actions indicate a rigid adherence to what is perceived as “pure” reform mathematics, which dismisses the validity of learning the mechanics of basic skills. The opposition to basic skills instruction was carved in stone in the 1989 NCTM Standards, the bible of today’s reform mathematics doctrine. The 2000 NCTM Standards supposedly lightened the criticism of learning basic skills but still insists that methodology of teaching (the how or process) is paramount to the learning of content (the what or product).

Obtaining specific examples from reformists of basic skills instruction in their chosen publications is difficult. Having them show specifically why certain non-reform publications (Saxon, Singapore Math) do not support state standards is also elusive.

The newest NCTM publication, Focal Points, supposedly proposes a new focus on basic skills. They do not. They do recommend a more limited number of topics to be taught at each elementary grade level. The question of "skill content" of those topics is still untouched.

Q: What are the costs of changing or continuing the reform math programs?

A: Reform math publications, researched and published since 1991, have been supported by $83 million from the National Science Foundation and multi-millions from other governmental agencies and private resources. This has created powerful political and economic relationships (allies) among funding agencies and their recipients—education leaders, universities, and private individuals—now involved in the “education business.”

For example, changing a state's mathematics curriculum would likely mean 1) revising the state’s reform-based standards, 2) state tests that are aligned with those standards, and 3) changing schools of education in their focus on the reform approach in training teachers. Plus, 4) new professional development programs must be designed for those educators trained in the reform philosophy.

Then there’s the 5) textbook/teaching materials situation. Educational Leadership magazine reported in April 2002 that it takes $20 million to get a completely new textbook into the education system. That’s a major expenditure for profit-making companies.

Transforming reform mathematics in the U.S. will indeed be costly, but how do we compare those costs with the mistakes that created the present crisis in mathematics education? Other countries are facing the same challenges. Israel has recently piloted Singapore Math in several schools and hope to name it as their state curriculum.³ It will replace the reform math they adopted from the United States 30 years ago and which, they believe, has led to their drop from first place on the in 1964 Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) to 28th in the 1999.

The U.S. has paid an exorbitant price in dollars and human capital for the last 15 years of reform mathematics. It is said the whole language movement of the 1970s and 1980s damaged a generation of learners in the basic skills of reading and writing. The same is now being said about today’s reformist “whole math.”

When 50 percent of students entering community colleges and 25-30 percent entering a public university must take remedial math, as they do now across the country, we must admit such learning deficits and remedial expenses for individuals, colleges and businesses are unacceptable. To continue operating “on faith” that progressive mathematics will eventually work —if teachers are just trained properly—is also unacceptable.

Q: What would it take to make you a believer in the NCTM-sponsored reform mathematics?

A: A preponderance of evidence showing disaggregated data from state test scores in schools where teachers have used the reformist/constructivist ideology in grades K-5, and where those students had received no tutoring in basic skills outside of the classroom. With 15 years to draw upon, there should be some evidence to present to non-believers.

¹, Dr. Ruby Payne’s training and work with children and adults from poverty
², Prof. Reuven Feuerstein’s theory on mediated learning
³ Israel’s adoption of Singapore Math

About the author: Nakonia (Niki) Hayes recently retired after working 30 years in public education as a teacher (mathematics, special education, journalism), counselor, and principal and 17 years in fields of journalism. She can be reached at

Gambill Method - from ktm1

Principal's Guide to Raising Math Achievement, pp. 81 - 82
by Elaine McEwan

Gambill method in a nutshell

  • Teacher Carol Gambill has used her method of teaching algebra for 15 years. She has successfully taught algebra to students with disabilities, students of average ability, and gifted students.
  • She assigns twenty to thirty problems for homework each night. Problems range from easiest to most difficult.
  • ironclad rule: She assigns only those problems that have the answers printed in the textbook.
  • She gives a daily quiz on the 4 or 5 most difficult homework problems. The first students to finish have their quizzes graded & recorded by Gambill; then these students become graders for next wave of students finished, and so on down the line. Total class time elapsed: 15 minutes.
  • She uses "totally scripted lessons ... for each algebra unit that require absolute focus and attention, constant oral responses, and intense involvement from every student."
  • She looks only at the homework of students who have failed the quiz.
  • Students who didn't do the homework have detention that day, during which time they do the homework assignment under supervision.
  • Gambill holds extra help sessions before school & at both lunch periods. She gives students her home phone number to call as a last resort. It is gratifying to see five to ten eighth-graders gathered around my chalkboard before school, excitedly discussing a difficult algebra problem. The kids love these chalkboard algebra debate sessions.

Gambill method for teaching algebra to mastery

The following passage is an excerpt from:
Principal's Guide to Raising Math Achievement
by Elaine McEwan

One of my favorite algebra teachers is Carol Gambill. She taught at the Sewickley Academy in the Pittsburgh area for many years and is now chair of the mathematics department and vice principal of the Littleton, Colorado, Prep Charter School. Carol has developed what her students call the "Gambill Method." I would hire Carol to teach algebra at my fantasy school in a heartbeat if I could. Here is the Gambill Method described in Carol's own words. Compare it to the way your students are learning algebra.

"Most students who enter my eighth-grade Algebra I or Honors Algebra I classes. in September each year are ill-prepared to learn algebra because most of them have not fully mastered arithmetic. To make matters worse, I have too few class periods to teach them the entire rigorous course when one adds up the drug education activities, annual class trips, report card day, vacations, snow days, exams, and parent-teacher conferences. These restrictions demand that the students put in extensive quality time. outside of class grappling with difficult problems and practicing for accuracy.

"I devised a method that I have used for 15 years with all students, those with disabilities, the average student, and those who are gifted. This method really works. Students make incredible gains during their year with me, because of the system the kids long ago dubbed the Gambill Method. Here's how it works.

"Twenty to thirty problems are assigned for homework every evening, ranging from the easiest to the most difficult of a given section of the text. I always assign the odd problems because their answers are in the back of the book. The answers provide the students with road maps to mastery. If they don't get the correct answer it means they turn back, take a detour, change a flat tire, or find a service station.

"On the day that an assignment is given I do the even problems with students in class using direct instruction. Although I use a traditional algebra textbook (Brown, Dolciani, & Sorgenfrey, 1994), I have developed totally scripted lessons for each algebra unit that require absolute focus and attention, constant oral responses, and intense involvement from every student. Direct instruction assures that all students leave my classroom that day with a thorough understanding and at least partial mastery of the concepts. I tell my students that doing homework does not merely mean writing out the problems, although that most assuredly is a component. I tell them they must master completely every problem of the assignment from the easiest to the most difficult. I would never assign a problem for which I had not given them the answer. The next day, when the students walk in the door I give them their daily quiz over the most difficult four or five problems from that assignment. Their answers and all of their work toward that end must be accurate. Some students work more quickly than others; the first students finished come up and have their papers checked by me, then they become student checkers and grade recorders, and so it progresses, with more and more checkers becoming available as the slower students finish their daily quizzes.

"Within 15 minutes, all students in the class have taken a daily quiz over the previous night's homework assignment. The quizzes have been graded and recorded and are back in the students' hands, thus providing daily immediate feedback to each student on his or her own progression toward mastery, and providing me, of course, with instant knowledge as to whether or not students did their homework.

"I never ask to see the homework of any student unless that student has failed the daily quiz. If I ask to see the homework of a student who has failed, and the student does not have it, he gets an immediate detention for the day. A detention simply means that students must stay after school that day and do under school supervision the assignment that they failed to do on their own. This, in my opinion, is a justifiable, logical consequence.

"Because I am so strict with mastery of homework concepts, I assure the students that I will also do my part to help them be successful. Therefore, I conduct extra help sessions before school and at both lunch periods. It is gratifying to see five to ten eighth-graders gathered around my chalkboard before school, excitedly discussing a difficult algebra problem. The kids love these chalkboard algebra debate sessions. In addition, the students have my telephone number and are invited to call me as a last resort. Please note, however, that I seldom receive more than two calls per school year.

"My students win so many academic awards that students from other algebra classes cannot even play in their league. There is much hard work and yet the students l love my class, vote it their favorite each year, love math (even those who had despised it up until algebra) and remember their year with me as the one that led them to discover within themselves the power to determine their own destiny in the academic arena. All this is based on a simple system that nurtures and demands daily perfect mastery of each step in the course as it comes along. Other teachers who have adopted the Gambill Method have replicated my results" (Carol Gambill, personal communication, August 13, 1999).

One of the reasons I want Carol to teach math in my fantasy school is that she achieves remarkable success with her students. They have repeatedly won a variety of mathematics competition championships at the local, state, and national levels for the past 10 years. They took first place in the Pittsburgh MathCounts Competition for five consecutive years and won a Pennsylvania State MathCounts championship as well. And based on the outstanding achievements of Carol's students on the American Junior High School Math Exam, the NCTM presented her with the Edith Mae Sliffe Award. But awards are not the only or even the most important reason for my wanting Carol to teach in my school. Most important to me is that her students know exactly what is expected of them, and Carol is disciplined and structured enough to be consistent.

should learning be a "struggle"?

from Tex:

I love Kumon! The anti-struggle way to learn.

The Kumon method, Step 1:

Students begin at a comfortable starting point—determined by our placement test—with work that can be easily completed. This way your child will master the basics and gain complete proficiency with each successive step. Kumon students develop better concentration and study habits because they don't get frustrated by our learning process.

Also, from Step 5:

Your child’s individualized program is never compromised by the needs of a group or a prescribed teaching agenda.

make them struggle
education professors: students must struggle
KUMON: "work that can be easily completed"
handing it to the student

portrait of a heterogeneous classroom

from Paula V:

"54% majority believes that mixing fast and slow learners in the same class would improve kids' academic achievement."

A friend and I were just talking about this same topic today. Her very bright daughter has sat all year in a classroom loaded with sped kids, potential sped kids, and a some average kids sprinkled in the mix. It has not only been a terrible experience for her daughter, but for the other kids as well.

Once, while volunteering in her child's classroom, a child tells her she wishes she was as smart as her daughter, but she is not. My friend said it was the saddest comment she had ever heard. Also, when helping one student, he asked to be excused to go to the bathroom, when he came back into the classroom, he hid behind a plant. The reason? He was totally stressed about reviewing for the state test. He couldn't do it. She said she had another crawl under the desk.

Her daughter can't concentrate because the sped teacher is calling out answers to a test for the others. It is loud in the classroom.

Whose academic achievement is being improved here when all the kids are grouped together with such a wide disparity?

I had one teacher tell me "As the administrators and teachers plan classrooms, they take into consideration even more than the individual learning and teaching styles of the students and teachers. They must craft healthy, stable, and creative learning communities for each class in each of the grade levels."

Would anyone call the classroom I described as being stable?

Different Drummers
the struggle
gifted children and ed schools
portrait of a heterogeneous classroom
constructivism and classroom discipline

Friday, June 1, 2007

on charts and word problems in math and science

I just went back to read the article by A. Toom , in which he explains how he taught word problems to Algebra class students. He gives an example of the chart and stresses the importance of organized and clear writing.

When I was in school, I was taught to organize all problems in chemistry and physics in a chart. This skill is extremely useful when dealing with word problems.
Our teachers taught us to use the following chart (in math, physics, and chemistry alike):





Consider the following problem: A block of unknown material weighs 100g and has the volume of 25 cm3. What is the density of the block?





Density of a given block is 4g/cm3

So I used this type of chart routinely and could see clearly what is given in the text, what I have to find, what formula will suit my purpose, check if the units are correct, and a teacher could easily check my reasoning on each step.

When I went to a Community College in NY (confession - I didn't show my DVM diploma so I could be allowed to take undergraduate courses in English and get the financial aid in the beginning), I observed many students struggling with simplest chemistry problems because they could not organize them , and were lost in words. I tutored at least 20 Chemistry students during my years in college, and all troubles were gone as soon as they got the habit of using the chart.

When I started teaching physics to my 7th graders and, recalling my own physics classes in school, started giving them word problems, I faced the necessity of teaching them an organized manner of analysis. Yes, using the chart can be considered an analysis of a problem. It took me a month and 3 quizzes until they got it. I modeled the chart on the board for every problem we did (again, since American textbooks in physics do not have problems!, I had to make most of them myself or translate from the Russian text), I took points off for absence of the chart of absence of steps in solution, but we did it. By the end of physics part (oh, I hate general science! nothing is complete!), ALL 31 of them could solve word problems using the chart. Their math teacher told me that some of them were using the chart in math HW problems (obviously, she was giving some word problems, too)

I still didn't beat their sloppy handwriting, even though I had some students' works returned with F because I couldn't read it... It takes consistency and discipline. And math is the great helper in disciplining the mind.

survey: education professors on gifted children

There is one group of students — those considered academically gifted — whose needs appear to carry less priority than other groups. Teacher education programs seem to invest far less energy in training prospective teachers to identify talented and gifted students in their classrooms; in fact, only 15% put "a lot" of emphasis on identifying such students. One professor in Los Angeles explained this as simply recognizing who needed less help. "The conventional wisdom," he said, "is that they can take care of themselves."

But another professor had an even broader explanation for the relatively mild interest in training prospective teachers to identify gifted kids: "It's a fundamental philosophical issue...If education is the major building block of a democratic society, then you worry more about raising the floor...the fundamental goal is to give as many chylidren as possible the tools to participate in a democratic society." And while schools in the past would often track students by ability, the strategy has apparently fallen into disfavor with many educators. A little over half of the education professors surveyed (54%) favor less reliance on homogeneous grouping; and an identical 54% majority believes that mixing fast and slow learners in the same class would improve kids' academic achievement.

Different Drummers: How Teachers of Teachers View Public Education
p. 24-5

Different Drummers
the struggle
gifted children and ed schools
constructivism and classroom discipline

The Exponential Curve

A math teacher at the charter school in Joanne Jacobs' book!

And.... he's teaching algebra 2!

Which is exactly the subject I'm trying to teach myself.


the struggle

Chart 2.

When teachers assign kids specific questions in such subjects as math or history, is it more important that:

Kids struggle with the process of trying to find the right answers 86%
Kids end up knowing the right answers to the questions or problems 12%

For all charts, numbers do not total 100% because "don't know" responses are not reported and because of rounding.

Different Drummers: How Teachers of Teachers View Public Education

There are very few parents who would choose "struggles with the process" over "knows his math facts cold."


86% of the public public "want[s] students to memorize the multiplication tables and do math by hand before using calculators." (p. 38)

Interestingly, 73% of teachers say the same thing.

Of course, that was back in 1997.

The baby boomers are retiring now, so I imagine that figure is declining.

Different Drummers
education professors: students must struggle
gifted children and ed schools
constructivism and classroom discipline
make them struggle
KUMON: "work that can be easily completed"
handing it to the student

Different Drummers

I’ve seen the "Different Drummers" report, published by Public Agenda, cited so many times I finally ordered it:

“...[P]rofessors of education have a distinctive, perhaps even singular, prescription for what good teachers should do — one that differs markedly from that of most parents and taxpayers. To a surprising extent, the professors’ views also differ from those of most classroom teachers.... [W]hat the professors say about education and teaching, and about children and learning, is important—arguably even obligatory—reading for anyone aiming to improve America’s schools.”

Chart 1:
Qualities that are “absolutely essential” to impart to prospective teachers”:

Being life-long learners and constantly updating their skills: 84%
Being committed to teaching kids to be active learners who know how to learn: 82%
Having high expectations of all their students: 72%
Maintaining discipline and order in the classroom: 37%
Stressing correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation: 19%
Expecting students to be neat, on time, and polite: 12%

Looks like it’s going to be interesting — more later.

Different Drummers: How Teachers of Teachers View Public Education

Different Drummers
the struggle
gifted children and ed schools
constructivism and classroom discipline


How many teachers collect and correct math homework these days?

Do we know?

find the basic principle

Temple has a wonderful line about "finding the basic principle" I think I've mentioned before.

That was the only way she could get through college. Her working memory was so poor that in order to remember huge quantities of material for tests & papers she had to "find the basic principle": the one idea that tied everything together.

Then she could just remember the basic principle, and the basic principle would let her access the other stuff.

Finding the basic principle is what you do to write a good book; the basic principle is the book's argument. Temple and I, after a year of labor on our sequel to Animals in Translation, may finally have found our basic principle just this week.

Take it from me: the thesis statement comes after you've written 5 or 6 drafts of a paper, not before.

Anyway, in terms of my school..... maybe the basic principle is:

Persuade the school to give homework assignments all of the kids can do completely on their own with ZERO "assistance" from mom and dad?

That's gonna be a tough sell, seeing as how the Trailblazer questionnaire parents were recently asked to complete includes this question:

I am able to comfortably assist my son/daughter with math homework.

Clearly, in the school's view, parents comfortably assisting their kids with math homework is a plus.

The fact that I have been uncomfortably assisting my kid with math homework is a sign that he doesn't belong in the class.


ok, so this won't work

tour de force

How To Break Up A Fight

don't miss this Comment thread

Coment thread for Russian Math Teacher in America

tutors at the Masters School

So we heard this week from a parent with a child at The Masters School that more than a few of the kids there have tutors.

$26,000/year tuition and the parents are hiring tutors.

starting at the top

I'm going to start logging the number of hours Ed spends teaching C. to write.

Christopher has now finished his 3-page paper for social studies.

Ed's time on task: 4 hours

I couldn't possibly count the hours I've put into teaching math; nor could I count the lost income to our household. Not that I'm a MULTIMILLIONAIRE NONFICTION WRITER, but still: at this point my income would be quite healthy if I weren't dividing my energies between my day job as an author and my sideline as a middle school math teacher.

Make that: my day job as an author, my sideline as a middle school math teacher, and my other sideline as a math student attempting to learn enough math fast enough to serve as a middle school math teacher.

So back to English language arts.

This is an interesting situation because C's ELA teacher is very good, as is his social studies teacher. For the first time we're seeing clearly the contribution of the school's curriculum and pedagogy to our woes.

Ed has now looked at the paper assignment closely and, as C's ELA teacher had promised, there is lots of "scaffolding." Explicit instructions, steps, checklists, etc.

The problem is that the school seems to have only a vague notion of where their students' skills were going into the assignment.

As I've mentioned, Christopher, as it turns out, cannot write a coherent paragraph summarizing a text.

Being able to write a coherent paragraph summarizing a text is a foundational skill; you have to have it in order to write a research paper.

So Ed had to teach him this skill (begin teaching him this skill) while overseeing C's efforts to write a 3-page research paper.

Hence: 4 hours time-on-task for Ed.

Rule number 1: first things first.

open-ended assignments

The other problem is that the kids choose their own topics.

Christopher, being a boy, chose the Gettysburg Battle. I say "being a boy" because boys like battles. (To anyone who is inclined to argue the point I will just take this opportunity to point out that Ed, who is a super-liberal, likes battles. I rest my case.)

I don't know what most of the girls chose to write about, but the two whose moms I know told me their daughters were writing about a Civil War era person.

  • writing about a battle
  • writing about a person
Which one is harder?

Writing about a battle is harder. Much, much harder. There is simply no comparison.

When you write about a battle — not to mention a 3-day battle — you're juggling time, you're juggling military strategy, you're juggling historical context, and you're juggling more than one actor. The organizational demands are immense, and are far beyond the capacity of a 7th grader who hasn't had a great deal of direct, explicit instruction in how to integrate this much material. Not to mention a great deal of deliberate practice to boot.

Writing about a person can be complex, but it doesn't have to be. Ed (and other historians who've thought about it) has long said that the first history kids should read is biography; that's probably the first writing they should do, too. Most of us probably have a "biography template" floating around in our collective unconscious; a brainy 7th grader can probably access the template without a tremendous amount of explicit instruction.

Rule number 2: open-ended assignments are poor pedagogy.

wicked environments/virtuous environments

In his book Educating Intuition, Robin Hogarth argues that when it comes to intuition there are wicked environments & virtuous environments.

A wicked environment is one in which people don't get much feedback as to whether their predictions and decisions were right.

A virtuous environment is the opposite. Weather forecasters live in highly virtuous environments, because either it rains or it doesn't. It's reasonably hard to game the system, a la Philip Tetlock's foreign policy experts.

I think high-end school districts like Irvington are wicked environments. In these districts teachers simply don't get proper feedback on the results of their teaching.

Here's the way I think it works:

  • skewed bell curve: the town is filled with self-selected, high-SES, highly educated parents who've done well in their fields. So: the kids all seem bright - and are bright.
  • parents were good students themselves in their day; often enough they're quick studies who are capable of doing enormous amounts of preteaching and reteaching at home. Hence: "help with homework" has mushroomed into a shadow school the district refuses to acknowledge.
  • parents have the resources to hire tutors at $80 - $100/hour. Irvington district teachers are first in line for the jobs; school makes the referrals. The administration tried a couple of years ago to end this practice, but failed. (Still don't know the back story; must find out.)
  • triumph of the bell curve: although Irvington is a skewed poplution, we have a bell curve like everyone else. Hence: the winners in the system are either the kids with parents best able to "help with homework" and/or the "naturals," the kids who pick things up in one or two exposures. Everyone else looks less accomplished by comparison. So: Honors courses for the elite, the American track for everyone else.

This explains Christopher and "accelerated" math.

The accelerated math course is not hard. It's easy, or it should be. It's all procedural; two years into the sequence I can still count the number of word problems assigned on my fingers. (If you added in the number of word problems appearing for the first time ever on tests I might have to move to toes, but not necessarily.)

Christopher can easily manage this material.

And yet without me he would have been out of the course mid-year 6th grade. He would have been out of the course because a) he's not a natural and b) other kids have superb tutors and/or math teachers for parents.

By dint of major obsession and help from the ktm-1 & 2 writers, I managed to vault him into category b), so he stayed put.

in a nuthsell: The math department has created a simple course that is too difficult for all but the mathematically gifted to manage comfortably on their own.*

The ELA situation is different. The ELA curriculum has its problems, most notably the fact that they assign novels far below the reading comprehension level of many of the kids.

However, the writing assignment the kids have just done is serious and demanding.

The problem is that the kids aren't ready for it.

And yet many of them show up in class having pulled it off.

Why is that?

The teachers don't know, and the administration doesn't want to know.

high school

Looking ahead to high school, I'm shaking in my boots.

Christopher will do well in the verbal subjects. Assuming it's possible to be a natural in reading and writing-based disciplines (I think giftedness in reading and writing is probably different from giftedness in math & science), he's a natural. And, of course, Ed and I have years of experience in writing, although neither of us knows the first thing about literary analysis, so that could be a problem.

(Have I mentioned I'm trying to get through How Does a Poem Mean? in my spare time?)

Problem is, I'm not going to be able to reteach chemistry and physics. At this point I couldn't reteach geometry or algebra 2, either, though I'm still hoping to get up to speed in those subjects.

As for calculus — what are the odds I'm going to learn calculus well enough to serve as Calculus Reteacher here at home come senior year?

So.... now we're hearing about tutors in the Honors courses at the high school.

If I thought we could just hire a tutor for chem and physics (and calculus) and all would be well, I'd relax.

OK, I wouldn't relax. Somebody once told me the great Djuna Barnes line, "You would be marvelous company slightly stunned," and iirc, that person was talking about me at the time.

So I wouldn't relax, but I would feel some confidence.

We've never actually hired a tutor, and I'm not going to be hiring Irvington teachers as tutors. If I find myself needing to hire an Irvington teacher as a tutor, the district is going to be paying the bill.

The fact is, I have no interest in hiring a tutor. Judging by my friends' experience, tutoring doesn't work particularly well.

Independent study works.

Not tutoring.


I will mull.

hedgehogs and foxes
KTM guest shows how to do it

Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It by Philip E. Tetlock
(chapter one)

* I say "comfortably" because I've discovered two highly motivated girls who've managed to pull through with no help from parents or tutors. I imagine there are others. These kids sometimes spend hours on their homework. So far I haven't met a boy this age who will do the same thing, though some must exist. What I see in the boys, time and again, is that when the work is too much for them they shut down.

Portrait of an 8 year old mathematically gifted child

If the gifted in your school are under-served, it's a good bet the whole population is under-served. But how do you even know what a GK (gifted kid) looks like?

An 8 year old mathematically GK was asked by his mother what needs to be fixed in this picture.

His reply: "I would take out the cent sign, and put in a dollar sign, because otherwise that would mean 4.5 mills."

She had to look up the word "mill." It has two definitions:

10 per cent of a penny. In many jurisdictions, property tax assessments are based on a mill rate.

The mill or mille(₥) (sometimes mil in the UK) is an abstract unit of currency. In the U.S. it is equivalent to 1/1000 of a U.S. dollar, while in the UK it was proposed as being 1/1000 of the pound sterling during the decades of discussion on the decimalization of the pound.

He added, "I would give the guy 5 mills, and expect change. I'll bet he wouldn't like that."

His mother's comment: "This problem was from a Saxon pre-algebra book, and all they were looking for was the change to the dollar sign."

grammar recommendations from ktm-1

help desk - request for grammar recommendations

grammar recommendations from the "Favorites for kids" page

You may need to hit "refresh" a couple of times, but the page will come up.

Here are the notes I took after hours of Warriner's-hunting on the Web:
  • Warriner’s English Composition and Grammar: First Course grade 7 is used by Wilton in grade 7 [ed.: just checked some other sites - First Course is 7th grade]
  • Warriner’s English Composition and Grammar, Third Course is used at to work with the book TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (the teacher teaches 9th & 10th grades)
  • Warriner’s 4th Course is for 10th grade in the Seton Home School website
  • Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition: Course 5 – Liberty Edition ISBN: 0153118040 January 1986 hardcover Holt Rinehart & Winston $63.85 list (this is probably an 11th grade course)
  • Warriner’s High School Handbook 1992 Holt Rinehart Winston ISBN: 0030540097 (seems like teacher’s guide is integrated with the handbook??)
  • Warriner’s High School Handbook 1992 Teacher’s Manual ISBN: 0030540127

From isbn Search:

“The Complete Course is a summary of the six book Warriners series and is used for 12th graders. A comprehensive grammar course for high school used in many home school situations. Contains all aspects of a high school English curriculum with clear explanations, examples and exercises. Includes sentence diagraming.

Warriner, John - Warriner's English Grammar and Composition Complete Course (12th Grade)”

Www.setonbooks has quite a few of the Warriner’s books, including an answer key

ISBN search

only the good die young

from the blog Dean's World:

I need a copy of Warriner's English Grammar and Composition published by Harcourt -- Complete Course -- Teacher's Manual with Answer Keys. The ISBN is 0153119454. Believe me, I've searched everywhere on the Net. Amazon doesn't have it. I've checked all the usual suspects. None of the meta-search engines can find it. Maybe you know someone who does. If you do, shoot me an email (my address is found on the link in the first comment to this post).

What's amazing is that everyone wants this book, but it is out of print. It seems that the teaching of grammar is deeply frowned upon today, so there's not much sense in printing it any more. But home schoolers and private school teachers, like someone important to me, are going nuts for this book, and there is nary a copy to found. Let me know if you can help!

P.S. There are a million variations on this title. It needs to be the Teacher's Edition. It needs to be the Complete Course. We need Answer Keys. We need Grammar and Composition (not Composition and Grammar!).

And if you can suggest a reasonable alternative, I'm all ears.

Having spent hours of my life trying to decode the Warriner's series, I think I've got it straight:

The books start in grade 7 and proceed year by year through grade 12:

  1. Course 1: 7th grade
  2. Course 2: 8th grade
  3. Course 3: 9th grade
  4. Course 4: 10th grade
  5. Course 5: 11th grade
  6. Complete Course: 12th grade

a couple of lists of Warriner's books (assuming the links remain good):

Warriner's at abebooks

Warriner's at ISBN search

21st century skills

[B]utlering has become one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States after more than a half-century of decline, driven by the greatest surge in American wealth in nearly a century. Over the past 10 years, the number of multimillionaire households has more than doubled. As of 2004, there were more than 1.4 million U.S. households worth at least $5 million and more than 530,000 worth more than $10 million, according to the Federal Reserve.

On the third floor of the Starkey Mansion, placement workers frantically answer phones from rich homeowners looking for help. A large white board lists more than a dozen job offers. "We have too much demand and not enough qualified graduates," says Mary Starkey, Starkey's charismatic founder, whose business card reads "The First Lady of Service." Starkey received about 300 applications for its 50 slots this year, up from barely filling the slots five years ago.

Other butler-placement agencies are also swamped., a placement service for household staff, had more than 100 job listings on its site just months after it launched in 2005. One ad read: This New York City family needs someone extremely organized. They summer in the Hamptons and need someone to assist in running and staffing their new summer home.... They also need someone techie-Mac and BlackBerry savvy to set up systems in the new beach house and facilitate entertaining, travel arrangements and coordinate with all appropriate vendors. Other duties involve shopping for presents.

The Butler Boom
Wealthy Explosion Sparks Labor Shortage; Starting Pay $70,000
WSJ June 1, 2007, p. W1

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

aack! aack!

Just got this from my neighbor ----

so today I was reading Science News....something about....a smart pill for seniors ($)....which can't hit the market a moment too soon as far as I'm concerned....


This is a non-partisan blog (sort of)

Not anti-Republican

Not anti-Democrat

Or.... ummm.... alternatively, possibly anti-Republican and anti-Democrat in equal measure

Point is: I post this YouTube because it's funny!


from Mindless Math Mutterings

I know a lot of you have already seen this, but I wanted to get a link up here.

This is one of my favorite MMM posts so far:

Math as a Foreign Language

You learn [a foreign] language by listening to others speak, by looking words up in the dictionary, by learning the rules of grammar and then memorizing the “irregular” applications that break all those rules. Finally, you are able to communicate with others in this new language and the more often you do so, and the more challenging the conversations become, the more you grow in your ability to communicate.

You can always tell who had the benefit of a good foundation through formal instruction (grammar, syntax, pronunciation, vocabulary) and who just "picked it up" informally, on their own and without academic support. The latter tend to be more limited in the range and depth of communication in that foreign language. There is a limit to what they are able to accomplish with the "tools" in the "toolbox" so to speak. Those with the strong foundation move through their discipline with ease, with confidence and with mastery. I think the same applies to many other disciplines be it ballet, basketball, the violin or dare I say, mathematics?

Yes, learning math is much like learning a language. When you master the basics through diligence, perseverance, and the benefit of good instruction, one day without realizing it, you’ve opened the door to a whole new world.


parents making trouble

over at Mindless Math Mutterings.....

Russian teacher in America

In every society certain skills are expected of everybody. For example, if a Brazilian boy tells his mates that he cannot play soccer, he will be considered a nut. Mastery is expected from everyone, so everyone gets it.

Something similar takes place in Russia with respect to word problems. Presence, even abundance of word problems has been normal in Russian school for many decades. The difficulty of problems continually grows from one grade to another, then to olympiads, then to research. Here are a few short statements under which most Russians would subscribe:

  • It is good for children to solve multi-step word problems already in elementary school, before starting algebra,.
  • Children are motivated to solve arithmetical word problems because they are
  • generally motivated to overcome difficulties, both physical and intellectual, andare willing to train themselves for that if the tasks are within their possibilitiesand the society approves it.
  • Solving word problems is a good opportunity for the children to display and train creativity. The fact that the answer is unique and predetermined by thedata by no means contradicts this.
  • If you can solve a word problem without algebra, it is good for you. Generally, the more bare-handed you solve a problem, the better for you.
  • It is normal, even necessary that teachers require correct, clear and explicit solutions and answers.
  • The younger are children, the less they should be allowed to decide what to study.
  • Solving arithmetical word problems in elementary school should be obligatory for every healthy child.
  • The government should plan the minimal version of school studies and state theminimal level of difficulty of problems solved in every grade.
  • Word problems do not need to be realistic in the literal sense. They are solved for the sake of general intellectual development rather than for a literal application to everyday life.

Arithmetical Word Problems in Russia
Andre Toom

This is one of those unpleasant moments when I have to hear a mathematician and math educator say something Math Trailblazers would say.

Of course, when Math Trailblazers talks about solving algebra problems without algebra (or, in the case of Math Trailblazers, adding and subtracting without addition and subtraction algorithms) they're also talking about slowing math learning down to a crawl:

In MATH TRAILBLAZERS, instruction in standard procedures is delayed slightly beyond the traditional time, but problems that would normally be solved by standard procedures are often introduced sooner than is customary. This forces students to use their prior knowledge to devise ways to solve the problems “from first principles,” thus promoting students’ construction of their own understandings.

Arithmetic TIMS Tutor Section 9

update from Google Master:

Oh, but you stopped quoting right at the side-splitting part!

The following problem is from a recent Russian textbook for the 2-d grade:

Problem 1. Vintik and Shpuntik agreed to go to the fifth car of a train. However, Vintik went to the fifth car from the beginning, but Shpuntik went to the fifth car from the end. How many cars has the train if the two friends got to one and the same car? [Geidman.2.1, p.9].

The following problem is from a well-known russian book for children written by Nosov. Its main character Vitya Maleev did poorly in mathematics in the third grade and promised his teacher to train himself in solving problems from the 3-grade textbook. This is one of them.

Problem 2. A boy and a girl collected 24 nuts. The boy collected twice as many nuts as the girl. How many did each collect?

These are good, simple word problems that need no algebra. They give practice in reading word problems and deciphering what is being asked for, which I believe is what someone (Rory? Steve?) said was step 0 for solving word problems.

The side-splitting part is that I cannot imagine these being given to your average American 2nd or 3rd grader.

and from Exo:

In terms of solving for the sake of solving problems - the famous Russian scholar Lomonosov's saying was in every classroom: math is calisthenics for the brain.

Word problems - I make them up by dozens at a time using fairy tales characters, our family members, friens, everything... The main idea -to identify what is given first, figure out what's asked, and find the solution. A 5-year old can easily do the problems with addition, substruction, easy multiplication, division. My son, after I made him memorize first 3 columns of times table said that the problems became more fun, since he did the easy in his mind.

And multi-step problems... Boy, was I surprised that my 7th graders were hardly able to solve word problems in physics that involved 1 step (substitute the numbers into the formula) and struggled enormously over 2-step problems... When I clearly remember (and my Russian workbook in physics 6-7 proves it) that we were solving problems that required deriving a formula from another, at leat three steps, were not allowed to use calculators, and had to memorize all formulas.

OK.... so now I'm feeling REALLY bad that I never made C. do the Challenging Word Problems books....

Speaking of C., he and his father are downstairs now, working on his paper for social studies.

The kids are all supposed to write a 3-page paper with sources & "create a Civil War artifact" for the Civil War Museum we're all invited to see next Monday or whenever.

(At least, I think we're invited. We were accidentally blind-copied an email, clearly not intended for us, which referred to the teachers having sent out invitations to all parents -- which, judging by my email queue, does not include us.... so ..... maybe we're going to a middle school Civil War Museum and maybe we're not. We shall see.)

In any event, last night Ed was helping C. with his paper and he discovered that C. does not know how to write a paragraph.

More accurately, C. has no idea how to write an informational paragraph summarizing the argument of a piece of historical writing.

He knows how to write a memoir paragraph. I think. Pretty sure.

He does not know how to write a paragraph for a 3-page research paper for social studies.

So.... his assignment is to write a paper, not a paragraph.

Pick a Civil War topic and write a 3-page research paper about it.

update - 6-1-2007

I should add that C's ELA & social studies teachers are very good -- which is leading us to a new perception of what we're struggling with here.

I'm going to save that for a second post.

whole stuff taught wholly
the struggle

get involved! part 2

Parental Involvement:
No Child Left Behind requires schools to develop ways to get parents more involved in their child's education and in improving the school. Contact your child's school to find out how you can get involved.

Facts and Terms Every Parent Should Know About NCLB

suggestions for parent involvement from Steve H:

1. Bake cookies for the PTO fundraiser.

2. Make sure your child gets his/her homework done even though it's a silly waste of time. Do not swear in front of the children.

3. Make sure your child has a proper place to study with a big table and lots of art supplies.

4. Answer questions, but do not help with your child's homework. (Yeah, right!)

5. Bake more cookies.

6. Make sure that your child eats a good breakfast. If you don't, we can use that as an excuse.

7. Make sure that your child goes to the dentist. You don't want toothaches to interfere with learning.

8. Don't be poor.

9. Attend the really important (15 minute slot) parent-teacher conference where you can find out about issues that have been going on for months.

10. If you have more things you want to talk about with the teacher (like what you found out in your 15 minute time slot), then you can take time off from work to fit in a meeting at 3pm.

11. Go to town meetings to support their agenda (more money).

12. Join a school improvement team where you can talk about really important things like bus safety and healthy foods for hot lunch. (Oops, that's the school committee's big job.)

13. There's no need to help the school with union issues like seniority, bumping, and competence. Those are contract issues and we all know how there is no conflict between what benefits the teacher and what benefits the student.

14. Bake more cookies.

15. There is also no need to help with the curriculum. They are the college-trained experts in their own opinion.

16. Encourage after-school activities, like tutoring.

17. Make sure that learning gets done.

18. Be part of the(ir) solution, not part of the problem.

"Thank you for your input, we'll take it from here."

suggestions for parent involvement from Kathy Iggy:

19. Donate gift baskets for the carnival.

20. Donate raffle items for the carnival.

21. Help at Market Day and take orders for overpriced food items.

22. Go to "student-led" conferences with your 1st grader where nothing at all is accomplished. Nod politely.

23. Donate food and gift items for teacher appreciation day.

24. Don't ask too many questions about standardized tests. Nod politely at the non-answers you receive.

suggestions for parental involvement from Paula V:

25. Take an active role in your child's education by ordering educational workbooks and materials for use at home.

26. Volunteer in your child's classroom at least 2-3 a week. Never question the teacher or provide input.

suggestions for parent involvement from Lynn G:

27. Don't get divorced.

28. Chaperone field trips to the same places they visited last year (and the year before that).

29. Keep a list of classroom supplies included on your regular shopping list: kleenex (must be antibacterial), wipes (also antibacterial), paper towels, ziplock baggies, party supplies. Send these things in weekly.

30. Sew costumes.

31. Purchase a long list of school supplies at the start of each year, many of which will never be used.

suggestions for parental involvement from Susan S:

32. Take secretarial courses so that you can keep up with all of your child's various projects, notes, research, packets, etc., since he will be developmentally unable to do so himself.

33. Attend all Parent Math Nights so that you can learn why everything you were ever taught was wrong.

34. Bookmark many homeschool sites so that you may fill in the gaps created by your school's new (fill in the blank) program.

35. Memorize where all of the Kumon, Syvan, and Huntington sites are in your immediate area should your patch-the-gap method fail you, or you become a victim of hard drive failure, whichever comes first.

suggestions for parental involvement from Doug Sundseth:

36. Ask all your co-workers to buy things they don't need or want at unreasonable prices so that the school can keep 15% of the sale price.

37. Buy soup from the approved soup company and save the labels so we can get a few pennies toward buying new computers to replace the old computers that did nothing for your children's education. Because computers are good and stuff.

38. Vote for school bonds, always, and without asking for details. It'll help. Really. No, don't ask why it will be different this time.

39. Bake some more cookies. But in the name of all that's holy, don't let your children eat them or we'll report you for child abuse.

suggestions for parental involvement from cranberry:

40. Come in to school during work hours to admire the children's projects, as uncritical admiration of arts and crafts is the royal road to a good education.

suggestions for parental involvement from Barry Garelick:

41. Never say "good bye" when you leave a parent teacher conference. Say "We respect you!" And don't take their nose in the air and back turn personally.

so.... I don't get why nobody said set up a Yahoo list so you can complain about your school district in public.

get involved!
get involved! part 2

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Abbot and Costello Invent Everyday Math

Thats right... I have a time machine... and you can watch it here.

Hat tip to Mindless Math Mutterings, via Instructivist.

getting better all the time


get involved!

this just in -

Parental Involvement: No Child Left Behind requires schools to develop ways to get parents more involved in their child's education and in improving the school. Contact your child's school to find out how you can get involved.

Facts and Terms Every Parent Should Know About NCLB

I'm going to contact my school to find out how I can get involved!

get involved!
get involved! part 2

help desk

Does typing up and posting answers to problems in a textbook constitute a violation of copyright law?

Are answers proprietary?

email from the guidance counselor

back story: email to the guidance counselor

This came Friday:
Mrs. Johnson,
I spoke to Ms. T and Christopher received a XX on the CTBS test. I hope you have a nice weekend.
I don't know what to make of this. Initially I thought someone had seen the light; someone had said to Christopher's guidance counselor — the guy who's supposed to be guiding our son — or, perhaps, to the principal, "We don't need another fight with these parents."

Then I heard from the school attorney I mentioned (who will be writing posts for ktm-2 one of these days):
The penalty for violating the crap out of a parent's FERPA right is that the Feds "threaten" to withhold Federal funds. We know of no instance in which this has ever been done. There is no private right of action to sue under FERPA. However, it is a PITA to deal with OCR, so schools usually roll over and quick rather than have that time suck occur.
So now I'm thinking the school actually did intend to withhold Christopher's CTBS score until acceptance and rejection letters had gone out for Earth Science no matter how much it fanned the flames.

Worse yet, school authorities thought acceptable professional behavior for a guidance counselor means telling a parent to send a followup request one week later instead of recording the first request on whatever calendar program taxpayers have purchased for his use.

Step behind the yellow line.

Come back next week.

Highest taxes in the country & I'm sending my kid to middle school at the DMV.

Anyway, I cited FERPA in the spirit of "see you and raise you"; I wasn't thinking tactically. My attitude was: If you can't send me my kid's science score today, then you can give me every last scrap of paper in his school file 45 days from now.

This wasn't a threat; I wasn't planning to "win." Parents never win. We ask for stuff; district says no to stuff. It's the Prime Directive.

All of a sudden, voila. Score arrives.

So.... I guess we haven't seen an outbreak of common sense. I must have just happened to stumble onto a threat that works.

It's always worse than you think.


On the other hand.... a threat that works.

Good to know.

I'm looking forward to Thinking Out Loud's posts.

news from nowhere part 14
news from nowhere part 16
news from nowhere part 17
news from nowhere part 20

algebra 2 & trigonometry recommendations

Does anyone have algebra 2 & trigonometry recommendations?

Any thoughts on Dad's Trigonometry?

Or on College Mathematics?

Another question.

Foerster's Algebra 1 is fantastic. (I think someone from ktm-1 sent that book to me - right?? ... yup, I thought so) When I was struggling to teach myself & Christopher function notation in 24 hours, Foerster's was the book for the job. I Xeroxed pages for my neighbor to use, too. Wonderful.

It has rave reviews on Amazon, and Mathematically Correct likes it, too, as does Greta F.

Here's a review from one of his students:

A former student of Mr. Foerster's, November 2, 2001 Until I met Mr. Foerster, I thought I desperately hated math. I scored well in it, yet I just hated the whole subject.

Mr. Foerster is truly an inspiring man; the whole high school was in awe of him. His courses were reputed to be extremely tough. But the hallway gossip was soon dispelled. Although Algebra isn't always "easy", I was quite surprised and delighted to discover that Mr. Foerster's classes - and especially his textbooks - were extremely user-friendly! Mr. Foerster writes clearly, and is able to address Algebra from the beginning, rather than talking several levels over students' heads. His kindness, humor, and gentle personality show through in the books. Wow! Math is fun after all!

I am now homeschooling my three kids, and Foerster's books are the texts of choice in this family.

So... is his second book, Algebra and Trigonometry, also great?

Does anyone know?

Last but not least, I notice he has a calculus text, too, which apparently is used in AP calculus classes.... and I spy a notation from teacher-2-teacher in my textbook file: "a great reform book."


Sample chapter & material from instructor's manual here.

Prentice Hall Classics (math & social studies)
Prentice Hall Math Classics