kitchen table math, the sequel: 10/28/07 - 11/4/07

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Singapore Math scoring

From an earlier comment by Myrtle on "Slave Parents in Singapore" regarding scoring in Singapore:
1: 75% and above
2: 70% to 74%
3: 65% to 69%
4: 60% to 64%
5: 55% to 59%
6: 50% to 54%
U: Below 50%, considered Un-graded, or failed.

Which to me looks like you only need 75% to get an A.

My understanding is that Myrtle is close. I was told last summer that 65% or above was considered mastery of a concept.

I gave my 3rd grade students the 3A placement test this week. Yes, right before Halloween (I'm such a mean teacher). I use the placement test that is online as it is what the students would normally take at the beginning of 4th grade to be sorted into ability groups.

I also figure this will point out areas that I need to revisit before we start on the 3B work. Or, as it turns out, not. Fifteen of my 17 students scored 85% or above, two students scored in the mid-70% range. Even Singapore teachers would consider that mastery.

If you look closely at the 3A placement test, you'll see that it is scored 2 points for a basic problem and 5 points for a word problem. I score 1 point for a basic problem - it's either correct or not, and 4 for a word problem, as follows:
1 pt correct bars
1 pt correct brackets or labeling of bars
1 pt math
1 pt answer in a complete sentence
The reasoning is that the word problems are so simple at this level, the concept to master is how to get the model method correct so that students can move on to more challenging problems.

As the year is sliding into the holiday non-stop party mode, I will probably hand out the 3B books, but intersperse units with standards that Arizona requires like discrete math, probability and tangrams.


ester left this link - incredible

The one real regret I have in life is that I never learned to ride.

I was a horse crazy little girl growing up on a farm, and my parents bought me a Welsh pony we named Sunny Boy, because he had a sunny personality.

Sunny had one day of training; I had none. My concept of riding, which Sunny shared, came to be: stay on until Sunny bucks me off. One time Sunny bucked me over his head -- I think I may have turned a half-somersault in the air above him -- then stopped on a dime so as not to step on my face when I landed just inches in front of his hooves.

Our mutual understanding ended in woe when Sunny bucked me off in the pasture one day. I was only 10, and I'd been thrown so many times I had no idea a person could actually get hurt being flung to the ground from the top of a horse. Sunny was bucking, it was time to get off, so I let myself fall to the spot on the ground where I'd been aimed.

I landed on my wrist. It broke in two places, and the injury was severe enough that the doctors thought my arm would grow crooked and would need to be broken again and re-set & pinned a year down the line.

That didn't happen, but I lost my confidence.

A few years ago I took some riding lessons and discovered that I have an absolute, unshakable fear of being thrown, or of simply losing my balance and falling. The other riders at the barn told me that's typical. Once you've fallen you never forget you've fallen.

They also said that everyone who rides horses falls sooner or later. Then they spend months and years trying to get over it.

I don't know whether that's true, but it sounded true to me.

So: regrets.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I think Instructivist left this link the other day. Then Temple told me about it yesterday.

lost in translation

Here's the Financial Times blog entry.

Ziggy on the writing process

Just stumbled across a classic Engelmann diatribe on the Writing Process left by an Anonymous commenter awhile back:

I spend most of my time working on programs, and the programs I'm currently working on are (in my mind, anyhow) bigtime winners.

Unfortunately, the stuff we create is usually not marching to the current education drummer. Like writing according to that horseshit idiom "Writing is a process." The process is to brainstorm, write, rewrite, re-rewrite, edit, and publish, or something along those lines. This is among the more brain-dead approaches you could take to teach writing effectively. Why? Because, you want to give kids the idea that they can write as fluently as they talk. Yes, Virginia, they have to learn some conventions. But the main goal of the program should be to let them express themselves on a topic—without straying in a manner that creates conventionally acceptable prose. In other words, they do it fast. Today they complete a piece; tomorrow they complete another, and both of them are pretty good. How do you do that? The answer is you provide kids with templates that are in standard English and that help them with the parts of an essay they typically screw up. They copy the rote parts and make up the rest. Then they read what they've written out loud and realize that it sounds pretty good.

This is the basic approach Bonnie Grossen and I are using in an exit writing program. This program would be designed to teach the kind of stuff kids have to write to pass a high school writing exit exam. Fail the exam and you don't graduate.

When we were field-testing the program, we had kids write on the topic, "What do you think about high school exit tests for math or writing?" My, they wrote some very spirited responses and they made some very good points, like "You passed US in math. How could you do that and now you tell us we gotta pass another test or we don't graduate? If we don't graduate, that's your problem—you passed us in math."

Possibly Way More than You Ever Wanted to Know ABOUT ME



They Say/I Say has templates.

I like templates.

easy peasy


C. came home from school today saying his math test was "easy."

I'm trying to think whether I've ever heard him say such a thing about a math test.

Probably not.

before and after - ELL student using text reconstruction

from Why Johnny Can't Write: How to Improve Writing Skills by Myra J. Linden and Arthur Whimbey:

Student C: Paragraph Written Before TRC

The best movie I’ve seen recently is “The Killing field.” Why I said this movie is good. Because it was a true story of Cambodia. This movie showed how miserable all the Cambodian people during Communist took over, and talking about Cambodian translater was a good honest man with his American reporter friend, stucked with communist for 5 years and finally try to escape the country and got succeeded, how he lived in United States.
Twelve Weeks Later: From Opinion Paper
The United States is an enjoyable place to live. Having been born and raised in Cambodia and also having traveled through Europe I know the United States is the best place to live….Secondly opportunity most people in this country live in the middle class of society. If you work hard you can have just about anything you want. You can study and improve your way of life and your job; therefore, increasing your income. You don’t need to be a doctor or engineer to own your own home or car because with good credit you can get a loan. In Cambodia, my dad worked hard seven days a week with no time off to afford one home, two cars, and send my brother to college. There were no such thing as loans.

Instead of the scrambled constructions marred with verb errors of the first sample, in the second this student, learning English as a second language, uses sophisticated sentences with participial phrases and prepositional phrase openers. She also uses complex sentences opening and closing with adverbial clauses and demonstrates the use of cohesion devices such as “Secondly.”

[This student] continued to have proofreading problems and …mechanical errors (although less frequently), requiring additional work. But [she] learned to organize coherent paragraphs and furnish specific details to support general statements.

In describing weak writers—estimated to be roughly 70% of America’s 11th graders—The Writing Report Card observes that the understood “what is required in” an analytical writing assignment, but their evidence is “disorganized or unelaborated. Rather than using coherent arguments or explanations, far too many students resorted to simple lists…”

Myra Linden on text reconstruction (excellent)
Analyze, Organize, Write by Arthur Whimbey and Elizabeth Lynn Jenkins (terrific text reconstruction textbook)
text reconstruction posts

The Writing Report Card: Writing Achievement in American Schools by Arthur N. Applebee, Judith A. Langer, Ina V.S. Mullis
Princeton, N.J. : Educational Testing Service, [1986]
ISBN 088685055X (pbk.)

slave parents in Singapore

Went back a year and a half to find this post from January 2006 (no idea whether this is true, but here it is):

Carolyn mentioned the subject of parent mentoring, which reminded me of an LA Times article I read about Singapore way back when, before there was Kitchen Table Math.

So if we were to crib from the valedictorian of nations, what would we find? A school system based on two credos: one very American-competition-and one unimaginable in the U.S.-total government control. For students, this means high-pressure exams at the end of grades four, six, 10 and 12 that help determine not only what classes they take but, ultimately, whether they will wind up as doctors or cabdrivers. For schools, the pressure is to attract the best students-who have their pick of campuses.

Then there is:

A national curriculum. In Singapore, there are road maps for instruction at every level, molding tests, tutoring and teacher training. The documents are amazingly concise-eighth-grade math is covered in 10 pages, listing 19 topics within algebra, geometry, etc. (Students, for example, must be able to calculate the "volume and surface area of sphere, pyramid and cone.") By contrast, American eighth-graders race through 30 or more topics, learning them so superficially that they have to be repeated over and over.

Involved parents. Here, that doesn't mean just showing up for Back to School Night. Parents get on waiting lists for the best tutors, who charge $300 a month. They buy two sets of books to ensure that one is always available for homework. Hundreds pay $300 to attend 30 hours of weekend training so they can understand changes in math instruction. "As parents, we think of always buying the best computers, giving them the best tutors, to play it safe, you know, so they can score high on their examinations," says Siew Yok as she purchased software so her 12-year-old daughter could cram to qualify for prestigious Raffles Girls School.

So here we have it, the Secret of their Success:
  • parents get on waiting lists for the best tutors
  • parents pay $300 to attend 30 hours of weekend training so they can understand changes in math instruction (now there's a potential revenue stream the folks at EVERYDAY MATH haven't thought of)
  • parents buy 2 sets of books

That pretty much describes me to a 't.'

hiring the best tutors = KUMON

  • spending $300 on a weekend seminar = writing Kitchen Table Math so I can learn math & how to teach it from Carolyn & the resident KTM Math Brains
  • buying 2 sets of books = buying 2 sets of books, one set via taxes, one set via American Express payments to

Assuming this article is true, in Singapore the job of seeing to it children actually learn what the teachers are teaching belongs to the parents.

Good thing I live in America.

If I lived in Singapore I'd be getting caned on a regular basis.

compare and contrast (Singapore vs US)
slave parents in Singapore

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cassy T on Singapore vs US culture

Cassy T, who teaches Singapore Math to 3rd graders in a charter school, sent this email awhile back and gave me permission to post:

It was tough to say [in the posts I wrote about visiting Singapore] that the real differences between the US and Singapore in education are cultural. They have high expectations of their students, their principals, and their country. Everywhere we went people wanted to know, what did we think? How is Singapore doing? What could they do better? Did we have any suggestions for improvement? We heard that from principals, teachers, students, waiters, hotel employees, tour guides, you name it. They really want to be the 'best" and are willing to put their money where there mouth is. Such a difference from the U.S. where we view education as an expense and teachers as, well, not professionals.

I'm finally getting around to posting this in response to the link Commenter vantilburgindo left to this article on the PSLE Maths test.

I'll go ahead and repeat myself: schools need to teach the students they have, not the students someone else has.

For me this means direct instruction or, even better, precision teaching, both of which focus on the most efficient means of getting the most content & comprehension inside your basic American kid's thick skill.

I speak as the proud parent of a thick-skulled American kid who is, as we speak, refusing to study for Friday's math test because it's Halloween.

We'll just see about that.



Ed is on the phone.

Speaking to thick-skulled American son.

"I'm not doing any work."

"I'm not doing any work."

"It's Halloween."

"No! It's Halloween!"

"No, I'm not doing work!"


"OK, two problems."

"Two problems, that's it."

"No, I'm not doing 20 minutes of work!"


"Probably around 6:30 or 7."


"Three problems, that's it!"

"Three and a half!"






interlude: neighbor arrives with cat books; trick-or-treat friend calls to figure out what time to meet; C. flings red practice problem binder onto white metal cabinet, unseating ancient plastic picture frame; neighbor suggests she will yell at C. and I will yell at her son, who is older, taller, and may require more in the way of parental shrieking

C. agrees to do 5 problems when in fact he needs to do at least 8, one for each lesson in Chapter 8; Catherine & Ed argue on phone while neighbor stands by with cat books; Ed says make him do extra tomorrow; Catherine says You should have talked to me first, etc.

This is so not Singapore.


So what are the odds I can knock off another 5 pages of my chapter before 6 o'clock?

Latest update on that writing class

This is a state-sponsored ed program in a frigging college town, and I'm somehow the only writing teacher they have. So they've decided I need to teach two two-hour classes (you recall that this is volunteer work, right?) which will begin next week.

The director reeks of bong water. She's also a moron. I had to explain to her, very patiently, why I might want information on students, like, oh, their English proficiency (TOEFL scores, anything), or why they were taking the class (going to college, naturalization, etc.) She just didn't get it.

She's the one who gets paid.

I did get the information, at least on the first of the two classes. They're all over the place. The only thing they have in common is that they're not native speakers. Some are on the naturalization track. Some are going to college. One is going to move to Australia to work as a nurse. About half of the students are Chinese, with a smattering of students from Japan, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, and Cameroon. I've ditched plans to come up with any kind of coherent curriculum, because it's a collection of disparate goals, proficiencies, and interests. I'll go in next week, get to know them, then have them write in detail about why they're there, what they hope to accomplish, and that sort of thing.

I'll take it from there.

Proposal to get New York colleges involved in remediation of high school students

Governor To Bet Billions on SUNY reports The New York Sun.

Envisioning a dramatically greater role for universities and colleges in the remedial education of secondary students, the Spitzer administration is planning to pump billions of additional dollars into the State University of New York and the rest of New York's higher education system, sources said.


The aim is to shift remediation to an earlier point — starting with children as young as 12 — so that more students are prepared for college by the time they graduate high school.


In doing so, the commission is hoping to combat a persistent problem: More than half of students entering community colleges require math and reading remediation.

Apparently, the already planned $7 billion increase in K-12 funding over the next four years will not be enough to remedy the remediation problem. While the increased funding to colleges for this new proposal has not been specified, the newspaper reports that spending on higher education in New York is expected to increase by $1.6 billion over the next five years.

Mo money, mo money, mo money.

Here’s the silver lining, if there is one.

Commission members say they foresee assigning colleges and universities a greater role in helping to develop the curricula of public high schools and middle schools.

That in itself might be worth a few billion dollars. Oh wait, do they mean the education departments or the subject areas? I have a sinking suspicion it’s the former.

compare and contrast

good heavens

Speaking of Advanced and Proficient and whatnot, remember this? (pdf file)

Placement Test for Singapore Primary Mathematics 6A
This test covers only new material taught in Primary Mathematics 6A

A motorist traveled from Town A to Town B. After traveling 1/3 of the distance for the journey at an average speed of 45 km/h, he continued to travel another 480 km to reach Town B. If his average speed for the entire journey was 54 km/h, what was his average speed for the last 2/3 of the distance?

A car and a truck were traveling to Town Q at constant average speeds. The car overtook the truck when they were 420 km from Town Q. The car arrived at Town Q at 6:30 p.m. while the van was still 120 km away from Town Q. The van arrived at Town Q at 8:30 p.m. What was the average speed of the car?

compare and contrast (Singapore vs US)
slave parents in Singapore

department of corrections

The post on "basic for high school seniors" is wrong -- thanks to Mark R. for catching this.

(fyi: There's a special trick to using the "Submit" feature at the top right hand corner of the page, which is that you have to actually hit the "Submit" key for the Submit feature to work. Who knew?)

Assuming I am now reading the NAEP page correctly (and if I were you I would not make that assumption), the fraction item is "Below Basic" for fourth graders.

No more quickie data-mining activities for me.


oh, and the function question isn't Advanced.

It falls under "proficient."

This is mortifying.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Math Drills

Check out this great free worksheet resource for math drills:

(Sorry, it's my first post...can't figure out how to make my URLs look pretty like I can in the comments!)

worksheet lollapalooza

Jefferson Davis Learning Center

Fantastic resource. Word problems are great; come with ready-made charts & "buckets" for mixture problems.

Looks like it probably has graphing calculator tutorials or some such, too.

what is basic for a high school senior?

update - wrong, wrong, wrong

I'm sorry..... this is completely wrong.

I didn't hit the "Submit" button, so the page stayed on its default 4th grade position.

This problem is Below Basic for 12th graders.

Must go back now and check whether the function problem is listed in the category I assumed.

12th grade NAEP results - everyone vs. high-SES

All students:

Below Basic: 37.2

Basic: 48.2

Proficient: 13.0

Advanced: 1.6

Students with high-SES (highest income quartile):

Thirty percent of high-SES students understood mathematics at the Proficient and Advanced levels by 12th grade.

Here's how the scores break down by income quartile. (BB: below basic; B: basic; P: proficient; A: advanced)

Lowest quarter
BB 62.5
B 34.3
P 3.0
A 0.1

Middle-low quarter

Middle-high quarter

Highest quarter

sample questions, all levels

Interpreting 12th-Graders’ NAEP-Scaled Mathematics Performance Using High School Predictors and Postsecondary Outcomes From the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88)

room at the top
12th grade NAEP results

8th grade tests

from Fordham's new report "The Proficiency Illusion":

Eighth-grade tests are sharply harder to pass in most states than those in earlier grades (even after taking into account obvious differences in subject-matter complexity and children's academic development).

This is synchronicity.

I'd been telling Ed the other day that 8th grade tests are more difficult in general, but then couldn't find a source and thought I must have made the whole thing up.

Turns out I didn't.

Killer Sudoku

There's a new kind of Sudoku called Killer Sudoku that requires knowing addition facts. Google at your own risk. You have been warned.

room at the top

I've been out practicing some amateur data mining.


Fordham has a write-up of the new NAEP report. (pdf file) Mike Petrilli talks about it here:

[A]nalysts followed a representative group of students who graduated from middle school in 1988 and, as high-school seniors, took a math test the results of which could be equated to the NAEP's scale. (Students were followed until 2000, when they were about 26 years old.)

Four scores were possible on the test: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. Kids scoring Proficient or Advanced in 12th grade almost universally went on to attend and graduate college. That's a correlation, not a cause, but on the other hand it does tell me that my kid will be attending college with kids who know some math.

You can find an incomprehensible description of the levels is here. (incomprehensible to me, that is)

Sample questions from Below Basic through Advanced are here.

I took time to do a couple of the Advanced questions, and I'm not looking too bad I don't think -- entirely thanks to Saxon Math, Algebra 1 & 2 (the first two books of his high school trilogy, "Advanced Mathematics" being the third).

I'm proud to report that, thanks to Saxon, I was able to solve this problem:

If ƒ(x) = x2 + x and g(x) = 2x + 7, what is an expression for ƒ(g(x)) ?

Before working my way through Saxon, I had never seen or heard of a function; nor had I seen function notation.

I taught it to myself using Saxon, the lesson on function notation in Paul Foerster's Algebra 1, and the lesson at Purplemath.

I still find the notation itself a bit confusing, but that's because I need more practice.

more anon

update: wrong, again

This item falls under "proficient," not "advanced."

I'll have to see whether I can do the advanced items.

At this point, I think two Saxon books probably take me to the top of Proficient, and possibly into Advanced.

But I'll have to check.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Brilliant Move By Biology Teacher

I was driving my 15 year old to school today when he started complaining about his biology teacher. It seems that Mr. M has deviously warned the kids to avoid Wikipedia. If they attempt to research by going no further than Wikipedia - beware -- he is on to them. He has been known to change the answers to the questions/topics relevant to his class just to catch the lazy student cribbing off of Wikipedia.

I think this is brilliant. In fact, he doesn't even have to know how to change Wikipedia answers in order to have the desired effect. How would the kids know if the pages were changed unless they did their research somewhere else too?

I encourage all teachers everywhere to toss this hazard at their kids and see how many scramble. Just planting the seed of doubt is enough. But if you are even a little literate -- try changing a page and see who falls for it.

Of course, this assumes that the kids have been taught how to do appropriate research and the reasons why Wikipedia is an unreliable source.

American kids, dumber than dirt?

I came across a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle titled "American kids, dumber than dirt," with the subtitle "Warning: The next generation might just be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history" (article here). Thought it would be good fodder for conversation here at KTMII.

Relating the thoughts of a longtime teacher with whom he corresponds, the author writes:

It is not merely a sad slide. It is not just a general dumbing down. It is far uglier than that.

We are, as far as urban public education is concerned, essentially at rock bottom. We are now at a point where we are essentially churning out ignorant teens who are becoming ignorant adults and society as a whole will pay dearly, very soon, and if you think the hordes of easily terrified, mindless fundamentalist evangelical Christian lemmings have been bad for the soul of this country, just wait.

It's gotten so bad that, as my friend nears retirement, he says he is very seriously considering moving out of the country so as to escape what he sees will be the surefire collapse of functioning American society in the next handful of years due to the absolutely irrefutable destruction, the shocking — and nearly hopeless — dumb-ification of the American brain. It is just that bad.

My question is - are the author and his teacher friend right? Or are they just expressing the skepticism with which older generations generally regard younger ones?

Are we on the down-curve of America? And if so, is it a float or a plummet?

Parent Report Cards ?

A republican board of ed member in Manchester, Connecticut (not my town) is proposing parent report cards -- giving grades to parents on how well they do at getting involved in their children's education.

Parent Report Cards

Apparently this was tried in Chicago 7 years ago -- and abandoned after 1 year. Hard to believe, but it didn't solve the problems and actually created resentment between parents and teachers. Who could have predicted that?
He said the program would not be punitive, but instead would help the district identify struggling parents who might need support.

They can't identify the struggling parents without grading all of them?

And how do you think that Board will respond when parents demand the right to grade the teachers, administrators and board members?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

the workshop model

a redkudu find

(insert dream sequence here)

[on the board]

Objective: We will learn how to bake a cake.
Do Now: What is a cake? Describe 3 characteristics of a good cake.


Mr. V: “OK, class, let’s look at the Do Now. A lot of you put down characteristics about what a cake should look like, and that’s great. Now, let’s look at this cake.”

[puts up cake]

“What do you notice?”

Student1: “It has pink frosting on it.”
Mr. V: “Yes, what else?”
Student2: “It looks good.”
Mr. V: “OK, you’re getting there. Anything else?”
Student3: “It’s cylindrical about a y-axis.”
Mr. V: “Hmm, OK. I’m glad you’re thinking about it. Now, I need a volunteer.”

I would say read the whole thing, but that would be wrong.

Nevertheless, you must.

Read at least down to the part where one kid manages to bake a workshop cake.