kitchen table math, the sequel: EM success story

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

EM success story

from the Dallas comments thread:

I am a student whose school used Everyday Math textbooks, and I was more than prepared for higher level math courses. However, this is because my math teachers had us put the books under our desk, and passed out real math textbooks, like Saxon Math instead. Because of the strong basic math foundation imparted by the traditional method, I have already been able to take both AB and BC calculus, and passed both AP tests with a five. I did see many other students struggling with the class not because they didn’t understand the theory, but because they were unable to perform the basic math operations. Everyday Math had crippled their basic math skills, and those are critical foundations for higher-level math.

Mrs. Wilson, you say that parents should help their kids review math, and I agree with you there. But the sad truth is, many parents don't care. The majority of students receive instruction solely in the classroom, and never receive the benefits that your daughters received. You should not focus on problem solving skills and "higher level thinking" if it prevents the students from actually learning any math. Removing Everyday Math from everyday usage is one of the best things possible for DISD's math scores.

Mrs. Wilson's comment:
my daughters 3rd grade teacher who has taught for over 25 years likes this book because it encourages higher level, multiple step thinking. People complain their kids aren't memorizing multiplication tables. Heres an idea for you, practice them at home with your child.

This comment is revealing, and wrong on every count:

  • It assumes that learning = memorizing & teaching = one-on-one flash card practice
  • It assumes that some content is "beneath" teachers and should be farmed out to parents who are also, presumably, beneath teachers
  • It assumes that teaching a child the multiplication tables is in all cases a simple and easily accomplished task

I wish to heck I could find the post quoting a Soviet teacher on the precision methodology and timing they followed for teaching the times tables.

Since I can't, I'll quote the National Math Advisory Panel, which says that "most" American children do not achieve "fast and efficient retrieval of facts." (January 11, 2007 meeting)

It is not a simple matter to teach many children their math facts, nor is it a simple matter to "practice" successfully at home. My own efforts with flash cards came to naught; I was lucky enough to stumble onto the fact that, at least for my own child, worksheets were what was needed. I have since heard the same story from other parents.

And, in the n of 2 category, I've spoken with two parents of math-disabled adult children who tried and failed to teach the math facts at home. Both were educated and intelligent women; their kids are intelligent, too. No learning problems, no behavior problems, no ADD. One of the two scored a 780 on his SAT-V.

Remediating a bad math program at home is an extremely difficult proposition.

A good teacher is far more effective than the most intelligent and dedicated parent.


Anonymous said...

I personally like Saxon, but got Math-U-See for my daughter. I plan on getting Saxon for my son.

Flashcards did not work with my daughter, I don't think Saxon would have either.

Math-U-See is working great with her. They teach addition several different ways, and have worksheet type pages. Each lesson have several additional pages that you can skip or do depending on your student--that's been very useful.

My daughter thinks differently than me--things that look easy and that I think we'll only have to do a page or two, we end up doing the extra pages as well. Things that seem a little more challenging to me, she generally ends up doing fine with and not needing the extra pages.

Catherine Johnson said...

My friend Carolyn, who co-founded ktm, has always said you have to get math "into the hand."

Temple says the same thing about architectural drawing.

I think there's a lot to that. I don't understand it, but I've seen it over and over again.

It's true for me, too.

I tend to write notes all over the books I read. That's what makes me understand them/remember them, etc.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think these experiences are also consistent with research showing that frequent assessments are better than frequent "studying."

I'll have to find those studies and post again.