kitchen table math, the sequel: Combatting the Disbelief

Friday, November 7, 2008

Combatting the Disbelief

One of the major problems I see whenever someone is trying to change the curriculum at their local school is that only a tiny percentage of parents really knows how bizarre the curriculum is, how far off the standard map it is from their own upbringing. And if, for example, I try to tell other parents, they simply do not believe it, and I lose all credibility.

Even my own husband doesn't believe it-- "They don't teach stacking??? Come on! That's hogwash." The list of topics I claim not covered is so deep and so wide, I must be exaggerating.

Even when you're talking to parents whose kids are in the same classroom, they seldom believe it. Even when these parents are college educated in the sciences or engineering themselves, they don't seem to coherently examine the whole arc of a school year (or years) to notice what's missing. They seem to assume that things are fine--until middle school is reached, at the earliest.

So, how is this best combatted? Handing someone a textbook and saying "go ahead, try to find stacking" doesn't work, as most won't see that as proof of anything. There's no way to show the overall year in, year out deficiencies by looking at one text, either. So what can work? What can help other parents to see how far from their common expectation the current curriculum is, while still saving one's credibility?


concernedCTparent said...

I've suggested they have their children take the appropriate grade level Singapore Math placement test. That's usually painfully eye-opening.

The problem from that point on, however, is that most parents are much too frightened by the results. They'd rather live in a fantasy land where all is well and their children are learning the type of math they will need for all those jobs that require math and science everyone keeps talking about. It's easier to believe what the schools keep telling parents than the alternative. The alternative is much too scary.

concernedCTparent said...

You've reminded me of one of the many conferences I had regarding Everyday Math. It was when my daughter was in fourth grade and I pointed out to the teacher and the Principal that Everyday Math only explains how to multiply decimals using a calculator. I suggested they check the index to verify if what I was saying was true. They were sure that wasn't the case and that I must be exagerrating. I was still the parent with the problem, of course. Everyday Math was just perfect!

ElizabethB said...

I find if I repeat myself 20 times or so and explain what's going on (with reading, but same, same for the disbelief and the things not being taught), it finally starts to penetrate.

Reading Grade level tests are helpful, people actually are open to finding out their child's reading grade level.

SteveH said...

The problem is that it's not just a matter of tweaking a few things at the school. There are fundamental differences of opinion and expectations. In spite of all of the stories of crazy parents, most parents say very little and would cringe at risking a confrontation. I thought about setting up monthly meetings (for just parents) to talk about these things, but that would would not go over very well.

concerned said...

I suggest that parents talk to other parents whose children have gone through the program to find out how they did in Algebra. Most of the time the response is, "oh, I know there's a problem because my older child ran into difficulty in Algebra"

But as you said, I don't think they realize the problem is the curriculum. Who would think that educators would adopt such inadequate math programs?

It's really hard to fathom... until you see the dismal results...

PaulaV said...

"There are fundamental differences of opinion and expectations," says Steve.

Yes, there are fundamental differences of opinion and expectations of the nation in general.

I am at odds with my countrymen who have voted for our new president. This is not somewhere I want to find myself. I would like for us to be on the same page or at least in the same book.

When I talk to parents, I see this totally lack of regard for our nation's educational circumstances. I hear this chant for change, and I say what change? WHAT IS IT YOU WANT TO CHANGE?

Certainly, it can't be education. If we wanted to change it by now, surely we could have. What stops us? The fear of confrontation? I blame the PC crowd. We can't talk about "confrontional" issues lest we brand racist or heaven forbid "uneducated",
"hicks", just put in a word of your choosing.

What do you say to parents when you try to talk to them about competition and the advances of other countries and they say, "America is more creative, we don't need to be like China or India." Surely, such parents cannot be so blind. I fear we fail to recognize just how significant other countries are becoming on the world stage, and we do so at our on peril.

How long can we bury our heads in the sand? Will President Obama be up for the challenge of getting some of us, if not all, on the same page? He has his work cut out for him because we do have "fundamental differences of opinion and expectations."

SteveH said...

Paula, I started writing a variety of comments here, but deleted them all and gave up. I don't know what to think. All I can hope is that the new president will work for real choice and good choices to select from.

I don't want America Serves. I want America Educates. I want America Lets Parents Into the Loop.

Catherine Johnson said...

Sorry - haven't read yet, but I did see this:

only a tiny percentage of parents really knows how bizarre the curriculum is, how far off the standard map it is from their own upbringing

yes, yes, and yes

it's a big problem

(more later)

Catherine Johnson said...

I thought about setting up monthly meetings (for just parents) to talk about these things, but that would would not go over very well.

And parents wouldn't come.

I'm pretty sure.

Crimson Wife said...

Forgive me for asking a really dumb question, but what's "stacking" in math? I don't recognize the term but am guessing (hoping?) that it's something I learned to do under some different name.

Allison said...

"Stacking" is when you write
numerals in horizontal lines, one above the other and then add them, or subtract them, or multiply them by doing normal vertical addition based on place--the ones column, then the tens, etc. like you were taught. like you do when you balance your checkbook.


is stacking.

SteveH said...

I've never heard the term "stacking" before either.

Crimson Wife said...

Thanks for the explanation! I never knew there was an official term for lining up the numbers in columns.

I am absolutely dumbfounded that a math curriculum would not teach that skill :-0