kitchen table math, the sequel: teaching to the middle

Sunday, March 29, 2009

teaching to the middle

Barry G:

Gifted students need instruction in math as much as others--and good instruction.



physics teacher:

I couldn't agree more. Yet I've heard more than once that all the better students will figure everything out themselves, no matter what, and our mission is teach the lower achieving students.

In education it seems that "all students must succeed" has morphed into "all students must succeed AT EVERYTHING". I have students that will likely be very successful fashion designers/marketers or artists, but they're in my class because they have to be somewhere. Yet I'm supposed to take the greatest care that they succeed at the expense of kids who chose to be in my class because they want to be engineers or scientists. The latter group will figure it out for themselves.

It's like forcing someone like myself into a ballet class, identifying me as the student with the "greatest need", and then insisting that the instructor spend the most time on me even though I'll just squander the effort.

8 comments:

Pissed Off said...

I could write a book on this topic. My AP calculus students are for the most part exceptional math students. Many have never been taught to think. The emphasis in all their classes has been on scoring well on the regents exam. So much emphasis is put on calculator use that some have forgotten basic arithmetic. One of my students has been in my class in 9th grade and I remember her doing all her calculations by hand with no difficulty. It took me months to wean her away from her calculator dependency.

Good students will be able to pass on their own, but they need guidance as much or even more than the weak ones. By ignoring this group, we are creating a bunch of intellectual idiots.

Mia said...

"It's like forcing someone like myself into a ballet class, identifying me as the student with the "greatest need", and then insisting that the instructor spend the most time on me even though I'll just squander the effort."

You mean teachers actually teach at your school? At our school there's something called "peer mentoring" or some such rot. They put all abilities in the same class. The more gifted students are expected to help teach the less gifted students during class time. They are expected to do this for nothing else than for the good feeling they get from helping someone who isn't as gifted or as interested as they are. Did I mention this happens during class time?

Don't get me wrong - I'm all for students helping those who aren't as gifted or for some reason didn't "get it" during class. But this should be voluntary and happen after school or on weekends. Not during class time to the detriment of all of the other pupils.

Reminds me of the "mandatory volunteer" thing just passed in the Sendate.

mazenko said...

I'd like to see a focus on "core competencies" and an opportunity to specialize at an earlier age. Adams School District in Colorado is moving away from grade levels and basing progress on core skill levels. There is much to be said about the benefit of this, especially in struggling students/schools.

Tracy W said...

So much emphasis is put on calculator use that some have forgotten basic arithmetic.

I found this job-hunting at the end of engineering school. So many graduate programmes included as part of recruitment an arithmetic test done without a calculator. I'd been doing maths for the last three years, but pages and pages without any number bigger than 4, and that was generally the number of the equation.

I wound up downloading a number bomb game and playing it for a few hours to get my mental arithmetic back up to speed.

CassyT said...

"Adams School District in Colorado is moving away from grade levels and basing progress on core skill levels"

Alas, these are to be "standards" based, which seem to have been written by the authors of reform math textbooks. CO content model standard #1 from the CDE website:
1. Students develop number sense and use numbers and number relationships in problem-solving situations and communicate the reasoning used in solving these problems.

In grades K-4, what students know and are able to do includes

* demonstrating meanings for whole numbers, and commonly-used fractions and decimals (for example, 1/3, 3/4, 0.5, 0.75), and representing equivalent forms of the same number through the use of physical models, drawings, calculators, and computers;
* reading and writing whole numbers and knowing place-value concepts and numeration through their relationships to counting, ordering, and grouping;
* using numbers to count, to measure, to label, and to indicate location;
* developing, testing, and explaining conjectures about properties of whole numbers, and commonly-used fractions and decimals (for example, 1/3, 3/4, 0.5, 0.75); and
* using number sense to estimate and justify the reasonableness of solutions to problems involving whole numbers, and commonly-used fractions and decimals (for example, 1/3, 3/4, 0.5, 0.75).

It will be interesting to follow the Adams District over the next few years.

SiouxGeonz said...

As I got more experience teaching, I more and more appreciated my high school math teacher, who did not sacrifice thinking for speeding through the curriculum because we were The Fast Group. We did things the "long way" and worked through the reasons before being shown "the formula." We had to do group work... and then apply it.
Math is so dependent on taking you through steps and stages. RIght now I'm sitting in on an algebra class that goes very fast - but the instructor is *teaching* it and it is a delight. THe day of the sub was a true contrast - there was absolutely *nothing* wrong with the man's delivery of the content, and he was through in half the class time... but he had left most of the students scribbling furiously in notebooks, to try to figure out later. Had he been "teaching to the middle" and simply gone more slowly, it would have been both *boring* and ineffective.
Obiwan kenobe did not leave Luke Skywalker to figure things out; he anticipated the stages of development with wisdom, and set the stage for optimum learning.

Catherine Johnson said...

Reminds me of the "mandatory volunteer" thing just passed in the Sendate.

Did that pass??

concernedCTparent said...

Fact: Everyone needs some help to make the most of their abilities and succeed in life, even kids who seem to "have it all" from the start. As educational researcher Benjamin S. Bloom has said, "No matter what the initial characteristics (or gifts) of the individuals, unless there is a long and intensive process of encouragement, nurturance, education, and training, the individuals will not attain extreme levels of capability." Also, gifted kids may appear to do fine on their own when they're younger. But as the years go by and their schoolwork becomes more challenging, they may have a harder time, especially if they've never faced challenges before.

Source: When Gifted Kids Don't Have All the Answers, Jim Delisle & Judy Gailbraith, p. 28

Benjamin S. Bloom, Developing Talent in Young People