kitchen table math, the sequel: the rich are different

Thursday, June 4, 2009

the rich are different

Amy P & Ben Calvin pointed me to a discussion of nominally high performing schools at:

11d

Crooked Timber

Megan McArdle

and

11d again (tour de force)


Good.

Glad to see it.

This is a subject that cries out for mega-repetition.

26 comments:

Independent George said...

I've read all those posts, and the comments, and it seems like a good reminder of the difference between out little bubble, and the outside world. All of the writers are clearly intelligent and educated, but it's just as clear that they haven't aren't as familiar with the ins & outs of education policy & pedagogy as we are.

To a large extent, it mirrors my frustrations with journalism as a whole: the more familiar you are with a particular issue, the more you realize how much the average newspaper article either misses or gets just plain wrong. None of it is intentional or malicious, but there is a lot of information out there that is hard to evaluate without a minimum baseline of knowledge. To the average person - or, even to the average journalist - backing from the NCTM or NSF sounds really, really impressive, and fighting those organizations sounds like the work of cranks.

Catherine Johnson said...

That is SO true.

Ed calls it "local knowledge." We were talking one day about .... something to do with Iraq, & who you listen to or don't listen to, etc....

I can't remember the ins and outs of the conversation but he was saying that people on the ground have local knowledge. Period. You can disagree with their politics but they're there and they know something you don't.

That's why I'm always eager to hear from teachers - and why I'd like to hear more from administrators, too.

Anonymous said...

IG,

Didn't Michael Crichton have a name for that?

He said something along the lines that one day you are reading a newspaper article about a subject you know a lot about, and the writer has the facts wrong. Not only that, but they even have cause and effect wrong--sort of a "wet pavement causes rain" thing.

Then, you turn the page to the National and International News sections and just assume they're getting it right.

SusanS

Catherine Johnson said...

Then, you turn the page to the National and International News sections and just assume they're getting it right.

That is so true!

I've done that I don't know how many times - and naturally I get ticked off at Ed when he does it.

Back in L.A., Ed used to say that every time the LA Times wrote a story about something he actually knew about, it was wrong.

TerriW said...

I am all too familiar with this -- my personal bugaboos were reading cringe-worthy articles in the mid to late 90s about computers or the Internet (back when I was a unix sysadmin) -- and don't get me started about articles written about guns by people with lots of knowledge about the various politics of guns, but little knowledge about, you know, actual guns. (Scare use of the term "semi-automatic" being my personal favorite.)

Ben Calvin said...

That was my impression of the Megan McArdle comments. Smart commenters, but miles behind the terms of the debate.

I think we need Megan McArdle to have kids, so she can pitch herself full force into the issue! She gets it, but is outside the debate looking in.

Catherine Johnson said...

She gets it, but is outside the debate looking in.

right!

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Independent George said about the little bubble we're in. I was reading the comments and it was like reading the same comments from a few years ago. They are really in another place.

It's hard to shrink down the years of discussions that we've had around here to one line or one paragraph. I just hate to see people go through this with their kids.

And, he's right that most of the commenters are educated and intelligent. They just haven't seen the outcomes that we've seen.

SusanS

Independent George said...

That was my impression of the Megan McArdle comments. Smart commenters, but miles behind the terms of the debate.

This is a fundamental disadvantage to our side of the debate. If you're a reporter writing your first article on education, where do you begin your research? Columbia Teachers College. The University of Chicago. NCTM. Lucy Calkins. Jean Piaget.

concernedCTparent said...

The downturn in the economy could also prove to be the hidden advantage to our side. Education reporters have become a luxury as print media struggles to stay afloat. Increasingly, blogs, websites, LTEs, and opinion pieces hold a higher position in the information totem-pole.

People can quickly and easily come across alternative sources of information. Used wisely, this increased exposure could be a good thing-- if those with insight and solid sources of data continue raising their voices.

Like the residents of Whoville, the *alternate media* must continue to shout, "We are here. We are here. We are here. We are here," until enough of these articulate and well educated readers find an alternative.

Catherine Johnson said...

If you're a reporter writing your first article on education, where do you begin your research? Columbia Teachers College. The University of Chicago. NCTM. Lucy Calkins. Jean Piaget.

right - and this is why God made think tanks

unforunately, except for Core Knowledge & Common Core, the think tanks mostly refuse to talk liberal arts or parents, either

Catherine Johnson said...

if those with insight and solid sources of data continue raising their voices

samizdat

concernedCTparent said...

Exactly.

samizdat

"I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and [may] get imprisoned for it."

I could do without the getting imprisoned part, however.

Catherine Johnson said...

also without the standing in front of tanks in Tiananmen Square part

Ben Calvin said...

Google Wave may be the next tool to aggregate a subject like this. where you can collect this blog, the YouTube Videos, commentary, etc.

See Jeff Jarvis' post. I'm signed up with Google to get the beta.

Catherine Johnson said...

oh, that does look interesting

we absolutely need something like that

SteveH said...

"Didn't Michael Crichton have a name for that?"


It's the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.

http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-whyspeculate.html

It's a classic.


By the way, what is the highest level math course that major schools of journalism require?


I still remember a parent who just put his kids into my son's old private school. He had a degree in applied math and thought that Everyday Math sounded pretty good. He changed his tune completely by the end of the year.

Independent George said...

He had a degree in applied math and thought that Everyday Math sounded pretty good. He changed his tune completely by the end of the year.

I'm guessing his idea of 'higher order thinking', 'real-world examples', and 'conceptual understanding' was completely different than how EM views them. I'm guessing he thought it involved proofs and actual math.

Paul B said...

The problem with all of these 'enriched' math programs is that they are designed for kids who don't exist.

If you have a child delivered to your classroom that ...

* has been in the program since they entered school at age 6.

* has mastered every prerequisite concept necessary to be in the appropriate ZPD for the day

* Can read at or above grade level

* Is motivated, disciplined, and mature enough to actually work in a group setting

* Has not missed the previous 3 days of scaffolding

* Is not having a hot flash over their latest boy/girl friend

* And has not ever moved to a different school

* Has no learning disabilities or any 'externals' like ADHD to get in the way.

You have a shot at having a good day. I'd put your shot at about 50-50.

I can tell you in my experience that these kids don't exist. We live in a highly mobile society and the lower your SES the more mobile it gets. In my district, cumulative records are the size of telephone books. My kids are mostly 2-4 years below grade level in reading. Some are 6 years below grade level.

It is absolute lunacy to expect these kids, who mostly can't add with proficiency, to nuance a real world problem no matter how real you make it. They're ill equipped through no fault of their own and no proponent of these airy programs addresses this basic truth.

SteveH said...

"...was completely different than how EM views them."

Yup. When I first got into this back when my son was in pre-K, I thought about all of the things I didn't like about the "traditional" math I had when I was growing up. I wanted my son to be taught not just the mechanics of doing the math, but the application of math to a variety of problems. Then I saw the MathLand curriculum that our school was using and remember thinking "No, no, no, no, no! Wrong direction!".

Less can't be more, but this is the philosophy of modern K-6 education.

VickyS said...

To add to Paul's post:

Does it take a rocket scientist to realize that NCTM programs such as Everyday Math which depend *heavily* on reading skills and *heavily* on background knowledge cannot possibly succeed in most current urban school environments?

What if: 70% of your kids are below grade level in reading?

What if: 1/3 of your kids are English language learners?

What I try to keep pounding into my school board is that math *could* a point of access for these kids. It *could* be something they can succeed at as they work on bringing their reading skills up to speed. It *could* be a source of personal pride. It *could* be a point of engagement for their parents, who don't speak English but who know math.

About the content: I'll never forget trying to work with a group of third graders on a problem that concerned optimizing car repair revenues in a repair shop with 3 bays, only one with a lift (plus x number of FT, PT employees, lunch breaks, maximum hours to work etc....). Certain jobs needed a lift, others didn't; certain employees were certified to do different things. Mathematically, it was a mess to begin with.

But after 10 minutes I realized that none of the kids had been to a car repair shop and none had any idea what I meant by bays and lifts.

I switched to drawing pictures of the car repair shop.

And then there was the problem concerning "anglers" and fishing licenses. How many of them could wrap their heads around that? That one was on a state assessment so no one was even there to answer a question.

Allison said...

To Paul's point about these kids not existing:

I'm guessing that the U Chicago profs who write this stuff use "themselves" as the examples. That is, looking back at their own childhood through the lens of now being a mathematician (who obviously had just almost every possible detail go right in their intellectual and emotional development for them to get where they are) this is the stuff that they think they would have thrived from.

Nevermind that their memory is clouded by their current life. Nevermind that these concepts make sense to them now because of their adult lives, rather than what a child experiences. Nevermind that not everyone wants to be a mathematician. Nevermind that not everyone had their upbringing. Nevermind that not everyone has above average IQ, above average SES, above average stable parenting, etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes I think this about university preschools too. The university here has a child development program with a lab preschool attached. The preschool only meets a few hours a few days a week--not exactly workable as a childcare program for two career families, let alone single parent ones Guess how many of these kids are above average in verbal skills? guess how many are from two parent families with one parent at home? guess how skewed the cross section that these grad students see is from what you'd see in an urban public school?

Allison said...

To Vicky's point:

That's right. Rather than trying to make more culturally diverse word problems, why not just try to teach skills with the numbers and symbols?

It's as if they want the children to feel good, without ever recognizing that what would feel best is SUCCESS.

Catherine Johnson said...

I was telling Ed about the amnesia effect & he said that whenever the LA Times had an article about UCLA, it was always wrong -- and it wasn't just a little wrong, it was 100% wrong.

The whole damn thing.

Of course we both of us religiously read the LA Times every day.

Paul B said...

To Vicky's point...

It is really confounding to me that we try to teach math, a language of it's own, to ELLs via programs loaded with English ins and outs. It's like trying to teach Greek to Russians using Chinese.

It would be far simpler to give up on the English descriptives and simply direct these kids to equations which are universal. Math is a great entry point for an ELL to learn anything. It's a Rosetta stone, done correctly.

I remember working one year with a Korean naval officer on a research project. He didn't speak a lick of English and my Korean is limited to kimchee. We had in common, math and FORTRAN. We did everything required on the project and never did learn each other's language (or did we?)

You don't need English to learn math. It's actually pretty bad at math. It's downright deadly for an ELL since it's loaded with so much double meaning.

Crimson Wife said...

Interesting debate, thanks for posting all the links.

My kids are zoned to attend one of those "nominally high achieving" but actually mediocre schools. Since I'd have to "afterschool" them to make up for the school's academic deficiencies, I don't see the point in enrolling them in the first place. So we homeschool, and free up our afternoons for a mix of organized activities and unstructured free play.