kitchen table math, the sequel: Joanne Jacobs on failing math & science

Friday, October 30, 2009

Joanne Jacobs on failing math & science



Katharine Beals said...

There are some great comments on this thread, including Barry and SteveH, worth reading carefully.

Anonymous said...

Are fundamentals important? Once in a while you get a perfect example to illustrate a point.

One of my students today told me he was half Puerto Rican, half Columbian, and half American. I lost it. Worse, my entire class didn't have a clue why I was laughing about this composition.

Are these students ready for the Central Limit Theorem? Not!

Independent George said...

Great comments, but also a reminder of why we have to make our points very carefully. A few of the early comments wrote in support of statistics/probability on the seemingly reasonable assumption that the statistics/probability involved actual mathematical content and required subject mastery. By the time the corrections had been made later in the thread, the original commenters had seemingly left the building. Being a regular commenter there, I think they would have been swayed by the arguments had they stayed to read them.

Anonymous said...


I didn't catch it until later. I also wanted to argue that it was the amount of time spent in the early years that was taking away from the basics that was the true problem, not exposing kids to it.

Still, schools are often caught between a rock and a hard place since all of that stuff is on the state tests.

So, of course, my question for the last few years has been, "Who writes these state tests and puts this stuff in?"


Anonymous said...


Investigations In Numbers, Data, and Space aligns quite nicely with the Mass. elementary standards. Here's a coincidence that fits nicely within a 60 mi. radius.

From my educrat-industrial complex rolodex....

The developers...

2067 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140 USA

The standard writers...

Massachusetts DOE
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148-4906

The publishers...

Pearson Education
501 Boylston Street
Boston, MA

The test writers...

Measured Progress
100 Education Way
P.O. Box 1217
Dover, NH 03820

The training resource...

Lesley University
Cambridge, Ma

Just sayin'.

SteveH said...

"Still, schools are often caught between a rock and a hard place since all of that stuff is on the state tests."

I would argue that the tests are so simple that this is no excuse. I never hear our schools complain that they don't have time for enforcing mastery. Besides, the test questions are what they wanted. They have the curricula they want and they have the tests they want, but still the results stink. In our three-state consortium, they have real teachers select the questions and calibrate "proficiency". "By any standard" [Duncan], the results stink.

If schools think that all they need to do is lead the horse to water, then there is nothing to get them to figure out whether the water is a mirage or not.

rocky said...

Structural engineers use statistics the most. Electrical engineers use matrix operations the most. Fluid engineers probably use differential equations the most. This is all irrelevant.

The way that math should be taught, and the way that the mind learns to integrate it, corresponds roughly to the order that it was invented/discovered:

simple four function arithmetic
fractions with common denominators
ratios, measurement and sharing division
squares, square roots, and irrational numbers
proportions and using letters to stand for quantities
one variable linear equations
cartesian coordinates and beyond.

This "historical" order of subjects sounds naive, but it stands the best chance of bringing the understanding up at the same pace as the computation skills.

Children who know how to perform a complex ritual, either by hand or entering data into a Texas Instruments calculator, have not been taught MATH until they know why they are doing these things.