kitchen table math, the sequel: 9/27/09 - 10/4/09

Friday, October 2, 2009

"Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World"

Catherine has encouraged me to post an announcement of my book's release:

Here (edited slightly) is what I wrote to Catherine yesterday:

Though it's not the general critique of education that I initially intended to write, I'm hoping its focus on the special needs of a specific kind of child ("left-brainers," in the vernacular sense of the term) will help it bypass some of the political polarization out there and reach a broader spectrum of educators. And allow me, ultimately, to publish my general critique.

I am happy that one of the chapter titles (chosen by my editor) is "Hindered by Reform Math and Other Trends in K-12 education," and I do make a more general case against those trends in the penultimate chapter.

I'm concerned that some of what I write may suggest that I subscribe to "learning styles" theory--about which I'm generally skeptical (but I'm still trying to find out whether there's any empirical research on differences in "cognitive bandwidth"--i.e., individual differences in "linear"/one-thing-at-a-time thinking and learning vs. "big picture"/holistic thinking and learning).

My main thesis, however, is based not on learning styles theory but on all the testimonials I've collected, and it is that:
Children who are the least socially skilled and most analytically inclined are among the most shortchanged by the current system--both in terms of the quality of their classroom experiences, and in terms of the grades they earn.
These children include, of course, many on the autistic spectrum.

KTM has been a wonderful resource for my book. I quote Catherine (anonymously) in a couple of places (on choosing "Hogwarts"; on whether writers collaborate in groups); I also quote Allison on how American-educated vs. foreign educated fare at MIT.

Math Competitions

Does anyone have any comments about K-8 and high school math competitions? I was asked last year if I wanted to form a MathCounts team at our middle school. Has anyone done this competition? How about other competitions? I'm reconsidering doing this as a way to help kids and to focus attention on the needs of K-6 math. Are there other competitions that would be better? Actually, I've always hated the idea of math as a speed competition. However, it could be a way to help many more students than just the math brains. Are some competitions better for more kids or does it just matter how you set it up? For example, the Science Olympiad and the First Lego League are full-day events where all kids go and have a great time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

stop the madness

here is redkudu, writing on the Core Knowledge blog:

I am thankful some attention is being focused on the unreasonable expectations placed on teachers: that there is some acknowledgment that it cannot ALL be done. This is especially true when you look at what teachers should be able to expect – that because a student is in a certain grade they have passed certain benchmarks which are designated by the state to assure us the students have the minimum skills necessary to accomplish grade-level work. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.

As a high school teacher, I’ve been expected to conduct Socratic Seminars, but never trained in how to do so. I found and purchased a book on such, read up, developed a lesson plan, and presented it. I received poor marks on an evaluation for that, because the method I’d read and produced was not the same method (a modified version) that the school preferred.

Ditto Marzano’s 9, by which we are formally evaluated at my new school. No training, no available materials (his books) in case I want to read up on them. Ditto small group learning, the student portfolio, PBL’s, and a whole host of other programs brought in via 20 minute PowerPoint at staff training without any supporting texts or ongoing training. And I should be able to demonstrate these methods and techniques in a classroom with learning disparities ranging from semi-literate to college level in 90 minutes on Mondays, 70 minutes on Wednesdays, and 45 minutes on Fridays. (Actually, our school has 9 different schedules, which also impact Tuesdays and Thursdays, early release Wednesdays, pep rally days, testing days, Homeroom days (once a 6 weeks – I’m expected to provide a meal for 25 students to enhance our “bonding”), actual homerooms (once a day), and other events.) Band-aids for gaping wounds and all that. I’d love to have a classroom in which levels were as simple as below expected, at expected, and above expected. I’d like to able to say the only thing I do in the summers is relax.

still here - (sort of)

I'm sorry for the long absence - my brain is fried. Some of you probably remember that my mom fell and fractured her pelvis in mid-August (August 12, to be exact); we've been dealing with the "sequelae" ever since:

Evanston ER
Evanston ICU
Evanston CCC
Brentwood Skilled Nursing Facility
Highland Hospital ER
Highland Hospital ICU
Highland Hospital whatever-is-below-ICU (she moved today)

A friend said yesterday that we are under siege, and that's the way it feels.

Nevertheless, I've checked back into Irvington doings (links below) - & will get back here soon.

Forum discussion of new hire

board member Robyne Camp re: hiring of temporary assistant superintendent
David K response
me: put content specialists in charge of content
board member John Dawson responds
David K response
Ed B response
David K
Adele F
5 assistant superintendents in 8 years?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Everyday Math Bleg

Can someone point me to or send me a copy of the scope and sequence charts for 4th and 5th grade Everyday Math. I'd especially like to see how the topics line up to the chapters in each text. In particualr, I really want to know what is taught in chapters 10-12 in the 4th grade text.

Background: My son's school is starting a pilot math program for advanced 4th graders. The school currently uses Everyday Math in heterogeneously grouped classrooms. (In contrast, in reading, the students are broken up into small homogeneous groups.) Apparently, there's been some pushback by the parents of the more advanced students who are bored with the glacial pace of the previous three years of Everyday Math (blissfully unaware of the horror show that awaits them in the upper levels). This has led to an increasing number of accomodations being made for the gifted students in math with more than a few students doing ALEKS on their own. So this summer, the school apparently came to the realization that providing a homogensous class for the advanced students would limit the amount of students doing their own thing in math.

Typically, teachers are expected to cover chapters 1-9 in a school year. The thought is that the advanced math class will be able to proceed at a faster pace, compacting and skipping known sections. The extra time will be spent covering chapters 10-12 and then the class will move to the fifth level. Although no commitmenst are being made at this point, it is thought that three years of math will be able to be covered in two years of class time. A problem will arise next year in that the class will likely move into a sixth grade curriculum --this will mean moving into the sixth level of Everyday Math (which the school doesn't use in regular classrooms) or moving into the sixth level of CMP (which the district does use in the middle school) which I understand is largely a review of what students should have learned in elementary school but typically haven't (which shouldn't be a problem for advanced students).

(It's all academic for my son, I do Connecting Math Concepts with him at home and he'll complete the sixth level by next year sometime; he uses Everyday Math to practice in school what he already knows. This has another fortunate side-effect of minimizing the risk that he learns something incorrectly from Everyday Math. And, even if he learns nothing from Everyday math, it really doesn't matter. Though I am curious as to what the class is store for.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Are You Smarter Than a Fourth-Grader?

I came across this site that gives sample 4th and 8th grade test questions from the NAEP test. An educational journalist once told me that the NAEP test was the "gold standard".

Mathematics Report Card.

Take the tests and look at how many students didn't get the correct answers. Next, break into (mixed ability) groups and try to discover what goes on in grades K-3 math.