kitchen table math, the sequel: 11/8/09 - 11/15/09

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Revolt Against Lousy Math Instruction May Just Go Viral

This example was just posted at BoingBoing, a large group blog, at this post.

Do You Understand My First-Grade Child's Homework?

The blogger asks
My six-year-old told me she doesn't understand her homework. After studying it for 15 minutes, I *think* I understand what she's supposed to do, but I'd like a second opinion.
Is it from Everyday Math?

Go add to the BoingBoing comment fun, if you like.

(I have another question -- homework for six-year-olds? I'm ok with requesting reading at home, but that's it. Period. The end.)

Speaking of the spiral... problems of the week this week show the spiraling vs. the linear approach within chapters called "Addition and Subtraction" in the 2nd grade Everyday Math vs. Singapore Math curricula.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Report shows many freshmen from city HS fail at basic algebra

City University of New York freshman apparently have an algebra problem.

Basic algebra involving fractions and decimals stumped a group of City University of New York freshmen - suggesting city schools aren't preparing them, a CUNY report shows.

"These results are shocking," said City College Prof. Stanley Ocken, who co-wrote the report on CUNY kids' skills. "They show that a disturbing proportion of New York City high school graduates lack basic skills."

Welcome to the fight Professor Stanley.

P.S. You really should get out more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

onward & upward

$28,354 per pupil

I learned how to figure percent increase from Saxon Math.

In case you were wondering.

nice work if you can get it

get out the calculator

the historicization of praxis

make your own academic sentence

(found this at The New Yorker)

IB World History Test

My 9th grade son was working on his home enjoyment.
"Mom!", he shouted, "Come look at the test I have to take". I think he just likes to get me riled up.

(Click to enlarge)

Contrast this paper with this one, making the rounds of the internet: Are you smarter than a 1954 8th grader?

I think I may still have some glitter laying around.

Chron: too many students going to college?

The push for defining a better K-12 education for our individual children should properly value what comes after. What is our goal?

The Chronicle of Higher Ed asks here whether too many students are going to college, and what the point is. Lots of answers. To the question who should and who shouldn't go to college, here are a couple of answers:

Richard K. Vedder: A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense. The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified.

Bryan Caplan: There are two ways to read this question. One is: "Who gets a good financial and/or personal return from college?" My answer: people in the top 25 percent of academic ability who also have the work ethic to actually finish college. The other way to read this is: "For whom is college attendance socially beneficial?" My answer: no more than 5 percent of high-school graduates, because college is mostly what economists call a "signaling game." Most college courses teach few useful job skills; their main function is to signal to employers that students are smart, hard-working, and conformist. The upshot: Going to college is a lot like standing up at a concert to see better. Selfishly speaking, it works, but from a social point of view, we shouldn't encourage it.

Vedder and Caplan are econ professors.

My favorite response, though comes from Charles Murray. Of course, you knew that I agreed with him already.

Murray: We have a moral obligation to destroy the current role of the B.A. in American life. It has become an emblem of first-class citizenship for no good reason.

Would that more professors admitted what they saw in their own college students. Read the whole thing.

One issue missed, though, by all of the responses, is the extent to which college is for assortative mating. As long as that's the way to produce good grandchildren, parents will still pay for their kids to go to college, regardless of what appears nonsensical from a career standpoint.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Op-Ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer on autistic spectrum students and Reform Math


For all the talking points that Reform Math proponents deploy in response to the general criticisms, I haven't yet seen any talking points that respond to concerns about children on the autistic spectrum. Has anyone else?

Since it's well-documented--and generally agreed--that AS children require structure, direct instruction, and discrete tasks, and that many of them have the potential to excel in math, and since the education establishment's purported missions include (1) mainstreaming and (2) catering to different learning needs, I believe this is a fruitful message to keep plugging.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

the Ed diet


I was talking to my tennis teacher yesterday about Ed.

My tennis teacher is a big Italian guy who is frequently trying to lose 30 pounds. Since I am frequently trying to lose 5 pounds, we talk about food and weight a lot.

For the past month I've been keeping him apprised of my efforts to become a 'vegan.'1

The latest news: Ed, who has no interest in becoming a vegan, has lost weight. Three pounds, possibly 4.2 He has lost weight entirely because he is married to a woman who is interested in becoming a vegan. Which is annoying because Ed was already extremely thin; Ed was already so thin he is borderline too thin for my tastes. Now he's thinner.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the Ed transformation, the Times ran an article on the Calerie study, a project looking at people who reduce their daily calories by 25 percent for two years.

For me, the most amazing finding of the study is the fact that its subjects have actually managed to remain in the study. That is the revelation, not the fantastic drops in cholesterol and blood pressure, etc. Although I've lost weight a number of times over the years, I'm not sure I've ever stuck to a reduced-calorie diet for more than a few days in a row; the notion of living on a restricted-calorie diet for two years is inconceivable.

But the Calerie people have done it, and apparently we know the secret of their success: they all switched to low-energy density foods. Vegetables, fruits, and soup: 3
Apples are superb in this regard. At the medical centers running Calerie, you see a lot of people walking around eating apples. Even subjects who disliked apples have discovered that calorie restriction, which generally has the effect of making food taste better, has given them a surprising desire for the fruit.


When I asked Susan Roberts, who runs the Tufts study, if there was a danger in Americans trying calorie restriction on their own, without a dedicated team of medical experts offering advice, she suggested that there are built-in safety mechanisms. Roberts said she didn’t think anyone would be successful by reducing portion size. “If you don’t change your diet to a high-satiety diet, you will be hungry, and you will fail,” she told me. A high-satiety diet, she said, was bound to be a healthful diet with a lot of vegetables, fruits and insoluble fiber — the kind found in some breakfast cereals, like Fiber One — that her research indicates has a unique effect in helping calorie-restriction subjects feel fuller, probably because they activate certain receptors in the lower intestine. Roberts added, “If people are doing this on their own and succeeding, well, I’d be surprised if they’re eating a lot of Hostess Twinkies.”
I don't happen to like apples, particularly. Or fruit, generally.4 I so lack a taste for fruit that I have to set a formal goal of consuming 4 fruits a day & keep a running tally to hit the mark. Even then, likely as not I won't make it.

Ed, on the other hand, loves fruit.

Yesterday Ed mentioned that he keeps a bag of apples on his desk at work. A bag. He snacks on apples all day long; he eats at least 4 apples a day, he said.

I had no idea.

Something else I didn't know: since age 22 he's been eating soup for lunch.

Every day.

And apples. Four apples, at least. Every day.

I didn't know.

He basically invented the Volumetrics diet when he graduated college & didn't think to mention it to anyone he happened to be married to who might be trying to lose weight.

So I was telling my tennis teacher about the Ed diet. Soup and apples, I said. The Ed diet. We should all try it.

My tennis teacher said I should write it up, and now I have.
1 How I dislike that word! Who came up with it? And why? Do we know?
2 I've lost 5, but I've been trying.
3 Barbara Rolls is always cited for her work on low-energy density foods & satiety.
4 I do like Twinkies.

merrily we roll along

Has anyone else noticed the fact that, at some point during the past 5 years, school districts seem to have stopped adopting curricula and implementing programs and started rolling out initiatives?

Why is that, do you think?

Singapore Math pilot in New Milford: SPED students ahead of general ed students

Steve H's question - whether any of us knows a district that has replaced Everyday Math, TERC, Trailblazers, etc. with Singapore or Saxon - has prompted me finally to post the material I saved on New Milford, CT's 2006 pilot program comparing Everyday Math, Saxon Math, and Singapore Math. (I can email copies of the various reports produced by the district cijohn @

My favorite line from the Pilot summary:
The pace of [Singapore Math] ... is quicker than anything we do and quicker even than our curriculum calls for. As a result, some sped students actually perform AHEAD of their non-special education peers in successfully handling content -- almost by definition becoming non-sped students!

April 10, 2006
Pilot Summary
page 3
The result of New Milford's admirable -- and unusual -- commitment to piloting a math curriculum before buying it?

A recommendation from the assistant superintendent that the district not adopt the curriculum that produced the best results:
The recommendation regarding the mathematic materials to be used to deliver
New Milford’s mathematics curriculum is as follows:

The district would use the following mathematic materials:
Kindergarten - Saxon Mathematics
• Grade One – Saxon Mathematics
• Grade Two – Saxon Mathematics
• Grade Three – Saxon Mathematics and Everyday Math (all classes)
• Grade Four – Saxon mathematics 1/3 – 2/5 of classes
- Everyday Mathematics 2/3 - 3/5 of classes
• Grade Five – Saxon mathematics 1/3 – 2/5 of classes
- Everyday Mathematics 2/3 - 3/5 of classes
• Grade Six – Saxon mathematics 1/3 – 2/5 of classes
- Everyday Mathematics 2/3 - 3/5 of classes
TO: Dr. JeanAnn C. Paddyfote, Superintendent
Members of the Board of Education
FROM: Thomas A. Mulvihill, Assistant Superintendent
DATE: April 10, 2006
SUBJECT: Recommendation Regarding Math Materials K-6

p. 1

Parents and other bystanders often assume that schools are interested in 'what works' but repeatedly fail to come up with what works because of fads. A school adopts the latest fad, the latest fad fails inside the classroom, and the school moves on to the next fad. Which also fails to work inside the classroom.

The 'pendulum' idea -- an educational pendulum swings back and forth from one extreme to the other -- is a variant of this idea.

In my experience, neither of these accounts captures what goes on inside the black box. Not that I know what goes on inside the black box. Still, I know enough to state as fact that public schools don't generally 'evaluate' success one way or the other. Every new initiative that is rolled out is assumed to be good and successful right up to the moment the next initiative comes along 3 years later, according to plan, and is also assumed to be good and successful.

In some ways, the New Milford pilot program is the ur-example of public school indifference to results. In New Milford's case, the district actually did evaluate three programs, found one program in particular to be startlingly successful -- and then decided not to adopt that program.

Westchester County

Here in Westchester, Scarsdale & Dobbs Ferry have adopted Singapore Math, and BOCES is sponsoring Singapore Math workshops (pdf file). I believe my town will adopt Singapore Math within the next couple of years, too, though we'll see.

Whether or not Singapore Math in Westchester will bear a close resemblance to Singapore Math in Singapore remains to be seen.