kitchen table math, the sequel: 21st century boondoggle

Thursday, March 18, 2010

21st century boondoggle

from Robin:
Former America Online CEO Barry Schuler is now heading the National New Tech Board.

The goal of New Tech is to "engage students and teachers in an innovative instructional approach that integrates project-based learning and a 1:1 student to computer ratio".

Now why would tech companies be so supportive of that vision?

Here's the crux: these ed reform ideas that will result in little learning are great for a business' bottom line once they become a preferred government vendor.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which I think may be the progenitor of the phrase "21st century skills," was created by tech companies working in partnership with the NEA.

I'm against 21st century skills.

Seeing as how they don't exist and all.

I feel like I'm repeating myself.


Ari-free said...

"After you've crossed out and what Singapore can learn from the United States"

They can. They don't have anything like DIstar.


Catherine Johnson said...


Allison said...

The government hasn't shrunk in this recession, and that's the model: everyone a federal employee. Who needs innovation? There really isn't any need for mastery of calculus or biochemistry or historical analysis if everyone is going to have a job working in the Federal Department of Health Insurance Paperwork processing. Why bother creating value when you can just squeeze out what you can right now and damn the future?

Ari-free said...

One of the most common complaints I see from homeschoolers is that Singapore doesn't have enough review. Very few people have figured out that you need mastery *and* cumulative review.


TerriW said...

Singapore has plenty of review if you use one of the accompanying texts that are designed to be used with the text and workbook: Intensive Practice, Extra Practice or Challenging Word Problems**.

We use all three, which is probably overkill. And let me tell you, when they say "Intensive"? They mean it. That stuff gets awfully hard. (I boggle at some of the stuff they put in the first grade I.P. text.)

**C.W.P. has unfortunately been discontinued, but we snapped up a full 1-6 set first thing we heard they were going away before they disappeared.

Catherine Johnson said...

How do you do cumulative review, Terri?

Which reminds me that I have not to this day put up a post about that great cumulative practice paper.

Nor have I written up my interview with Mary Hake.

Catherine Johnson said...

I bought the set of CWP when I heard it was going out of print, too.

I've wondered the same thing about cumulative review, btw.

LexAequitas said...

Do you think CWP might be available on ebay or something?

TerriW said...


My pardons if you mean something different by "cumulative review," but twice in each text (there are two texts per year, A and B), they have large sections of review problems of everything that has come before that.

There isn't a daily review of previous skills, though, if that's what you mean.

We use Singapore concurrently with Math-U-See and that *does* have cumulative review (what they call "Systematic Review"), which means that you get, per chapter, 3 work pages covering the all new material, and 3 lessons of half new, half old.

(Though, if you're unfamiliar with MUS, you should note that it is strictly mastery -- you don't move ahead to the next chapter until you have mastered the previous. So if those worksheets aren't enough to master the material cold, you go to the website and print new ones.)

We use both, because sometimes it is helpful to be able to go "sideways" with Singapore for awhile when we can't move "ahead" with MUS.

(The Alpha level of MUS is pretty much solely for mastery -- in this case, memorization -- of the single digit addend math facts. It's been working quite nicely. And it goes *really* well alongside Singapore.)

Catherine Johnson said...

I haven't looked at the Singapore books as closely as I should have -- I just always got the sense that they tended to 'close out' a topic for the year and move on without continually practicing material from earlier units...but that may be wrong. (I also don't know how much the old material is integrated into the new material --- something that was taken to a seriously crazy extreme with the AMSCO books C. used .... wish I could think of an example...)

Catherine Johnson said...

The article is:



Catherine Johnson said...

boy, I hope these books are going to show up on eBay

I'll try to get ISBN numbers posted.

Barry Garelick said...

One of the most common complaints I see from homeschoolers is that Singapore doesn't have enough review. Very few people have figured out that you need mastery *and* cumulative review.

Actually I thought this post was about 21st century skills but since everyone is talking about Singapore, I thought I'd chime in. I have to disagree that it doesn't have cumulative review. There are end of chapter reviews that encompass mixed skills and concepts. Plus the fact that you can't do many of the problems in Singapore if you haven't mastered the previous material since it builds on itself. So even within the main textbooks themselves there is review. Then there are the supplements as TerriW pointed out.

I'll skip adding to the debate on health care and that everyone is a federal worker (yes I work for the federal govt,) and try to stick to the topic of 21st century skills. You might want to read the latest issue of American Educator since it focuses on that topic. One of the articles is by Dan Willingham and Andrew Rotherham. They subtly look down their nose at teacher directed classes and seem to hint that problem based learning and "authentic problem solving" is the way to go.
Their article is here.

People have left some comments about it at Eduwonk's blog here.

Worth reading the article and the comments.

Catherine Johnson said...

Do the books have cumulative review in the sense of continuing to review previous units??

Of course, I have the Grade 6 books sitting on my table.

I could always check and learn the answer myself.

Catherine Johnson said...

Whole-group instruction.

A good thing.

Seat work.

Another good thing.

Skills taught in isolation.

The best.

Catherine Johnson said...

I've reached Chester Finnland, I fear.

Barry Garelick said...

Do the books have cumulative review in the sense of continuing to review previous units??

If I said no, would you suddenly start saying Singapore is bad? In fact, you must master the content of previous units in order to do the problems in subsequent units because it builds on itself. So the answer is yes.

Barry Garelick said...


In fifth grade, a problem might be "John spends 2/5 of his weekly allowance on books. He spent $6. How much did he have at the start?"

In sixth grade, in the chapter on percents you have a similar problem (I'm making it up now but I can find examples): "John spends 20% of his weekly allowance on books. he has spent $10. How much did he have at the start?"

This builds on previous material and also constitutes a cumulative review. You are constantly using older material in newer applications.