kitchen table math, the sequel: Jerome Dancis on college readiness

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Jerome Dancis on college readiness

In his essay College Readiness Made Simple, testimony delivered to the DC Board of Education, Jerome Dancis (University of Maryland) discusses the idea of multiple levels of standards:

The Common Core college ready math standards mean ready for a credit-bearing Math course in college; that is, not need remediation in mathematics (alias Arithmetic and Algebra 1). This usually means merely being competent in Arithmetic and real high school Algebra 1 (circa 1990). It does NOT mean ready for any STEM major (or other math intensive majors) in college. To be college Ready for any STEM major in college requires fluency in Pre-Calculus, which is way beyond this set of “Common Core” standards.

Low level Math Standard. DC’s Grade 10 NCLB mandated Math exam might be based on the Arithmetic and algebra questions on the U DC Math placement exam. Students scoring advanced on this exam would receive a certificate stating will they not need remedial Math when they enter college. (The cut score for proficient could be considerably lower.)

High level Math Standard: To be college ready for any STEM major in college requires fluency in Pre-Calculus. This, in turn requires fluency in Arithmetic and Algebra II. A grade of C is not sufficient; depending on curriculum and teachers’ standards a grade of B (or even A) may not be sufficient.

Warning. Probability and Statistics are two of the ten standards of “College and Career Readiness Standards for Mathematics”. But, Probability and Statistics are NOT necessary for college readiness.

Colleges do a reasonable job of teaching those subjects. So no need to learn them in high school. Also, allocating time to Probability and Statistics means less time available for students to become fluent in the needed topics of Arithmetic, Algebra and Geometry. Non-trivial Probability and Statistics is more sophisticated and far trickier than Algebra. It is easy for students to “learn” mis-leading statistics. It
may be the rare (fully certified) high school math teacher, who has sufficient content knowledge to properly teach Statistics.

Including Probability and Statistics in the Common Core Standards is NOT consistent with its claim that these are “fewer ... " standards.

Gotta agree with most of that.

He also has some thoughts on the ELA standards, including this one:
Goal for English classes Grades 4-12 should be that students can understand their science and social studies textbooks and be able to write a coherent summary of each chapter (one page or less).

Right on, if they only had textbooks.


Catherine Johnson said...

who needs textbooks?

remember: there is no perfect curriculum

Allison said...

I am so happy to hear someone say that probability and statistics in high school are a bad choice!

there are so many skills worth learning and learning well in high school. Prob and state isn't one of them, and it wastes valuable time.

Let me add that *what* and *how* probability and statistics are taught is *not* agreed on at the university level. There are at least three schools of thought on how to comprehend probability (the frequentists, the continuists, and the bayesianists) that influence what are the correct computations and what problems are correctly solved(!) and that is without even addressing the issue of whether or not there is any such grounding of statistics, or if it's just a set of ad hoc heuristics.

No way a high school course can address those issues, and we should stop trying.

Allison said...

I recently spoke to a professor here in MN who was talking with me about the Common Core standards, and he told me what one of his pet peeved was with math instruction here in the US: this push to use math in the "real world" by which they meant in all of these other subjects--social studies, statistics, science, you name it.

paraphrasing, he said: This is a bad model because we haven't given our students mastery of math for math's sake BEFORE we apply it to other fields. That's just too much to undertake. We don't expect our students to just jump in and learn to read and write while doing history and philosophy. First you learn to read, THEN you can apply your mastery of reading to these other disciplines.

I didn't have the heart to tell him how wrong he was about reading.

rocky said...

I was thinking that AP Statistics would be a place where I could do the least harm. It's mostly a calculator course; the student does simple algebra to find a z score, an error interval, or a group standard deviation, and then recognizes which test to use. I can imagine a high school student doing well with that and not having to take stats in college.

On the other hand, AP Calculus makes a kid think he does not need to repeat Calc I or Calc II in college. But Calculus is so alien, students should take it again in college.

I just wish there were AP Precalculus and AP Trigonometry courses...

SteveH said...

"First you learn to read, THEN you can apply your mastery of reading to these other disciplines."

What ever happened to "Learn to read. Read to Learn"?

SteveH said...

I was never required to take a course in statistics or probability in 7 1/2 years of college, but I had plenty of statistics and probability.