kitchen table math, the sequel: Lynn G on children in groups

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lynn G on children in groups

I can say from anecdotal experience that putting kids in groups tends to reinforce the group issues they already had, even cement their anti-social tendencies rather than correct them.

For example, I was in my 4th grader's classroom awhile back when the kids were assigned to groups of four kids to work on a writing project. It was a pretty good idea and the kids came up with some very interesting ideas. BUT, the groups didn't seem to enhance the work product -- nothing came out of it that they wouldn't have been able to do individually. And, the kids with the most trouble academically sat on the edges, didn't contribute or were rebuffed by their more able peers. For them, it was a complete waste of time. For the "good" girls, they had a great time sitting with their friends, putting down the boys in their group, and doing their best to come up with something the teacher would like.

But with the kids divided into 5 or 6 groups, the teacher could not be everywhere. She was needed full-time in at least 3 of the groups, and her dropping in for a few minutes on each group was too little too late. One kid in my daughter's group is in dire need of social skills. He spent the entire time spinning circles on his butt, standing up and asking to go to the bathroom or wandering off to the windows, or telling the other groups members that this was "stupid" or complaining that no one listened to him. When the teacher hovered, he acted out less, but at no point did he contribute.

I think about that and wonder, how is the 21st CS movement helping him? When the theory hits the road, how do they really expect kids to learn anything useful? How are they going to get the kids that need the social and collaborative skill to gain them just by assigning them to a groups of social adept kids?
Speaking as a parent whose son is attending a boys' school, I read accounts like this one and shudder.

Public school officials need to ask themselves whether group work is hurting some (or many) kids more than helping.


report
In reading, girls outperformed boys in 2008 at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Higher percentages of girls than boys scored at or above the proficient level on state reading tests at grade 4, grade 8, and high school; in some states, these gaps exceeded 10 percentage points.

Are There Differences in Achievement Between Boys and Girls?
Center on Education Policy
March 2010

42 comments:

Allison said...

--I can say from anecdotal experience that putting kids in groups tends to reinforce the group issues they already had, even cement their anti-social tendencies rather than correct them.


Same with adults.

But still, I'm agape at the naivete to say that govt school officials need to ask themselves if X is hurting more than helping students. Sorry to be a broken record, but you will get nowhere telling them to "think of the children"!

Government school officials do not exist to help students' performance increase, especially not if it would widen gaps in achievement. They exist to maintain their position. They are not incentivized to improve their students' performance. Every crisis is another chance for more money. Even if in the end, the crisis swallows the school, it doesn't hurt the officials.

momof4 said...

Let's see; it's very important to have a great/highly-qualified teacher, but somehow a few minutes per hour of that teacher's time (supervising groupwork in a full-inclusion classroom) is just as good as having 45+ minutes of her time (in a teacher-centered, homogeneous classroom)? Does the ed world have any idea how illogical that sounds? Impossible is probably closer to it.

Barry Garelick said...

Oh, but Momof4, they tried that for years and we all know the traditional mode of education has failed thousands of students. (Straight quote from ed school; you can't make this crap up).

Beth said...

Barry, traditional ed sure as he** failed me, and my daughter too. It all comes down to implementation. I just don't buy "traditional ed good, progressive ed bad". My world is a lot more complicated than that.

le radical galoisien said...

My Singapore math teacher implemented group work ... quite effectively. She was always in control of the class.

In the Singapore education system, we have a prefect system ... prefects are well-disciplined students chosen by teachers for various roles of responsibility ... often they can be relied upon to maintain order in a classroom or even maintain order in a lunch cafeteria + soccer field + playground environment of 280+ students. At 11-12 years old we were self-policing ourselves.

Most of us weren't really that economically privileged at all. Occasionally prefects conspired in their share of mischief. But the same system exists throughout most primary schools in Singapore, from the well-off independent schools to the neighbourhood schools that tend to be recruiting grounds for gangs.

le radical galoisien said...

(my primary school class had a ridiculous ratio of prefects: 11 prefects out of 41 students ... though the running average tended to be 10-15% of the student body)

Barry Garelick said...

Beth,

Yes, the arguments are much more complicated than traditional good and progressive bad. I'd be interested in hearing how traditional math failed you and your daughter.

Beth said...

Traditional ed failed me because I was just bored out of my everlovin' mind. As an example, we had those SRA reading cards, which I know some people on this blog like. My experience was that I read through the whole series in the first couple of weeks of school, and then had nothing to do the rest of the year. We had a "music" class that consisted of the teacher writing outlines about "lives of the great composers" up on the chalkboard, which we were supposed to copy. At a very early stage I just tuned out completely and would sit in the back of the class and daydream, all day, every day. I didn't discover that it was actually possible to learn stuff in school until I got to college.

My daughter's experience was slightly different, in that she tested into the "gifted" program. That meant she had a pullout class that she actually enjoyed (yes, it was -- gasp! -- group projects, but she found them interesting.) The problem with the pullout was that it was a maximum of about 1 1/2 hrs. per week, and the rest of the time she was getting really bored. Then the big disaster was 5th grade "accelerated" math, which was taught as follows -- memorize this algorithm, now memorize that algorithm, spit it all back out on a timed test. The pace was too fast for my daughter and the teacher was a bully who thought he could force my daughter to perform well. My daughter became severely anxious and depressed, which is why we left the public schools.

And that's my story. As I've said before, I appreciate this blog, and I think there are many completely valid criticisms here of "constructivist" math. I'm willing to believe that there are some useful aspects to a traditional approach. BUT I also think that progressive ed has useful insights, especially the insight that the child's interest matters, and that the child must be engaged as a human being.

Beth said...

I should add that the traditional ed I describe above all happened in public schools in nominally high-performing districts, the kind of districts families move to because of the "excellent" schools.

My kids are now at a private school that I would call sort-of progressive, and as some folks on this blog might predict, the math curriculum is actually pretty weak (Trailblazers). I've been supplementing older dd with Singapore math at home. So far this is an arrangement I'm willing to live with because my daughter isn't depressed, she mostly enjoys school, and some (not all) of the "progressive" stuff is actually engaging her interest in a way that never happened at the "traditional" public school.

RMD said...

Beth, you said: "progressive ed has useful insights, especially the insight that the child's interest matters, and that the child must be engaged as a human being"

I'm not sure I understand your point. It sounds like ability-based grouping would cover a lot of your issues. If we added in a well-structured curricula (ala Direct Instruction), I can't imagine you being bored.

DI (or at least highly-structured curricula) and ability-based grouping, from my understanding, are not characteristics of so-called progressive education.

Can you elaborate what constructivist practices would have alleviated your issues?

le radical galoisien said...

The MOE in Singapore is constantly innovating.

Sometimes they come up with horrible experiments, like project work as coursework in itself (not tied to a particular subject). Implemented sometime after 2000, it's being phased out this year.

But sometimes they come up with useful teaching tools.

Beth said...

RMD, one "progressive" idea that would have been great for me, and has been very good for dd, is the idea that the child should have as much control as possible over the learning process. One of the things that worked for my daughter last year was a project called "create your own homework", where the kids were encouraged to find a subject they were interested in, and then write a paper on it. It was amazing to me what a difference it made to dd that she could choose her own subject.

The "accelerated" math that was such a disaster for dd, was completely traditional in approach. One way to teach math badly is to neglect motivation, in two senses. One is the academic sense -- why was this mathematical algorithm created? What is it good for? And the other is the human sense -- why should a child be interested in this? My daughter's "accelerated" class, which was ability grouped and highly structured, failed in both senses of motivation. A more "constructive" approach, even with some manipulatives, would have helped.

Traditional ed, done badly, can leave kids alienated from their own education. If education feels like something that is done to you, not a project you embark on for your own enlightenment, it can be very dull and discouraging.

Katharine Beals said...

"Traditional ed, done badly, can leave kids alienated from their own education. If education feels like something that is done to you, not a project you embark on for your own enlightenment, it can be very dull and discouraging."

Beth, I believe this is true of any approach--almost by definition. Progressive classrooms aren't immune: my daughter feels this way about the hands-on group learning and personal reflections/"be creative" assigments she gets at school

The real questions are these:

1. Is one approach more effective when done reasonably well than another?

2. Is one approach easier to do reasonably well by a larger number of teachers than another?

Barry Garelick said...

Beth,

Thank you for the information. Your statement that "traditional ed, done badly, can leave kids alienated from their own education" is quite true. I want to say that just as you find the characterization of "traditional-good, progressive-bad" to be inaccurate, I too find the characterizatioon of "traditional-bad, progressive-good" to be simiiarly inaccurate.

What I and others on this blog have argued is that traditional ed done poorly does not automatically translate into traditional ed is inherently bad. I agree with you that there needs to be some motivation for the procedures and algorithms, such as multiplication of fractions, and so forth. (Singapore's series does this quite well, and so do others). Ultimately, students will need to learn the procedures to automaticity, but there should also be challenging multi-step word problems that draw on the material learned and its application.

Katharine Beals said...

"One way to teach math badly is to neglect motivation, in two senses. One is the academic sense -- why was this mathematical algorithm created? What is it good for? And the other is the human sense -- why should a child be interested in this?"

The traditional math texts from which I've excerpted problems on my blog, which date back to 1938 and earlier, do quite a good job showing how/why the algorithms work--much better than the Reform Math programs. I believe that there has been a decline in the quality of math texts since the 1950s--Barry Garelick has written about this (Barry can you give the link?)--with fewer good explanations of math concepts and fewer good problems. But if you go back far enough in time to more traditional stuff, what you find is actually quite good; in light of all the caricatures we keep hearing by the education establishment, surprisingly good.

Katharine Beals said...

Concerning the "human sense" of motivation, as Beth puts it:P for the more mathematically inclined kids, simply knowing the underlying concepts behind the procedures will be enough to show them why the math is interesting.

As for interesting other kids, problems that apply math in mathematically meaningful ways to practical situations, especially ones that students are likely to encounter, are helpful. For all the claims of Reform math enthusiasts, these sorts of problems are actually much more common in traditional than in contemporary math texts. Again, this may sound quite surprising in light of contemporary caricatures, but take a look at some pre-1950s math word problems, and see what you think.

SteveH said...

"I just don't buy "traditional ed good, progressive ed bad..."

"Traditional ed failed me because I was just bored out of my everlovin' mind."

Well, you seem to buy it. Either it's a meaningful point of discussion or it isn't. Everything you say is in terms of simplistic labels when you claim that the problem is more complex.


I remember when my son started Kindergarten over 8 years ago. I remember thinking about the things I didn't like about my "traditional" math education. (I never called it that.) Then I saw that our schools were using MathLand. I realized that they were headed in the completely wrong direction. I wasn't the one thinking traditional versus progressive. The schools were the ones using terms like "drill and kill". I would like the discussion to move on to a more in-depth level, but that seems to be impossible. The schools are the ones who decide what goes on in the schools and who control the debate.


There are many parts to the problem, and group or project-based learning is only one of them. You have to be careful not to mix up the problems. I could say that the problem is not really group work, but how they (in K-8, especially) changed what math is all about and lowered expectations at the same time. They cover it all up with talk of understanding and critical thinking.

It's too easy to claim that the traditional approach was all about rote learning of formulas and drill and kill. That's not the case, but it works when your goal is to change not only how the material is taught, but what is taught.

Everyone at KTM loves and appreciates understanding, critical thinking, and complex projects, but that's not what schools are doing. (A number of KTMers do this kind of work daily. Many educators can only guess at what it means, and they get it wrong.) I could come up with group and project oriented methods for rigorous math, but it would look nothing like what they do in schools.

My son was bored out of his mind with Everyday Math. He might be bored in a Singapore Math class. I'm teaching him geometry at home because his middle school only offers up to algebra in 8th grade. Just yesterday after school, he was acting really annoyed and impatient when I was going over some new material in a traditional geometry textbook. It was just too easy, so he wanted me to go faster. Of course, he doesn't really understand all of the not-so-simple implications of the simple theorems. So, you can't always judge based on a child's reaction. A perfect curriculum is not one where the student is always happy. Besides, life is never perfect and I expect my son to be able to deal with all sorts of people and teachers. The last thing my wife and I want is for my son to expect the world to revolve around him.

"...and that the child must be engaged as a human being."

Really now, it that what is at issue here?

If you want to discuss the problems as more complex than labels, then you will have to start defining your problem in more specific terms.

Barry Garelick said...

Katharine's point is well taken, and in fact, many of the texts written in the 50's and 60's were written by the reformers of that era (Brownell, Brueckner, and others). Reading the notes "to the teacher" at the beginning of these books, you can find statements about how math concepts should not be taught in isolation, and that students should know the concept behind the procedure. Thus the "traditional" books of the 50's contained aspects of reform in them, including discovery. There were many word problems as Katharine stated, and in some texts I've seen, there have even been some limited use of "bar models" for fraction problems, similar to what is used in Singapore.

Laura said...

that the child should have as much control as possible over the learning process

There is a difference between letting a child earn the right increasingly to take control over the learning process, as they mature and become capable of directing their own behavior (as opposed to letting themselves be pulled in the direction of one carrot or another or away from a stick) and misusing self-motivated learning in the same way some "traditional" teachers misuse incentives.

When you hold out a carrot (and getting to use class time to do something of individual interest is a kind of carrot, whether you realize it or not)to get a child to do what you want (learn something), you are not actually treating them with respect or encouraging real independence. Real independence requires real autonomy, which children are only gradually able to acquire (and may never acquire if we manipulate them instead of lead them).

Catherine Johnson said...

Haven't read the thread yet, but wanted to add that, at the recent BOE meeting where the board voted to stay with Trailblazers, the most affecting testimony was given by a man whose children "get math intuitively."

He and his wife are both in quantitative fields; his wife is a research physician & he is an economist.

He said that his kids were very unhappy in Trailblazers; one of them called it "Failblazers." Both children will be attending private schools next year.

What frosts me is the utter indifference of "curriculum specialists" to the witness of these families. We have, now, in my district, a group of women with specialties in ELA & social studies choosing math programs, rewriting math programs (this is called "curriculum development" and we pay extra for it), and imposing those math programs on everyone else, including the mathematically gifted.

A friend sent an email saying, "Your district is operating on high-octane arrogance."

Catherine Johnson said...

In the Singapore education system, we have a prefect system ... prefects are well-disciplined students chosen by teachers for various roles of responsibility

Boy, that didn't work out in the algebra class C. took in 8th grade.

There was always a girl assigned to go around the class and check whether kids had done their homework. The teacher never collected-and-corrected homework; nor did he give frequent quizzes. Basically, there was no formative assessment EVER.

Some of the kids just wrote different dates on old homework & showed it to the girl doing the recording; others passed their homework across the aisle to friends when she wasn't looking so two kids got credit for one kid's work.

We eventually discussed the situation with the superintendent and the school principal.

The superintendent chalked it up to pushy parents putting so much pressure on their kids that they were driven to cheat on homework. She told us that our culture here in town is "sad."

Nothing was done about the homework collection process.

RMD said...

"that the child should have as much control as possible over the learning process"

For novices (i.e., K-6), this approach is a disaster. Basic knowledge and skills (e.g., reading, handwriting, composition, spelling, mathematical concepts and computation) must first be mastered before self-directed learning can occur.

SteveH said...

"Failblazers"

Good one!


"Basically, there was no formative assessment EVER."

I could create a new learning paradigm using hand puppets that does better than that. I'll call it "Learning By Proxy"(tm). Every child would have a hand puppet who could ask dumb questions without repercussions, because it's the puppet who is the dumb one. I could start a Proxy Learning Laboratory School.

Amy P said...

I agree with the person who said that some of Beth's school issues could have been fixed with ability grouping.

"that the child should have as much control as possible over the learning process"

"as possible" is open to interpretation. My kids have usually had interests (my 5-year-old's current one is fungi). I can see how you could use that in a homeschool setting and really let them run with their particular interests, but I don't see how it would translate to a classroom where each child has a different interest, and there are a couple dozen kids. This year, my 2nd grader is doing ancient history at a private classical school. They're learning about Mesopotamia, the Minoans, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, ancient India, etc. My 2nd grader loves history and is very proud of her history notebook (for each area studied, the kids write some text and draw a simple picture to illustrate the text). I suppose the history notebook is somewhat progressive, but the very systematic structure of the curriculum is not typical of progressive education as practiced in the US. Also, I'm pretty sure that C would not have embraced ancient history on her own, since it really wasn't her cup of tea before this year.

On the one hand, you need to speak to kids' interests, but on the other hand, you need to open up new worlds for them. As children, we don't know what we don't know. I know in high school, I wouldn't have dreamed of taking home ec, shop, or consumer math. However, as an adult, I can see how useful they would be to me now. (Although I suspect that the consumer math course wasn't very good.)

Laura said...

On the one hand, you need to speak to kids' interests, but on the other hand, you need to open up new worlds for them.

I don't exactly disagree with this, but I don't think it's wholly right either. I think it's important to teach children to take their interests seriously enough that they build in time during the day for those interests, while still recognizing that they need an adult to lead them in their overall learning.

Even an adult would not learn very much simply following their own interests. If you have any goals at all, you find out what you don't know, you work toward improving that situation, and you get that less fun work over with quickly enough to leave time for more open-ended, interest-oriented pursuits.

Anyone who has spent too much time on the internet can tell you how unsatisfying and unproductive it is simply to let passing interests guide you when that takes up too large of a portion of your day, especially if it keeps you from getting stuff done that you want to get done.

In moderation, pursuing interests is fun and can even open up unexpected avenues. But only in moderation (with some very rare exceptions).

TerriW said...

Anyone who has spent too much time on the internet can tell you how unsatisfying and unproductive it is simply to let passing interests guide you when that takes up too large of a portion of your day, especially if it keeps you from getting stuff done that you want to get done.

I think I need to print that one out and put it on the fridge. Even more importantly, I think I need to turn off the computer for awhile. Heh. (Needed that little kick in the pants this morning.)

le radical galoisien said...

CJ: actually prefects aren't involved in any grading... gosh that's not a good system. But they can spot cheating, encourage others to pay attention, etc.

Prefects mainly enforce school rules, prevent students from going into restricted areas, and basically allow teachers to concentrate more on teaching and less on managing discipline issues.

Actually, we had exercises where we had to correct each other's homework. But we all had to turn it in later on to the teacher.

In fact, homework wasn't graded graded. You did your homework, and if you got a problem wrong, you corrected it until you got it right.

le radical galoisien said...

"For novices (i.e., K-6), this approach is a disaster. Basic knowledge and skills (e.g., reading, handwriting, composition, spelling, mathematical concepts and computation) must first be mastered before self-directed learning can occur."

I remember in 3rd grade during read-along sessions how I would get in trouble because I would just read ahead and do all the worksheets in advance.

Then I would go back to reading the book I /really/ wanted to read.

I was accused of not doing my work.

Allison said...

The issue is not that a constructivist project is necessarily bad. The issue is opportunity cost.

That is, when you decide to use class time to present material using discovery, you are also deciding that OTHER material WILL NOT be presented.

What are you giving up to put that project in?

Constructivist curricula can work with an extremely good teacher, who is disciplined at time management, at guiding the students down a specific path of inquiry (rather than down dead ends repeatedly), and when the students are already ability-grouped, and they are already ahead of the curve. The ability grouping is important because otherwise, someone is losing out on time needed to learn the skills the other kids in the group already have. That time will not come back, and every day they will be farther and farther behind.

Even when ability grouped, if the group is too far behind, then the constructivist project has too high an opportunity cost, because basic skills are not being mastered.

When constructivist methods are taught without extreme discipline, without extreme skill at guiding the inquiry, and without thought to what the opportunity cost is, it's a disaster.

Katharine Beals said...

I think Allison has it exactly right here, and this is where my two questions come in--questions that I think many more people need to be asking all the time.

To repeat:

1. Is one approach more effective when done reasonably well than another approach is?

2. Is one approach easier to do reasonably well by a larger number of teachers than another approach is?

We have to be realistic about what can be done well, and efficiently, by most teachers in most actual classrooms.

Otherwise, equity in education (true equity, that is) remains nothing more than an idealist's dream.

Anonymous said...

Beth,

That much maligned old warhorse, Saxon, uses almost the exact pi project. I know because I was running all over the house with my son looking for circles with our strings in hand. Again, you have to watch the sweeping generalizations.

The difference is that good traditional curriculums put the manipulatives away at some point and get on with the math, while constuctivist ones seem to want to use them, along with projects, as the main vehicle for teaching.

SusanS

SteveH said...

"much more illuminating than the 'traditional' approach"

I'm afraid I still don't know what a traditional approach is.


"This seems to me like a very good use of constructivist techniques, ..."

OK, but that's not a complete curriculum, and it can easily be done using almost any model of education. The question is what are you doing the rest of the class time.

The problem really is more complex than that. Let's get away from labels and talk about content, skills, goals, and what goes on in class on a regular basis.

For example, how long does the pi string thing take? I'll wager it would take up a full class period. Do you do this sort of thing everyday in class? Why can't the teacher assign this as individual homework?

They don't do that because this is not so much about discovery as it is about changing what happens in the classroom - using the teacher as the guide on the side.

It would be much more efficient if the teacher led the discovery. Perhaps she could bring a student up to the front of the class to measure and cut the strings. Maybe the teacher could get through this "illuminating" chunk of knowledge in a quarter of the time. Still, that wastes a lot of class time on just one small concept.

The problem is that in many modern classrooms, they don't worry at all about the destination and that you have a lot of ground to cover. They just want to fill up class time with "active learning". That appears to be good enough.

But there are way too many concepts that really would be helped with "illuminating" examples. They all cannot be done. It appears that the modern classroom hides behind all of this sort of active learning and then dumps the difficult work of skill mastery on the parents.

You can always trade speed of coverage for more understanding. But what about those ugly skills? Do they just sprout from understanding? No. My son says that he understands things, but it's only superficially. He has to solve 25 problems from the book for me to accept that he has seen most variations of a problem and really understands what is going on.

Discovery is neither necessary or sufficient. It can be illuminating or motivating, but if you try to create a curriculum based on it, especially if it's done in every class, you will never cover all of the material.

Anonymous said...

Chemistry labs (which are usually done in pairs or threes) are a good example of constructivist learning done by a fixed pattern. You don't just hand the students a bunch of equipment and a few chemicals and let them mess around. You walk them through specific steps and have them observe, documents, and compare. And, you don't do the lab until the students have learned the concepts that they're going to see. Of course, there is value to messing around too, but a little goes a long way.

Laura said...

Discovery is neither necessary or sufficient

Not to mention that in Beth's example, there isn't any significant amount of discovery going on, anyway. Beth, you aren't describing kids figuring something out on their own, you are describing a teacher lead the kids through a series of steps, while distracting them from that fact through showmanship. And while there are indeed a small number of teachers who enjoy putting on that kind of show year in and year out, even most of the teachers who want to put on the show get worn out by it and either quit or start phoning it in.

Even putting aside the points discussed by Allison and Steve about all the time being wasting that could be spent solidifying the level of understanding, etc.

SteveH said...

"there isn't any significant amount of discovery going on, anyway"


That's true. My son was never impressed by that ratio. Besides, (as I've said before), when kids are in a group, maybe one or two kids really discover anything (get it), and they then proceed to directly teach it to the other kids. They do it without teaching credentials! And what they discover could be wrong.

momof4 said...

EFFICIENCY: if the concept can be taught in X time, 2X with a teacher demo and 5-10X (probably more) in a group/discovery format, then the last is a waste of time that could be spent doing something else. IF the group is accelerated, perhaps 2X is justified, but is probably unnecessary for that level anyway. With kids who need to catch up, they are less likely to figure it out on their own and they are least likely to be able to spare the time. I'm for efficiency, every time; the schools seem to unfamiliar with the concept, or they don't care.

ChemProf said...

For the record, a chem lab isn't constructivist because we give them a procedure, etc. I have had faculty from the Ed school try to convince me to go to a discovery based lab, where they have to develop their own procedure to discover the concepts. I feel it is too dangerous, if the chemistry is interesting, and also too inefficient.

By junior year, my majors choose an independent project for Analytical, but they are working at a whole different level and know how to use the lit, among other things.

Catherine Johnson said...

It all comes down to implementation.

(Still) haven't read the thread, but this is of course true.

Part of the problem at ktm is that "traditional" can mean "direct instruction with deliberate practice, etc." and/or "public school practices prior to the 1980s." (Is 1980s the right date?)

Diane Ravitch sent her kids to progressive schools in Manhattan, for those of you who hadn't heard that before.

SteveH said...

"It all comes down to implementation."

I would say that it all comes down to where you are going. Many schools are changing the the definition of math.

"Diane Ravitch sent her kids to progressive schools .."

Did any of them end up in a math, sciece, or engineering program that required anything more than calculus?

SteveH said...

"I have had faculty from the Ed school try to convince me to go to a discovery based lab, where they have to develop their own procedure to discover the concepts."

Wow! Maybe you should go to their school and offer advice. Our high school offers an algebra course that includes an extra lab class. Do you know what they do in the lab? They fix skills and work on mastery.

ChemProf said...

SteveH: You must realize that ed school faculty can offer advice to everyone, since none of the rest of us are truly qualified to teach. After all, I have never taken an education class!

(Yes, the sarcasm is intended.)

SteveH said...

"...since none of the rest of us are truly qualified to teach."

So you should be able to go to them and discuss content.


In our state, teachers, starting in 7th grade, have to be certified in their subject area. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but these teachers do seem to understand (at some level) the importance of content and skills. The middle school teachers seem to have a better idea what is needed for high school.

What I find interesting is the transition between our schools fluffy K-6 idea of education to the content and skills of the high school. It's not that high school is so perfect, but that there is this big transition in educational thought.

A few years ago, when our middle school still used CMP, parents would hear high school teachers complain bitterly about how unprepared the students were. Did they go to the lower schools and tell them that what they were doing was crazy? No. I did hear that the head of the high school math department came to our lower schools to talk about expecting more from the kids and to not allow so many "do-overs". They proceeded to side with the teachers and blame the students. They did not complain about CMP or Everyday Math. It was only changed when parents complained enough and pointed out that our middle school really should offer the same honors algebra course that the high school requires for honors geometry. Duh!

Also, this change from CMP to a real algebra course coincided with the state law that required certification for teachers going down to 7th grade. The old teachers retired and the new ones know at least something about math.