kitchen table math, the sequel: 11/28/10 - 12/5/10

Friday, December 3, 2010

the real world

Speaking of ditching the daily lesson plan, Allison wrote:
For those so enamored with preparing kids for the real world, why do they want school at all? Wouldn't child labor better? That would integrate everything.

let's not and say we did, part 2

Ditch the daily lesson plan
If you think about the “real world” that we’re preparing kids for, how often is the “real world” day broken up into science moments, math moments, writing moments, etc?
I don't know about you, but for me the "real world" day gets broken up into science moments, math moments, writing moments, etc. any time I happen to be doing science, math, writing, and 'etc' all on the same day.

Say I'm studying math for the SAT.

I just study math. Without any science or writing at all. (Also, if I can find a decent worksheet, I do a worksheet.)

Or say I'm writing a book proposal or an article for the local paper.

I just write!

I don't do any math or science to speak of, unless I happen to be writing about math or science. And even then, I don't do math or science. Writing about math or science isn't the same thing as doing math or science. moments, math moments, writing moments, etc? We engage all of these things at all times.
No we don't.
Also, it’s not like integrated units are anything innovative…
Kids don’t need a six-week unit on mastering quotation marks; they need to learn to master the quotation marks piece in the screenplay they write collaboratively about the people of Iceland solving problems around a catastrophic tectonic event that includes the gathering and analysis of quantitative data.
oh, man

Speaking as a person who is finishing up a semester teaching English composition to college freshmen, I would have a very hard time convincing my students that what they really need isn't to learn when and where to use a comma but to write collaboratively about the people of Iceland solving problems around a catastrophic tectonic event that includes the gathering and analysis of quantitative data.

I'd get some stony looks on that one.

Real stony.

let's not and say we did
let's not and say we did, part 2
let's not and say we did, part 3

WordSmart Software

Does anyone have any comments on a product called "WordSmart High School Excellence"? I got a call out of the blue based on something my son filled out at school, although he doesn't know what that was. The implication is that this product is recommended by our school and that we can get a big discount because of that. To get the discount, they have to arrange a time to call me back. I'm trying to find out whether his high school really recommends the product or not. When I read the guidance dept. info on the school site, they talk of putting together an IEP for each child and that the parent plays an integral role. Right now, I don't feel integral.

Race to the Average

Our state will get Race To The Top money, so our town is putting together a plan that is based on the state test. The goal is:

"90% of students entering the 4th and 8th grades will be proficient in reading and math on our state assessment"

This is really a Race To The Average. Do most parents think that state proficiency levels are good enough for their own kids? I don't think so, but do they think the money will help their kids? I haven't seen our (58 page!) proposal yet, but I can't imagine that there is anything more than a guess and check approach to increasing the numbers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

wrong again

a letter to the Times:
Middle-class American children attending well-financed schools outscore nearly all other countries. But our overall scores are unspectacular because we have such a high percentage of children living in poverty.
Rich schools are good schools: the very assumption that led me to overspend on a house in an overspending town.

Maybe I should write a letter to the editor.

Here are Hanushek, Peterson, and Woessmann:
White students. The overall news is sobering. Some might try to comfort themselves by saying the [achievement] problem is limited to large numbers of students from immigrant families, or to African American students and others who have suffered from discrimination....

...[L]et us consider the performance of white students for whom the case of discrimination cannot easily be made. Twenty-four countries have a larger percentage of highly accomplished students than the 8 percent achieving at that level among the U.S. white student population in the Class of 2009. Looking at just white students places the U.S. at a level equivalent to what all students are achieving in the United Kingdom, Hungary, and Poland. Seven percent of California’s white students are advanced, roughly the percentage for all Lithuanian students.

Children of parents with college degrees. Another possibility is that schools help students reach levels of high accomplishment if parents are providing the necessary support. To explore this possibility, we assumed that students who reported that at least one parent had graduated from college were likely to be given the kind of support that is needed for many to reach high levels of achievement. Approximately 45 percent of all U.S. students reported that at least one parent had a college degree.

The portion of students in the Class of 2009 with a college-graduate parent who are performing at the advanced level is 10.3 percent. When compared to all students in the other PISA countries, this advantaged segment of the U.S. population was outranked by students in 16 other countries. Nine percent of Illinois students with a college-educated parent scored at the advanced level, a percentage comparable to all students in France and the United Kingdom. The percentage of highly accomplished students from college-educated families in Rhode Island is just short of 6 percent, the same percentage for all students in Spain, Italy, and Latvia.

The Previous Rosy Gloss

Many casual observers may be surprised by our findings, as two previous, highly publicized studies have suggested that—even though improvement was possible—the U.S. was doing all right. This was the picture from two reports issued by Gary Phillips of the American Institutes for Research, who compared the average performance in math of 8th-grade students in each of the 50 states with the average scores of 8th-grade students in other countries. These comparisons used methods that are similar to ours to relate 2007 NAEP performance for U.S. students to both TIMSS 2003 and TIMSS 2007. His findings are more favorable to the United States than those shown by our analyses. While our study using the PISA data shows U.S. student performance in math to be below 30 other countries, Phillips found the average U.S. student to be performing better than all but 14 other countries in his 2007 report and all but 8 countries in his 2009 report. (Oddly, the 2007 report takes a much more buoyant perspective than the 2009 report, though the data suggest otherwise.) Phillips also finds that individual states do much better vis-à-vis other countries than we report.

Why do two studies that seem to be employing generally similar methodologies produce such strikingly different results?

The answer to that puzzle is actually quite simple and has little to do with the fact that Phillips compares average student performance while our study focuses on advanced students: many OECD countries, including those that had a high percentage of high-achieving students, participated in PISA 2006 (upon which our analysis is based) but did not participate in either TIMSS 2003 or TIMSS 2007, the two surveys included in the Phillips studies. In fact, 19 countries that outscored the U.S. on the PISA 2006 test did not participate in TIMSS 2003, and 22 higher-scoring countries did not participate in TIMSS 2007. As a report by the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics has explained, “Differences in the set of countries that participate in an assessment can affect how well the United States appears to do internationally when results are released.”

Put starkly, if one drops from a survey countries such as Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, and New Zealand, and includes instead such countries as Botswana, Ghana, Iran, and Lebanon, the average international performance will drop, and the United States will look better relative to the countries with which it is being compared.

Teaching Math to the Talented
Eric A. Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson and Ludger Woessmann
Winter 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 1

what does Google want?

A friend of mine (ok, it was Debbie S.) talked to a person at Google about what they look for in job candidates.

He gave her a typical problem a candidate might be asked to solve during the interview. 

As I recall, it was a permutation problem.

A hard one.

So here's Tom Friedman on the three basic skills:
There are three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate.

Teaching for America
Published: November 20, 2010

I guess Google-level math knowledge falls under 'problem-solving.'


Economists' Grail: A Post-Crash Model
By Mark Whitehouse
Wall Street Journal November 10, 2010
I love this.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Recently released data from ACT shows that only 24 percent of high school seniors knew enough in four subjects — math, reading, science and English — to do college-level work.

No More A’s for Good Behavior
by Peg Tyre
Published: November 27, 2010
New York Times