kitchen table math, the sequel: 5/8/11 - 5/15/11

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Finland Phenomenon on Throwing Curves

The latest post on Throwing Curves is a review and commentary on the recently released Bob Compton film, The Finland Phenomenon, which bloggers Rosemary and Lynn viewed at MIT last week.

Not learning how to write, apparently

Salon has an article from the point of view of a college comp prof re: just what are high school students *doing* in English class these days?

When I ask her why she thinks there's such resistance to prioritizing and teaching writing, given its numerous applications, given its overlap with critical thinking skills, analytical skills, basic communication skills, she hesitates for a moment, then answers in three words: "It's not fun."

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Parker on the equal sign

On the subject of American students not knowing what the equal sign signifies, Parker writes:
I told my spouse the other day that I was convinced that many of my chemistry students did not understand what the equals sign meant and therefore they couldn't handle equations. It was just a hunch, but maybe I wasn't crazy. When they rearrange an equation they tend to just move letters around.

I don't know how we could screw up teaching this stuff.
I'm curious about this -- what happens in a chemistry class when students don't understand the equal sign?

damn you autocorrect

have just discovered this -- hilarious!

Autocorrect is constantly tripping me up, but so far it's produced nothing as diverting as the stuff on other people's phones, it seems.


from Science Daily:
Texas A and M University researchers ... have found that not fully understanding the "equal sign" in a math problem could be a key to why U.S. students underperform their peers from other countries in math.

"About 70 percent of middle grades students in the United States exhibit misconceptions, but nearly none of the international students in Korea and China have a misunderstanding about the equal sign, and Turkish students exhibited far less incidence of the misconception than the U.S. students," note Robert M. Capraro and Mary Capraro of the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at Texas A&M.


The problem is students memorize procedures without fully understanding the mathematics, he notes.

"Students who have learned to memorize symbols and who have a limited understanding of the equal sign will tend to solve problems such as 4+3+2=( )+2 by adding the numbers on the left, and placing it in the parentheses, then add those terms and create another equal sign with the new answer," he explains. "So the work would look like 4+3+2=(9)+2=11.

"This response has been called a running equal sign...


The Texas A&M researchers examined textbooks in China and the United States and found "Chinese textbooks provided the best examples for students and that even the best U.S. textbooks, those sponsored by the National Science Foundation, were lacking relational examples about the equal sign."

Students' Understanding of the Equal Sign Not Equal, Professor Says
August 11, 2010
They had me until that last line.

How do Everyday Math and Terc teach the equal sign?

Monday, May 9, 2011

a grave injustice

The interesting thing is that the teacher had tenure. We can fire teachers over personal past history within weeks, but it takes years to fire a teacher with tenure over professional competence.

I have two master's degrees, five years' experience in the nonprofit sector and three years' experience teaching -- and I cannot get a job. Why? Just google me. I'm the "Hooker Teacher" -- at least that's what I've come to be called ever since Sept. 27, 2010, when I found myself on the cover of the New York Post.

"Meet Melissa Petro," the story began," the teacher who gives a new twist to sex ed." The piece describes me as a "tattooed former hooker and stripper" who was "shockingly upfront about her past." Indeed, earlier that month, I'd written an Op-Ed on the Huffington Post that criticized the recent censoring of the adult services section of Craigslist and came clean about my own sex-worker past. Because I was arguing that sex workers shouldn't be ashamed to speak for themselves, I signed my name to it. The New York Post wasn't interested in my politics, however; its interest seemed only in cooking up shock that an elementary school teacher would dare admit such a shady history.

I mean I wouldn't have minded her as a teacher I think. She had clearly separated her private past from her public present.

My country's elections are finally over; so the NY Post's reporting-with-an-agenda-to-destroy now really sickens me. More than a teacher's hooker past.