kitchen table math, the sequel: 2/3/13 - 2/10/13

Saturday, February 9, 2013

help desk - Surfer

One of our dogs, Surfer, has cancer. We heard yesterday, then today we found out how bad it is.

It's bad. Mast cell cancer, Stage 3. Eighty percent of dogs with this diagnosis die within 8 months.

(Just one thing after another around here, it seems.)

Anyway, I'm posting to ask for whatever knowledge or experience anyone has in this realm. Apparently there is a brand-new chemo drug that targets a receptor on the surface of the mast cell, so Surfer will begin taking that shortly. The vet said they started another dog on the drug 4 weeks ago, and when they saw the dog again the bloody tumor on his face was gone and he looked "5 years younger."

(I'll take it!)

I'm also going to figure out whatever anti-cancer diet exists for dogs. I know quite a bit about anti-cancer diets for people because I went on a health-book reading binge when my mother fell ill. (Best books I read: Anti-Cancer by Daniel Servan-Schreiber and The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.)

However, reading anti-cancer books for people doesn't instantly tell me what an anti-cancer diet for a dog might be, since dogs are carnivores. (People are omnivores, right?)

I'm a believer in diet as a treatment for cancer because of my father's experience. He was diagnosed with three different kinds of cancer in the last 20 or 25 years of his life (squamous cell, bladder, and prostate) and he didn't die from cancer, or even come close. He tracked down all the information he could on cancer and diet, and followed the dietary recommendations to the letter. All three cancers eventually disappeared.

Of course, I think my father had interesting genetics ... which I suspect may have made him more able to deter cancerous cells. On the other hand, he did have cancer - 3 kinds of cancer, no less - so he obviously wasn't cancer-proof, interesting genetics or no.

My dad used all available conventional treatments as well, so it's impossible to say what role diet played in his survival, if any. However, no doctor expected to see his bladder cancer disappear in the way that it did. It recurred for years and then .... it was gone.

I remember my mom's report after what I think must have been my dad's last trek to Mayo Clinic for follow-up.

The doctor said: "You have cancer, and you're going to continue to have cancer, but you're not going to die of cancer."

My father died many years later, in his Springfield townhouse, where he lived on his own, unassisted.

Probably a heart attack.

Definitely not cancer.

Friday, February 8, 2013

College Readiness

The problem with CCSS is that it was based on a "workplace analysis" that defined a one-size-fits-all pseudo-algebra II target in math. It's driven by the K-12 world that went out of its way to ignore college readiness tools currently used by colleges. PARCC is defining its own PLDs and cutoffs and only vaguely worries about correlating their data with existing tests. Also, the levels do NOT address the K-12 academic needs of those interested in STEM careers. PARCC is ignoring the ACT, SAT (I and II), AP tests, and they even ignore common remedial tests like ACCUPLACER and COMPASS.

What does it mean that ACT decided to split from PARCC to develop its own products? Specifically, they now have ACT-Explore for 8th and 9th grades, ACT-PLAN for 10th grade, and the ACT for 11th or 12th grades. These are tied into ACT-Aspire, a system that will cover K-12 development and testing.

What does it mean that the College Board is developing their own products? They have ReadiStep for middle school, the PSAT/NMSQT for 10th/11th grades, and the SAT. They have the SAT II and the AP classes and tests, soon to be supported by "SpringBoard", their grade 6-12 "Pre-AP" program.

And what about ACCUPLACER and COMPASS? Will colleges dump them and buy into an unknown and uncalibrated PARCC product that might have trouble calibrating its no-fluency-necesssary idea of education with the needs of colleges?

Who will drive this process, K-12 educators or colleges? This is a philosophical control issue.

Both the AP sequencene the College Board sequence build upon known quantities that are currently used by almost all colleges. They are fitting CCSS to their higher standards, not defining a curriculum that maxes out on barely college ready. I would give the College Board the edge because of their high-end AP and SAT II products, but I would give the edge to the ACT over the SAT. I think that Coleman at the College Board wants to adddress that "aptitude" issue.

So, what does CCSS/PARCC offer AT MOST?

Level 5 - "Students performing at this level demonstrate a distinguished command of the knowledge, skills, and practices embodied by the Common Core State Standards assessed at their grade level. ... They are academically well prepared to engage successfully in entry-level, credit-bearing courses in College Algebra, Introductory College Statistics, and technical courses requiring an equivalent level of mathematics."

One can hope that real college expectations and curricula will eventually be driven back to the lower grades. But how long (if ever) will it take our PARCC state to come to grips with the idea that they have to define a path to the top end for all students; not just be happy if little urban Johnnie or Suzie makes it to the community college level; not just fool themselves with terms like "college ready" and "distinguished". With a choice of standards products I'm hopeful, but only over the long term.

"Distinguished" in CCSS/PARCC Does NOT Mean STEM-Ready

Our state will be using the PARCC test, and PARCC is defining different "Performance Level Descriptors" (PLDs) that will define different levels of academic achievement. This is nothing new. Our current state test does that (e.g. below proficient, proficient, etc.), but they are vague levels at best. Are the PARCC levels any better? Do they define a level needed to prepare for a STEM career? Note that in the following document describing all of the levels, the term STEM is not found.

PARCC College and Career Readiness

PARCC PLDs define the following five levels (Distinguished, strong, moderate, partial, and minimal):

Level 5 - "Students performing at this level demonstrate a distinguished command of the knowledge, skills, and practices embodied by the Common Core State Standards assessed at their grade level. ... They are academically well prepared to engage successfully in entry-level, credit-bearing courses in College Algebra, Introductory College Statistics, and technical courses requiring an equivalent level of mathematics."

Level 4 - "Students performing at this level demonstrate a strong command of the knowledge, skills, and practices embodied by the Common Core State Standards assessed at their grade level."

Level 3 - "Students performing at this level demonstrate a moderate command of the knowledge, skills, and practices embodied by the Common Core State Standards assessed at their grade level."

Level 2 - "Students performing at this level demonstrate a partial command of the knowledge, skills, and practices embodied by the Common Core State Standards assessed at their grade level."

Level 1 - "Students performing at this level demonstrate a minimal command of the knowledge, skills, and practices embodied by the Common Core State Standards assessed at their grade level."

Level 5 is NOT a STEM-ready level.

PARCC defines level 4 as the cutoff for minimal college readiness. For math, this means:

"Students who earn a PARCC College- and Career-Ready Determination by performing at level 4 in mathematics and enroll in College Algebra, Introductory College Statistics, and technical courses requiring an equivalent level of mathematics have approximately a 0.75 probability of earning college credit by attaining at least a grade of C or its equivalent in those courses."

Since these PLDs will be used to set grade level standards and drive curricula back to the earliest grades, it's clear that parents who want their kids to be prepared for a STEM college career will have to (continue to) get help at home or with tutors. If they don't figure it out in the early grades because their child is "distinguished, it will be too late by seventh grade.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Fiorella, Logan 1; Mayer, Richard E. 1

Paper-Based Aids for Learning With a Computer-Based Game.

The purpose of this study was to test the instructional value of adding paper-based metacognitive prompting features to a gamelike environment for learning about electrical circuits, called the Circuit Game. In Experiment 1, students who were prompted during Levels 1 through 9 to direct their attention to the most relevant features of the game and were provided with a list of its underlying principles to relate to their game actions performed better on an embedded transfer test (i.e., Level 10) than those not provided with the intervention (d = 0.77). In Experiment 2, the principles were not explicitly provided; instead, students were asked to fill in the correct features of each principle on a sheet while playing Levels 1 through 9 of the game. Results indicated that this method of prompting improved transfer performance only for learners who could correctly fill in the list of the game's principles (d = 0.53). Overall, paper-based aids for directing students' attention toward the most relevant features of a game and asking them to apply provided principles to solve game-based problems result in a deeper understanding of the game's academic content. (C) 2012 by the American Psychological Association
What will they think of next?

(Richard Mayer is the author of Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning? The case for guided methods of instruction.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

books are technology

A great observation re: technology from Brad DeLong:
From my perspective, I will not dare make predictions about the potential Christensenian disruption of higher education until I understand why and how the university as we know it survived the Christensenian disruption that was the coming of the printed book. I don't understand that. Thus I do not dare forecast what is coming.
Shortly after C. began his freshman year at Hogwarts, Ed and I asked the principal about technology. We had learned that the school had a technology committee, and we were concerned. We'd seen what cascading Technology Initiatives had wrought in our district.

The principal said people often worried they were behind on technology (true), but technology was expensive (true), and they weren't going to invest in technology that didn't advance the students' education.

Then he held up a pencil and said, "A pencil is technology."

doctors on electronic medical records

As a veteran of the public school system, I've never seen electronic medical records as the great white hope where medical costs are concerned. "Technology" is expensive.

Sure enough:
The conversion to electronic health records has failed so far to produce the hoped-for savings in health care costs and has had mixed results, at best, in improving efficiency and patient care, according to a new analysis by the influential RAND Corporation.

Optimistic predictions by RAND in 2005 helped drive explosive growth in the electronic records industry and encouraged the federal government to give billions of dollars in financial incentives to hospitals and doctors that put the systems in place.


RAND’s 2005 report was paid for by a group of companies, including General Electric and Cerner Corporation, that have profited by developing and selling electronic records systems to hospitals and physician practices. Cerner’s revenue has nearly tripled since the report was released, to a projected $3 billion in 2013, from $1 billion in 2005.

The report predicted that widespread use of electronic records could save the United States health care system at least $81 billion a year, a figure RAND now says was overstated. The study was widely praised within the technology industry and helped persuade Congress and the Obama administration to authorize billions of dollars in federal stimulus money in 2009 to help hospitals and doctors pay for the installation of electronic records systems.


But evidence of significant savings is scant, and there is increasing concern that electronic records have actually added to costs by making it easier to bill more for some services.

In Second Look, Few Savings From Digital Health Records
Published: January 10, 2013
Mickey Kaus has posted emails from physicians describing their experiences with EMRs that are fascinating. This one especially:
I once reviewed a hospital record from a large national medical center that I can’t name, but [you've] heard of. The patient had a major operation. The operative note was incredibly good. Page after page it recorded in exquisite detail exactly where the surgeon cut, exactly what he retracted, exactly what he saw, exactly what detailed care he took to avoid injury to this organ and that one. I was impressed. I remember thinking, “Wow. No wonder this place has a national reputation.” This was the best documented operation I had ever seen.

In spite of this operation, the patient got worse. Four days later she went back for a repeat of the same operation. And the second operative note was the exactly the same as the first. Identical. Page after page, word for word, exactly the same. Leave aside the impossibility of having two multi-hour operations go exactly the same way, it is not possible to dictate or write two multi-page op notes that are word for word identical. The op notes were frauds. They were templates, worked out with the hospital risk management department to describe what should happen, and entered in the EMR with one click of a mouse. What actually happened? No one can tell.
More on Obama’s Great Health Leap Forward
Talk about 'always worse than you think.' Yikes.

We experienced a comic version of the prefab clinical observation several years ago when we took Andrew and Jimmy to the hospital for extensive speech testing, resulting in extensive reports. When we read Andrew's, we discovered that the report characterized him as 'deaf.'

Andrew is not deaf.

The rest of the report seemed to be about Andrew, not some other kid, so we assumed somebody must have hit the 'deaf' macro by mistake. That was mildly annoying, but it didn't occur to us to ask ourselves whether anything in the report was specific to Andrew.

Then there was the time C's middle school math teacher selected "Finds math difficult" from the Comment Bank....which reminds me of the then-assistant principal telling parents that teachers were no longer allowed to hand-write comments on report cards because you never knew what they'd say. (They might say something inappropriate, like "Finds math difficult.")

Meanwhile here's the latest news from the coming Disruption that is the MOOC: Crash Sinks Course on Online Teaching.
The six-week course, called "Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application," was created by Fatimah Wirth, a Georgia Tech instructional designer. The emphasis of the course, which began on Jan. 28, was to teach students how to create online learning materials and manage an online class.

Students were asked to sign up for groups using Google Docs, but a spokesman for Google Inc. said the program allows only 50 people to edit a document simultaneously. When the crush of students tried to sign up, the system crashed, said Debbie Morrison, who was in the class.

Ms. Wirth emailed an apology, but when things didn't improve she, in conjunction with Georgia Tech and Coursera, pulled the plug on the course.
Kaus's other post on EMRs: Obama's Great Health Leap Forward

The Ups and Downs of Electronic Medical Records
Medicare Is Faulted on Shift to Electronic Records
A Shortcut to Wasted Time
Abuse of Electronic Records
Uneasy About Online Medical Records

Weird but True Animal Facts

Have just discovered the Weird but True Animal Facts blog!

national PTA gets tough on parents

Don't Politicize the Common Core State Standards!
By Eric Hargis, Executive Director of the National PTA

update: National PTA gets $1 million from Gates Foundation

The Problem is Who Else is Going to Think This is a Good Idea

While reading this link at Marginal Revolution, I had a nightmare vision of someone in an ed school reading it and thinking this was a great idea for younger grades.  It's got it all: technology, students "teaching" each other, problems that are above the head of most students.

Monday, February 4, 2013

the people's poems, part 2

drill and kill
sage on the stage
guide on the side
chalk and talk
cells and bells

teach, test, hope for the best (said about constructivists)
thrill of skill
Basics outside the Matrix (CT)
Accelerate and congratulate (CT)
learn and earn
college knowledge
blame and shame
hover and discover (Grace)
abduct and instruct (Grace)
abduct and instruct (Grace)
flail and fail
open schools model = gather and blather (Anonymous)

gather and blather

I've just this moment discovered Anonymous's entry in the Poems for Instructivists thread:
Open schools model = Gather and blather

Google this

K9Sasha reports:
As a student in an occupational therapy assistant program I have to take a class called Interprofessional Education. The class is taught in a constructivist manner and is by far my most frustrating class. Before a class meeting we are told to get on the internet and research stroke, or obesity, or diabetes and be ready to discuss it. Then, during class, we're presented with a vignette (and I wish the "facilitators" would learn how to say that word properly) to discuss. We're supposed to talk about things like how the various medical professionals involved in a case can communicate and coordinate the patient's care. The answer is - I don't know. I'm not in medical care yet and I don't know how information is or could be shared. As a group of students we can come up with various blue sky ideas, but in the real world time and money constraints exist whereas in our class they don't. I would find the class more valuable, and less frustrating, if they would just tell us the best way to coordinate a patient's care among a handful of professionals in the real world.
OK, now you're scaring me.


from Michael Maloney's book Teach Your Children Well:
Direct Instruction was originally created by Zig Engelmann and his colleagues including Elaine Bruner, Jean Osborne and Carl Bereiter at the University of Illinois in the 1960s. It began as a series of programs for culturally disadvantaged children in a preschool at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In 1973, Wes Becker convinced Engelmann to relocate to the University of Oregon and become a member of its faculty. They were soon joined by Doug Carnine, who quickly became Engelmann's close associate, co-author and research partner. Direct Instruction became the preferred educational technology of the Department of Special Education at the University of Oregon It was expanded into a set of programs that became the dominant model in the Follow Through project in the seventies.

Zig Engelmann has a bachelor's degree. He never got a Ph.D., nor has he ever attempted to do so; yet he is a full professor at the University of Oregon who continually refuses tenure.

It seems that Engelmann was working for a marketing company in Illinois, doing a project to promote some publisher's reading materials. When he visited a classroom and saw how poorly them materials taught the children, he decided to write a reading program himself. He literally sat down and wrote his first teaching sequences, outlined a program and took it to Carl Bereiter at the University of Illinois.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Kent Johnson's new book is out!

Response to Intervention and Precision Teaching: Creating Synergy in the Classroom by Kent Johnson, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Street, Ed.D.

Very exciting!

Speaking of precision teaching, my friend Robyne and I are visiting Ben Bronz Academy next Thursday.

stop the multiverse, part XVII

Beverlee Jobrack (Tyranny of the Textbook: An Insider Exposes How Educational Materials Undermine Reforms) quotes Collins and Halverson on the subject of technology enthusiasts:
In the enthusiast's view, computer-based environments promise a revolution in schooling of the same magnitude as the revolution in our culture set in motion of the Industrial Revolution. Technology enthusiasts favor a constructivist approach to learning, where students, rather than teachers, do most of the work. . . . Technology enthusiasts envision schools where students are working on realistic tasks and adults play a supportive role to guide them to new activities and help them when they encounter problems. (Collins and Halverson 2009, 27-28)
Wake me when it's over.

help desk: scientific notation

I'm looking at the Common Core math standards, and I see the first mention of scientific notation in Grade 8.

Does that sound right to you all?

Is there any reason to teach scientific notation earlier (or later)?

(I don't have an opinion -- I'm asking.)
Perform operations with numbers expressed in scientific notation,including problems where both decimal and scientific notation are used. Use scientific notation and choose units of appropriate size for measurements of very large or very small quantities (e.g., use millimeters per year for seafloor spreading). Interpret scientific notation that has been generated by technology.
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics