kitchen table math, the sequel: 10/27/13 - 11/3/13

Thursday, October 31, 2013


As the nation's schools undergo a wave of teacher retirements, some 25% of teachers have only five or fewer years in the classroom, "a precipitous decline" in experience since the late 1980s, when the typical teacher had 15 years' experience, according to a study by the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit advocating teacher quality.

That may explain why some 43% of parents report being "extremely worried" about their kids' elementary-school teacher assignments, according to a poll last month of 306 parents by CafeMom, a social-networking and community website.

Dread of August: The Kids' Teacher Assignments | By SUE SHELLENBARGER | Aug. 6, 2013
This generation of teachers has been trained in pure constructivism.

According to Robert Slavin, direct instruction hard been all but dropped from teacher training by 1991.

An Interesting Common Core Exchange

Common Core and Curriculum Controversies

Something really struck me as strange during Fordham's panel discussion last week. At 54min 50sec in the video, there's a very basic, yet revealing, question posed by this young lady.

 Question: Garrett Fryer American Youth Policy Forum Was there ever a discussion, when you all were designing it, to implement it on a kindergarten level and letting it grow with the students as they aged on through each grade, as oppossed to implementing it with the entire school system nation wide? 

Answer: Jason Zimba This is something that states have each approached differently. Some states have done something more like that, some states have done something less like that. I seem to remember at one point I saw a MA plan where the grade level wasn’t the key parameter, but they had a Venn diagram, you know, what we do now the Common Core doesn’t do, what the Common Core does that we don’t, and then what sort of overlap, where we want to do it better. And they decided to take those three... in year one, we’re gonna focus on the overlap and do it better. In year two, we’ll drop things… and then in year three, we’ll add… I got the details of that wrong, but… my only point is that different states all approached it differently, and we may find out that some states were much wiser than others in this way. Singapore has a long standing, high functioning system in which they not only revise their syllabus ever so often, but they do it actually on the basis of how kids do, so think about that, a performance-based loop, a feedback loop. Which is something we are taking halting steps toward, but can only imagine. And so roughly every six years or so, they’ll put out tweaks to the thing. This year I noticed that they’ve rolled out a new thing in kindergarten. 

Lisa wonders... How in the world can one "image" OR take "halting steps toward" creating a "high functioning system" based on a "performance-based feedback loop" when we are STARTING with a top-down DESIGN by the name of Common Core?

The chairs

From the "High School" section of
Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary.

This video shows an excerpt of a conversation between two students comparing approaches to solving a problem and trying to understand why they got different answers and where one of them made an error.


Three halls contained 9,876 chairs altogether. One-fifth of the chairs were transferred from the first hall to the second hall. Then, one-third of the chairs were transferred from the second hall to the third hall and the number of chairs in the third hall doubled. In the end, the number of chairs in the three halls became the same. How many chairs were in the second hall at first.
I haven't watched the video, but I hope one of the approaches the two students consider involves asking the teacher what the problem means by "the chairs."

By happenstance, my students and I read the first half of G.K. Chesterton's essay on fairy tales in class today. When I say "read," I mean that my students and I read each sentence individually and out loud and then stopped so I could explain what the sentence meant and why after first asking the person who had just read to take a crack at it.

Chesterton's opening lines:
Some solemn and superficial people (for nearly all very superficial people are solemn) have declared that the fairy-tales are immoral; they base this upon some accidental circumstances or regrettable incidents in the war between giants and boys, some cases in which the latter indulged in unsympathetic deceptions or even in practical jokes. The objection, however, is not only false, but very much the reverse of the facts.
I asked my students what the words "the objection" meant. When nobody knew, I pointed out that the words "the objection" function as an anaphora: the definite determinative (the) tells you that you already know which (or what) objection because you've seen it before, in the text. It's the objection, not "an objection."

So, if you've already seen "the objection," and you've only read one other sentence, what is the objection? It's got to be inside that one other sentence.

At that point, my student who was educated outside the United States in his early elementary years (and who speaks very lightly accented English) figured it out.


My answer to the Illustrated Math problem, which I arrived at on my own and without a lot of conjecturing and solution-pathway-planning and special-case mongering and the like is: 4,938.


The Common Core era is going to be an unhappy one for mathematically gifted children.

I predict.

Help desk - Illustrative Mathematics

Illustrative Mathematics 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Trailblazers kids in a Common Core world...

At the Irvington Parents Forum blog.

I'm waiting for the many apologies due to come rolling in from all the central administrators & board members who insisted on sticking with Trailblazers for lo these many years.

My favorite was the board member who said, during the candidates' forum, "We're not changing the math curriculum because of 20 people on a blog."

He meant list serve.

Daniel Wilingham on Paul Tough

He likes the book -- I may have to read!