kitchen table math, the sequel: 10/11/09 - 10/18/09

Saturday, October 17, 2009

speaking of newbies

Here is a Wall Street Journal blogger, new to the public schools, taking parents to task for overinvolvement in their kids homework:
With even young children socked with an hour or so of nightly homework and older children facing much more, some parents give into the temptation to cut corners. They buy textbooks and even take courses themselves so they can pitch in,....
Parents taking courses themselves so they can pitch in is me working my way through Saxon Math so I can teach my kid fractions, algebra, & beginning geometry.

Elementary schools offering 'math workshops' is marketing to parents.

Two different things.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sample Geometry assignments

I posted about my son skipping out of geometry earlier on this blog. (Thanks to all who commented!) Both my 8th & 9th grade sons are were in geometry classes at different schools.

These were Wednesday's homework assignments. The first two pages are from the book: Geometry by McDougal Littell (2004 version). They were the 8th grader's homework assignments.

The second two pages are the first 2 of 3 created by the 9th grader's geometry teacher. The school uses the newest version of Prentice-Hall Geometry & Algebra 2 books. The pages were a take-home quiz and he could work with partners. Just the first 26 questions.

I see more challenging problems in the 6B Singapore Math workbook.

The older son starts Algebra 2 on Monday. He's already read through the first few chapters that he's missed and over the weekend we'll be working problems similar to what he did last year in Paul Foerster's Algebra.

(FYI- I didn't check my son's work, he did the assignment in 10 minutes in the car. He asked me to black his name out. - Anyone want to talk about years of failed handwriting instruction?)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Barry G at Room for Debate

The recently released national math test scores for 2009 are part of a growing body of lackluster results nationwide since the inception of the No Child Left Behind law. The exam, which has been deemed the “gold standard” of testing is hardly what one would call challenging with respect to math, and yet even so, the scores are barely indicative of a pulse.

With the prospect that all students may not achieve proficiency by 2014, finger pointing naturally ensues. Some will contend that we need to go to “authentic testing” that measures how well students use prior knowledge in new situations. This would take the form of open-ended, generally ill-posed problems that allow students to gain points just for attempting to guess an answer. With process trumping content, students would surely show gains, but in the end we still have to ask whether the intents of No Child Left Behind will have been realized. And the answer would most likely be a resounding “no,” though everyone would feel good about the test scores.

What is needed is not another test, but sound mathematics instruction that stresses content over process. The education establishment needs to understand that even process is based on skills and exercises, and a logical sequence of topics whose mastery builds upon itself. We need solid math curricula and textbooks that are based on the premise that procedural fluency leads to conceptual understanding. Problem solving does not exist independently of exercises. The belief that content-based math teaches only definitions and procedures needs to be abandoned.

several interesting comments on CSMP

I'd pull all of these comments up front but it's getting late & I've got to pack.

Several commenters used the CSMP curriculum with their own kids; one explains what the curriculum was, where it came from, etc.

Meet the parents

from Magister Green:
My personal favorite moments come when our beloved administrators (who have advanced degrees in Education, natch) insist that the key to getting parents and families on board with new educational practices (read: Fad of the Moment) is "educating them." We need to "educate" the parents about what these new practices (fads) are all about and, should parents or even other teachers (!!) express reservations, well...they just need more "education"! The underlying principles and assumptions of these new fads are never questioned since, of course, they come from "experts" who have done "studies", so we all should just shutu....err, educate ourselves.
My district uses the expression "marketing to parents."

inside the black box

from RedKudu:

Parents who don't know the right questions to ask, or even that there ARE questions to ask are at the mercy of what the schools tell them. Parents are spooked by direct instruction because of what they are told about it by teachers who don't know any better - it's rote repetition, it's drill 'n kill. No wonder, with those labels, it doesn't come across well.

I think I told these stories once before, but they're so recent they're worth retelling.

1. Our new math facilitator at the school divulged to me (reading and English teacher) that her 1st grader's teacher told her they "just don't teach phonics, because it's so wrong." Luckily, she's savvy enough to have been teaching her daughter phonics on the sly.

2. Another math teacher told me his two elementary aged sons, in the same grade with different teachers, are learning different things in reading. One is bringing home sight word lists every night, the other brings home nothing. I told him I disagreed with sight words before phonics because it taught kids to see words as images, rather than units of meaning. You should have seen how wide his eyes got - "I never thought of it that way." He gets it, because the same thing is happening with our high school math students.

This has got to stop.

Mr. Happy goes to Oberlin

at Inside Higher Ed (not for kids)

the natives are restless

How much of this has to do with that asinine Everyday Math? I'm fighting every week with the teachers to keep a calculator out of my kid's hands until she can do arithmetic on her own, something she's eminently capable of doing someday (she's six, for crying out loud). Yes, including long division (not that it's part of the curriculum -- why think for yourself when you can use the outboard brain?) and maybe some introductory algebra. These teachers, who'd stare like deer in headlights if asked to calculate the future value of anything and come out with a number, give me this endless stream of talking-point baloney from the Everyday Math "how to reassure parents who are scared because it's not like the math they remember" book. They don't understand why I'm so stuck on the idea that my daughter should be able to do her own adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying. AAARGH.

Amy from Iowa

You can vote to "Recommend" your favorite comments on the story. Amy got my vote.

Speaking of Everyday Math, remember this?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I think our district used this curriculum for a time. I assume this is the same one.

A friend of mine told me that his child had CSMP in 2nd grade. Six students in the class went on to take BC calculus in high school, a very high proportion. (A couple of years ago we had 12 students taking BC calculus out of a class of perhaps 150. In other years I believe we've had as many as 20 students in BC.) There were no more than 23 students altogether in the class, which was not tracked.

parents ageing out

palisadesk is on a roll:
As for parents changing the system -- good luck with that. Bureaucracies, especially large and monopolistic ones, are notoriously impervious to customer complaints. Those in charge know that even the most militant parent will "age out" of the battle in a decade or less, and a new crop of starry-eyed, or simply naive, customers will present themselves.

palisadesk on clueless consultants

How can they do that when they don't seem to be able to think themselves?

This contradiction has variously amused and enraged me, but it seems to be a systemic problem. As a "school in need of improvement" we have had cadres of experts come in purporting to teach us how to teach "higher order thinking skills." It is no exaggeration to say these gurus were so thick they would have been challenged to suggest a way to evacuate a phone booth.

I keep remembering the interesting data point from ETS that those who go on to get graduate degrees in Educational Administration have a mean GRE Verbal of 419 -- meaning a goodly number were well below that. A GRE score of 419 loosely correlates to an IQ of 90.

Not the sharpest knives in the drawer, folks.

speaking of boys

Nine-year-old girls score 7 points higher than boys of the same age in reading, according to long-term trend data for NAEP. For 13-year-olds, the gender gap is 8 points. For 17-year-olds, the gender gap is even wider, 11 points, and has remained about the same since 1971, when the test was first given. In 1971, 17-year-old girls scored 12 points higher than boys that age in reading on NAEP.

University officials attest to those deficiencies sticking to many young men as they age. “Overall, our female students coming in [to the university] are better readers [than male students]," Tracy Fitzsimmons, the president of the university, told conference attendees. “They are better writers.”

Authors Share Tips on Getting Boys to Read
By Mary Ann Zehr
Education Week | July 2, 2009

Judith Kleinfeld says there isn't a literacy gap in home-schooled children.

The Ultimate Productivity Blog


per pupil spending in private schools

I'd been meaning to get this posted for a while now:
The report finds that, on average, independent private schools spend $15,000 per pupil, Hebrew schools more than $12,000, and Roman Catholic schools $7,743, based on data from the 2006-07 academic year. U.S. Christian schools identified with one of two major associations, the Association of Christian Schools International and the American Association of Christian Schools, spend $5,727 on average.

Private Schools
Education Week | August 25, 2009

Full report here.

to do

stop the madness, part 2

I often have the feeling that public schools are no place for boys.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

arithmetic versus algebra

Consider the set: {1, 3, 5}
:: If elements of this set can be selectively added together to yield some number q, what is its maximum?
:: Are there any odd values between 1 and qmax that q cannot hold?
:: Are there any even values between 1 and qmax that q cannot hold?

Consider the set: {1 , 3 , 5 , 7 , 9 , 11}
:: What is the maximum of q?
:: What odd values between 1 and qmax can q not hold?
:: What even values between 1 and qmax can q not hold?

Consider the set: {1 , 3 , 5 , 7 , 9 , 11, 13}
:: What is the maximum of q?
:: What odd values between 1 and qmax can q not hold?
:: What even values between 1 and qmax can q not hold?

Consider a finite set of odd numbers, {1, 3, 5, 7 ... n}
:: What is the maximum of q, in terms of n?
:: Find the odd values between 1 and qmax that q cannot hold, in terms of n.
:: Find the even values between 1 and qmax that q cannot hold, in terms of n.

Consider the set: {-6, -4, -2, 1, 3, 5, 7}
:: What is the maximum and minimum of q?
:: What odd values between qmin and qmax can q not hold?
:: What even values between qmin and qmax can q not hold?

Consider a finite set: {-2n, -2(n-1), ... -4, -2, 1, 3, 5 ... 2(n-1)+1, 2n+1 }
:: What is the maximum and minimum of q?
:: What odd values between qmin and qmax can q not hold, in terms of n?
:: What even values between qmin and qmax can q not hold, in terms of n?

One Singaporean's Perspective on Singapore Math


I thought some on this blog might be interested in the following article:

Notice in the subject heading I wrote "one Singaporean's perspective", since, after all, one individual can't really speak for a whole country, right? ;->