kitchen table math, the sequel: 2/7/10 - 2/14/10

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Register for 5OSME PLUS! and school visits....


Early bird registration for 5OSME PLUS! is open through 1 March 2010:

Registration price increases on 2 March 2010.

Why are we calling it 5OSME PLUS!?

In addition to the 5th international conference on origami in science, mathematics and education (5OSME; 13-15 July 2010), there will be
  • a folding convention (PLUS!: 15-17 July 2010),
  • an origami exhibition (14-17 July 2010),
  • a cross-country collaborative student origami building project,
  • two viewings of Between the Folds,
  • opportunities to visit many sights in Singapore as well as in neighboring Malaysia and Thailand,
  • an eclectic and infinite array of delicious foods that are very reasonably priced!, and
  • more shopping malls than you can count!
We have an exciting lineup of presentations from many countries for 5OSME (list of accepted abstract titles will be uploaded to the 5OSME website soon), ranging from the frontiers of research to creative fields in design!

The 5OSME website ( contains lodging information and forms for teaching and volunteering.

We recently learned that 5OSME PLUS! has been selected by the International Conference Support Program to receive 10% discount for conference participants who make hotel reservations through

Please read the information at the above link carefully. To receive your 10% rebate, the name on your reservation receipt must match the name registered at the conference.

Should you have any questions/comments/suggestons, please feel free to contact

I will be leading a small group of individuals (maximum number of 20) to visit schools the week of 19 July 2010. Please contact me if you are interested:

We look forward to seeing you in Singapore in July!

Best regards,

The 5OSME Organizing Committee

Student Names and Addresses

Yesterday, my son had to fill out some sort of science survey that was supposed to collect data to find out how to get more kids to look towards careers in science. He is in 8th grade. It asked about what he wanted to do when he got out of school and even what colleges he was interested in. (What!?) I asked him a lot of questions, but that's the best understanding of the survey I could figure out. However, he had to include his name, address, telephone number, and email. He also said something about perhaps being sent some information. !!?? Is this normal; collecting personal information and sending it off to a third party without parental consent?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

onward & upward

more is more

Surprise! Lack of Mastery of Earlier Math Makes Mastering Algebra Difficult

From Today's EdWeek

'Algebra-for-All' Push Found to Yield Poor Results

Spurred by a succession of reports pointing to the importance of algebra as a gateway to college, educators and policymakers embraced “algebra for all” policies in the 1990s and began working to ensure that students take the subject by 9th grade or earlier.

A trickle of studies suggests that in practice, though, getting all students past the algebra hump has proved difficult and has failed, some of the time, to yield the kinds of payoffs educators seek.


“There’s no question that taking advanced courses boosts student achievement,” said Adam Gamoran, a professor of education policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His 2000 study on algebra and tracking helped catalyze the interest in expanding access for all students to algebra courses.

“Where the area of disagreement comes,” Mr. Gamoran added, “is what should we do with students who performed poorly previously. In my judgment, the reason studies like mine show that students even with low levels of achievement do better in advanced classes is because the low-level classes are practically worthless.”

“And there’s no simple solution to this problem,” he added, “because we also know that when tracking is eliminated, students at high levels don’t gain as much as they do in high-level or [Advanced Placement] classes.”


Tom Loveless, the author of the report from the Washington-based Brookings Institution on “misplaced” math students in algebra, said the issue is even more complex.

“No one has figured out how to teach algebra to kids who are seven or eight years behind before they get to algebra, and teach it all in one year,” said Mr. Loveless, who favors interventions for struggling students at even earlier ages.

Nationwide, research findings may diverge because testing content varies—the TIMSS test has more algebra content than many state exams taken by 8th graders—and because course content varies from classroom to classroom.

“If you take what’s called algebra class, and you look at the actual distribution of allocated time, you find that many of those teachers spend a very large portion of that year on basic arithmetic,” said Mr. Schmidt, who is a distinguished university professor of education at Michigan State’s East Lansing campus. His research on U.S. classrooms has found, in fact, that nearly a third of students studying algebra are using arithmetic books in their classes.

Yet another thing our education experts may have backwards

Besides their confusion of that which is largely development and shouldn't factor into grades (e.g., organization skills) with that which isn't (e.g., math skills), and their confusion of that which most children learn implicitly without deliberate classroom interventions (e.g., social skills) with that which most children do not learn implicitly (e.g., reading, foreign language) and their confusion of that which is best done outside of school (e.g., board games and movies) with that which is best done at school (e.g., the multiplication tables), there's the issue of text-to-self connections in reading.
Text-to-self connections are highly personal connections that a reader makes between a piece of reading material and the reader’s own experiences or life. An example of a text-to-self connection might be, "This story reminds me of a vacation we took to my grandfather’s farm."
So explains the Florida Online Reading Professional Development site, a site dedicated "to providing quality professional development services and support to Florida educators in effective reading instruction through its online course, expert staff, quality resources, and other professional development services."

The ability to make text-to-self connections, FORPD states, is part of what distinguishes good readers from poor ones (emphasis mine):
Good readers draw on prior knowledge and experience to help them understand what they are reading and are thus able to use that knowledge to make connections. Struggling readers often move directly through a text without stopping to consider whether the text makes sense based on their own background knowledge, or whether their knowledge can be used to help them understand confusing or challenging materials. By teaching students how to connect to text they are able to better understand what they are reading (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000). Accessing prior knowledge and experiences is a good starting place when teaching strategies because every student has experiences, knowledge, opinions, and emotions that they can draw upon.
The cognitive science literature, however, suggests that text-to-self advocates may have it exactly backwards.

Consider, for example, a paper by Courtnay Norbury and Dorothy Bishop entitled "Inferential processing and story recall in children with communication problems: a comparison of specific language impairment, pragmatic language impairment, and high functioning autism." This paper finds inferencing difficulties characterizing all poor readers with the above conditions. What Norbury and Bishop find, however, isn't that these readers weren't able to make inferences, but that they made the wrong ones. For example, when asked, in reference to a scene at the seashore with a clock on a pier, "Where is the clock?", many children replied "In her bedroom."

Norbury and Bishop propose that these errors may arise when the child fails to suppress stereotypical information about clock locations based on his/her own experience. In support of this hypothesis, they cite Morton Gernsbacher's book Language Comprehension in Sentence Building, which provides evidence that adults with poor reading difficulties are less able to suppress irrelevant information. As Norbury and Bishop explain it (emphasis mine):
As we listen to a story, we are constantly making associations beween what we hear and our experiences in the world. When we hear "clock," representations of different clocks may be activated, including alarm clocks. If the irrelevant representation is not quickly suppressed, individuals may not take in the information presented in the story about the clock being on the pier. They would therefore not update the mental representation of the story to include references to the seaside which would in turn lead to further comprehension errors.
Text-to-self connections, in other words, may be the default reading mode, and not something that needs to be taught. What needs to be taught instead, at least where poor readers are concerned, is how not to make text-to-self connections.

I'm neither a reading specialist nor a cognitive scientist, but my gut feeling is that, while accessing general background knowledge helps with reading comprehension, accessing personal background knowledge does indeed lead you astray. Text-to-world, OK, fine; but not text-to-self.

Especially, I imagine, for those most entrenched in the self, for example, children on the autistic spectrum.