kitchen table math, the sequel: 4/10/11 - 4/17/11

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Education Quick Takes on College Board reading list

books AP students read

merit aid for scores and grades?

A card from Miami University arrived in the mail yesterday promising X amount of merit aid for Y scores-and-GPA.

How do you find out what other colleges and universities are offering?

Have people out there received offers?

I'd like to put together an informal list or database of what's possible----

OCTOBER 11, 2006
Amid Rising Costs and Criticism, Some Colleges Cut Back Merit Aid

JANUARY 13, 2009
States Weigh Cuts to Merit Scholarships
Budget Shortfalls Threaten Popular Programs That Aim To Keep Top Students Close to Home; 'I Kind of Feel Betrayed'

APRIL 20, 2006
Saying 'No' to the Ivy League

found art

CRIB SHEET For a management final at Ohio University, one page of notes is allowed. Adrianna Berry, a junior, made the most of it.

The Default Major Skating Through B-School

Published: April 14, 2011

I love this.

I want one for my wall.

waiting for the teacher, part 2

part 1 is here

Allison writes:
Oh, one other tidbit: the activities in Everyday Math ALWAYS involved manipulatives being arranged in some way. That meant you HAD to stay at your table and wait for the teacher--you couldn't carry it up to the teacher's desk and show your work and ask where you were stuck because it was impossible to transport.

more time in groups, less learning

Speaking of group work:
PAUL M. MASON does not give his business students the same exams he gave 10 or 15 years ago. “Not many of them would pass,” he says.


Business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in any other broad field, according to the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement: nearly half of seniors majoring in business say they spend fewer than 11 hours a week studying outside class. In their new book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” the sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa report that business majors had the weakest gains during the first two years of college on a national test of writing and reasoning skills. And when business students take the GMAT, the entry examination for M.B.A. programs, they score lower than students in every other major.

This is not a small corner of academe. The family of majors under the business umbrella — including finance, accounting, marketing, management and “general business” — accounts for just over 20 percent, or more than 325,000, of all bachelor’s degrees awarded annually in the United States, making it the most popular field of study.


IN “Academically Adrift,” Dr. Arum and Dr. Roksa looked at the performance of students at 24 colleges and universities. At the beginning of freshman year and end of sophomore year, students in the study took the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a national essay test that assesses students’ writing and reasoning skills. During those first two years of college, business students’ scores improved less than any other group’s. Communication, education and social-work majors had slightly better gains; humanities, social science, and science and engineering students saw much stronger improvement.

What accounts for those gaps? Dr. Arum and Dr. Roksa point to sheer time on task. Gains on the C.L.A. closely parallel the amount of time students reported spending on homework. Another explanation is the heavy prevalence of group assignments in business courses: the more time students spent studying in groups, the weaker their gains in the kinds of skills the C.L.A. measures.

The Default Major Skating Through B-School
Published: April 14, 2011
Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses

teacher evaluation

I talked to a high school teacher last weekend who told me teachers are being evaluated on:
  • arrangement of furniture in the classroom (desks not in rows)
  • presence of group work
  • students sharing personal details of their lives with the teacher
I didn't get the sense that 'personal details' meant inappropriately personal. It seemed to mean students sharing biographical detail with the teacher during class time.

I think that is a dreadful criterion - and I would bet a modest sum that students sharing biographical detail with the teacher during class time would be associated with lower achievement, not higher.

I don't want to see students in, say, a U.S. history class talking about themselves.

I want to see students in a U.S. history class talking about U.S. history.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

progress report, part 2

C. and I took another math section of the SAT today, and it looks like I am now definitively finishing math sections. In fact, I'm starting to finish with a minute or two to spare. C. is finishing, too, although he's still not able to do all the problems. He skipped 3 today and probably got everything else right. I skipped none and probably missed 2. (We can't check our answers 'til we enter them online.)

I'm still making dumb mistakes. Typically, I'll miss one of the very first questions on the test, which C. never does but enjoys watching me do. We're starting to have a ritual: I miss question 2 or 3, and C. says, "You always miss the easy one and get the hard ones right."

Today I misread the number 6 on a graph as the number 5. Arrrgh.

The good news: I seem to have stopped making bubbling errors. Thank God. Losing points to bubbling errors when you can't even finish the damn test is uniquely demoralizing.

These days I have enough time to check each page for bubbling errors, but I don't find any when I check. More and more, I think speed is the answer -- whatever speed means, exactly, which is more than simply finishing early.

I'm probably talking about fluency.

As I become more fluent in SAT math, I'm becoming more fluent in bubbling, too.

Next challenge: no more dumb mistakes.

how many times should a junior take the SAT?

Any thoughts?

waiting for the teacher

Allison writes:
In the last few months, I visited over a dozen elementary schools. Mostly I visited kindergartens, but whenever possible, I visited the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades as well.

Over and over I saw schools where "math class" was the same template: children doing activities from Everyday Math on their own in chaotic, loud classrooms where students didn't have individual desks but had to sit at group tables (sometimes putting up their books and folders to act as little cubicle walls) while they waited for a teacher or an aide to interact with them. Uniformly, I saw half a dozen kids doing nothing at all in those times; another half a dozen chatting or playing but obviously not doing anything, and a precious few trying to block out the stimulus. Some read cheap fiction books.

No one could have learned anything in such a room even before you find out that the task at hand is some bizarre manipulative task in Everyday Math that had no goal or explained purpose anyway.

The teacher didn't spend more time with those having trouble it seemed, either, because those having trouble weren't even bothering to do the activity.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

bring back recitation

I was just reading a short article in Education Week about Bill Gates' "Gold Star teacher" plan when I came across a letter criticizing the concept.

First, here's Gates:
Bill Gates closed the National Governors Association's 2011 winter meeting last week by urging the governors to consider increasing the class sizes of the best teachers.

Under the Microsoft founder's model, a school's most effective teachers would be given an additional four or five students. Less effective teachers could then work with smaller classes and receive professional development.

A 2008 study supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation determined that 83 percent of teachers would support increasing their class sizes for additional compensation. (The foundation provides grant support to Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week.) In 2009, a Goldwater Institute report argued for tying teacher effectiveness to a higher pupil-teacher ratio and a higher salary.

The endorsement by Mr. Gates now could push the proposal further into the mainstream, given the level of support shown at the NGA meeting.

Gates to NGA: Tie Class Sizes to Teachers' Skills
Education Week
Published Online: March 8, 2011
Published in Print: March 9, 2011, as Gates to NGA: Tie Class Sizes to Teachers' Skill
And here's the reaction from a letter writer:
What makes a teacher of young learners effective is his or her ability to work with individuals in ways that are appropriate to their needs. During whole-group lessons, such teachers move around their classrooms, spotting those who are having difficulty and taking the time to give a little help and encouragement. Later, when planning future lessons, they include modifications for the range of abilities in their classrooms and figure out ways to have most students working on their own or with a partner, so they can meet with small groups.

It is only the least-competent teachers who stand in front of their classrooms and give the same instruction to all, blind to the boredom of those who already know the material, the confusion of those who aren’t ready for it, and the tuned-out state of the few who don’t care.

Although the notion of getting extra pay for taking on more students might have seemed attractive to most of the teachers responding to a survey funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2008, the situation at that time was only hypothetical.

Today thousands of teachers all over the country have classes of 30 and up. I wager that neither Bill Gates nor the governors who agree with him could keep order in such classrooms, much less teach anybody anything.
Linking Pay and Class Size Hurts Teaching Quality
And here is Doug Lemov:
[Many] to most of the top-performing urban charter schools of which I'm aware buck the otherwise orthodox belief in heterogeneous classroom grouping and solve this problem by homogeneously grouping classes.

Teach Like a Champion
p. 256
With homogeneous grouping, the teacher is always teaching to the level of the entire class because the entire class is on the same level.

Also: whole-group instruction does not mean whole-group lecture. Whole-group instruction means  "Call and Response," "Pepper," "Cold Call," "Wait Time," "Everybody Writes," etc. In the well-taught homogeneously grouped classes Lemov describes, the situation is pretty close to 100% of students learning from the teacher 100% of the time because 100% of students are directly engaged with the teacher for 100% of the class. That's the goal.

How much time are students directly engaged with the teacher in a heterogeneous class?

Not much.

Say class time is 50 minutes and you've got 20 kids.
  • 12 minutes for the mini lesson
  • 2 or 3 minutes for transition-time (sit on the floor to observe mini-lesson; re-group for partner-work; sit on floor again for mini-lesson; etc.)
  • 35 minutes for individual time with teacher
That's maybe 3 minutes of direct instructional time with the teacher per each two-child pair and another 12 minutes of time directly engaged with the teacher during the mini-lesson if the mini-lesson happens to be pitched to the child's level.

If the mini-lesson is not pitched to the child's level, then 3 minutes max.

One of these days I'll have to write up my notes from the 5th grade writing workshop I observed. I think it's fair to say that the two boys I was sitting closest to learned nothing at all for the entire class period. Learned nothing and practiced nothing.

I don't know whether the other kids were engaged in productive partner work.

Monday, April 11, 2011

the other Salman Khan

Found him while searching for 'my' Salman Khan at the Wall Street Journal -----

Salman Khan at WSJ

Salman Khan writing in the WSJ:
I soon discovered that people all over the world were watching my YouTube videos. More important, teachers were using them to change the basic rhythm of their classrooms. They asked their students to watch the videos at home and then used class time for actual problem-solving. Instead of 30 students listening passively to a one-size-fits-all lecture, they were learning at their own speed. Some could focus on filling in gaps in their arithmetic while others were able to jump ahead to trigonometry—and it all took place in the same classroom. It is often said that technology makes modern life less personal, but in this case, it has allowed teachers to take a big step toward humanizing their instruction.


Last fall, we began a pilot program with the public schools in Los Altos, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley. The initial results are very promising. In order to help teachers customize their instruction, we created a dashboard of robust data for them to follow, linked to their students' online exercises. Students don't move on to more advanced concepts until they have mastered basic ones. Those who get "stuck" promptly receive help, often from peers who are already proficient in a subject. The overall effect has been to create a more collaborative classroom culture.

Turning the Classroom Upside Down
APRIL 9, 2011
I'm skeptical.

I'm a fan of the videos, but when the content is slightly over my head, hitting pause doesn't help. Also, in spite of the fact that I have now read a bazillion articles on the disruptive possibilities of online learning, I still prefer books to videos. I don't know why. (Debbie Stier is having the same problem.)

e.g.: I've plowed through nearly 100 pages of Introduction to Counting and Probability on my own - not easy - without having looked at a single Khan video. I keep telling myself I should watch the Khan videos. . . and then I don't watch the Khan videos. Watching a Khan video on counting and probability seems like a chore; studying counting and probability in a book seems like fun.

I'm also skeptical that having students watch videos at home and then work problem sets in class eliminates all the efficiencies of grouping.  But we'll see.

Very interested in the Dashboard, though.

And I do watch the SAT solutions. Those are great - fantastically helpful.


I think I'm starting to finish SAT math sections pretty reliably.

I think C. is starting to finish SAT math sections pretty reliably, too.

We'll see.

anonymous on college enrollment

anonymous writes:
All of the stats about success, completion, etc. are based on "first-time freshmen who enroll in the fall."

Students outside of that specific description are not included in statistics.

We find that our athletic department encourages spring enrollment for many of their most notable recruits.

Cambridge pre-U

What do you think?

All the syllabi.

teachers in the hall, lockers in the homeroom

from The Fragile Success of School Reform in the Bronx
Published: April 6, 2011
Upon arrival at 223, students pass through a gantlet of smiling teachers. González requires that faculty members stand outside their doors at the start of the school day, part of his effort to set the school off from the grim streets surrounding it. “In our location, kids have to want to come to school,” he says. “This is a very sick district. Tuberculosis, AIDS, asthma rates, homeless shelters, mental-health needs — you name the physical or social ill, and we’re near the top for the city. Which means that when our kids come to school in the morning, when they come through that door, we have to welcome them.”

There’s another, no less compelling reason for this policy: posting teachers outside their classrooms helps maintain order in the hallways. It’s one of a number of things, like moving students’ lockers into their homerooms, that González has done to ensure that kids spend as little time as possible in the halls, where so much middle-school trouble invariably begins. (Chaotic hallways also tend to make for chaotic classrooms.)
I went to an NEA session on bullying in schools a couple of weeks ago. The presenter stressed that the adults in the school - including "ESPs" (education support personnel, I think) - are the ones who must deal with bullying.

You can't leave it up to the kids and their parents. Kids aren't grownups, and parents aren't on site.

deferred admissions

Interesting article in the Times today:

Admission to College, With Catch: Year’s Wait

Published: April 10, 2011

How difficult is it to transfer into a selective school?

in the mail

My copy of Arthur F. Bentley's The Process of Government just arrived.

What was I thinking?

The process of government; a study of social pressures


All man's troubles come from not knowing how to sit still in one room.

-Blaise Pascal
Quoted in Introduction to Counting and Probability

a chapter title I wasn't hoping to see

Chapter 6: Some Harder Counting Problems

Introduction to Counting and Probability by David Patrick

Headsprout question

Does anyone know whether you can use the Headsprout software on a Mac?


Sunday, April 10, 2011

keep it simple

A complex system that does not work is invariably found to have evolved from a simpler system that worked just fine.
from David Kirby's website
You probably all know this, but it's the first time I've seen it ----

Love it!

help desk - triangle

In triangle PQR, PQ = 4, QR = 3, PR = 6, and the measure of angle PQR is x°. Which of the folllowing must be true about x?

(A)  45 ≤ x < 60
(B)  x = 60
(C)  60 < x < 90
(D)  x = 90
(E)  x > 90

help desk - combinations

In the integer 3,589 the digits are all different and increase from left to right. How many integers between 4,000 and 5,000 have digits that are all different and that increase from left to right?