kitchen table math, the sequel: 9/25/11 - 10/2/11

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wu on Common Core State Mathematics Standards

Phoenix Rising


Many sets of state and national mathematics standards have come and gone in the past two decades. The Common Core State Mathematics Standards (CCSMS), which were released in June of 2010, have been adopted by almost all states and will be phased in across the nation in 2014. Will this be another forgettable standards document like the overwhelming majority of the others?

Perhaps. But unlike the others, it will be a travesty if this one is forgotten. The main difference between these standards and most of the others is that the CCSMS are mathematically very sound overall. They could serve -- at long last-- as the foundation for creating proper school mathematics textbooks and dramatically better teacher preparation.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wash U professor on Reed Hastings' really bad idea

As a physicist, educator and father of five, I can say that Messrs. Duncan and Hastings do not understand education or the role of computer and Internet technology in it. A well-thought-out textbook or a live classroom demonstration does a much better job of conveying understanding than anything that can be done with computer or Internet technology.

Anyone who has watched students using these technologies will recognize that they are distractions from the hard work of education.

Jonathan Katz
Professor of Physics
Washington University
St. Louis

More technology isn't the answer to our educational needs
WSJ | September 24, 2011
Speaking of well-thought-out textbooks, one of the most oppressive aspects of "technology" in the schools is the replacement of textbooks by packets, which are fantastically difficult to keep track of, not just for the student but for the teacher, too. I speak as a creator of packets: I'm driving myself crazy.

It wasn't always thus. Back in the day, teachers ran off those damp, great-smelling, purple-print mimeographs. But mimeos were a limited production; teacher packeting didn't take off until the advent of the Xerox machine. I predict things are only going to get worse as people start buying personal scanners.

Add Google to photocopiers and scanners and you get all-packets-all-the-time. What a mess. Yet another rolling calamity on the horizon!

I tutor a boy in a neighboring town who doesn't appear to have a math textbook at all, and not because the school is using Terc. Last I heard, the school is using Terc, but the only book the teachers are actually using (it appears) is a test prep book from one of the test prep book companies. The teachers Xerox one-page review lessons out of the test prep book for the kids to collect in their binders. The paper-punch holes last a couple of weeks, then the sheets tear loose and slip out of the binder and down to the bottom of the backpack, where they live until the summer, when Mom goes through the crumpled wads of paper and tosses it all out.

Or, alternatively, when Mom goes through the crumpled wads of paper and discovers her child has failed two out of six units in math this year. On fractions! tofix to revise to fix torevise

Speaking of worksheets, does anyone know where to get a complete set of Prentice-Hall's fantastic grammar worksheets? (pdf file)

and see:
the founder, chair, and CEO of Netflix has a really bad idea
Larry Summers has a really bad idea
Wash U professor on Reed Hastings' really bad idea

David Brooks has a really bad idea

David Brooks has a really bad idea, part 2
David Brooks has a really good idea

why students have to memorize things
extremely fast learning & extended working memory

'you can't hide from math and statistics and be a good marketer'

In the growing field of data analytics, finding "qualified candidates has proven difficult" for employers.

Is data analytics the new 'plastics'?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A different view of first grade Readiness

A recent post at Free Range Kids led me to this post,
which has a checklist for testing if your child is ready for first grade.

1. Will your child be six years, six months or older when he begins first grade and starts receiving reading instruction?

2. Does your child have two to five permanent or second teeth?

3. Can you child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives?

4. Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored?

5. Can he stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds?

6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels?

7. Can he tell left hand from right?

8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground, or to a friend's home?

9. Can he be away from you all day without being upset?

10. Can he repeat an eight- to ten-word sentence, if you say it once, as "The boy ran all the way home from the store"?

11. Can he count eight to ten pennies correctly?

12. Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?

What jumped out at me from it was the insanity in both directions: 1) academic skills that now indicate readiness for preschool, or at latest, kindergarten, were 30 years ago indications of being ready for first grade, and 2) life skills that now indicate readiness for middle school were indications 30 years ago that a child was ready for first grade.

We're pretty conscious that we've pushed the academics far far earlier on our kids, because by and large, we now value academics as the only path to successful adulthood (whether true or not, who is going to take the risk it's true and not prepare their children accordingly?), but by denying them independence, we're creating perpetual adolescents in the process who won't be successful at adulthood.

What child today would be expected to handle walking or biking 4-8 blocks at the age of 6 or 7? What parent would allow their child to do so? What would happen to that parent? How would a parent even begin to teach their child that autonomy these days?

The list makes clear the prior division of labor: the home was where socialization and citizenship was taught, and school was where the 3 Rs were taught. The expectation was that the family did their job, and the school would do theirs.

It may be causal that the schools now fail because the family failed. It may be a feedback system where the family fails because the schools fail. But we should ask ourselves if we really think the State can succeed where the family has failed, and if so, what it will do to what few functioning families remain. Because the State has no interest in your child having enough autonomy to ride his bike a mile from home at the age of 7--in fact, the State's interests are counter to that proposition.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The founder, chairman, and CEO of Netflix has a really bad idea

In last week's Wall Street Journal: A Digital Promise to Our Nation's Children.

Student achievement and educational attainment have stagnated in the U.S., and a host of our leading economic competitors are now out-educating us. [now?]


Imagine, though, an online high-school physics course that uses videogame graphics power to teach atomic interactions, or a second-grade online math curriculum that automatically adapts to individual students' levels of knowledge.


At its full potential, technology could personalize and accelerate instruction for students of all educational levels. [or not]


Other countries are far ahead of us in creating 21st-century classrooms. South Korea, which has the highest college attainment rate in the world, will phase out textbooks and replace them with digital products by 2015 [note: products, not books]. Even Uruguay, a small country not known for leadership in technology, provides a computer for every student.

It is no secret that advances in educational technology have been hailed as breakthroughs in the past, only to disappoint. [true] Too often, the market for educational technology has been inefficient and fragmented. The nation's 14,000 school districts, more than a few of which have byzantine procurement systems, have been inefficient consumers and have failed to drive consistent demand. [we have to buy more technology?]


To help remedy those gaps, the Department of Education is launching a unique public-private public-vendor partnership called Digital Promise.

Digital Promise is a bipartisan initiative that will be sustained primarily by the private sector [which will be sustained by a more efficient, less fragmented market and consistent demand] ... Federal seed money will fund the program's start-up, but it will be overseen by a board that includes business executives vendors—such as John Morgridge, the chairman emeritus of Cisco, and Irwin Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm—who will work with researchers, educators and other private-sector leaders vendors.

Digital Promise's aim is ambitious: to advance breakthrough technologies that transform teaching and learning in and out of the classroom, while creating a business environment that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship [for vendors].

Digital Promise can show leadership in areas such as helping build a more efficient market for [vendors of] education technology.

Arne Duncan and Reed Hastings
September 19, 2011 - WSJ
Mr. Duncan is the U.S. secretary of education. Mr. Hastings is the founder, chairman and CEO of Netflix and a former president of the California Board of Education.
One word: dismal.

and see:
speaking of technology and stagnant scores
oh brave new world!
codswallop, part 2

the founder, chair, and CEO of Netflix has a really bad idea
Larry Summers has a really bad idea
Wash U professor on Reed Hastings' really bad idea
David Brooks has a really bad idea
David Brooks has a really bad idea, part 2
David Brooks has a really good idea