kitchen table math, the sequel: 7/28/13 - 8/4/13

Saturday, August 3, 2013

In the cabin

I'm loving the anonymous "Insider" (aka "Stakeholder") quotes in the report from Whiteboard Advisors.

My favorite, re: President Obama's proposed tobacco tax to fund preschool:
"Houses the idea safely in the ‘this will never be agreed to’ cabin."
We need that cabin in my district.

On when ESEA reauthorization will take place:
"Never. It’s now a moth in amber–preserved in perpetuity. They ought to send it to the national archives and put it under glass."

"At this point, there is zero leadership on this at ED, and zero interest on the Hill."
On PARCC and SBAC: right track or wrong track?
"As many predicted, this is turning out to be one of the greatest boondoggles of all time."

"It is the beginning of the end for both. States are going to start running for the door. To many reasons to get out. The Administration ultimately spends ~$350 million for something states didn’t want and the market took care of."

"Smarter Balanced is headed in the wrong direction educationally; PARCC is headed in the right direction but is afflicted with grievous problems of organization, management and delivery."

“The Common Core is having a PR problem, very generally.”

“They were artificial constructs that didn’t have any actual support behind them other than a way to spend money. It would have made more sense to give the money to states and encourage them to build their own consortia so that they actually wanted to participate and be part of it.”
On Randi Weingarten's proposed moratorium on high-stakes testing:
“Over the last 60 days, the entire CCSS architecture has gotten wobbly. Anything is possible now. Opponents smell blood in the water.”

“The centrist, compromise position will become ‘delayed.’ Those who support it will go out of their way to show they are not ditching accountability.”
And Arne Duncan, unbeloved:
“Arne Duncan has blinders on and thinks that he is the nation’s superintendent, chief school board, and principal for every school. He doesn’t understand or accept criticism, and doesn’t see how poorly this is going. States will freak out when they see the assessments and their cut scores and will do everything and anything to back away from this land mine as quickly as possible.”
I wonder what nuggets I'll find in the report from April 2013.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Yet another reason for instructional grouping


Two studies tested the effect of humor, embedded in learning materials, on task interest. College student participants (NStudy 1 = 359, NStudy 2 = 172) learned a new math technique with the presence or absence of humor in the learning program and/or test instructions. Individual interest in math was measured initially and also tested as a factor. The results showed that the effect of humor in the learning program depended on individual interest in math. Humor raised task interest for those with low individual interest in math but slightly lowered task interest for those with high individual interest in math....

The effect of humorous instructional materials on interest in a math task
Kristina L. Matarazzo • Amanda M. Durik • Molly L. Delaney | Motiv Emot (2010) 34:293–305

"Growing headwinds for Common Core"

I haven't been following the progress of PARCC....and I hadn't realized how central the idea of common assessments were to the Common Core undertaking, although I should have.

Looks like things aren't going well on that front:
Yesterday, PARCC released the cost of its tests—and right on cue, another state, Georgia, dropped out of the testing consortia. This is a disaster.

At this point, I won’t be surprised if we end up with 20 or more different testing systems in 2014–15. So much for commonness, so much for comparability. Rigor and alignment with tough standards are likely the next to fall.

That's how the consortia crumble
Andy Smarick / July 23, 2013
Here is Truth in American Education on Whiteboard Advisors Insider Results on Common Core.

And here is T.H.E. Journal Magazine on Remaining PARCC States Affirm Commitment, Get on Track for Field Testing By Dian Schaffhauser 07/30/13

The "Insider" brief is fun: Tracking Measures, Growing Headwinds for Common Core, and Prospects for Administration Policy Proposals May 2013.

This reminds me David Steiner's observation, which I've heard him make twice...which was that, at least in his view, the point of Common Core was to get around the fact the Constitution leaves education up to the states. That's why Common Core produced standards instead of curricula, Steiner said: the U.S. federal government cannot constitutionally impose a central curriculum on the states.

So the idea was to impose a central set of standards instead.

I guess common assessments adopted willingly by individual states were another means of circumventing that obstacle. (They would pretty much have to be if the goal is to circumvent the constitution.)

The whole undertaking now seems crazy to me.

Get around state prerogatives?

By creating a complicated and expensive common assessment states have to buy?


Maybe this is crazy; I haven't thought it through.

If you really want common assessments - if you actually want to make common assessments happen as opposed to almost make them happen and then have states pull out of the consortium - pass a law requiring every student in the country to take one of the already-existing standardized tests when he or she leaves school.

SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Matter tests, Accuplacer....pick one, pass a law requiring 18-year olds to take it (is that constitutional? I don't know), and fund it.

Then you have a nationally standardized comparison of all students in the United States.

Andy Smarick's other post is worth reading, too: The Complicated Economics of Testing in the Era of Common Core Standards

The Role of the Federal Government in Public Education in the United States

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Enduring links from childhood Math and reading


Understanding the determinants of socioeconomic status (SES) is an important economic and social goal. Several major influences on SES are known, yet much of the variance in SES remains unexplained. In a large, population-representative sample from the United Kingdom, we tested the effects of mathematics and reading achievement at age 7 on attained SES by age 42. Mathematics and reading ability both had substantial positive associations with adult SES, above and beyond the effects of SES at birth, and with other important factors, such as intelligence. Achievement in mathematics and reading was also significantly associated with intelligence scores, academic motivation, and duration of education. These findings suggest effects of improved early mathematics and reading on SES attainment across the life span.

Enduring Links From Childhood Mathematics and Reading Achievement to Adult Socioeconomic Status
Stuart J. Ritchie and Timothy C. Bates | Psychological Science 24(7) 1301–1308 2013
I've been reading many abstracts of late.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Andrew in August

For all of Andrew's* life, until my mother died in January 2011, we went to Illinois every August. First to Springfield, then to Chicago. Always, without fail.

August is upon us again, and Andrew has been lobbying for his trip to Illinois for days now: lobbying Ed and me and, when that goes nowhere, searching for Chicago and "grandma's house" on Google.

Today his teacher* sent home this list of sentences Andrew wrote on the computer at school:
I go to Staybridge on August 16th.
I go on the airplane.
First I go to camp.
Then I go to Staybridge.
I will see grandma in Staybridge.
Grandma's house is in Staybridge.
Staybridge is in Chicago.
I love Grandma.
Mommy and Daddy are going with me.
I have to pack my bags.
I have no idea how to handle this.

* For passersby, Andrew is 19 years old and has autism. The references to Staybridge are to the Staybridge Inn in Springfield, our home away from home. 

Color me not surprised

In sum, we propose that adults never fully outgrow the cognitive and perceptual biases that are so striking in infants and preschoolers. That is a humbling thought, much as it was humbling to discover that humans are not the center of the universe or as rational and ‘‘in control’’ as once thought. However, if clarity can come from investigating extreme cases, then perhaps studying children, who show these biases more blatantly than adults, might be a rich source of insight and future hypotheses about adult cognition.

Not Quite as Grown-Up as We Like to Think: Parallels Between Cognition in Childhood and Adulthood
Adele Diamond and Natasha Kirkham | Psychological Science Volume 16—Number  4 | p 291-297.
I'm just waiting for the day they find out crows are smarter than people.

A lot smarter.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gutting Out the Grammar

Lately, I have been thinking more about SteveH's experience of an elementary teacher dismissing his young son's knowledge of geography as "mere facts" because I have steered my family's educational boat even more towards the classical model over the last year or so.  (We have even started Classical Conversations one day a week, the model of which would horrify the type of folks who say "drill and kill.")

Because, well, *OF COURSE* his son only had superficial knowledge, mere facts.  He was an elementary student.  That's what they do, those little collectors of knowledge.  Those sponges.  They absorb facts.  And if you don't provide them with useful ones, they will happily populate their brains with the name and basic biographical information of every character in the Star Wars Extended Universe.  (They may even do that, anyway.  Mine sure have.)

Here's what I don't understand about the folks who think it is so horrible to load up a child's brain with "mere facts" -- do they really, *really* think it never has to be done?  Do they not mind that the fact-can just get kicked down the road to either high school or college, when you can no longer progress without the domain knowledge but your brain is no longer developmentally eager to be constantly memorizing and chanting inane things?

Then I was thinking of Catherine.  And basal ganglia.

Well, I did no actual thinking about basal ganglia, to be sure, because I don't know the first thing about it.

Of course, there's the rub -- what is the "first thing" about basal ganglia?

As Catherine wrote much about when she started plunging into her studies, you have to learn the lingo.  You have to absorb the "mere facts" -- the grammar -- of any new field.  Why wait to do it until you have to simultaneously struggle with the logic and rhetoric (to use the classical model's terminology)?

The whole thing just makes me angry.

I can't tell you how many moms I have met who tell me a similar story: They "hated" math.  They feared having to teach it to their kids.  Then after going through Singapore (or even Saxon, for that matter) in the elementary levels, it all clicked and they realized they *liked* math and were good at it.

My pet theory is that if you look at math from the grammar --> logic ---> rhetoric model point of view, grammar has been gutted out of the picture in many schools for some time and it is fashionable to try to jump straight into logic (if not rhetoric) right away.  And now we have these moms who are *finally* getting their grammar stage math competence, and suddenly the logic / rhetoric stage math is no longer frightening (and, in fact, fun and fascinating) because they finally have the foundational underpinnings to understand it.


Naturals and strivers

To understand how talent and achievement are perceived, three experiments compared the assessments of “naturals” and “strivers." Professional musicians learned about two pianists, equal in achievement but who varied in the source of achievement: the “natural” with early evidence of high innate ability, versus the “striver” with early evidence of high motivation and perseverance (Experiment 1). Although musicians reported the strong belief that strivers will achieve over naturals, their preferences and beliefs showed the reverse pattern: they judged the natural performer to be more talented, more likely to succeed, and more hirable than the striver. In Experiment 2, this “naturalness bias” was observed again in experts but not in nonexperts, and replicated in a between-subjects design in Experiment 3. Together, these experiments show a bias favoring naturals over strivers even when the achievement is equal, and a dissociation between stated beliefs about achievement and actual choices in expert decision-makers.

Naturals and strivers: Preferences and beliefs about sources of achievement
Chia-Jung Tsay, Mahzarin R. Banaji Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47 (2011) 460–465
I wonder why this is?

Why would experts hold the bias (while believing they hold the opposite bias) while nonexperts don't?

Is this likely to be specific to the music world? (I have no idea.)

"The virtues of opaque prose"


Instructors tell their students to write clearly. This prescription meshes with our intuition, wins confirmation in scores of books on writing, and finds empirical confirmation in research on perceptual fluency: People like content that is easy to process. Nevertheless, in some circumstances people expect content to be difficult, and ease might be interpreted as a lack of quality. We investigate this possibility by asking people to judge the quality of written text which varies in fluency (through the manipulation of font and facial feedback). Across three studies, disfluent content was judged to be of higher quality when it was thought to come from a source focused on conveying information than one designed to maximize enjoyment.

The virtues of opaque prose: How lay beliefs about fluency influence perceptions of quality Jeff Galak, Leif D. Nelson Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47 (2011) 250–253
I'm trying to decide whether Galak and Nelson's prose is opaque enough to make me believe them...

Monday, July 29, 2013


Is anyone else on Goodreads?

I joined a couple of months ago & am still getting the hang of it.

I'd love to get book recommendations from all of you---

I think you can find me here.