kitchen table math, the sequel: 12/7/14 - 12/14/14

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy 12/13/14!

I speak as a fan of 11:11 on digital clocks.

Speaking of digital clocks, several years back my neighbor told me her son couldn't read an analog clock.

Are schools teaching analog clocks these days?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Allison on Math Nights

MSMI has done several parent math nights.

When we are asked to give a math talk by a school and it is well attended, it is because the parents are upset. If it is very well attended, it is because the parents are in an uproar about the math program.

Since we generally are going in to fix the math program, or to support a math change to it, our goal is first to name the problem. We explain the issue (nationally, not just locally, not just here, wherever we are, but nationally) is that US curricula are not preparing kids for algebra. We tell parents what they know intuivitely but can't name. We tell them what they've watched their older kids suffered through. Then we explain we need to change what we teach, when we teach it, and what the teachers know about the maththey teach to fix it. When we are done, generally, parents calm down and give us the benefit of the doubt.

Usually, the second math night (a followup) has 1/4 of the turnout the first one had.

If a math night has no attendees, it is because math is doing just fine--the parents are concerned about some other problem.

Parents don't have time to go to meetings if things are fine. They go to indicate their disapproval or their concern.

We also found if the *children* put on the math night, as one of the grade night programs, it is well received--so if we want parents to learn about the math program, learn the games to practice math facts, etc. then it needs to be a child-centered event. Parents come when kids put on a math carnival. They even enjoy it. It does not need to be fuzzy math--kids LOVE stumping their parents at mental math calculations and bar modeling.
We tell parents what they know intuivitely but can't name.

Knowing intuitively that something is amiss: this is the chronic problem parents face. You know something--your cognitive unconscious knows something, rather--but you can't name it.

I remember, when I first became politically engaged here, living in a state of chronic anxiety that a) I didn't know what I was talking about and b) I was about to be publicly called out on not knowing what I was talking about. I spent hours Googling and reading, and reading and Googling, to make sure everything I said and wrote in my district had already been said and written by someone who did know what they were talking about.

Kitchen Table Math was incredibly important to that effort. I wrote posts to put into words what my cognitive unconscious already knew (or suspected), and I said nothing, in district, without ktm commenters vetting it first.

Funny thing: at some point I stopped feeling anxious, and I stopped obsessively fact-checking myself.

I hadn't become an expert on math or math instruction or public schools in general, but somehow I knew enough to feel confident that anything I said -- even something I said off the top of my head -- would be in the realm. Which it generally was.

I also, and I hesitate putting this in print, developed a sense of how thin my adversaries' knowledge was. That's not a criticism. Administrators can't possibly know everything about every subject (that's the problem with central administrators choosing math curricula), and an administrator who went to ed school before constructivism was in full bloom may not actually know that much about the doctrine and its history, however committed s/he may be to "rolling out" one constructivist initiative after another.

In short, at some point it dawned on me that I could pretty much say whatever I wanted and get away with it. I could get sloppy and no one would know but me.

That came as a bit of a shock.

I see politicians and pundits differently now.

Politicians and pundits are churning out an awful lot of content.

How often do they actually know that what they're saying is true?

How much fact checking happens in politics?

I'm guessing not too much.

Monday, December 8, 2014

More unfortunate headlines

(Unfortunate headline number 1)

Also on page 1 of the 12/3 Education Week:

Parents Get Schooled on New Math Standards

Schools around the country are holding math nights, sending letters home, and posting videos on their websites to teach parents about the Common Core State Standards for mathematics, which require students to use calculation methods that many parents never learned.
Math nights?

Like this one?

Reminds me of that great piece of advice from the Math Trailblazers people re: how to deal with parents:
Be pro-active with parents. Don’t wait until complaints hit. People have done a lot of things to involve parents, from math nights to big math carnivals, where the kids teach the activities to the parents. There are letters in the program that go home to parents.
Math nights are never a good sign.

How to Get Parent Buy-In

Unfortunate headlines

On the front page of the 12/3 Education Week:

Consortium Sets High Bars for Its Common-Core Tests

More than half of students won't reach proficiency, Smarter Balanced predicts

Nail in the coffin.

I think I've mentioned Ed went through this in CA, back when the state was writing bigger, better tests.m(From the old kitchen table math: Regents Math A 2005)

They made the tests hard, and the whole project blew up.

You can't fail half the kids in the country -- more than half! -- and expect parents to sit still for it.