tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-1078744261633073420.post3997758753884459327..comments2014-11-03T14:20:40.761-07:00Comments on <a href="http://www.peterhreynolds.com/phr_ish.html">Savouring the Ish</a>: Make Math Memorable (A response)Deirdre Baileyhttps://plus.google.com/103498065939014774746noreply@blogger.comBlogger6125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-1078744261633073420.post-23523016354754341092014-04-18T02:20:12.656-06:002014-04-18T02:20:12.656-06:00Deirdre:
It is obvious that you are a very brig...Deirdre: <br /><br />It is obvious that you are a very bright, articulate and good teacher. I would love to have you teach my children. I believe you are doing what you think is best for the kids, and I can see the benefit of this new method for kids who need the concrete examples (such as requiring the math homework to be accompanied with drawn sticks to represent 10s and dots to represent 1s). However, it is my opinion that this new method is unfairly dumbing down the system for everyone else. Even before I have heard of this math petition, I was dismayed to see my son's 5th grade math homework turn into a 5 page essay completed with drawings for a very simple problem of multiplying two 2-digit numbers. I thought it was a total waste of time and a hindrance on my son's learning. My son has a near genius IQ and learns things extremely quickly. He attends a program for kids like him, but unfortunately the program follows the CBE curriculum (and this new "discovery" math) and they are forced to waste their time doing this types of simple math problems over and over again even though my son has already taught himself high school level mathematics.<br /><br />Regards,<br />PeterPeterhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/02749494041067929802noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-1078744261633073420.post-10627278711060638542014-01-28T11:05:39.994-07:002014-01-28T11:05:39.994-07:00Hello Deirdre,
I'd like to posit that what m...Hello Deirdre, <br /><br />I'd like to posit that what may be playing out in this debate is what happens every time there is any kind of social change – there is a loss of power for those groups who previous owned what was generally thought of as the truth. Knowledge is power, after all, and what is happening now in Canada with math instruction is a shift in thinking around what kind of knowledge is really the best knowledge to know. Using the new curriculum, passionate and capable teachers like yourself, create a space in their classrooms for more students to find math accessible in a way they haven’t in the past, and when teachers spend time demystifying math by building deep understanding of concepts, more students are able to find success. This changes the power structure significantly by opening up opportunities for more children to be “good at math” which in turn threatens the position of that elite group who traditionally held the power position in classrooms, universities and society. <br /><br />We must also keep in mind that the number of people signing this petition is not proportional to the truth of their ideology. Parents who were brought up on algorithms and can't make sense of rich problems like the ones you describe, are reasonably interested in seeing a return to a space where they feel more in control. That doesn't mean we should do it. Instead, let's invite parents into the fold and help them uncover the wonder of mathematics themselves. When I started teaching math in a generalist classroom I thought it best to review the math concepts I would be working on with my students. I discovered very quickly that I knew the tricks and rules I'd been taught but had very little actual understanding. Working with resources like Van de Walle (a huge supporter, incidentally, of mastery of "the basics") has helped me discover the beauty in math and create learning opportunities for my students that are engaging and authentic. <br /><br />Thanks for your post. Media coverage on this issue has been at best irresponsible, and as always, "the empty vessel makes the loudest sound," so it was refreshing to read something from the other side of the issue, especially something so thoughtful and well-referenced.<br /><br />Hannah<br />Hannahhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/02848801174346682187noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-1078744261633073420.post-23286266398968297072014-01-27T13:44:05.862-07:002014-01-27T13:44:05.862-07:00I agree that this discourse is old territory, well...I agree that this discourse is old territory, well-worn in both in schools and in scholarly literature. <br />http://www.cea-ace.ca/sites/cea-ace.ca/files/EdCan-2006-v46-n1-Friesen.pdf <br />While this back and forth has been informative it no longer feels productive. Thanks for the conversation.Deirdre Baileyhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13146089259718147219noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-1078744261633073420.post-13366740254172024372014-01-27T13:28:20.370-07:002014-01-27T13:28:20.370-07:00The absence of closure in the WNCP curriculum exac...The absence of closure in the WNCP curriculum exacerbates skills differentiation. This is deliberate, regarded by the framers as a FEATURE, not a BUG. It is the most salient aspect of spiral structure. Also missing is reinvestment after closure-- see Quebec curriculum for excellent articulation of this. To establish long-term connections and lend generalizability to fundamentals repeated reinvestment is essential.<br /><br />Where does WISE Math advocate "one size fits all"? This is a straw-man argument. Our position follows the 40-odd recommendations of the NMAP report, which I cited earlier. Where does NMAP say anything remotely suggesting "one-size fits all"? We recommended that the MB ministry consider introducing a "math recovery" program modelled after the Singapore program for those who fall behind, similar to our "reading recovery".<br /><br />Differentiated instruction is essential. It has always been a feature of good math instruction; there is nothing new about it. I protest curricula and "expert"-driven pedagogical environments that drive the need for differentiated instruction to extremes by artificially promoting divergence of mathematical skills, methods and knowledge in every grade. This places undue burden on teachers and cheats students of mastery and breadth.<br /><br />JUMP at Home http://www.jumpmath.org/cms/get_jump_for_home is designed for parents and other nonexperts to guide students through well-designed lessons using JUMP Methodology. The workbook alone does not suffice. This is a complete package of resources; students should not be left to work them by themselves. Ideally parents should receive training in the process of microlearning, guided discovery and practice upon which JUMP Is based. If you are sending the materials home as you say, are you also providing training to parents?<br /><br />"Back to the basics" is simply a non-expert parents' contraction for "Where the heck did all the standard skills of early math go? Please make sure they are part of my child's education!" I think it's a perfectly appropriate phrase on that level. Let us not expect the general population to be conversant with all the hairs split by trendy edubabble. <br /><br />I know Nhung and hundreds of other parents articulating this way. But I have never heard ONE who fits the bogeyman stereotype of the "rote-only" sweatshop-drill-anti-understanding stereotype fuzzy math folks routinely drag out to marginalize their pleas. That is why I say your (and other proponents') statements show contempt. Until that bogeyman is laid to rest we will not get past talking in bumper stickers.<br /><br />This talk of "outdated approaches" rankles. Have you look at the well-scaffolded explanations in texts from half a century ago? I possess texts used in Manitoba in 1948. I have texts from the 1970s. They lay out instruction in a manner geared to maximizing connections and understanding and -- yes -- in places even some forms of "discovery".<br /><br />You know what else is common in these texts? In the preface to each one is a statement of the form "In THE PAST mathematics was taught purely by rote, without understanding ... but the demands of TODAY'S modern world requires that students have deep understanding of the mathematics they learn. Therefore ..."<br /><br />Yes, they express the same historical prejudice and conceit as I see rampant through the echo chamber of Education today. Each generation of "experts", discarding the wisdom of the last, decides they have invented a new, improved "understanding-based" approach to math education. "Experts" also, apparently, are contemptuous of their own professional ancestors.<br /><br />La plus ca change...<br /><br />There is also a strong mercenary element. Consultants need to justify their existence. Publishers don't profit selling old editions. They rub their hands in glee when new standards require new texts. WNCP was a goldmine for Pearson and Nelson.R. Craigenhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13025432606771258184noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-1078744261633073420.post-65168648252630064222014-01-27T08:09:03.069-07:002014-01-27T08:09:03.069-07:00We agree that students should know their math fact...We agree that students should know their math facts and that this is achieved through practice. Perhaps I should qualify that I have been posting in defense of inquiry-based pedagogy (rigorous, guided discovery) in lieu of a teacher-centered, "one size fits all" (because this is how you do it) approach that has characterized "old system" teaching. I disagree that inquiry is to blame for current math struggles, although it is certainly not always effectively executed and has clearly illuminated some significant gaps in teacher understanding (my own included).<br /><br />I hesitate to blame the curriculum for the skills differentiation in my incoming Grade 4s. I stand by my assertion that without first helping them develop understanding that practice doesn't stick. They were all almost exclusively struggling with an inability to remember things they had never been helped to understand. I also wanted to mention that there have always been haves and have-nots with regard to basic skills mastery. Failure to specify points of closure allows for multiple entry points from a teacher's perspective means that when kids don't understand something, we don't feel forced to "move on" and leave them behind. I am trying not to be frustrated by the suggestion that I hand out workbooks to students and "expect them to work magic." I am familiar with JUMP. Are you familiar with the JUMP at Home books? There are several sections in particular that I have recommended to parents as they provide clear, mathematical explanations of how students can achieve success through practice. <br /><br />I can readily agree that the current iteration of Alberta Math curriculum is not perfect and that further consultation with parents, mathematicians and math educators will ensure that the next iteration is improved. I just don't agree that "back to the basics" is the way forward. To repeat a quote from the conclusion of an article linked on your website: "Do we need a high level of proficiency in math teaching? Sure. Is our goal one of raising student achievement and equipping kids with the math tools they need to function effectively in society? Absolutely. But we do this through effective, reflective practice, not by blindly adhering to outdated approaches that have characterized instruction for the past century."Deirdre Baileyhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13146089259718147219noreply@blogger.comtag:blogger.com,1999:blog-1078744261633073420.post-48740230571960553062014-01-27T00:19:26.129-07:002014-01-27T00:19:26.129-07:00Thanks for your reply Dierdre. Your self-descrip...Thanks for your reply Dierdre. Your self-description shows many characteristics of a good teacher.<br /><br />I won't have much time this week for back and forth but I'll say a few things. First, "rote" does appear twice in the Alberta curriculum -- once in diminishing the educational value of the algorithms and once in a pedagogical directive to teachers that they should decrease emphasis on "calculation, drill, practice" and "size of numbers used in paper and pencil calculations". Both uses of the term treat it as a mild pejorative.<br /><br />Wikipedia defines rote learning as "a memorization technique based on repetition...Rote learning is widely used in the mastery of foundational knowledge." I see no negative connotations. Rote activity is that which is mechanical and often unconscious, or automatic. If math facts are not taught to the level of automaticity then they are inadequately learned.<br /><br />Now, like most tools, "rote" is a neutral thing; it can be used well or poorly, to good or ill ends. Mental habits are learned by repetition/rote. I repeat that the WNCP (roughly = Alberta) curriculum clearly lays out a 5-year highly repetitive program of continually training students to default to ad-hoc procedures to perform single-digit arithmetic. By sheer repetition a habit is developed, a well-worn path in the brain, that will be performed automatically for a lifetime and unnecessarily clutter working memory every time a process includes steps of elementary arithmetic. Practice makes perfect, they say, but it can also reinforce errors and permapress unproductive mental habits like this one.<br /><br />You complain -- rightly -- about severe skills differentiation in your incoming Grade 4s. The spiral structure of WNCP math encodes and propagates this characteristic rather than alleviating it. <br /><br />Your phrase "if these opportunities have been effectively designed" (i.e, to master math facts) is revealing. "If" indeed. As I said, there is no specified point at which this is to be done. This is an iron-clad guarantee that there will be haves and have-nots. Failure to specify points of closure exacerbates differentiation and completely unnecessary skills stratification.<br /><br />You say "I have ... recommended [JUMP] to students". I certainly hope you do not hand them a workbook and expect it to work some magic. JUMP is a comprehensive, TEACHER-led system of instruction that involves GUIDED discovery. It would be inappropriate to use for self-directed practice. JUMP Math offers inexpensive training in their unique method of instruction, and learning should be based on the fully developed lessons in their teacher resources (downloadable at no cost). R. Craigenhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13025432606771258184noreply@blogger.com