Thursday, February 26, 2015

Education Week – Liana Heitin

“While the K-8 common-core mathematics standards have garnered praise from many mathematicians and math educators, even some of the most ardent supporters of the Common Core State Standards agree that the high school math standards have weaknesses and should be revisited. There’s less agreement, though, on exactly where the high school standards fall short: Some say they’re too dense, while others argue they don’t adequately prepare students for college. Still others point to specific skills the standards fail to address. One expert even claims that a standard is completely missing from the published document—one that was there in the drafts.”(more)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Education Week – Liana Heitin

“Over the past year, since I took over the common-core math beat, I’ve been thinking a lot about fractions. As I wrote in November, the Common Core State Standards for mathematics emphasize fractions as points on a number line, rather than just parts of a whole. Now, more teachers are pinning numbers to clotheslines to demonstrate fractions rather than divvying pizzas and fruit pies. Many experts have called this the biggest shift from previous state standards in math. In a phone call last week, Hung-Hsi Wu, a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, who helped write the common standards in math, gave an impassioned explanation of why instruction on fractions, which he calls “the backbone of school mathematics,” needed to change. Fractions are “really an abstract concept” Wu said. “For whole numbers, you have your fingers and your toes [to count on]. But for fractions, where in the world do you see 11/13?” Students are given a flood of terms to memorize when they start learning fractions—numerator, denominator, proper, improper—that are often not well-explained conceptually.”(more)

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Ottawa Citizen – Elizabeth Payne

“It’s a refrain educators hear constantly. And it makes them cringe. “I’m not good at math, so I don’t expect my kids to be.” It’s not an argument you would ever hear a parent make about literacy — ‘I’m not a big reader, so it wouldn’t surprise me if my kids don’t read’ — but it’s commonly applied to math, as if it were a special power that some are born with and some are not. And that’s just not true, say educators and researchers. In fact, there is impressive and growing evidence to support the fact that virtually everyone can succeed, even excel, at math. So why aren’t they? Why are math scores sliding in Ontario? The answer, as with most things involving public education, can be complicated. But it doesn’t have to be. Math educators and researchers point to a few concepts and principles that, if followed, could change math education, achievement and even attitudes among Canadian kids.”(more)

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Boston Globe – Tara Holm

“If my seatmate on an airplane asks me what I do for a living, I tell the truth: I’m a mathematician. This generally triggers one of two responses. Either I’m told that I must be brilliant. . . or I hear about the person’s inability to balance a checkbook. The truth is, I’m not brilliant, just persistent, and I hate balancing my checkbook. Both responses, however, point to a fundamental misunderstanding about what mathematics is supposed to do and its current — and unfortunate — trajectory in American education…We are pretty much the only country on the planet that teaches math this way, where students are forced to memorize formulas and procedures. And so kids miss the more organic experience of playing with mathematical puzzles, experimenting and searching for patterns, finding delight in their own discoveries. Most students learn to detest — or at best, endure — math, and this is why our students are falling behind their international peers…What can we do as parents? At my house, we sometimes talk through simple logic puzzles over dinner. There are lots of good examples on the Internet, even pirate puzzles to please my son. Sudoku, despite claims to the contrary, is all about logical problem solving. Or how about family board games night once a week? I’m not talking Candyland-style games, all luck and no skill. Some favorites in my household include logic puzzles like Rush Hour and board games like TransAmerica, Clue, and Carcassonne. Of course, there’s also always checkers and chess. These games teach kids to think logically several steps ahead, all while having fun…I’m not down on mathematical training. I’m just down on the persistent memorization approach, which works your intellectual muscles about as effectively as lifting loaves of Wonder Bread helps build your biceps. We are failing our children if all we teach them are dry formulas.”(more)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

AllAfrica.com – Kanayo Umeh

“THE Federal Government has challenged mathematics teachers to work towards demystifying the subject in order to banish the phobia among students and make it more appealing and interesting…the knowledge of mathematics enhances students’ development of disposition such as curiosity, imagination and critical thinking that impact on their future successes. Represented by the Director of Planning, Research and Development, Mrs. Elizabeth Omotowa said: “In today’s world that is knowledge based, we are bombarded with data that must be collected, collated and analysed for decision making. It then becomes necessary that more students should pursue mathematical and technical occupations and have a strong understanding of mathematics that would open doors to productive future. Therefore, mathematics is not just a classroom skill, but a life time skill.””(more)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The London Economic – Robert Sun

“It’s not often that an inner-city American school rises to the top of national rankings in academics, and yet Baldi Middle School in Philadelphia has beaten the odds— not just once, but multiple times. Its track record reveals some important insights for anyone concerned with improving the learning experience for children. In a nationwide online maths competition involving 6,000 schools in 45 states, Baldi ended the latest school year ranked #1, as students solved almost 20 million maths problems correctly in just ten months. Baldi has consistently ranked among the top ten schools in the US in this competition for each of the past five years. How was this productive culture established? Why do Baldi students embrace maths with such enthusiasm when the subject intimidates so many children? To begin with, Baldi’s leadership, with support from the community and parents, has instilled a high-performing culture characterized by three traits: the school’s 1,200 children feel attached to their school and its mission; the environment supports productivity and performance; and students are energized to sustain accelerated effort over time.”(more)

The Daily Pennsylvanian – Jack Cahn

“Is emphasizing everything the same as emphasizing nothing? Penn’s choice of a STEAM approach to education — one that treats Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics equally — instead of a STEM approach has raised this question. “We are emphasizing STEAM education. We are absolutely committed to integrating liberal arts and sciences with more technical education,” President Amy Gutmann said. “One of the reasons Penn is ranked so high internationally is that we make sure our students cultivate T-shaped intellects and skill sets which are deep in some things and broad at the top.” This STEAM approach makes the School of Engineering and Applied Science unique, and is one of the University’s biggest selling points. As opposed to more technical schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the California Institute of Technology, Penn offers its students a more well-rounded, interdisciplinary education. “What I really like about Penn is the diversity of people. You get that more at a school with many different strong suits than at a more technical school,” Engineering freshman Becky Abramowitz said. “I think it’s important to know other things and not just to be a one-dimensional person or a one-dimensional engineer, especially in terms of writing and knowing how to communicate.” Penn’s STEAM approach, however, can also be seen as a liability. Engineers in 2012 earned an average starting salary of $69,234 with computer science graduates earning $80,118, compared to $63,273 among Wharton graduates and $52,061 among College graduates — indicating a strong market demand for engineers. Meanwhile, the Engineering School’s applicant pool has doubled over the past few admissions cycles, Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said. STEAM opponents think Penn’s decision to not significantly expand enrollment or funding at the Engineering School despite this high demand is economically inefficient and inexpedient.”(more)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Quartz – Laura Overdeck

“College-educated people aren’t afraid to read. When they open a newspaper article or blog post, they assume they’ll be able to read it. That’s because the content is written at roughly the ninth grade reading level. But do we all feel just as solid on ninth grade math? Clearly not, as restaurants now calculate the tip for customers—a task that requires only fifth grade math skills. Americans are afraid to divide by five. Our country bemoans its weakness in math on two levels. On the macro level, our students are regularly trounced by other countries on international tests. On the individual level, kids and adults alike get nervous about math and even despise it, making these test outcomes not all that surprising. As we collectively fret over curricula and lurch from one solution to another, we ignore a much larger piece of the puzzle: our sharp double standard in how we present reading vs. math to our kids. In launching the nonprofit Bedtime Math and navigating the world of early math, I’ve been stunned to discover how our society relentlessly stokes math anxiety—and often from birth.”(more)

The Stanford Daily – Skylar Cohen

“New methods developed by Stanford professor of education Jo Boaler may revolutionize the learning process for students who have difficulty understanding math. In her new paper “Fluency Without Fear: Research Evidence on the Best Ways to Learn Math Facts,” Boaler emphasizes the negative effects of rote memorization. She also promotes the development of mathematical intuition and encourages engagement in the learning process. One of Boaler’s principal beliefs is that all students can succeed in math. “The brain is so flexible and adaptable that with the right teacher and the right messages anyone can achieve,” Boaler said. Boaler conducted large-scale studies in both the United Kingdom and California. The studies showed that students who actively participate in learning show significant increases in performance when compared to their peers. According to Boaler’s research, emphasizing speed in math classes is damaging to students.”(more)

Education Next – Tom Loveless

“A curriculum controversy is roiling schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the past few months, parents in the San Mateo-Foster City School District, located just south of San Francisco International Airport, voiced concerns over changes to the middle school math program. The changes were brought about by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Under previous policies, most eighth graders in the district took algebra I. Some very sharp math students, who had already completed algebra I in seventh grade, took geometry in eighth grade. The new CCSS-aligned math program will reduce eighth grade enrollments in algebra I and eliminate geometry altogether as a middle school course. A little background information will clarify the controversy. Eighth grade mathematics may be the single grade-subject combination most profoundly affected by the CCSS. In California, the push for most students to complete algebra I by the end of eighth grade has been a centerpiece of state policy, as it has been in several states influenced by the “Algebra for All” movement that began in the 1990s. Nationwide, in 1990, about 16 percent of all eighth graders reported that they were taking an algebra or geometry course. In 2013, the number was three times larger, and nearly half of all eighth graders (48 percent) were taking algebra or geometry. [i] When that percentage goes down, as it is sure to under the CCSS, what happens to high achieving math students?.”(more)