The Math Revolution

The Atlantic – Peg Tyre

“On a sultry evening last July, a tall, soft-spoken 17-year-old named David Stoner and nearly 600 other math whizzes from all over the world sat huddled in small groups around wicker bistro tables, talking in low voices and obsessively refreshing the browsers on their laptops. The air in the cavernous lobby of the Lotus Hotel Pang Suan Kaew in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was humid, recalls Stoner, whose light South Carolina accent warms his carefully chosen words. The tension in the room made it seem especially heavy, like the atmosphere at a high-stakes poker tournament. Stoner and five teammates were representing the United States in the 56th International Mathematical Olympiad. They figured they’d done pretty well over the two days of competition. God knows, they’d trained hard. Stoner, like his teammates, had endured a grueling regime for more than a year—practicing tricky problems over breakfast before school and taking on more problems late into the evening after he completed the homework for his college-level math classes. Sometimes, he sketched out proofs on the large dry-erase board his dad had installed in his bedroom. Most nights, he put himself to sleep reading books like New Problems in Euclidean Geometry and An Introduction to Diophantine Equations.”(more)

A Better Way to Teach History

The Atlantic – Christine Gross-Loh

“In a spacious classroom in Aldrich Hall on the Harvard Business School campus, 100 students are passionately discussing a case called “Battle Over a Bank.” But these aren’t MBA students deliberating over how much the government should regulate the financial sector. This group of mostly undergraduates, guided by the award-winning Harvard Business School professor David Moss, is diving into the fierce 1791 debate over whether the Constitution could be interpreted to allow the fledgling U.S. government the power to form a bank at all. This class, “History of American Democracy,” is no pedestrian historical survey course. It uses the case method—the business school’s signature teaching technique—to immerse undergraduates (as well as a limited number of HBS students) in critical episodes in the development of American democracy.”(more)

School Gardens for Beginners: Advice from Common Ground’s Jill Keating Herbst

Education World – Keith Lambert

“School garden programs are on the rise: certainly a growing trend! Teachers and academic communities across the globe are capitalizing upon the hands-on experience, curricular connections, and natural engagement these projects can inspire in students. However, to the agricultural novice and green thumb alike, the idea of initiating such an endeavor can certainly feel daunting.”(more)

How to Bring ‘More Beautiful’ Questions Back to School

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“In the age of information, factual answers are easy to find. Want to know who signed the Declaration of Independence? Google it. Curious about the plot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel, “The Scarlet Letter”? A quick Internet search will easily jog your memory. But while computers are great at spitting out answers, they aren’t very good at asking questions. But luckily, that’s where humans can excel. Curiosity is baked into the human experience. Between the ages of 2 and 5, kids ask on average 40,000 questions, said Warren Berger, author of “A More Beautiful Question,” at the Innovative Learning Conference hosted at the Nueva School. Young kids encounter something new, learn a little bit about it, get curious and then continue to add on a little more information with each new discovery. Warren says that’s where curiosity happens, in the gap between learning something and being exposed to something new.”(more)

What Kids Need From Grown-Ups (But Aren’t Getting)

NPR – Cory Turner

“We have very crammed [preschool] schedules with rapid transitions. We have tons of clutter on classroom walls. We have kids moving quickly from one activity to another. We ask them to sit in long and often boring meetings. Logistically and practically, lives are quite taxing for little kids because they’re actually living in an adult-sized world. On the other hand, curriculum is often very boring. A staple of early childhood curriculum is the daily tracking of the calendar. And this is one of those absolute classic mismatches, because one study showed that, after a whole year of this calendar work where kids sit in a circle and talk about what day they’re on, half the kids still didn’t know what day they were on. It’s a mismatch because it’s both really hard and frankly very stupid. We’re underestimating kids in terms of their enormous capacity to be thoughtful and reflective, and, I would argue, that’s because we’re not giving them enough time to play and to be in relationships with others.”(more)

How Should States Measure School Success?

Education Next – Andy Smarick

“Most of today’s K–12 accountability systems are, themselves, persistently underperforming. One of the big problems is that they lean so heavily on student scores from reading and math tests. Even if the system uses growth measures in addition to proficiency, those growth scores are also typically based on reading and math tests. Though basic literacy and numeracy are invaluable, schools provide boys and girls with so much more. When those other things—citizenship, the arts, non-cognitive skills, and so on—aren’t part of the system, all kinds of unfortunate stuff can happen. Curriculum can narrow, teachers feel constrained, the goals of schooling feel less fulsome, and kids’ opportunities can be limited. There’s also the problem known as Campbell’s Law, which says that when a measure becomes the target, it can no longer be used as the measure. The idea is that people and organizations feel compelled to change behavior, often in regrettable ways, to hit targets. So by focusing so specifically on reading and math tests, our accountability systems can actually diminish the value of reading and math tests.”(more)