Archive for the ‘wrong’ Tag

Gideon’s Math Homework   6 comments

Reposted with permission from Alan Singer of Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Gideon, my grandson, is almost nine-years old and starting fourth grade this year. He loves soccer, baseball, online videos, hip-hop, and school because that is where his friends are during the day. His attitude toward homework, and I suspect any school assignment, is to get it done fast so he can move on to more important and interesting things.

On last year’s New York State 3rd grade common core aligned math assessment Gideon scored in the proficient range, not the highest level, but not bad on a test where 70% of the students failed. I have been doing math homework with Gideon since school started and I noticed a couple of things that concern me about how math is being taught. I am not blaming his teachers or the school. I am certainly not blaming Gideon. But I worry that the problems he is having in math reflect the push for test prep for standardized tests.

The first problem is that Gideon seems to be convinced that there is only one right way to solve a problem and if he does not solve it that way he will be marked wrong. This problem he will get over either as he learns more about how the world works or becomes less interested in pleasing his teachers.

The second problem is a bit more serious to me as a teacher and grandparent. Instead of trying to understand a math problem and being willing to play with the numbers, Gideon is committed to remembering a long, complicated sequence of steps to finding a solution. If he makes a mistake somewhere in the sequence he gets the answer incorrect, but he does not recognize it as incorrect, because his goal was following the prescribed steps, not coming up with a result that makes sense.

Kids are supposed to be learning to estimate from the start of elementary school so they can stop and say this cannot possibly be the answer, but estimation requires both feeling comfortable with the relationships between numbers and a willingness to experiment and speculate, qualities that appear to be neglected in the test prep math curriculum.

One night recently Gideon had to figure out how many tens are in 540. He set up number groups. There are 10 tens in one hundred so he had five groups of 10 tens each. There are 4 tens in forty. He then added 10+10+10+10+10+4=54. I did not have a problem so far. But then he had to figure out how many tens were in 370 and he started to set up his number groups again instead of just saying if there are 54 tens in 540, there must be 37 tens in 370. He did not see or even look for the relationship between the two problems. They were separate entities.

The third question was how many twenties are in 640 and again he started by setting up his number groups. I asked him how many tens were in 640 and if there were more tens or twenties, but his response was “That’s not the way we are supposed to do it.”

Maybe that was what he was told, maybe he was misinterpreting instructions, but in either case, he would not play with the numbers and try to figure out a solution on his own. He was memorizing rules, not learning math.

Initially I thought the problem here might just be Gideon’s stubbornness and anxiousness to be finished, after all there were other more rewarding things to be done. But email exchanges on the Long Island “Middle School Principals” listserv (principals-ms@nassauboces.org) point towards much more serious problems with the way math is being taught and assessed in the New World of Common Core and high-stakes assessments.

A principal at one affluent Nassau County middle school reported that in his school 235 eighth grade students took accelerated ninth grade math and 190 of them, 78.6% of the students, earned a grade of 80% or better. But inexplicably, 82 out of the 190 high scorers, 43%, scored less than proficient on the 8th-grade common math assessment. Three other middle school principals from similar districts reported the same phenomenon.

A fifth principal from another affluent high-performing Nassau County school district described the state math assessments as a “Kafkaesque system” that “does not make sense,” as a “fake testing system” that “hurts kids” and their teachers. He has middle school students who passed high school math examines with mastery level scores but who failed the common core standardized test and now must be assigned to remedial classes. He also cannot figure out how when his school had the highest seventh grade English and math assessment results in the state on the common core test, only one out of six of his seventh grade ELA and math teachers was rated highly effective.

He charged that the current instructional and testing system “only enriched consultants, textbook companies and service corporations.” He called it a “fiasco” that “only ensures further unfunded mandates, pushes schools to become test-prep centers, further institutionalizes an over-testing system that terribly hurts kids, and enshrines an unfair evaluation system that actually makes it harder to terminate unsatisfactory teachers.”

Actually, I do not find the lack of correlation between the 9th-grade algebra test scores and the 8th-grade common core assessments inexplicable. I think the same phenomenon is at work that I saw in Gideon’s homework. Students are not learning math, they are being prepped for tests to maximize test scores.

When you put different types of questions on the math test they are stymied because the procedures they were taught to follow do quite line up with the problems and they either do not know how, or are afraid to, adjust. They do not estimate, they do not hypothesize, they do not “do the math,” they just get lost in the steps and get the answers incorrect.

I remember learning math the old-fashioned way, my friends and I had fun figuring out things we actually wanted to know and were very competitive at it. Back in the days before calculators and computers, the newspapers only updated baseball batting averages on Sundays, except for the league leaders. My friends and I were big baseball fans, our elementary and middle schools were about a mile from Yankee Stadium, and we needed to know the latest batting averages for Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, and “The Moose” Bill Skowron, so we calculated them every day during lunch (and sometimes when we were not paying attention in classes). It was not that we liked math –we loved baseball. Math was just a tool.

I walked into my high school 10th grade statewide geometry math test without having paid attention for most of the year (Bill Cosby used to tell the joke that when he was a kid his family was so poor he couldn’t afford to pay attention). But I was comfortable with math, numbers and problem solving and actually figured out geometry while taking the test itself.

I like finding patterns in math, I enjoy problem solving, and I appreciate the way it helps me to think systematically and provide evidence to support my conclusions. But I am convinced my comfort level is rooted in my love of baseball and the Yankees.

The other night I asked a group of college students if Robbie Cano is batting .310 and goes one for three with a sharp single, two fly outs, and a base on balls, what happens to his batting average. Some of the students had no idea, some of them started to calculate, but I knew his batting average went up, by just a little bit, because I know the relationships between numbers. That is what I am trying to teach Gideon.

Alan Singer, Director, Secondary Education Social Studies
Department of Teaching, Literacy and Leadership
128 Hagedorn Hall / 119 Hofstra University / Hempstead, NY 11549

———————————————————————————————————————————————

Thanks to Professor Singer for this article which is also published at Huffington Post.

Study the Common Core Money War   4 comments

This week’s Politico article entitled “The Common Core Money War” made me snort. While the authors admitted that the Gates Foundation has spent almost 200 million pushing Common Core on the masses, they asserted that opponents of Common Core (that would be people like me) are “backed by an array of organizations with multimillion dollar budgets.”

Not very funny. Not very true.

I am an example of the opposition to Common Core. I may be just one mom/teacher/voice against Common Core. But I can testify that I have never received a penny for any of my work against Common Core, and neither have my friends in this battle.

We spend countless hours researching government documents and attending boring school board meetings, write hundreds and hundreds of blog articles based on hours of research; plead with legislators and our governor; speak to groups and to the media. Our “stop common core” work is very tightly sandwiched time, budgeted between teaching school, changing diapers, doing laundry, being wives and mothers and church people.

We don’t sleep a lot and our houses aren’t all that tidy. We do this because it MUST BE DONE.

We are protecting our children and our Constitution. This is the only reason we work so hard.

We lose money in this fight; we pay for all our photocopies and the gas in our cars to drive to give speeches all over Utah. Notice: the reason there are no donate buttons on this blog, and the reason I haven’t paid WordPress the $100 they charge to get rid of their ads at the bottom of my page, the reason I don’t choose to accept ads or to make money off this blog is simple: I think I would lose credibility if this became a paid job for me. I think I would watch my words too carefully, be too careful of who I might offend, be afraid to speak out of my heart, be afraid to quote religious leaders or business leaders. WordPress is the only entity making money off my anti-common core fight.

There may be salaried folk at FreedomWorks or some of the think tanks that are against Common Core, but none of them are paid off by the conflict-of-interest, Microsoft-owning, Pearson-partnering Leviathan of all Grantmaking, Bill Gates.

And almost all of the Common Core proponents are paid by Gates. Follow the money trail: National PTA: paid by Gates to advocate. Harvard: paid by Gates to advocate. Jeb Bush: Paid by Gates to advocate. National Governors’ Association and Council of Chief State School Officers: Paid by Gates to develop and advocate for the Common Core.

But Politico is right about one thing: there is definitely a Common Core Money War going on. Lots of people ARE GETTING SO RICH because of the Common Core gold rush.

Just today in the Salt Lake City paper, Deseret News, I saw this little doozy: Companies are announcing plans to bring over a thousand new jobs to Utah. Guess what almost all of them are? Common Core jobs. Jobs that are Common Core dependent.

The article states: “The School Improvement Network provides tools and resources to educators to help them improve their teaching ability and meet the needs of all students. Over the 10-year life of the agreement, the company will pay out more than $5.9 million in new state wages… School Improvement Network will pay more than $15 million in new state taxes and invest more than $10 million in capital expansion at the Utah-based offices….’Utah is increasingly known as the emerging Wall Street of the West,’ Gov. Gary Herbert said. “The opening of the new office by Indus Valley Partners demonstrates the capabilities of Utah’s educated and hardworking workforce'”

Governor Herbert is more concerned with Utah making money by using Common Core technologies and Common Core sales products than he is concerned with making sure we haven’t been sold snake oil. But we have.

The Governor’s never done a cost analysis on Common Core although he promised us in a face to face meeting that he would.

He’s never looked into the fact that Common Core is an unpiloted experiment on children that throws out time-tested classical education and local control of education in favor of a collective notion of federally supervised and funded tests and standards.

I don’t care how much money Common Core implementation could make for our state. So could legalizing gambling, prostitution and drugs. It’s so wrong.

Common Core’s an academic scam, a prime example of –in Dr. Chris Tienken’s words– dataless decisionmaking. It’s a crime against the Constitutional right to determine education locally. Its tests are a robbery of student privacy and student time.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/education-common-core-standards-schools-96964.html#ixzz2fG7XltoA

Stop Common Core.

%d bloggers like this: