Counting commercials for credit

Lynn G’s daughter’s sixth-grade math homework was to watch 30 minutes of TV and count the commercials, she complains at Kitchen Table Math. The assignment is called the “Great TV Ad-Venture.” Mom is not impressed.

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Comments

  1. have her watch PBS, report zero (apart from underwriting) and do something more meaningful

  2. Don’t you think that they class will work with this data some more? Maybe with percentages or ratios of actual show to commercials for the 30 minute period? I’m guessing that this is just the start of the Ad-Venture.

    Is there evidence that counting the commercials was the end of it?

    It’s not that I think the math curriculum is likely to be a good one, but I’m betting that they are going to work in more math to serve a bigger anti-advertising end because we all know that TV networks should just air the shows without making any money and the kids need to know about companies nefarious attempts to use entertainment as a way to sell products.

  3. The most important question to ask is whether she was permitted to use a calculator for the assignment(!)

    Better to have her read a book and fake the assignment. At least she’ll be reading and not watching TV.

  4. Barry Garelick says:

    we all know that TV networks should just air the shows without making any money and the kids need to know about companies nefarious attempts to use entertainment as a way to sell products.

    Fine, but let’s keep math class confined to math rather than social issues. There’s too much stuff for them to cover, which they don’t cover. Why add this superficial layer of social significance on top of it?

  5. NDC said:

    “Don’t you think that they class will work with this data some more? Maybe with percentages or ratios of actual show to commercials for the 30 minute period? I’m guessing that this is just the start of the Ad-Venture.

    Is there evidence that counting the commercials was the end of it?”

    You’re putting the cart before the horse.

    What evidence do you have that this will teach them any Math?

  6. NDC –
    The assignment served no purpose at all. Even if the class were to use the data in some further pursuit, the time spent watching TV would have been better spent performing actual math. The teacher would have been able to accomplish the same thing if she were to provide the data to the class herself.

  7. Here’s where I, as a traditional math teacher, have to turn to the dark side.

    If you don’t know what the lesson is apart from this one assignment, you’re just making conjecture. And to state blatantly that there’s nothing of value on TV (how about the news, if nothing else) and that there’s no math occurring, shows far more bias than the teacher is showing incompetence.

    As to the comment about social commentary, for the most part I agree. However, there’s a strong strain–and not a completely bad one, either–in education for making lessons “relevant” to students, if for no other reason than it makes things more interesting than just cranking out numbers. If the assignment has something to do with ratios, which I hope it does, it’s not such a bad assignment.

    Perhaps the assignment should have been to read Joanne’s blog and see what percentage of commenters automatically assume the worst. Granted, in many cases it’s a valid assumption, but not necessarily so here.

  8. This touches on an idea that I think needs a lot more attention. The idea is this: If kids appear to be engaged in an activity, even interested perhaps, and if that activity requires attention and effort, then that activity may automatically be considered “educational”. I reject this idea, but I think many teachers accept it without thinking. I further think that the idea is a natural outgrowth of some of the ideas and sentiments of progressive education from early in the twentieth century. These ideas and sentiments obviously have some appeal,
    Actually I don’t have much of an idea whether counting commericals will engage kids or not, or whether they will feel such an assignment is relevant to their lives or not. But is that enough to make it “educational”?
    As educators we should have well thought out ideas of what is truly educational and what is not. Unfortunately we won’t get that from ed school.

  9. I was trying to be sarcastic about using the assignment to teach about the evils of advertising. I don’t think they should be teaching lessons about consumerism and disguising it as math either. I’m not even sure they should be teaching lessons about consumerism period.

    But I think that oftentimes bloggers will jump in and misrepresent the reality of a particular assignment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened here with the original story.

    At what percentage of household do kids not already watch 30 minutes of TV? So wasn’t the assignment really just to count the ads? I’m not saying that it’s worthwhile, but it’s not really that big a time-waster in most households.

    Real math homework would be better, no doubt.

  10. About mistaking engagement for learning: the main folks who think that learning should be fun all the time aren’t, in my experience, usually teachers. Nor are they the industry leaders who will eventually hire the products of our educational system. I agree with you about this issue, but I think you’re laying the blame in the wrong place.

  11. Thanks to NDC for two points. Yes, perhaps I was a bit indiscriminate in laying blame, but only a bit. Instead of saying “many teachers” mistake engagement for learning, I think I should say “some teachers”. And I certainly agree that those who know little about actual teaching are quick to respond to idealistic notions that have not served us well. We see that often enough in the mass media. And, the second point, thanks for the phrase “mistaking engagement for learning”. An idea or concept needs a label. A good label is not only convenient, but I think aids in the analysis of the idea. I was looking for a good phrase to name it. All I could think of was something like “the assumption of engagement as education”, but that is clumsy. “Mistaking engagement for learning” is much less clumsy. However it still doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. Engagement may or may not include learning, but learning may or may not be educational. Memorizing pi to a hundred decimal places is certainly learning, and it can be engaging to those who take it as a challenge. But I don’t think it’s educational. So I’m still looking for a good name for the concept, and a good analysis of what really should be called “educational”.

  12. At what percentage of household do kids not already watch 30 minutes of TV?

    I agree that it IS quite high. My house, however, has
    a TV, but it isn’t hooked up to anything except for
    a DVD player and a VCR. No antenna, no cable, no dish.
    Depending on the lead time for this assignment, my child
    would have had to do one of three things:

    1) Say “we don’t have access to broadcast TV”

    2) Fake the data

    3) Go with me to a sports bar on the weekend and
    watch 1/2 an hour of sports (child’s preferred
    choice)

    My guess is that all three would have been acceptable for
    the teacher. If (1), the teacher would probably ask one of
    the other kids in the room to share data with my kid.

    Since this probably doesn’t involve watching any extra TV,
    it doesn’t seem like asking the kids to waste time watching
    TV.

    I’d hope that the actual instructions made clear that the
    idea wasn’t to watch any more TV than normal.

    -Mark Roulo