Teaching math through dance

Malke Rosenfeld uses percussive dance patterns to teach math to her elementary students. Math in Your Feet teaches concepts such as “congruence, symmetry, transformation, angles and degrees, attributes, pattern recognition, symbols, and mapping on a coordinate grid,” Rosenfeld says.

Subtraction made mazy

Via Eric Odom:

Eric Odom's photo.

Math reform on steroids

Common Core standards aren’t supposed to tell teachers how to teach, writes Barry Garelick in Education News. However, Common Core math is “a massive dose of steroids” for the math reform movement.

Reform math has manifested itself in classrooms across the United States mostly in lower grades, in the form of “discovery-oriented” and “student-centered” classes, in which the teacher becomes a facilitator or “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage” and students work so-called “real world” or “authentic problems.” It also has taken the form of de-emphasizing practices and drills, requiring oral or written “explanations” of problems so obvious they need none, finding more than one way to do a problem, and using cumbersome strategies for basic arithmetic functions.

. . . math reformers believe such practices will result in students understanding how numbers work—as opposed to just “doing” math. In fact, reformers tend to mischaracterize traditionally taught math as teaching only the “doing” and not the understanding; that it is rote memorization of facts and procedures and that students do not learn how to think or problem solve.

“Forcing students to think of multiple ways to solve a problem” doesn’t guarantee they understand what they’re doing, he writes. Students’ explanations often “will have little mathematical value.”  They’re demonstrating “rote understanding.”

Nations that teach math in the traditional way do quite well on PISA, even though the exam reflects “reform math principles,” writes Garelick. “Perhaps this is because basic foundational skills enable more thinking than a conglomeration of rote understandings.”

In this video, a teacher shows how to explain why 9 + 6 = 15 by “making tens.”

LA teachers don’t use iPad curriculum

“In the first formal evaluation of the troubled iPads-for-all project in Los Angeles schools, only one teacher out of 245 classrooms visited was using the costly online curriculum,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

District staff focused on distributing devices, rather than helping teachers figure out how to use them effectively, the analysis concluded.

Teachers used technology to display documents, replacing an overhead projector or whiteboard.  In a few cases, researchers saw students using the iPads to do Internet research, take notes or create PowerPoint or Keynote presentations.

However, teachers said it was difficult to log in to the curriculum and no high school math curriculum was provided. Four out of five high schools reported that they rarely used the tablets.

Adjunct faculty eye unionization

Tired of low wages and no job security, adjunct faculty are considering unionization. Colleges and universities rely heavily on adjuncts, who earn a fraction of the pay of tenured faculty.

What’s the best way to teach teachers?

Stephen King on teaching writing

 

Before he was a best-selling writer, Stephen King was a high school English teacher. In The Atlantic, Jessica Lahey asks King about teaching writing and reading.

Lahey: You have called informal essays “silly and unsubstantial things,” not at all useful for teaching good writing. What kinds of essay assignments are useful?

King: I tried to give assignments that would teach kids to be specific. I used to repeat “See, then say” half a dozen times a day. So I would often ask them to describe operations that they take for granted. Ask a girl to write a paragraph on how she braids her sister’s hair. Ask a boy to explain a sports rule. These are just basic starting points, where students learn to write on paper what they might tell a friend. It keeps it concrete. If you ask a kid to write on “My Favorite Movie,” you’re opening the door to subjectivity, and hence to a flood of clichés.

It’s “a horrible idea” to teach Moby-Dick or Dubliners to high school juniors, says King. It’s too depressing. “But it’s good to make them reach a little. They’ve got to see there are brighter literary worlds than Twilight. Reading good fiction is like making the jump from masturbation to sex.”

If he hadn’t been able to make a living as a writer, King was planning to switch to teaching elementary school.

Here’s the flat, sad truth: By the time they get to high school, a lot of these kids have already closed their minds to what we love. I wanted to get to them while they were still wide open. Teenagers are wonderful, beautiful freethinkers at the best of times. At the worst, it’s like beating your fists on a brick wall. Also, they’re so preoccupied with their hormones it’s often hard to get their attention.

“Do you think great teachers are born or do you think they can be trained?” asks Lahey.

King: Good teachers can be trained, if they really want to learn (some are pretty lazy). Great teachers, like Socrates, are born.

. . . The best teachers are artists.

I’ve never read one of King’s novels. I don’t like the genre. But his book on writing, titled On Writing, is excellent. His advice to would-be writers — “write a lot and read a lot” — is precisely what I say to young writers.

School choice isn’t enough

School choice shouldn’t just be about “which one” but also about “what kind or how much or even whether or not,” writes Michael Mazenko in the Denver Post.

American education is almost exclusively designed to prepare students for university study and bachelor degrees. Even kindergarten teachers talk to kids and parents about “college readiness.” The added emphasis on STEM subjects in recent years narrows the focus even more.

Excluded from the system, however, are students who would prefer to learn a trade and work in skilled labor. Excluded are the kids who focus predominantly on the arts. Excluded are students who won’t sit passively in rows for 12 years completing worksheets and bubbling in standardized tests. Excluded are many children who don’t fit the “common” profile with “common” goals and standardized dreams.

Public education “should be offered as an opportunity,” writes Mazenko, a high school English teacher. It shouldn’t be a “mandate.”

Zhao: Don’t follow the dragon

The U.S. shouldn’t try to “catch up” with China, argues Yong Zhao in  Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World.

 China’s test-obsessed, authoritarian schools aren’t a model, says Zhao, who was raised in China and is now a University of Oregon education professor.

Shanghai students ranked at the top in the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, test twice in a row.

But the Chinese system “ignores children’s uniqueness, interests and passion, which results in homogenization,” Zhao tells the New York Times. “It forces them to spend almost all the time preparing for tests, leaving little time for social and physical activities.”

U.S. schools are following China’s example by becoming “more centralized, standardized and test-driven,” says Zhao.

Finnish schools “let down” two-thirds of students, according to Maarit Korhonen, a primary teacher. Those who aren’t academically minded and don’t do well on exams are “thrown away,” writes Korhonen in Herää, Koulu! (Wake Up, School!) There’s little to challenge the talented, she adds.

Finland’s top PISA scores have led to complacency, charges Korhonen.

Structure leads to success

Community colleges are improving pass rates and persistence by integrating “high-impact practices” into structured academic and career pathways reports the Center for Community College Student Engagement. Announcing a class attendance policy, banning late registration and requiring a “student success course” may have big payoffs.