A look at Eureka’s Core math exercises

In Old math vs. Common Core math: See how it’s done, the Times-Picayune shows how Louisiana teachers are using Eureka math to teach to Common Core standards.

Eureka includes problem-solving “sprints” (students solve as many math problems as possible within a certain time) and fluency-building activities where they clap their hands and stomp their feet to count by fives, 10s, etc.

From Epictetus to road-crossing chickens

Philosophy can engage, inspire and deepen the thinking of high school students, writes Diana Senechal in American Educator. She teaches Philosophy for Thinking at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering, a selective New York City public middle/high school that draws an ethnically diverse group of students. (Two-thirds are Latino or African-American; 56 percent qualify for a free or subsidized lunch.)

Her students have published the second issue of their erudite and humorous philosophy journal, Contrariwise, which can be ordered here. 

Students write about Epictetus, the Book of Job, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Pascal, Gogol, virtue, kindness, humor, utopia, dystopia, the DMV — and more.

Peerayos Pongsachai uses math and philosophy to analyze the question: Why did the chicken cross the road?

The journal includes national and international contest winners. Emma Eder (Georgetown Visitation Prep, Washington, D.C.) won first place for The Very Real Problem of Irrationality in the math/philosophy category. Her classmate Julia Sloniewsky took on the challenge of writing as a knight or samurai during the all of feudalism. She won for Letter in the Desk of Hiraku Kikkawa.

The international contest asked students to imagine their favorite dish is “its own nation.”

Who/what is its leader? Its citizens? What does each ingredient do for a living? . . . Write about a philosophical problem this nation experiences — anything from existential angst due to being eaten, to “okra should never have been chosen as secreatry of state.”

Plate’s Republic by Grace Eder, also a Georgetown student, won first place. Second and third place winners came from Italy, China, Turkey, Britain and the U.S.

India: Bride dumps groom who can’t add

From India: A bride walked out of her wedding ceremony when her groom failed to solve a simple addition problem, reports the Deccan Chronicle.

The question she asked: How much is 15+6?

His reply: 17.

“The groom’s family kept us in the dark about his poor education,” said Mohar Singh, the bride’s father. “Even a first grader can answer this.”

After police mediation, both families returned the gifts and jewelry that had been exchanged before the wedding, said a police officer.

Blocks are the anti-app

One child's stage is another student's obstacle course. Preschoolers at Bing Nursery School play with outdoor blocks.

After one preschooler tired of building a stage, others turned it into an obstacle course.  Photo: Eric Westervelt, NPR

Wooden blocks are the anti-app, writes Eric Westervelt as part of NPR’s series on the iconic tools of early schooling. 

Measurement. Balance. Math. Negotiation. Collaboration. And fun. The smooth maple pieces need no recharging, no downloading.

He visits Bing Nursery School on the Stanford campus, where four-year-olds are working together to “balance and secure two semicircular wooden blocks atop two long, straight ones.”

The tower collapses to the carpeted floor at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School.

They work the problem.

It is Silicon Valley, after all. Fail early, fail often, kids. Iterate. Collaborate.

Jacques makes a pitch for stability.

“Corinne, I think if we just put a little on each side and used the right amount where mine was, it would work,” he says. “OK?”

“OK, let’s try,” says Corrine. “OK!”

The tower grows.

Then, to paraphrase Homer, the tower falls thunderously and the blocks clatter about.

“It keeps falling down! Maybe a little higher,” Jacques says, resisting the urge to lose patience.

Wooden blocks, designed in 1913 by a progressive educator, teach mathematical thinking, says Todd Erickson, a head teacher. 

For example, 4-year-old Yuri uses large, hollow outdoor building blocks to create a stage. “She looks at the spaces between two sides and starts to grapple with different sized pieces to bridge the gap,” writes Westervelt.

It’s the start of algebra, says Erickson. 

“Essentially they’re solving for X,” he says. “They’ve got one piece on one side and one piece on the other and a distance to fill. So what is that amount going to be, what does the length of that block have to be to bridge, to sit at both edges of the block. It’s the beginning of mathematics, really.”

When Yuri loses interest and runs over to the swings, two other girls “turn Yuri’s half-built stage into a makeshift obstacle course,” writes Westervelt.

My sister and I had wooden blocks when we were kids. My sister figured out how to build a domed ceiling with them.

Prepare for Pi Day!

March 14 is Pi Day –and it will provide a once-in-a-century thrill to math buffs on 3.14.15 at 9:26:53. That corresponds to the first 10 digits of pi (3.141592653).

“Beloved worldwide, pi is simply the never-ending number with no repeating patterns, write Noelle and Alex Filippenko on Edutopia. “Being irrational, it cannot be represented as the quotient of two integers. It is used to calculate the circumference of a circle — any circle — among a multitude of other applications in math, physics, and engineering. Pi appears behind the scenes in almost countless ways across many disciplines.”

The post includes classroom activities to celebrate pi, though the Epic Pi Day falls on a Saturday.

Testing fail

Steve Rasmussen, an education consultant, has written a devastating critique of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) math tests that will be administered to more than 10 million students in 17 states.

Citing test items, he concludes that many violate the standards they’re supposed to assess, can’t be answered with the technology provided, use confusing and hard-to-use interfaces and will be graded “in such a way that incorrect answers are identified as correct and correct.”

Parents are right to boycott the SBAC test, Rasmussen writes.

As you’ll see as you look at these test items with me, a quagmire of poor technological design, poor interaction design, and poor mathematical design hopelessly clouds the insights the tests might give us into students’ understanding of mathematics. If the technology-enhanced items on the Smarter Balanced practice and training tests are indicative of the quality of the actual tests coming this year — and Smarter Balanced tells us they are — the shoddy craft of the tests will directly and significantly contribute to students’ poor scores.

Teachers will need to prep students on how to use the confusing tools, he adds.

Elizabeth Willoughby, a fifth-grade teacher in Michigan, has posted a video of her tech-savvy students struggling to figure out how to enter numbers on a practice test.

PARCC, the other federally funded testing consortium, also has produced a confusing, poorly designed exam, according to Save Our Schools NJ. “In the early grades, the tests end up being as much a test of keyboarding skills” as of English or math competence, the group argues.

As a farmer, Colorado State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg uses math to analyze “cost, production and profit, and quite often, loss,” he wrote. He got the right answers on the PARCC practice math test, but failed because he didn’t “show my work” in the approved way, he complains. Sonnenberg also struggled with the software.

Florida dumped PARCC and scrambled to create its own exam. The rollout of the computerized test created a “catastrophic meltdown,” Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told the Miami Herald.

Making math make sense?

Via Stop Common Core in California:

Stop Common Core in California's photo.

Computational competence doesn’t guarantee conceptual comprehension, writes Dan Willingham.

Answer explained

Via Grammarly:

This kid is all of us.  #FunnyFriday

A dad opts in to Core testing

Greg Harris, an education writer and parent, is opting in to Common Core testing, he writes on Education Post.

Core teaching  will “promote the 21st century skills needed to navigate and thrive in a complicated world,” he believes.

In addition to practicing addition and subtraction, his first grader created his own word problems and math exercises, writes Harris. He drew his “problem-solving process with crayons.”

His older son’s homework, which is aligned with Ohio’s Core reading standards, includes:

Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says and when drawing inferences from the text.
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

When his son read Caddie Woodlawn, “he wasn’t asked to memorize passages, respond to fill-in-the blank questions, or answer true or false questions,’ writes Harris. Instead, he analyzed what he read and wrote responses to questions. He was expected to “break down chapters by their main themes and cite supporting evidence from the text to back up his main ideas.”

The PARCC tests my kids will take this year will determine their absorption of this way of learning. Teachers teach to the tests far less, but rather impart skills that will help their pupils learn to write and write well, conduct analysis and solve problems.

Students will struggle at first, but they’ll “rise to the challenge,” Harris writes.

Tutoring closes boys’ math gap

Intensive math tutoring is helping Chicago boys catch up, writes David Kirp, a public policy professor at Berkeley. It could break the “school-to-prison pipeline,” concludes the University of Chicago study.

Working two-on-one, the tutors worked with ninth- and tenth-grade males with elementary math and reading skills, writes Kirp. Most were black or Latino and poor. “The previous year they missed more than a month of school, on average” and nearly a fifth had arrest records.

Tutor helps students at Chicago high school

Avery Huberts helps Christophir Rangel and Iann Trigveros at Foreman High in Chicago. Credit: Whitten Sabbatini for The New York Times

The tutored students earned higher test scores and passed more classes — not just in math — than the control group, the study found. They were 60 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime.

Match Education, which runs a very successful Boston charter school, ran the Chicago program. Tutors use “friendship and pushing” to “nag them to success,” Barbara Algarin, MATCH’s executive director said. “These students can make remarkable progress when they appreciate that their tutor is in their corner. . . . Grades improve across the board.”

The tutors earn about $16,000 a year plus benefits,  so the extra help cost 3,800 a year per student.