Friday, August 22, 2014

Math = Love: Common Core - Come and Gone: My Experiences as a Classroom Teacher

With new educational standards comes new opportunities for teachers and districts to rethink their curriculum and instruction. Standards can drive change, and often that change isn't exactly specified by the standards themselves. In Oklahoma, the Common Core State Standards had incited change until they didn't, having been repealed by the state legislature. In this post, Sarah Hagan writes about this state of limbo, and her desire to improve with or without the CCSS, while observing the attitudes of some other teachers who never thought the CCSS were anything worth changing for to begin with.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Twitter Math Camp

John Golden shares his Twitter Math Camp experience on one of the NCTM blogs. Part of me regrets not attending since it was within a day's drive, but it felt like too much after other conferences and travel during the summer.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Freudenthal’s “realistic mathematics education” appears to be a fraud | Boycott Holland

The math wars are not unique to the United States. In the Netherlands, routinely one of the highest-performing countries in international mathematics assessments, there is a small yet vocal group who insist that the path established by Hans Freudenthal has been one big mistake. Because I study at the Freudenthal Institute US, occasionally I get anti-Freudenthal writings sent to me. Like the US version of the math wars, the rhetoric can really be over-the-top, with false dichotomies and ad hominem attacks on individuals. In this post, the author makes a claim about something David Tall meant from one of his writings. Tall personally responded to correct the author's interpretation, and the author audaciously replied, "Tall also states that I misrepresent his position. I do not." I honestly laughed out loud at that one, and reminded myself that there's little reason to debate someone who has already decided what you mean regardless of what you say.

‘If only American teachers were smarter…’ - The Washington Post

I fear that some people dismiss Jack Schneider as naive when he suggests that teachers can and should engage more with educational research. Commonly the thought is that the research has to be drastically simplified, watered down, or otherwise repackaged for teachers to accept it, like hiding a child's medicine in his ice cream. I prefer Schneider's optimism and willingness to think creatively about what changes in teachers' routines and resources and the support needed for teachers to get more out of research.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Group to Launch Free Online Reviews of Common-Core Materials - Curriculum Matters - Education Week

As a teacher, I lost count of how many times the question, "Did the neighboring school district like it?" represented the primary quality criteria for education programs and resources. Perhaps it's our decentralized way of structuring our education system, but often we find ourselves lacking in the quality control department. I'm happy to see that some third-party groups are organizing to provide reviews of Common Core-based materials. While the reviews themselves will vary in quality, I think this is an area where we can improve quickly and have some influence over what schools invest in.

How to Teach Kids About Factoring a Polynomial | Edutopia

José Vilson writes in Edutopia about how to teach kids to factor polynomials. The article is a little short for deeply understanding the strategies, but it's still an approach that I really grew to appreciate as a teacher.

A New Ratio for the Japanese Cram School -

International education comparisons are often interesting. In Japan and other Asian countries, it's quite common for students to receive intensive tutoring in the evenings. In math, Japanese students are known for their ability to persist on long problems, seen in this quote: "Yuuki said that after two months, he was now able to solve math problems in 15 minutes, which was something that took him twice or three times as long before receiving private tutoring."

Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops - WNYC

1:1 technology programs can be great, but technology has a way of being a solution in search of a problem. The "we bought computers/tablets, now what?" question in this article happens too often, and when there aren't answers (and resources to support ongoing tech use), the 1:1 program can fall apart.

Why Tech Still Hasn't Solved Education's Problems - The Atlantic

This Atlantic article is good for thinking about how learning is mediated by tools and artifacts. In edu-jargon, we talk of tools having "affordances" and "constraints," and technology has plenty of both. We seem to let the technology do what technology is good at, but CPU cycles and algorithms coded in software often underperform in what remains a very personal, social, and human-focused field.

With Fractions, Common-Core Training Goes Beyond 'Invert and Multiply' - Curriculum Matters - Education Week

When I think about blog posts I regret, maybe only one comes to mind: a post I wrote about explaining the "invert and multiply" of fraction division. I showed some kind of proof that really doesn't do much explaining. This post at Education Week does a better job, but I still have some diagrams and explanations in mind that go beyond what's shown here. I don't know how helpful they'd be to others, but maybe I'll finally make that post someday to relieve myself of a guilty conscience.

St. Paul school district weighs later start for high-schoolers -

I consider myself fortunate to have attended a high school that started classes at 8:30, which is considered quite late. In St. Paul, Minnesota, the school district is trying to figure out how to rearrange their buses to allow high school students to start later than their current 7:30 start time. A University of Minnesota study on later start times showed positive effects in attendance, grades, test scores, and mood.

Monday, June 2, 2014

“What is this, church camp?” — Medium

(Trigger Warning: Rape) I hate that stories like this need to be written, but I admire the brave women who write them. This account of harassment and assault is particularly difficult because it involves "fellow" (a term I'm using loosely) educators, the kinds we usually trust and look up to. Stories like this have a way of sticking with you. I hate the feeling of powerlessness: I can't go back in time to right the wrongs, and my power to prevent future wrongs is limited. I have the power to reshare the story, so I am.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Explainer: What is all the fuss about the Common Core?

Leave it to my grad school colleague and chronicler of Common Core conspiracy craziness, Ken Libby, to write a short yet sensible description of the Common Core State Standards and the sources of controversy surrounding them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Algebra: Not 'If' but 'When'

From NCTM President Linda Gojak in the December 3rd 2013 edition of Summing Up: "So, when should students take algebra? Many students and parents interpret taking algebra in the seventh or eighth grade as an indication of a level of superior intelligence—a status symbol. My experience, both as a student and as a teacher, leads me to believe that we do more harm than good by placing students in a formal algebra course before they are ready, and few students are truly ready to understand the important concepts of algebra before eighth grade. Many students should wait until ninth grade." I agree about the "algebra early as a status symbol" part, but I'm a little surprised this article takes for granted Algebra as a stand-alone course in either 8th or 9th grade. If anything, NCTM has nudged us towards more integrated courses, and I think the CCSSM gives us reasons to think about how different algebra content can be spread across multiple years, with some of what we usually call "Algebra 1" in 8th grade and some in 9th grade.

Common-Core Needs Dominate Districts' Curriculum Priorities, Survey Finds

I find it interesting that, without much centralized organization, such a large proportion of districts are adapting to the Common Core State Standards by supplementing their current curriculum with online materials. That's the case for the district I'm working with in my research, and I imagine tight budgets are one of the factors in that strategy.