Faculty in Focus No. 4: The science educator


If there are any CU-Boulder School of Education faculty that embody our new "Be Boulder" slogan, it's Valerie Otero.
As a physics education researcher, Valerie Otero mentors university faculty and community K-12 teachers who teach in a variety of science disciplines to help them build learning environments that are empowering for students. She is driven to continue to improve the way science is taught, at all levels, and believes in progressive learning environments that enable students to use and develop the critical and creative intelligence they already have.

Essay on the mismatch between graduate programs at research universities and hiring needs at most colleges


Maybe I shouldn't be, but I'm always amazed at how many of my graduate school colleagues had college-educated parents and grew up in a culture of education prestige, either by attending private schools, travelling extensively for academic reasons, or even just had family and friends in higher ed. It just sounds nothing like the world I grew up in. This article expresses the concern that such people aren't well-prepared to work in community colleges or public regional 4-year schools because the cultures are so different.

Children's Mathematics: Why Every Math Teacher Should Know About Cognitively Guided Instruction


Here's Christopher Danielson's brief guide to what he wishes all secondary teachers knew about Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).

What's a rekenrek? At Fernandez, it's building to learn


<blockquote>This week, Fernandez Center students are putting their talents to work to help their school district, completing an order of 500 math-number racks for Stevens Point students in kindergarten through third grade. The number racks are based on the rekenrek, a math tool developed in Holland that looks similar to an abacus and helps with addition and subtraction.</blockquote> You don't see the word "rekenrek" in news headlines, but this story from Wisconsin talks about how older kids in a school district make these math learning tools for younger students.

Teacher preparation enrollments plummet


<blockquote>Enrollments in teacher preparation programs in California are continuing to decline at a precipitous rate, according to new figures from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Between the 2001-02 and 2012-13 school years, enrollments in teacher preparation programs dropped 74 percent.</blockquote> No surprise: It may be getting difficult to recruit new teachers and increase pressure/blame on the teaching profession at the same time.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal


I must admit that I occasionally find myself in meetings that start to head this direction, although rather than technicalities later it's been trips to the deep weeds of potential design choices.

Real World Math


I haven't used it, but I like the idea of a curriculum site that integrates mathematics with data from Google Earth.

Napster, Udacity, and the Academy


I don't know if Clay Shirky is right about MOOCs, but I value this essay for his recognition that people will generally accept *good enough* if they can get it for little or no cost.

Discover the world's best K-12 curriculum


THere are a lot of curriculum repositories on the web and new ones crop up all the time. This is one of them. One way this site seems to have tried to differentiate itself is by enlisting the help of some prominent math teacher-bloggers for curating some of their content. Now they list a high school student as their content expert -- let's just say that's not ideal, but as a nonprofit in an increasingly crowded space that lacks good revenue models, maybe that's just making the most out of who you have available.

The Case for Slow Reform in Education


In response to Elizabeth Green's article in the NY Times titled "Why Do Americans Stink at Math?" Ilana Horn took to Twitter to rant a bit about the lack of high-quality professional development, a need for better frameworks for teacher development, and other ways we could be better at helping math teachers than we are now.

The product design sprint: a five-day recipe for startups


In my work with and for teachers I've needed to expand my conception of design. Sometimes it's a physical object, sometimes it's software, but frequently we're designing a process or routine and thinking about whatever templates or facilitation guide that might make that process or routine replicable and effective. Given that designers like to design things, Google Ventures has designed a five-day sprint for startups that we're considering applying to some of our work. It's a design for design, and a new process might give us perspectives we haven't yet had.

Design for a Thriving UX Ecosystem


One of the research projects I work on involves a customizable curriculum repository that houses the district curriculum, supplementary tasks and materials, along with tools for sharing and planning. The design of that tool includes a lot of teacher input, but increasingly we see the need to think about the user experience ecosystem, not just our site. It's just natural to think now that people want their social media streams and cloud storage to work in concert with other content on the web, which gives us a lot of interesting potential use cases to think about.

CGI Assessment Teacher’s Guide An assessment tool based on the work of Cognitively Guided Instruction


I've read quite a few of the published studies on CGI, but I'm really not that familiar with CGI from a teachers' point of view. Now that I'm working with teachers in lower elementary, I might find resources like this site useful.

These Test Questions Show How Math Has Totally Changed Since You Were In School


I made the mistake of trying to add an intelligent comment to an article that didn't seem to have enough of them. It didn't help. The one reply I got to my comment kinda got under my skin a little, which is exactly what I'm sure the troll who left it was looking for.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal


I must admit that I occasionally find myself in meetings that start to head this direction, although rather than technicalities later it's been trips to the deep weeds of potential design choices.

A Lesson In How Teachers Became 'Resented And Idealized'


Dana Goldstein's book "The Teacher Wars" is out and she got an opportunity to discuss teaching's past and present on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Hippocampal-neocortical functional reorganization underlies children's cognitive development


I saw a blog post making claims that a new study from Stanford proved that "Common Core is Bad for the Brain." That sent my crazy detector into the red zone, so I decided to check out the research for myself. As I expected, there's absolutely nothing in the research article about Common Core. There really isn't anything in there about teaching strategies. It takes as a given that children's problem solving strategies become more efficient over time, and it questions which part of the brain might be most involved. By using a fMRI machine to scan children's brains over time, they found that "the transition from use of counting to memory-based retrieval parallels increased hippocampal and decreased prefrontal-parietal engagement during arithmetic problem solving." This is *not* a study about teaching methods or curriculum or standards -- it's a neuroscience study to identify a part of the brain that takes on work as we increase our ability to do things from memory. As for the standards, I don't see anything in the CCSS that contradicts the research. In Grade 1 it supports students' addition and subtraction strategies that aren't yet memory-based through the use of models, objects, drawings, etc. and by Grade 2 it asks for fluency and knowing addition facts from memory. Thanks to some folks at Stanford, now we know that transition involves less prefrontal-parietal engagement and more hippocampal engagement. (And it's at this point where neuroscience frequently hits its limits when it comes to informing us about teaching!)

5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback


In this Edutopia article about the importance of feedback there's an insightful comment left by Dylan Wiliam: <blockquote>Most of the research on feedback is a complete waste of time as far as school teachers are concerned. The studies that dominate the research literature are conducted by psychology professors on their own undergraduates in laboratory sessions that rarely last beyond three hours, in which students are given feedback, not told why they are being given feedback, don't get time to use the feedback, and are tested again. In their magisterial review of every single feedback study conducted between 1905 and 1995, Kluger and DeNisi (1996) pointed out that the only important thing about feedback is what it does to the recipient. Specific feedback can be helpful, but the danger is that it just tells the student what to fix without telling them why they need to fix it. It improves the work, but not the student's thinking. The article claims that the research shows that feedback should be given as quickly as possible, but Val Shute's review of the research literature, which appeared in the same journal as the Hattie and Timperley review, found that immediate feedback was better for lower-order thinking, but delayed feedback was more effective for higher-order thinking. Feedback that comes too quickly scaffolds the learning too tightly, so that, again, students do not have to think for themselves. Ultimately, the only thing that really matters in feedback is the relationship between the student and the teacher. Every teacher knows that the same feedback given to one student will make that student try harder, and to a similar student, can make the other student give up. When teachers know their students, they know when to push, and when to back off. And students have to trust their teachers. If students don't believe their teachers know what they are talking about, or don't believe they have their best interests at hear, they will not invest the time needed to take the feedback on board (rule one of feedback: feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor). Ultimately, when your students trust you and you know your students, you can ignore all the rules of feedback. And without that relationship, all the research in the world won't matter...</blockquote>

Euclid: The Game


I really liked doing constructions in geometry and spent a lot of time with a compass and a straightedge. It's not something that really comes naturally to some students. This site presents Euclid's Elements as a series of construction tasks, all created with GeoGebra.

Objections to the Common Core Standards


Ilana Horn crowdsourced a list of the kinds of objections people are making against the Common Core.



This post about inquiry learning reminds me of how much we tend to dichotomize issues, pick teams, and then make a caricature out of the other side. Sometimes we forget our manners when we do this, which, thankfully, Webb does not really do here. Still, I get puzzled by what some people think of as "inquiry" or "discovery learning." My critique (which seems to be shared by many, including Hmelo-Silver, Duncan, & Chinn, 2007) of the Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) paper is that to them "minimal guidance" really is minimal, assuming that teachers play a passive role in instruction if they're not doing direct instruction. I certainly wouldn't advocate for minimal guidance, nor would I advocate for direct instruction like Kirschner et al. do. There's a middle ground that gets lost too often in our arguments, one that is supported by research. Webb does admit that he is only aware of one major study in favor of inquiry, a 2011 Educational Psychologist paper by Alfieri, Brooks, Aldrich, and Tenenbaum. I wasn't aware of that one, but in these cases I immediately think of the meta-analysis of experimental and quasi-experimental studies by Furtak, Seidel, Iverson, and Briggs (2012). That study found greater learning gains for students in guided or structured inquiry approaches than for students in *either* traditional lessons or minimally guided learning. Furtak's findings support a previous meta-analysis by Schroeder, Scott, Tolson, Huang, and Lee (2007), which also found positives in inquiry-based approaches. Interestingly, the two meta-analyses do not rely on any of the same underlying studies, so when considering how much evidence this represents, it's important to not think of the Furtak et al. and Schroeder et al. work as just two studies, as together they summarize the findings of 98 smaller studies.

Trending Topic Research File: Common Core State Standards


The American Educational Research Association (AERA) has provided a one-page list of the articles published in its journals related to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These typically look at differences between the CCSS and prior standards, assumptions of the CCSS, and adoption processes.

First Two Days of School


I have a love-hate relationship with first days of school. On the one hand, I love school. On the other, the first day can be filled with the drudgery of introductions and reviews of syllabi. I cringe to remember one year when I was teaching that I required a significant chunk of the *first 3 days* of class to review my entire syllabus. I somehow convinced myself that if I just explained things clearly enough from the beginning, the rest of the year would go well. I can't say my year went poorly, but I eventually learned that if I wanted a certain kind of mathematical activity and student engagement in my class, my best strategy was to get students involved in those activities right from the start. Fawn Nguyen obviously knows this and I'm happy that she wrote about her approach to the first two days of school.

academic blogs: a labor of love | Punk Rock Operations Research


The vast majority of academics I know do not blog, but I wouldn't use this article to imply they aren't passionate about their work. Mostly, I think they don't blog or use social media in a professional fashion because there aren't norms and incentives for them to do so. That is gradually changing, and as more people find that blogging and social media use benefits their own work, more will engage and become examples for others to follow.

Bill Gates' tech worker fantasy: Column


When we talk about the demand for STEM workers, we should really be talking about the demand for *cheap* STEM workers. There are plenty of reasons to think that we have an adequate supply of people with STEM training and education, but the right people are not always in the right place and willing to work for lower wages. Some of this demand is met instead with foreign workers using H-1B visas.

» Switching to Markdown for scholarly article production The Occasional Pamphlet


I really, really like the idea of writing in Markdown and then using tools like Pandoc to convert to other formats. I tried it and ran into a couple difficulties. First, it's still clunky for me to get citations and references to work anywhere near as smoothly as they do when I use Mendeley's plugin for Word, which puts me just a few keystrokes away from my personal database of 1000+ references. Second, I still need tools for peer editing and I'm not crazy about making them use unfamiliar tools. I love that Draft is built to do peer review, but it's really not built for 50+ page academic documents. My peers use Word and Google Docs and I've found that if I'm required to output Word anyway, putting up with Word during the writing process has been slightly less annoying than worrying about my Markdown conversions and choice of reviewing tools. That said, I'm hopeful that Markdown catches on, as I much prefer writing for the web and screen than thinking I'm still writing for 8.5"x11" sheets of paper.

Imagining Successful Schools - NYTimes.com


<blockquote>One of the grand old men of education policy says test-based accountability has got to go.</blockquote> We've put so much emphasis into educational standards and accountability over the past 30 years we seem to have deluded ourselves into thinking that standards and accountability are the essential ingredients in educational improvement, and if we lack improvement, then it must be because we need better standards and more accountability. I tend to agree with Marc Tucker here in this NY Times opinion piece, in what essentially comes down to the adage, "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." I think standards are useful, and I can't imagine an accountability-free education system, but it's time for a strategy shift that places more emphasis on teacher professionalism and support.

RRPS picks math instructional material for continuity, rigor | Albuquerque Journal News


The Rio Rancho schools in New Mexico recently did a curriculum adoption for math and chose Eureka Math across the board - from Pre-K through 12th grade. I'm not sure I buy claims of "seamless implementation," and I doubt the curriculum will be in use long enough for any one student to get 13 or more years of it, but I can imagine some benefits from a single K-12 set of curriculum materials. To clarify, that's *in my imagination* and I have no idea if that's the case for Eureka Math.

Mathematics Classroom Observation Protocol for Practices


This classroom observation protocol from the University of Alabama looks at a combination of factors related to student engagement, lesson design and implementation, and class culture based in discourse.

Are math textbooks ready for Common Core? - The Washington Post


One of the reasons it's important for teachers and districts to have some skill evaluating curriculum and its alignment to standards is that you can't always trust the publisher to do their own alignments correctly. Yes, in some cases publisher alignment comes down to slapping a "CCSS-Aligned!" sticker on the cover, but in other cases it can appear to be quite meticulous, with lesson-by-lesson alignments shown in margins of teachers guides or in vast tables with marks where lessons and standards...

What WAS that? or, What was THAT? [#NCTMDenver] | Overthinking my teaching


Christopher Danielson reflects on the final session of #NCTMDenver, a math-love-fest with George and Vi Hart. The talk involved math, it showed off math, it showed a deep appreciation for math, but yet it was difficult to exactly summarize what the talk was about.

Classes should do hands-on exercises before reading and video, Stanford researchers say


I feel like video tutorials have exploded on the web and I remain quite skeptical that a video explaining how to do something is an effective means by which someone should learn. If an animation or other visuals help, then maybe the video works well. But for information that can just as easily be shown statically, then I think video fails to have an advantage. It can even be a disadvantage - case in point, an email I received recently from the university about account security was about 90 second...

Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products | Achieve


EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products) is an effort to build in some quality control when choosing curriculum to meet the Common Core standards. The rubrics are designed to be used at the unit or lesson level; task-level quality judgments are probably best left to domain-specific rubrics like those of cognitive demand in math.

A wakeup call on teacher training - The Denver Post


The National Center on Teacher Quality sometimes gets accused of being an agenda-driven organization, and perhaps that by itself is not a bad thing. NCTQ's vision of quality teacher education - and the means they use to measure it - do not exactly align with those in many schools of education. In Colorado, some programs were made to look worse than they likely are because NCTQ either collected incomplete data or misreported the data they had. Another reason that NCTQ rubs academics the wrong was is tactical - instead of peer-reviewed journals, NCTQ relies on self-published reports accompanies by a massive PR campaign to get their rankings in the hands of journalists who are more than happy to pass it along to the public.

ICME 11 - International Congress on Mathematical Education


At ICME 11 in Mexico in 2008 there was a Topic Study Group for "Research and development in task design and analysis." There are links here to papers that were presented as well as a list of the participants in the TSG.

Assessment Blueprints and Test Specifications


Under most circumstances I'd stick to academic content standards and not use assessment blueprints, but there are exceptions. In the case of PARCC, it's helpful to get some guidance to what high school content might be addressed at Algebra 1 vs Geometry vs Algebra 2, since the Common Core standards themselves don't exactly specify what to expect at each high school grade level.



IMPS is the "Implementing the Mathematical Practice Standards" project from EDC (Education Development Center). Given stories I've heard about the Standards for Mathematical Practice being included in the CCSSM almost as an afterthought, it's interesting to me to see all the attention the SMPs get in comparison to the content standards.

PCMI @ MathForum: Rubric-Implementing Standards for Mathematical Practice


At PCMI, the Park City Mathematics Institute, they have a rubric for the Standards for Mathematical Practice. I like that the rubric separates "task" from "teacher." As *practices*, the SMPs can't be embodied by a task alone but the choice of tasks can predict the likelihood that students will engage in the practices.

SMSG (New Math) Textbooks


If you've heard of the "new math" of the 1960s but don't know exactly what that was, ERIC has a great collection of the "School Mathematics Study Group" (SMSG) textbooks that were at the foundation of new math.

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.

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.

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.

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 - NYTimes.com


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 - TwinCities.com


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.

“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.

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.