Financial ability correlates w/ maths skills not financial education: Revisiting Madison’s 2007 Math Forum

James Pickford: But they don’t appear to do much financial training in Shanghai?  One of the report’s most interesting conclusions was that the best way of teaching financial literacy is not necessarily by instruction in the classroom. Far more important as indicators of proficiency were mathematical skills and personal experience with financial products. So Chinese children, who […]

Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

Video and audio from Wednesday’s Math Forum are now available [watch the 80 minute video] [mp3 audio file 1, file 2]. This rare event included the following participants: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and UW Math Professor) Linda McQuillen, Madison Metropolitan School District Gabriele Meyer […]

Math Forum: Wednesday 2.22.2006 7:00p.m.

There’s been no shortage of discusion regarding math curriculum. Rafael Gomez’s latest event, this Wednesday’s Math Forum should prove quite interesting. The event will be at the Doyle Administration Building (McDaniels Auditorium) [Map] from 7:00 to 8:00p.m. Participants include: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and […]

Community Forum – Math Task Force Recommendations

There will be 2 forums to receive community feedback on the Math Task Force report/recommendations.
* Monday, December 8 – 6:00-8:00pm at Memorial High School
* Tuesday, December 9 – 6:00-8:00pm at La Follette High School
There will be a brief presentation on the task force recommendations, followed by a break-out session for community feedback and comments.
The Superintendent will use the feedback and comments in developing his recommendations for the Board.
As a reminder, the Math Task Force info can be found at http://www.mmsd.org/boe/math/
Thank you.
Arlene

Minnesota’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Forums

John Katsantonis:

In the process of researching where the U.S. ranks internationally in science and math education, I discovered that one of the Democratic presidential candidates (the one who’s governor of a Southwestern state) keeps citing our nation’s current rank as No. 29 (or, on a good day, No. 28) after our having been No. 1 throughout the world.
Apparently neither statistic is true, however, which suggest that it may be Bill Richardson himself who needs a bit of remedial math.
This is not the first time our national educational system has been politicized. Fifty years ago, a global scientific effort called the International Geophysical Year (IGY) encompassed 11 Earth sciences: aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determinations (precision mapping), meteorology, oceanography, seismology and solar activity.
The Soviet Union celebrated IGY by launching the first artificial satellite (Sputnik) one month into the event on Oct. 1, 1957. We countered with the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts and the discovery of mid-ocean submarine ridges, which was an important confirmation of plate tectonics.
Immediately following the successful orbiting of Sputnik, attendant paranoia regarding U.S. loss of the space race converted our collaboration with the country into a major retooling of the nation’s school curricula. The focus would now be on science and mathematics.
It’s impossible to deny a general decline in these areas nationally versus India and a handful of other countries that emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education on a cultural level. In recent years, Minnesota has been adamant and resolute about creating and maintaining collaboration between the private and public sectors to improve these areas of learning among K-12 students statewide.

Providence School forum will explore fresh approach to math

Linda Borg writing in the Providence Journal: Michael Lauro, the district’s new math coordinator, will discuss plans for a curriculum called FASTT Math. PROVIDENCE – Osiris Harrell, an outspoken critic of the school district’s math curriculum, has invited parents and school officials to a meeting March 22 to discuss the effectiveness of the math program. […]

Math. It’s not just for breakfast any more.

David Burkehead: This is just simple math. People compare some “big ticket” item with “small ticket” items and don’t mention how the very large numbers of those small ticket items add up, or how very little the large ticket item would really stretch among the many to whom those small ticket items apply. So when […]

(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack and Michael Fish: Major Findings CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students Change in performance was observed immediately after switch Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as […]

Why Singapore’s kids are so good at maths

aJeevan Vasagar: The classrooms at Admiralty are sparsely decorated. When I visit a class of 13-year-olds, there’s a single artwork on the back wall; a paper cut-out of a cherry tree scattering blossom. At the front, where the teacher stands, is a whiteboard, a projector, a Singapore flag and a clock. I am later told […]

Madison School District Middle School Math Specialist Program

Madison School District Administration (PDF): Project Description: MMSD has provided funding to support coursework in the content and teaching knowledge of middle school teachers of math. Toward that goal, a partnership was formed back in 2010 between the District, the UW-Madison School of Education, the UW- Madison Department of Mathematics, and the University of Wisconsin […]

The Economist’s Washington correspondent wonders why his offspring are being taught swimming so well and maths so badly

James Astill: Yet my children’s experience of school in America is in some ways as indifferent as their swimming classes are good, for the country’s elementary schools seem strangely averse to teaching children much stuff. According to the OECD’s latest international education rankings, American children are rated average at reading, below average at science, and […]

Culture, Gender, and Math

Luigi Guiso, Ferdinando Monte, Paola Sapienza, Luigi Zingales: results, we classified countries according to several measures of gender equality. (i) The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index (GGI) (10) reflects economic and political The existence (1), degree (2), and origin (3, 4) of a gender gap (difference between girls’ and boys’ scores) in mathematics are […]

Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

Kevin Hartnett “Overall, there’s a movement towards more complex cognitive mathematics, there’s a movement towards the student being invited to act like a mathematician instead of passively taking in math and science,” said David Baker, a professor of sociology and education at Pennsylvania State University. “These are big trends and they’re quite revolutionary.” Pedagogical revolutions […]

Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

Kevin Hartnett: If we could snap our fingers and change the way math and science are taught in U.S. schools, most of us would. The shortcomings of the current approach are clear. Subjects that are vibrant in the minds of experts become lifeless by the time they’re handed down to students. It’s not uncommon to […]

A bot crawled thousands of studies looking for simple math errors. The results are concerning.

Brian Resnick: But Michèle Nuijten, a PhD student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands who co-created Statcheck, has her sights on fixing a much smaller but surprisingly impactful problem in science: rounding errors. “When starting this project, I wouldn’t say [this was a big problem],” Nuijten tells me. “We’re detecting when people are making rounding […]

Great Mathematicians on Math Competitions and “Genius”

Less Wrong: mentioned in Fields Medalists on School Mathematics, school mathematics usually gives a heavily distorted picture of mathematical practice. It’s common for bright young people to participate in math competitions, an activity which is closer to that of mathematical practice. Unfortunately, while math competitions may be more representative of mathematical practice than school mathematics, […]

Wayne State drops math as general ed requirement

David Jesse: Wayne State University has subtracted mathematics from the list of classes all students must take to graduate. Up until now, students had to take one of three different math classes before they could earn their degree. Now, depending on their major, students may be able to squeak through college without taking math. The […]

Commentary On K – 12 Math Preparation

Vauhini Vara: Teachers pack their items outside of Everest College, in City of Industry, California, one of the shuttered Corinthian Colleges. Last year, I met fifteen former students and graduates of Corinthian Colleges who had taken a remarkable action to protest the collection of their student debt. Corinthian, a for-profit institution that was, at the […]

The Man Behind Modern Math

John Steele Gordon: Mathematicians often deal in abstractions that are quite beyond the ken of non-mathematicians. For instance, in 1637, the Frenchman Pierre de Fermat conjectured that there is no whole-number solution for the equation An + Bn = Cn where N is greater than two. He famously wrote in the margin of a book […]

Will Our Understanding of Math Deteriorate Over Time?

Lance Fortnow: Scientific American writes about rescuing the enormous theorem (classification of finite simple groups) before the proof vanishes. How can a proof vanish? In mathematics and theoretical computer science, we read research papers primarily to find research questions to work on, or find techniques we can use to prove new theorems. What happens to […]

On B-School Test, Americans Fail to Measure Up; “Improve K-12 Math”

Lindsay Gellman: New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s. Why? The foreign students are much better at the test. Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean […]

Parents feel ‘unequipped’ to help children with maths

Josie Gurney-Read: “It’s not a subject, maths, it’s a language. A language, without which, we cannot communicate. The teaching of arithmetic and algebra, for example, is like teaching the grammar of this language.” It will perhaps be unsurprising to most that Carol Vorderman, who spent 26 years as co-host on the Channel 4 quiz show […]

On Remedial Math

Ron Schacter Many of the graduates entering college from New York’s Hampton Bays High School in 2011 weren’t ready for higher education math. At neighboring Suffolk County Community College, 68 percent of the first-year students from Hampton Bays had to take remedial math. “These numbers were horrifying to us and created a real sense of […]

Deja Vu on Madison Math: Algebra: The most-failed class for Madison freshmen

Molly Beck: “When you look at the data, there’s something not working, clearly,” she said. “And if you know being on track in ninth grade is key to a student’s success then it’s our obligation to change that.” She said the district will be strengthening the quality and consistency of algebra instruction across schools so […]

Teacher group: Math is ‘the domain of old, white men’

Danette Clark: According to a Teach for America website, culturally responsive teaching in math is important because “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.” As reported earlier this week, Teach for America groups across the country are committing themselves to “culturally responsive teaching,” a radical pedagogy used by communist Bill […]

Math wars: Rote memorization plays crucial role in teaching students how to solve complex calculations, study says

Joseph Brean: In a finding sure to inflame the math wars, a team of neuroscientists has revealed the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students. Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive […]

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Karen Herzog: Regent Margaret Farrow said K-12 must be a strong partner in preparing high school students for college. “We’re not, quite frankly, creating this situation we’re trying to solve.” Starting next year, all 11th graders in Wisconsin pubic schools will be required to take the ACT college-readiness exam that universities use in their admissions […]

American Teens Achieve Mediocrity In Financial Literacy, Local math & reading background

Michelle Hackman: When it comes to financial literacy around the world, American teens are middling. The United States may fuel the world’s largest economy and operate its most robust financial system. But compared to the financial prowess of teenagers in 17 other countries, U.S. teens come off downright mediocre. That’s according to a new study […]

On College Debt & lack of K-12 Math Teaching

Heidi Moore: And the contract terms on private college loans are rigid to the point of cruelty. Borrowers have almost no say and little ability to renegotiate the terms if financial trouble occurs – an inevitability. Many private lenders don’t allow students to pay down the principal of a loan, which means endless payments just […]

Dumping Everyday Math? The Future of Seattle Elementary Math Education Will Be Decided on Wednesday

But I would suggest an even more important vote will occur on Wednesday, one that will decide the future of tens or hundreds of thousands of Seattle students over the next decade: the Seattle School Board’s vote on the future elementary math curriculum. As I have noted in previous blogs, Seattle Public Schools is now […]

2+2=What? Parents rail against Common Core math

Michael Rubinkam: What could be so horrible? Grade-school math. As schools around the U.S. implement national Common Core learning standards, parents trying to help their kids with math homework say that adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing has become as complicated as calculus. They’re stumped by unfamiliar terms like “rectangular array” and “area model.” They wrestle […]

Solve math problems with logic

Manila Standard Today:

An educational and enrichment workshop was recently conducted by the Galileo Enrichment Learning Program where the multi-awarded mathematician and Singapore Math advocate Dr. Queena Lee-Chua together with her son Scott, shared with the participants the fundamentals of Singapore Math and demonstrated how this fun learning approach is used to solve word problems.
Multi-awarded mathematician and Singapore Math advocate Dr. Queena Lee-Chua shared with the participants the fundamentals of Singapore Math and demonstrates how this fun-learning approach is used to solve word problems.
The workshop, held at Nuvali Evoliving AVR, Sta. Rosa City, Laguna, was organized by Galileo Sta. Rosa, attended by parents and their kids, as well as by teachers from different pre-schools and elementary schools in and outside Manila. It was indeed an enlightening and engaging time for everyone as the mother and son tandem proved to the audience that complex mathematical problems can be solved with simple math logic.

Much more on Singapore Math, here.
Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

The Surprising Impact of High School Math on Job Market Outcomes

Jon James:

The economic returns to education are well documented. It is also well-known that college graduates with certain majors will earn more than others and find it easier to land a job. But surprisingly, the courses students take in high school also make a difference, when the courses are mathematics. Even among workers with the same level of education, those with more math have higher wages on average and are less likely to be unemployed. These findings suggest that even students ending their formal education after high school can increase their future earnings by investing in more math courses while in high school.

High school graduates earn more money in general than high school dropouts. This well-known fact is a powerful incentive to finish high school. But is it just the diploma that counts, or do the particular courses students take while in high school matter for their future job prospects? Students can opt for a variety of courses, from vocational tracks to advanced placement classes for college credit, during their final four years of required education.
Most high school graduates choose a curriculum that is far more rigorous than the minimum requirements. This is most evident in mathematics courses. For example, in 2009, 75 percent of high school graduates completed math coursework at the level of Algebra II or above. Most of these students could have stopped at Algebra I and satisfied the minimum high school requirements. Only six states required Algebra II for graduation as of 2006. About 11 required Algebra I, six required geometry, and the remaining 27 required only that students complete a minimum of three years of mathematics at any level.
The fact that so many students take a rigorous math curriculum is not surprising given that a minimum of Algebra II is necessary for adequate college preparation. But an analysis of detailed high school transcript data and employment outcomes suggests that a more rigorous high school math curriculum benefits even those who do not go to college. While math may be difficult for many, our findings indicate that the payoffs for all students may be substantial.

Unsurprising, particularly when one encounters young people unable to comprehend cell phone costs, student loan terms or simply make change.
Related: Math Forum audio / video and Connected Math.

Voevodsky’s Mathematical Revolution

Julie Rehmeyer:

On last Thursday at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum, Vladimir Voevodsky gave perhaps the most revolutionary scientific talk I’ve ever heard. I doubt if it generated much buzz among the young scientists in advance, though, because it had the inscrutable title “Univalent Foundations of Mathematics,” and the abstract contained sentences like this one: “Set-theoretic approach to foundations of mathematics work well until one starts to think about categories since categories cannot be properly considered as sets with structures due to the required invariance of categorical constructions with respect to equivalences rather than isomorphisms of categories.”
Eyes glazed over yet?

Grades are in: June’s final exams in math show more failure in Montgomery County Schools



Donna St. George, via a kind reader’s email:

For another semester, Montgomery County high school students flunked their final exams in math courses in startlingly high numbers, according to new figures that show failure rates of 71 percent for Geometry and 68 percent for Algebra 1.
The numbers add to a phenomenon that goes back more than five years and came to widespread public attention this spring, setting off a wave of concern among parents as well as elected officials in the high-performing school system.
Latest math-exam figures show high failure rates persist in the high-performing school system.
The new figures, for exams given in June, show that failure rates worsened in Algebra 1 and Geometry; improved in Precalculus and Bridge to Algebra 2; and stayed fairly even in Algebra 2, Honors Precalculus, Honors Algebra 2 and Honors Geometry.
Overall, 45 percent of high school students in eight math courses failed their June finals — about 14,000 students out of roughly 31,000 enrolled.
Exactly what explains steep failure rates for exam-takers has been an issue of debate in recent months.
In a memo to the school board, School Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released a preliminary figure on test-skipping: As many as 500 students were no-shows for the Algebra 1 exam in June, accounting for one-sixth of the 2,912 students who failed the test.
Starr said student motivation was one of a half-dozen issues under study as a newly created math work group seeks to understand the failure problem and suggest ways to turn it around. Other possible causes cited include alignment between the curriculum and the exam, school system practices and policies, and the “cognitive demands” of the exam.

Related: Math Forum audio & video along with a number of connected matharticles.
2004 (!) Madison West High School math teacher letter to Isthmus on dumbing down the curriculum.

Failing Math Curriculum in Seattle Public Schools

Cliff Mass:

If I was a Seattle Public School parent, I would be getting angry now.
Why? Most Seattle students are receiving an inferior math education using math books and curriculum that will virtually insure they never achieve mastery in key mathematical subjects and thus will be unable to participate in careers that requires mathematical skills.
There are so many signs that a profound problem exists in this city. For example,
Parents see their kids unable to master basic math skills. And they bring home math books that are nearly indecipherable to parents or other potential tutors.
Nearly three quarters of Seattle Community College students require remediation in math.
Over one hundred Seattle students are not able to graduate high school because they could not pass state-mandated math exams.
Minority and economically disadvantaged students are not gaining ground in math.

Much more on Seattle’s math battles, here.
Related:

Study: Schools And Colleges Are Teaching The Wrong Type Of Math

John O’Connor:

Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.
And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers.
The study was produced by the Washington, D.C.-based National Center on Education and the Economy and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“What these studies show is that our schools do not teach what their students need,” the authors wrote, “while demanding of them what they don’t need; furthermore, the skills that we do teach and that the students do need, the schools teach ineffectively. Perhaps that is where we should begin.”

Related: Math forum audio/video.

Republicans Should Love ‘Common Core’ National standards can revive the way we teach math and science.

Edward Frenkel & Hung-Hsi Wu:

The Common Core State Standards are a set of rigorous academic standards in mathematics and English language arts. They are the culmination of a meticulous, 20-year process initiated by the states and involving teachers, educators, business leaders and policy makers from across the country and both sides of the aisle.
The standards form a foundation for a high-quality education, have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, and are slated for full implementation in 2014.
Unfortunately, the Republican National Committee recently adopted a resolution rejecting the Core Standards, calling them a “nationwide straitjacket on academic freedom and achievement.” This resolution and efforts under way to repeal the Core Standards in several states are misguided and have to be resisted.
Mathematical education in the U.S. is in deep crisis. The World Economic Forum ranks the quality of math and science education in the U.S. a dismal 48th. This is one of the reasons the 2010 report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” by the National Academies warned that America’s ability to compete effectively with other nations is fading.

“Sadly, many teachers working with our children at the start of their mathematical journeys are not themselves comfortable with the mathematics they are trying to teach.”

Susan Schwartz Wildstrom:

I am moved to respond to Sol Garfunkel’s “Opinion” article.1 I am a long-time high school mathematics teacher in a public school. I started teaching around the time of SMSG and have been in the trenches throughout several of the math wars. I know Dr. Garfunkel’s fine work in creating interesting modeling projects and his outspoken opinion that using technology to solve problems that apply the mathematics we are teaching will better concretize students’ understanding of the underlying mathematics. It sounds like a fine idea, but the reality is often very different.
Our problems in teaching mathematics begin in elementary school. Sadly, many teachers working with our children at the start of their mathematical journeys are not themselves comfortable with the mathematics they are trying to teach. They often only know one way to teach an idea and they may not fully understand how that method works and why it gives the right answers. Such a teacher confronted with an alternate creative method (perhaps suggested by a clever child or a seasoned colleague) may reject the alternative rather than trying to see how and why two methods produce the same result. Beyond stifling the creativity of students and discouraging them from trying to see how the mathematics works, such an approach is not fertile ground for applications and modeling projects in which creative exploration and possibly unorthodox methods are encouraged as a means of truly understanding what is happening. Teachers who lack confidence in their own understanding of the ideas may not want to include these sorts of activities in their classrooms.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

Math…. “Introducing the 97-Month Car Loan”

Mike Ramsey:

Last month Nakisha Bishop took out a loan to buy a $23,000 Toyota Camry and pay off several thousand dollars still owed on her old car. The key to making it work: she got more than six years–75 months in all–to pay it off.
“I had a new baby on the way, and I was trying to keep my monthly payment a little bit lower to help afford child care,” Ms. Bishop, a 34-year-old sheriff’s deputy in Palm Beach County, Fla., said recently. She pays $480 a month for the 2013 Camry, just $5 a month more than the note on her old car. The car won’t be paid off until her 1-month-old daughter is heading to first grade.
Ms. Bishop’s 75-month loan illustrates two important trends rippling through the U.S. auto industry. Rising new-car prices and competition among lenders to attract borrowers is pushing loans to lengthier terms. In part, banks see the longer terms as a way to attract buyers, by keeping monthly payments under $500 a month.

Related: Math Forum.

It’s Time to Turn the Page on Math in Seattle Schools

Rick Burke:

Days are getting longer, the weather is warmer. The smell of spring is in the air. But if you inhale deeply down by JSCEE, there’s another smell. It’s the smell of math. After years of sideways movement, the stars are aligned for systemic changes to math instruction in Seattle Public Schools.
When you look at Seattle kids’ math achievement against other urban districts, Seattle might seem to be doing OK. As a district-level statistic, we’re not too bad. But closer inspection of disaggregated data and the view from inside the system prompt a cry for help. Seattle still has a large number of struggling students and a persistent achievement gap which we can’t shake. Outside tutoring has become commonplace, with math as the most frequent remediation subject. However, recent national and state developments have identified common ground and outcome-proven methods which can serve as a model for Seattle.
This brings us around to a community support initiative for math education. Seattle has a math-focused School Board, and Seattle’s new superintendent, Jose Banda, came to Seattle from proven math success with a diverse student population in Anaheim. Recent news reports are that staff at JSCEE are planning a K-8 math instructional materials adoption soon. Examples of success are scattered through Seattle classrooms and it’s time for those successes to take root across the district.

Related: Math forum audio/video and Seattle’s “Discovery Math” lawsuit.

A Math Teacher on Common Core Standards

Stephanie Sawyer, via a kind reader’s email:

I don’t think the common core math standards are good for most kids, not just the Title I students. While they are certainly more focused than the previous NCTM-inspired state standards, which were a horrifying hodge-podge of material, they still basically put the intellectual cart before the horse. They pay lip service to actually practicing standard algorithms. Seriously, students don’t have to be fluent in addition and subtraction with the standard algorithms until 4th grade?
I teach high school math. I took a break to work in the private sector from 2002 to 2009. Since my return, I have been stunned by my students’ lack of basic skills. How can I teach algebra 2 students about rational expressions when they can’t even deal with fractions with numbers?
Please don’t tell me this is a result of the rote learning that goes on in grade- and middle-school math classes, because I’m pretty sure that’s not what is happening at all. If that were true, I would have a room full of students who could divide fractions. But for some reason, most of them can’t, and don’t even know where to start.
I find it fascinating that students who have been looking at fractions from 3rd grade through 8th grade still can’t actually do anything with them. Yet I can ask adults over 35 how to add fractions and most can tell me. And do it. And I’m fairly certain they get the concept. There is something to be said for “traditional” methods and curriculum when looked at from this perspective.
Grade schools have been using Everyday Math and other incarnations for a good 5 to 10 years now, even more in some parts of the country. These are kids who have been taught the concept way before the algorithm, which is basically what the Common Core seems to promote. I have a 4th grade son who attends a school using Everyday Math. Luckily, he’s sharp enough to overcome the deficits inherent in the program. When asked to convert 568 inches to feet, he told me he needed to divide by 12, since he had to split the 568 into groups of 12. Yippee. He gets the concept. So I said to him, well, do it already! He explained that he couldn’t, since he only knew up to 12 times 12. But he did, after 7 agonizing minutes of developing his own iterated-subtraction-while-tallying system, tell me that 568 inches was 47 feet, 4 inches. Well, he got it right. But to be honest, I was mad; he could’ve done in a minute what ended up taking 7. And he already got the concept, since he knew he had to divide; he just needed to know how to actually do it. From my reading of the common core, that’s a great story. I can’t say I feel the same.
If Everyday Math and similar programs are what is in store for implementing the common core standards for math, then I think we will continue to see an increase in remedial math instruction in high schools and colleges. Or at least an increase in the clientele of the private tutoring centers, which do teach basic math skills.

Related links: Math Forum.

In L.A., inexperienced teachers more likely to be assigned to students behind in math, study says

Teresa Watanabe:

A new study has found that inexperienced teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are disproportionately more likely to be assigned to lower-performing math students, perpetuating the achievement gap.
The study also found that L.A. Unified teachers “vary substantially” in their effectiveness, with top teachers able to give students the equivalent of eight additional months of learning in a year compared with weaker instructors.
Such findings raise “deep concerns,” said Drew Furedi, the district’s executive director of talent management, who oversees teacher training. “For us, it’s a call to action.”
The study by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, analyzed the performance of about 30% of L.A. Unified teachers and presented findings based primarily on students’ standardized math test scores from 2005 through 2011 in grades three through eight. The study’s authors acknowledged that test scores were only one measure of teacher effectiveness.
….
The study also found:
Teacher effects vary substantially in LAUSD, more than in many other districts. The difference between a 25th and 75th percentile elementary math teacher is over one-quarter of a standard deviation, which is roughly equivalent to a student having eight additional months of instruction in a calendar year.
Teach for America and Career Ladder teachers have higher math effects on average than other novices in their first year by 0.05 and 0.03 standard deviations respectively, which is roughly equivalent to one to two months of additional learning. These differences persist over time
The performance of math teachers improved quickly in the first five years, then leveled off.
Those with advanced degrees were no more effective than those without, although L.A. Unified pays more to teachers pursuing such degrees.
Long-term substitute teachers — who have been employed more frequently to fill in amid widespread layoffs — have positive effects in teaching middle-school math

View the complete 1.4MB PDF study, here.
Related: Math forum audio/video.

UW-La Crosse gets $50K from the Gates Foundation to improve remedial math

channel3000:

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has received a $50,000 grant to help incoming students who need remedial math courses.
The UW System says one in five incoming freshmen needs remedial math. And for under-represented minority students, that figure is double.
To bring those students up to speed faster, the La Crosse campus is using the grant money to develop an online math course. The program will be available to high school students who want to evaluate how ready they are for college, and for non-traditional students who’ve been away from school and need a refresher before coming back.

Remarkable. Are we making no progress? Perhaps it is time to revisit the math forum audio and video.
Related:
What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack and Michael fish.

Why Math Teachers Feel Poorly Prepared

Anna Kuchment:

When William Schmidt, an expert on math education at Michigan State University, moved his family from East Lansing to Charlottesville, Virginia for a year’s research leave, his work took a personal turn. He noticed that the public school his daughters would be attending outside Charlottesville was academically behind the one they had attended in Michigan. Back home, his 2nd grade daughter would be learning multiplication tables up through the number 5, yet in Charlottesville, multiplication was not even part of his local school’s second grade curriculum.
His daughter’s experience, he explains in a new book excerpted below, is not unique. ” The [American] system of schooling represents a game of chance that few are even aware is being played,” he writes in “Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools,” co- written with Curtis C. McKnight. The inequalities pose a risk to every child, they write, regardless of socioeconomic background or race. They stem from differences in state education standards, in school funding, in curricula that districts choose to adopt and in the content that individual classroom teachers choose to teach. In this excerpt, Schmidt and McKnight focus on variations in how math teachers are trained and how that, in turn, affects student achievement.
The following is excerpted from Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools, by William H. Schmidt and Curtis C. McKnight. (Teachers College Press, 2012).

Related: Math Forum.

Madison School Board Candidates Face Tough Questions At Forum

channel3000:

In a room filled with rough drywall and lives that took left turns when most would have gone right, four energetic school board candidates and students who said they feel failed by Madison’s schools gathered on Wednesday night for a forum featuring Madison school board candidates.
Participants in Operation Fresh Start, a program that helps Dane County youth get back on a path to success, hosted Wednesday’s forum at the program office.
At the front were three newcomers: Mary Burke and Michael Flores are vying for the Board of Education seat being vacated by Lucy Mathiak. Then, there’s Nichelle Nichols, who is challenging incumbent board member Arlene Silveira, who is working to show she hasn’t always sided with the superintendent.
Some attendees asked the candidates pointed questions: “Do you support the current superintendent?” was one question.

Math Curriculum: School District’s Activities Should be an Open Book

Laurie Rogers:

Since January 2007, I’ve attempted repeatedly and in myriad ways to persuade Spokane Public Schools‘ leadership to provide teachers with good math materials so that our children will gain sufficient basic math skills. It’s an effort you’d think would be welcome, respected, and relatively painless. Alas.
In 2008, after repeated failed efforts to get a conversation going with the district or with the daily newspaper, I decided to take that conversation public. Thus was born my blog, Betrayed. Shortly after that, I began writing my book, Betrayed: How the Education Establishment Has Betrayed America and What You Can Do about it. The book was published in January 2011, and shortly thereafter, I worked with two professionals to hold public forums in Spokane and talk directly with the people. The district leadership does not appear to appreciate my efforts to inform the people and try to get the children the mathematics they need.
A school district’s activities should be an open book to the community that pays for them. My blog, book and advocacy all required thorough and accurate information. Therefore, over these nearly five years of effort, I’ve had to file public records requests with the district in order to obtain pertinent information that wasn’t available in any other venue. For records other than internal district communications, my searches usually went like this:

Montgomery schools’ decision to slow pace of math courses divides parents

Michael Birnbaum

One recent night, Mackenzie Stassel was cramming for a quiz in her advanced math course in Montgomery County. Her review of the complicated topics followed hours of other homework. Eventually she started to nod off at the table.
It was 11:15 p.m. Mackenzie is a sixth-grader.
There will be fewer such nights in the future for many Montgomery students.
Last month, Maryland’s largest school system announced that it would significantly curtail its practice of pushing large numbers of elementary and middle school students to skip grade levels in math. Parents had questioned the payoff of acceleration; teachers had said students in even the most advanced classes were missing some basics.

Related: Math Forum and Madison’s Math Task Force.

One-time funds to train 153 Oshkosh teachers to help students with math

Adam Rodewald

New spending approved by the Oshkosh school board would cover a gap in math tutoring services that has left four schools with inadequate help for struggling students since last year.
About 13 percent of Oshkosh elementary school students perform below grade level in math, said Director of Curriculum Shelly Muza.
That’s better than the average Wisconsin district, which has about 25 percent of elementary students performing below grade level. But budget cuts in the 2009-10 academic year stripped Oakwood, Carl Traeger, Lakeside and Green Meadow schools of math support services after the board decided to fund the $295,000 program with federal Title I dollars – money given only to schools with higher rates of poverty – instead of general fund dollars.
The remaining math intervention teachers who work one-on-one with struggling students can barely keep up. The equivalent of 4.25 full-time teachers are split between about 570 students in 12 elementary schools, said Muza.

Two relate links: Math Forum Audio, Video & Links; Math Task Force.

Seattle Public Schools Administration Response to the Discovery Math Public Lawsuit Loss

602K PDF.

Respondents focus their brief on arguing that no reasonable school board would adopt “inquiry-based” high school mathematics textbooks instead of “direct instruction” textbooks. There are “dueling experts” and other conflicting evidence regarding the best available material for teaching high school math, and the Seattle School Board (“the Board”) gave due consideration to both sides of the debate before reaching its quasi legislative decision to adopt the Discovering series and other textbooks on a 4-3 vote.
The trial court erred by substituting its judgment for the Board’s in determining how much weight to place on the conflicting evidence. Several of the “facts” alleged in the Brief of Respondents (“BR”) are inaccurate, misleading, or lack any citation to the record in violation of RAP l0.3(a)(4). The Court should have an accurate view of the facts in the record to decide the important legal issues in this case. The Board is, therefore, compelled to correct any misimpressions that could arise from an unwary reading of respondents’ characterization of the facts.

Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here. http://seattlemathgroup.blogspot.com/. Clusty Search: Discovery Math.
Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

Math Curricula

Charlie Mas:

I know that I’m inviting trouble with this, but something that Reader wrote in a comment on another thread piqued my interest. I would like to discuss only a narrow question. Please don’t expand the discussion.
Writing about Everyday Math and Singapore, Reader wrote: “The fact is, the newer curricula stress more problem solving and discovery. That is, it’s doing more than a lot of older curricula.”
Here’s my question: can problem-solving be taught?
I mean this in the nicest possible way and I don’t have an answer myself. I’m not sure, I’m asking. Can people be taught or trained in problem-solving techniques or is it a talent that some people just natively have more than others? Problem solving requires a certain amount of creativity, doesn’t it? It can require a flexibility of perspective, curiosity, persistence, and pattern recognition. Can these things be taught or trained?

Related: Math Forum audio/video links.

School Districts vs. A Good Math Education

Charlie Mas:

If you are a parent in cities such as Bellevue, Issaquah or Seattle, your kids are being short-changed–being provided an inferior math education that could cripple their future aspirations–and you need to act. This blog will tell the story of an unresponsive and wrong-headed educational bureaucracies that are dead set on continuing in the current direction. And it will tell the story of how this disaster can be turned around. Parent or not, your future depends on dealing with the problem.
Let me provide you with a view from the battlefield of the math “wars”, including some information that is generally not known publicly, or has been actively suppressed by the educational establishment. Of lawsuits and locking parents out of decision making.
I know that some of you would rather that I only talk about weather, but the future of my discipline and of our highly technological society depends on mathematically literate students. Increasingly, I am finding bright students unable to complete a major in atmospheric sciences. All their lives they wanted to be a meteorologist and problems with math had ended their dreams. Most of them had excellent math grades in high school. I have talked in the past about problems with reform or discovery math; an unproven ideology-based instructional approach in vogue among the educational establishment. An approach based on student’s “discovering” math principles, group learning, heavy use of calculators, lack of practice and skills building, and heavy use of superficial “spiraling” of subject matter. As I have noted before in this blog, there is no competent research that shows that this approach works and plenty to show that it doesn’t. But I have covered much of this already in earlier blogs.

Related: Math Forum audio / video.

More Rhetoric on the Seattle School District’s Court Loss on the Use of Discovery Math

Melissa Westbrook:

For entertainment value read the Discovering Math Q&A in this article in the Seattle Times. The Discovering Math guy (1) doesn’t always answer the question asked, (2) answers but doesn’t address the topic properly – see the question on if Discovering Math is “mathematically unsound” and (3) sounds like he works for the district.
Here’s one example:
The Discovering books have been criticized by parents, but they’ve been the top pick of a couple of districts in our area, including Seattle and Issaquah. Any thoughts on why the textbooks seem to be more popular with educators than with parents?
Ryan: I think because (parents) lack familiarity — this doesn’t look like what I was taught. I don’t know how you get students to a place where more is required of them by repeating things that have been done in the past. That’s not how we move forward in life.
What?

Much more on the successful community lawsuit vs. the Seattle School District’s implementation of Discovery Math. Math Forum audio / video.

The secret of Schmitz Park Elementary School is Singapore Math

Bruce Ramsey:

Sally made 500 gingerbread men. She sold 3/4 of them and gave away 2/5 of the remainder. How many did she give away?
This was one of the homework questions in Craig Parsley’s fifth-grade class. The kids are showing their answers on the overhead projector. They are in a fun mood, using class nicknames. First up is “Crackle,” a boy. The class hears from “Caveman,” “Annapurna,” “Shortcut” and “Fred,” a girl.
Each has drawn a ruler with segments labeled by number — on the problem above, “3/4,” “2/5” and “500.” Below the ruler is some arithmetic and an answer.
“Who has this as a single mathematical expression? Who has the guts?” Parsley asks. No one, yet — but they will.
This is not the way math is taught in other Seattle public schools. It is Singapore Math, adopted from the Asian city-state whose kids test at the top of the world. Since the 2007-08 year, Singapore Math has been taught at Schmitz Park Elementary in West Seattle — and only there in the district.
In the war over school math — in which a judge recently ordered Seattle Public Schools to redo its choice of high-school math — Schmitz Park is a redoubt or, it hopes, a beachhead. North Beach is a redoubt for Saxon Math, a traditional program. Both schools have permission to be different. The rest of the district’s elementary schools use Everyday Math, a curriculum influenced by the constructivist or reform methods.

Related: Math Forum Audio / Video.

Madison School District Administration Response to the Math Task Force

The local school district’s increasing use of reform math programs lead to the creation of a “Math Task Force“. The District Administration’s response is outlined in this 2.6MB PDF document:

The purpose of this report is to describe the recomrnendations in response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Mathematics Task Force Report: Review of Mathematics Curriculum and Related Issues, submitted to the Board of Education June, 2008.
Administrative Recommendations Summary The materials included in this packet update and replace those distributed to the Board of Education in April 2009. Included in the materials is a proposed budget.
Middle School Mathematics Specialists (see Recommendations 1-5)
The Superintendent and UW-Madison Deans of Letters and Sciences and the School of Education commissioned a representative and collaborative group to design a professional development plan for this initiative. The group was convened in June and has since met four times during the summer to research and design a professional development plan to support middle school mathematics teachers.
The Middle School Math Partnership committee has tentatively planned five courses for the professional development proposal. Those courses are Number and Generalization, Rational Number and Proportional Reasoning, Geometry, Measurement and Trigonometry, and Algebra and Functions. The courses would be spread out over two years and be co-facilitated by UW and MMSD staff.
Research, data gathering and design will continue through 2009-2010 with the initial cohort of middle school teachers beginning in summer 2010. Upon completion of an initial draft, the plan will be presented to district teachers for further input and refinement.
In collaboration with the above group, a National Science Foundation Targeted Partnership proposal, Professional Learning Partnership K-20 (PLP K-20), was submitted on August 20, 2009. A UW-Madison and MMSD team of nearly 30 members worked during the summer to craft a proposal focused on systemic and sustainable mathematics professional development. The vision described in the proposal creates “a lasting interface to coordinate material, human, social, and cyber resources” among the UW-Madison and District. The principal investigator of the NSF proposal is Eric Wilcots. Co-Pl’s include Provost Deluca, Superintendent Nerad, Dean Sandefur and Dean Underwood.

Background notes and links:

Again, it will be interesting to see what, if any substantive changes occur in the local math programs.

Math illiteracy

This site continues to mention math curricula challenges from time to time, and as long as I am around, and have community math experiences, it will continue to do so.
I try to visit Madison’s wonderful Farmer’s Market weekly. This past weekend, I purchased some fabulous raspberries from an older Hmong couple. Their raspberries are the best. Unfortunately, while I made my purchase, they asked how much change I was due, something I saw repeated with other buyers. They periodically have a younger person around to handle the transactions, or a calculator.
Purchasing tickets at high school sporting events presents yet another opportunity to evaluate high schooler’s basic, but ESSENTIAL math skills. A Dane County teenager could not make change from $10 for three $2 tickets recently. I have experienced this at local retail establishments as well.
Unfortunately, the “Discovery” approach to math does not appear work….

Madison School District Elementary Math Curriculum Purchases

Superintendent Dan Nerad [64K PDF]:

MMSD has begun a three-year implementation plan to achieve an equitable and balanced mathematics program at tbe elementary level. The plan was developed and refined through collaboration with teachers, Instructional Resource Teachers and principals over the course of the past several years. The plan includes the materials described below (details via this 64K PDF),
With the attached order, MMSD has provided each classroom teacher in the District with a Learning Mathematics in the Primary/Intermediate Grades instructional guide and the set of teacher resources from the Investigations program. The third component of the teacher materials is Teaching Student Centered Mathematics by John Van de Walle, which is in place in most classrooms but will continue to be ordered using ELM or Title I funds, as necessary. Additional professional resources have been or are being purchased at the building level to create a library available for all staff to access as needed. Those resources include Primary Mathematics textbooks and teacher guides, Thinking Mathematically and Children’s Mathematics by Thomas Carpenter, Teaching Number series from Wright, among other recommended titles.
MMSD has provided all Title I schools with the Primary Mathematics (Singapore) workbooks and Extra Practice workbooks for the 2009-2010 school year. All manipulatives have been ordered for Title I schools over tbe past two years and are in place. Non-Title I schools have been and will continue to use ELM funds to purchase tbe student components for the implementation of a balanced mathematics classroom.

Related:

Discovery learning in math: Exercises versus problems Part I

Barry Garelick, via email:

By way of introduction, I am neither mathematician nor mathematics teacher, but I majored in math and have used it throughout my career, especially in the last 17 years as an analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. My love of and facility with math is due to good teaching and good textbooks. The teachers I had in primary and secondary school provided explicit instruction and answered students’ questions; they also posed challenging problems that required us to apply what we had learned. The textbooks I used also contained explanations of the material with examples that showed every step of the problem solving process.
I fully expected the same for my daughter, but after seeing what passed for mathematics in her elementary school, I became increasingly distressed over how math is currently taught in many schools.
Optimistically believing that I could make a difference in at least a few students’ lives, I decided to teach math when I retire. I enrolled in education school about two years ago, and have only a 15-week student teaching requirement to go. Although I had a fairly good idea of what I was in for with respect to educational theories, I was still dismayed at what I found in my mathematics education courses.
In class after class, I have heard that when students discover material for themselves, they supposedly learn it more deeply than when it is taught directly. Similarly, I have heard that although direct instruction is effective in helping students learn and use algorithms, it is allegedly ineffective in helping students develop mathematical thinking. Throughout these courses, a general belief has prevailed that answering students’ questions and providing explicit instruction are “handing it to the student” and preventing them from “constructing their own knowledge”–to use the appropriate terminology. Overall, however, I have found that there is general confusion about what “discovery learning” actually means. I hope to make clear in this article what it means, and to identify effective and ineffective methods to foster learning through discovery.

Garelick’s part ii on Discovery learning can be found here.
Related: The Madison School District purchases Singapore Math workbooks with no textbooks or teacher guides. Much more on math here.

Singapore Math Workbook Only Purchase Discussion (No textbooks or teacher guides) at the Madison School Board

26MB mp3 audio file. Marj Passman, Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole raised a number of questions regarding the purchase of $69K worth of Singapore Math Workbooks (using Federal tax dollars via “Title 1“) without textbooks or teacher’s guides at Monday evening’s Board Meeting. The purchase proceeded, via a 5-2 vote. Ed Hughes and Beth Moss supported the Administration’s request, along with three other board members.
Related Links:

The Madison Math Task Force Report [3.9MB PDF] found that local elementary school teachers used the following curricular materials (page 166):

What, if anything has the Math Task Force report addressed?

Is Wisconsin state-of-the-art for K-12 science and math education?

Anneliese Dickman:

The Public Policy Forum’s latest report, released today, finds that of the 10 career clusters predicted to grow the most over the next five years, seven include occupations requiring strong backgrounds in science, math, technology, or engineering (STEM). Of the 10 specific jobs predicted to be the fastest growing in the state, eight require STEM skills or knowledge and six require a post-secondary degree.
Do Wisconsin’s state educational policies reflect this growing need for STEM-savvy and skilled workers? Are Wisconsin education officials focusing on STEM in a coherent and coordinated way? Our new report probes those issues by examining state workforce development data and reviewing state-level policies and standards that impact STEM education.
We present several policy options that could be considered to build on localized STEM initiatives and establish a greater statewide imperative to prioritize STEM activities in coordination with workforce needs. Those include:

Amy Hetzner has more.

Superintendent Dan Nerad’s Response to “Action Needed, Please Sign on…. Math Teacher Hiring in the Madison School District”

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad via email:

Dr. Mertz-
Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding this critical issue in our middle schools. We will continue to follow the conversation and legislative process regarding hiring Teach for America and Math for America candidates. We have similar concerns to those laid out by UW Professors Hewson and Knuth (http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/forum/451220). In particular they stated, “Although subject-matter knowledge is essential to good teaching, the knowledge required for teaching is significantly different from that used by math and science professionals.” This may mean that this will not be a cost effective or efficient solution to a more complex problem than many believe it to be. These candidates very well may need the same professional learning opportunities that we are working with the UW to create for our current staff. The leading researchers on this topic are Ball, Bass and Hill from the University of Michigan. More information on their work can be found at (http://sitemaker.umich.edu/lmt/home). We are committed to improving the experience our students have in our mathematics class and will strive to hire the most qualified teachers and continue to strengthen our existing staff.
Dan Nerad

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack & Michael Fish [280K PDF], via a kind reader’s email UW Center for Placement Testing [Link to Papers]:

Major Findings:

  • CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students
  • Change in performance was observed immediately after switch
  • Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly – Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis
  • CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as the traditional – AP students – Both sample sizes were low


Related:

[280K PDF Complete Presentation]

In Favor of Everyday Math; Middleton Cross Plains Math Scores Soar

Angela Bettis:

The most recent research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that American 15-year-olds are behind their International counterparts when it comes to problem solving and math literacy.


The report showed the U.S. ranks 24th out of 29 nations.


But a math program, gaining in popularity, is trying to change that.
The program is called Everyday Math.


Lori Rusch is a fourth grade teacher at Middleton’s Elm Lawn Elementary. This year she teaches an advanced math class.


On Monday, students in Rusch’s class were mastering fractions and percentages.


But her students began learning fractions and percentages in first grade.

“We’ve been incredibly successful with it,” said Middleton’s curriculum director George Marvoulis. “Our students on all of our comparative assessments like WKCE, Explorer Plan, ACT, our students score higher in math than any other subject area so we’ve been very pleased.”


According to Marvoulis, Middleton was one of the first school districts in the nation to use the Everyday Math program in 1994.


“The concept is kind of a toolbox of different tools they can use to solve a problem,” explained Marvoulis.

Related: Math Forum and Clusty Search on Everyday Math.

Seattle School Board Delays New Math Program

Nick Eaton:

Divided on whether to adopt a recommended new high school textbook program Wednesday, the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors postponed voting on the issue until next month.


The reason? The attending directors, indicating how they planned to vote, split 3-3 on Wednesday. Director Cheryl Chow, who was absent while traveling, could be the tie-breaker at the board’s May 6 meeting.


“This is one of the few times when we have the opportunity to change the direction when it comes to the school district’s instruction,” board President Michael DeBell said.


No official vote took place, but DeBell said he planned to vote against the math-adoption motion.


Up for approval was a policy that would overhaul the Seattle school district’s math program by adopting new textbooks, standardizing its curriculum and renaming its classes. The Integrated Math 2 classes, for example, would become Advanced Algebra, said Anna-Maria de la Fuente, the district’s K-12 mathematics program coordinator.



A Seattle Public Schools math committee, after about six months of investigation and debate, recommended a textbook program called Discovering Mathematics for all of the district’s math classes, except for statistics.

Much more on math here.

Madison School District Math Program: Proposal to Increase Teacher Training and Teaching & Learning Staff

Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting will discuss a proposal to increase math teacher training and add staff to the Teaching & Learning Department. 215K PDF.

Interestingly, the latest document includes these words:

MMSD Teaching & Learning Staff and local Institute of Higher Education (IHE) Faculty work collaboratively to design a two-year professional development program aimed at deepening the mathematical content knowledge of MMSD middle school mathematics…

It is unusual to not mention the University of Wisconsin School of Education in these documents…. The UW-Madison School of Education has had a significant role in many Madison School District curriculum initiatives.

Related:

Math on the Madison School Board’s Agenda this Evening

The Madison School District Board of Education will discuss this “Administrative Response” to the recent Math Task Force [452K PDF]. Links: Math Task Force, Math Forum and a letter to Isthmus from a group of West High School Math Teachers.

District-Wide Reform of Mathematics and Science Instruction: Case Studies of Four SCALE Partner Districts

William Clune:

This paper is a synthesis of case studies of four districts that implemented multifaceted reforms aimed at offering rigorous instruction in mathematics and science for all students as part of a National Science Foundation-supported partnership. A common theory of action aimed for a rigorous curriculum, professional development delivered close to the point of instruction, monitoring of instructional quality, and system coordination. Immersion units would offer an in-depth experience in scientific inquiry to all students. The theory of action was successful in many ways. Excellent access to top management allowed the partnership to assist with multiple aligned dimensions of instructional guidance. The biggest obstacles were turnover in district leadership, loose coupling across departments, attenuation of vertical alignment through overload of instructional guidance, and insufficient budget for adequate school site support (e.g., coaches). Greater coherence resulted from delivery of instructional guidance closer to schools and teachers, as with science immersion. The study suggests that complete, affordable packages of instructional guidance delivered to the school level district-wide might be the best model for district reform.

Related: Math Forum, Madison School District’s Math Task Force and the significant role that the UW-Madison School of Education has had in Madison School District curriculum decisions (see links and notes in this post’s comments)

Math Performance Anxiety

Debra Saunders:

n the 1990s, the Math Wars pitted two philosophies against each other. One side argued for content-based standards – that elementary school students must memorize multiplication tables by third grade. The other side argued for students to discover math, unfettered by “drill and kill” exercises.
When the new 1994 California Learning Assessment Test trained test graders to award a higher score to a child with a wrong answer (but good essay) than to a student who successfully solved a math problem, but without a cute explanation, the battle was on. New-new math was quickly dubbed “fuzzy crap.” By the end of the decade, repentant educators passed solid math standards.
Yet the Math Wars continue in California, as well as in New Jersey, Oregon and elsewhere. In Palo Alto, parent and former Bush education official Ze’ev Wurman is one of a group of parents who oppose the Palo Alto Unified School District Board’s April 14 vote to use “Everyday Mathematics” in grades K-5. Wurman recognizes that the “fuzzies” aren’t as fuzzy as they used to be, but also believes that state educators who approve math texts “fell asleep at the switch” when they approved the “Everyday” series in 2007.
The “Everyday” approach supports “spiraling” what students learn over as long as two or more years. As an Everyday teacher guide explained, “If we can, as a matter of principle and practice, avoid anxiety about children ‘getting’ something the first time around, then children will be more relaxed and pick up part or all of what they need. They may not initially remember it, but with appropriate reminders, they will very likely recall, recognize, and get a better grip on the skill or concept when it comes around again in a new format or application-as it will!” Those are my italics – to highlight the “fuzzies’ ” performance anxiety.

Related: Math Forum.

Madison School District Candidate Forum 4/4/2009

via Laurel Cavalluzzo:

WHAT: Board of Education Candidate Forum
with Arlene Silveira Lucy Mathiak Donald Gors
WHEN: April 4, 2009 10-noon
WHERE: Lakeview Public Library
2845 N Sherman Ave. [Map]
Madison, WI 53704
(608) 246-4547
Open to the public
Learn more about candidate’s positions on issues important to our schools and our communities.
SPONSERED BY:
Lakewood Gardens Neighborhood Committee
WI Charter School Assn
Nuestro Mundo, Inc.

Washington State High School Math Text Review

W. Stephen Wilson: 285K PDF via a kind reader’s email:

A few basic goals of high school mathematics will be looked at closely in the top programs chosen for high school by the state of Washington. Our concern will be with the mathematical development and coherence of the programs and not with issues of pedagogy.
Algebra: linear functions, equations, and inequalities
We examine the algebraic concepts and skills associated with linear functions because they are a critical foundation for the further study of algebra. We focus our evaluation of the programs on the following Washington standard: A1.4.B Write and graph an equation for a line given the slope and the y intercept, the slope and a point on the line, or two points on the line, and translate between forms of linear equations.
We also consider how well the programs meet the following important standard: A1.1.B Solve problems that can be represented by linear functions, equations, and inequalities.
Linear functions, equations, and inequalities in Holt
We review Chapter 5 of Holt Algebra 1 on linear functions.
The study of linear equations and their graphs in Chapter 5 begins with a flawed foundation. Because this is so common, it will not be emphasized, but teachers need to compensate for these problems.
Three foundational issues are not dealt with at all. First, it is not shown that the definition of slope works for a line in the plane. The definition, as given, produces a ratio for every pair of points on the line. It is true that for a line these are all the same ratios, but no attempt is made to show that. Second, no attempt is made to show that a line in the plane is the graph of a linear equation; it is just asserted.
Third, it not shown that the graph of a linear equation is a line; again, it is just asserted.

Related: Math Forum and Madison’s Math Task Force.

Madison Math Task Force Public Session Wednesday Evening 1/14/2009

The public is invited to attend the Cherokee Middle School PTO’s meeting this Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The Madison School District will present it’s recent Math Task Force findings at 7:00p.m. in the Library.
Cherokee Middle School
4301 Cherokee Dr
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 204-1240

Notes, audio and links from a recent meeting can be found here.
A few notes from Wednesday evening’s meeting:

  • A participant asked why the report focused on Middle Schools. The impetus behind the effort was the ongoing controversy over the Madison School District’s use of Connected Math.
  • Madison’s math coordinator, Brian Sniff, mentioned that the District sought a “neutral group, people not very vocal one end or the other”. Terry Millar, while not officially part of the task force, has been very involved in the District’s use of reform math programs (Connected Math) for a number of years and was present at the meeting. The 2003, $200,000 SCALE (System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators” (Award # EHR-0227016 (Clusty Search), CFDA # 47.076 (Clusty Search)), from the National Science Foundation) agreement between the UW School of Education (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) names Terry as the principal investigator [340K PDF]. The SCALE project has continued each year, since 2003. Interestingly, the 2008 SCALE agreement ([315K PDF] page 6) references the controversial “standards based report cards” as a deliverable by June, 2008, small learning communities (page 3) and “Science Standards Based Differentiated Assessments for Connected Math” (page 6). The document also references a budget increase to $812,336. (additional SCALE agreements, subsequent to 2003: two, three, four)
  • Task force member Dr. Mitchell Nathan is Director of AWAKEN [1.1MB PDF]:

    Agreement for Releasing Data and Conducting Research for
    AWAKEN Project in Madison Metropolitan School District
    The Aligning Educational Experiences with Ways of Knowing Engineering (AWAKEN) Project (NSF giant #EEC-0648267 (Clusty search)) aims to contribute to the long-term goal of fostering a larger, more diverse and more able pool of engineers in the United States. We propose to do so by looking at engineering education as a system or continuous developmental experience from secondary education through professional practice….
    In collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), AWAKEN researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER) will study and report on science, mathematics, and Career and Technical Education (specifically Project Lead The Way) curricula in the district.

  • Task force member David Griffeath, a UW-Madison math professor provided $6,000 worth of consulting services to the District.
  • Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater is now working in the UW-Madison School of Education. He appointed (and the board approved) the members of the Math Task Force.

Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak recently said that the “conversation about math is far from over”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
I am particularly interested in what the ties between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District mean for the upcoming “Strategic Planning Process” [49K PDF]. The presence of the term “standards based report cards” and “small learning communities” within one of the SCALE agreements makes me wonder who is actually driving the District. In other words, are the grants driving decision making?
Finally, it is worth reviewing the audio, notes and links from the 2005 Math Forum, including UW-Madison math professor emeritus Dick Askey’s look at the School District’s data.
Related: The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor.

Madison Math Program Public Input Session

The Madison School District Administration held a public input session on the recent Math Task Force report [3.9MB PDF] last evening at Memorial High School. Superintendent Dan Nerad opened and closed the meeting, which featured about 56 attendees, at least half of whom appeared to be district teachers and staff. Math Coordinator Brian Sniff ran the meeting.
Task force member and UW-Madison Professor Mitchell Nathan [Clusty Search] was in attendance along with Terry Millar, a UW-Madison Professor who has been very involved in the Madison School District’s math programs for many years. (Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater recently joined the UW-Madison Center for Education Research, among other appointments). UW-Madison Math professor Steffen Lempp attended as did school board President Arlene Silveira and board members Ed Hughes and Beth Moss. Jill Jokela, the parent representative on the Math Task Force, was also present.
Listen via this 30MB mp3 audio file. 5.5MB PDF Handout.
Related:

Mathmetician The Best Job in the US; Madison Math Task Force Community Meetings Tonight & Tomorrow

Sarah Needleman:

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation — mathematician — has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.
“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school,” says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. “It’s the science of problem-solving.”
The study, to be released Tuesday from CareerCast.com, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. (CareerCast.com is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)
The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac,” and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz’s own expertise.
According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions — indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise — unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren’t expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching — attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber.
The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160, but Ms. Courter, 38, says her salary exceeds that amount.

Related:

Parents and citizens have another opportunity to provide input on this matter when Brian Sniff, Madison’s Math Coordinator and Lisa Wachtel, Director of Madison’s Teaching & Learning discuss the Math Report at a Cherokee Middle School PTO meeting on January 14, 2009 at 7:00p.m.

Madison School District seeks input on proposed math changes

Andy Hall:

A series of potentially controversial proposals will be outlined next week as residents are invited to help shape how math is taught in the Madison School District.
Among the recommendations from a task force that recently completed a one-year study:
• Switch to full-time math teachers for all students in grades five through eight.
• The math task force’s executive summary and full report
• Substantially boost the training of math teachers.
• Seriously consider selecting a single textbook for each grade level or course in the district, rather than having a variety of textbooks used in schools across the district.
The task force was created in 2006 by the Madison School Board to independently review the district’s math programs and seek ways to improve students’ performance.

Related links:

U.S. students’ math, science scores deliver mixed results

Greg Toppo:

If there were a math-and-science Olympics for elementary and middle schoolers, USA students could hold their heads high — they’re consistently better than average. In math, it turns out, they’re improving substantially, even as a few powerhouse nations see their scores drop.
But at the end of the day, the USA never quite makes it to the medal podium, a dilemma that has educators and policymakers divided, with some saying factors outside school play a key role in both achievement and productivity in general.
For the first time since 2003, the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, a battery of international math and science tests among dozens of nations, are out — and they paint a somewhat mixed picture of achievement: On the one hand, the USA ranks consistently above international averages in both subjects.
On the other hand, several nations consistently outscore our fourth- and eighth-graders, with a few countries turning in eye-popping performances.

Joanne has more along with Gerald Bracey:

First, comparing nations on average scores is a pretty silly idea. It’s like ranking runners based on average shoe size or evaluating the high school football team on the basis of how fast the average senior can run the 40-yard dash. Not much link to reality. What is likely much more important is how many high performers you have. On both TIMSS math and science, the U. S. has a much higher proportion of “advanced” scorers than the international median although the proportion is much smaller than in Asian nations.
Second, test scores, at least average test scores, don’t seem to be related to anything important to a national economy. Japan’s kids have always done well, but the economy sank into the Pacific in 1990 and has never recovered. The two Swiss-based organizations that rank nations on global competitiveness, the Institute for Management Development and the World Economic Forum, both rank the U. S. #1 and have for a number of years. The WEF examines 12 “pillars of competitiveness,” only one of which is education. We do OK there, but we shine on innovation.
Innovation is the only quality of competitiveness that does not show at some point diminishing returns. Building bigger and faster airplanes can only improve productivity so much. Innovation has no such limits. When journalist Fareed Zakaria asked the Singapore Minister of Education why his high-flying students faded in after-school years, the Minister cited creativity, ambition, and a willingness to challenge existing knowledge, all of which he thought Americans excelled in.

Community Input on Math Task Force Recommendations – SAVE THE DATES!

Hi – there will be 2 community input forums to gather input from the community on the recommendations of the Math Task Force. The report of the MTF can be found at:
http://www.mmsd.org/boe/math/
The forums are scheduled for:
Monday, December 8 from 6:00-8:00pm at Memorial High School
Tuesday, December 9 from 6:00-8:00pm at LaFollette High School
I am not sure of the format yet but know this is a busy time of year so wanted to give you an opportunity to mark your calendars if you plan on attending on of the forums. I’ll send more information when available.
Arlene

Counting on the Future: International Benchmarks in Mathematics for American School Districts

Dr. Gary W. Phillips & John A. Dossey [2.5MB PDF Report]:

Students in six major U.S. cities are performing on par or better in mathematics than their peers in other countries in grades 4 and 8, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). However, students from five other major cities are not faring as well, and overall, U.S. student performance in mathematics falls off from elementary to middle school grades — and remains behind many industrialized nations, particularly Asian nations.
The AIR study offers the first comparison between students from large U.S. cities and their international peers. The study compares U.S. 4th grade students with their counterparts in 24 countries and 8th grade students with peers in 45 countries.
“Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off…it is the economic equivalent of a force of nature… like the wind and water” (Bill Clinton)
If you are a student today competing for jobs in a global economy, the good jobs will not go to the best in your graduating class–the jobs will go to the best students in the world. Large urban cities are intimately connected to the nations of the world. Large corporations locate their businesses in U.S. cities; foreign students attend U.S. schools; and U.S. businesses export goods and services to foreign nations. Large urban cities need to know how their students stack up against peers in the nations with which the U.S. does business. This is especially important for students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The students in these fields will allow our future generation to remain technologically innovative and economically competitive.
This report provides a comparison of the number of mathematically Proficient students in Grades 4 and 8 in 11 large cities in the United States with their international peers.
This comparison is made possible by statistically linking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2003 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 when both assessments were conducted in the United States in the same year and in the same grades.
After the statistical linking was completed, it was possible to compare the most recent NAEP results (from 2007) to the most recent TIMSS results (from 2003). How the United States compares to the overall international average.
At Grade 4, five countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Flemish portion of Belgium) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 39% proficiency) performed better than the international average (27% proficiency) of all 24 countries (Figure 13).
At Grade 8, eight countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium (Flemish), Netherlands, and Hungary) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 31% proficiency) performed better than the international average (21% proficiency) of all 44 countries (Figure 14).
….
Because of the persistent requests of urban school districts, the U .S . Congress authorized NAEP to assess, on a trial basis, six large urban school districts beginning in 2002 . Since then, more districts have been added, resulting in 11 school districts in 2007 (and plans are underway to include even more districts in the future) . The urban school chiefs in these 11 large school districts, which voluntarily participated in the 2007 NAEP, recognized the global nature of educational expectations and the importance of having reliable external data against which to judge the performance of their students and to hold themselves accountable . They should be commended for their visionary goal of trying to benchmark their local performance against tough national standards. National standards provide a broad context and an external compass with which to steer educational policy to benefit local systems . The purpose of this report is to further help those systems navigate by providing international benchmarks.

Clusty Search: Gary W. Phillips and John A. Dossey.
Greg Toppo has more:

Even if the findings are less-than-stellar, he says, they should help local officials focus on improving results.
“In that sense, I think it could be a very positive thing to use in-house, in the district, to keep their nose to the grindstone,” says Kepner, a former middle- and high-school math teacher in Iowa and Wisconsin.”If they can show they’re improving, they might be able to attract more companies to a system that’s on the move.”
Phillips says the findings prove that in other countries “it is possible to do well and learn considerably under a lot of varied circumstances — in other words, being low-income is not really an excuse when you look around the rest of the world.”

Math Forum audio & video.

Janet Mertz Study: Math Skills Suffer in US, Study Finds

Carolyn Johnson:

It’s been nearly four years since Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, made his controversial comments about the source of the gender gap in math and science careers. Still, the ripple effect continues – most recently in a study made public today on the world’s top female math competitors.
The study, to be published in next month’s Notices of the American Mathematical Society, identifies women of extraordinary math ability by sifting through the winners of the world’s most elite math competitions. It found that small nations that nurtured female mathematicians often produced more top competitors than far larger and wealthier nations.
The message: Cultural or environmental factors, not intellect, are what really limit women’s math achievements.

Sara Rimer:

The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.
The study suggests that while many girls have exceptional talent in math — the talent to become top math researchers, scientists and engineers — they are rarely identified in the United States. A major reason, according to the study, is that American culture does not highly value talent in math, and so discourages girls — and boys, for that matter — from excelling in the field. The study will be published Friday in Notices of the American Mathematical Society.
“We’re living in a culture that is telling girls you can’t do math — that’s telling everybody that only Asians and nerds do math,” said the study’s lead author, Janet E. Mertz, an oncology professor at the University of Wisconsin, whose son is a winner of what is viewed as the world’s most-demanding math competitions. “Kids in high school, where social interactions are really important, think, ‘If I’m not an Asian or a nerd, I’d better not be on the math team.’ Kids are self selecting. For social reasons they’re not even trying.”
Many studies have examined and debated gender differences and math, but most rely on the results of the SAT and other standardized tests, Dr. Mertz and many mathematicians say. But those tests were never intended to measure the dazzling creativity, insight and reasoning skills required to solve math problems at the highest levels, Dr. Mertz and others say.
Dr. Mertz asserts that the new study is the first to examine data from the most difficult math competitions for young people, including the USA and International Mathematical Olympiads for high school students, and the Putnam Mathematical Competition for college undergraduates. For winners of these competitions, the Michael Phelpses and Kobe Bryants of math, getting an 800 on the math SAT is routine. The study found that many students from the United States in these competitions are immigrants or children of immigrants from countries where education in mathematics is prized and mathematical talent is thought to be widely distributed and able to be cultivated through hard work and persistence.

Complete report 650K PDF.
Related: Math Forum.
Much more on Janet Mertz here.

Prince William County, Maryland Pupils Still Grapple With Math Test

Ian Shapira:

New state test results show that Prince William County’s third-graders are struggling to score at the highest level since the implementation of a controversial math program that was intended to boost performance.
The scores, which are the first state Standards of Learning (SOL) results to gauge the new program’s effectiveness, reveal that fewer than half of Prince William’s third-graders scored in the advanced category this year, the first that the Pearson math program “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space” was taught in that grade. Last year, third-graders who had not begun “Investigations” posted the same results.
The flat scores are a sizable decline since 2006, when 56 percent of third-graders reached the advanced level in math.
” ‘Investigations’ didn’t cure the problem,” said Vern Williams, a Fairfax County teacher and former member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel who was invited by the Prince William School Board to speak at its work session later this month.

It will be interesting to see what, if any effect the soon to be released Madison Math Task Force report has on the local curriculum.
Math Forum

On Math Curriculum Reduction

Emily Messner:

The students swapped stories of little sisters, brothers and cousins who were taking above-grade-level math and getting good grades, yet did not seem to have a firm grasp of the material. The curriculum is being “narrowed and shallowed,” Walstein said. “The philosophy is that they squeeze you out the top like a tube of toothpaste. That’s what Montgomery County math is.”
Several students nodded their heads. This thesis has become Walstein’s obsession: In its drive to be the best, please affluent parents and close the achievement gap on standardized tests, the county is accelerating too many students in math, at the expense of the curriculum — and the students. The average accelerated math student “thinks he’s fine. His parents think he’s fine. The school system says he’s fine. But he’s not fine!” Walstein declares on one occasion. On another, Walstein is even less diplomatic. ” ‘We have the best courses and there’s no achievement gap and everything is wonderful,’ ” he says, parroting the message he believes county administrators are trying to project.
“The problem is, they’re lying!”

Math Forum audio / video links.

Math Meltdown

Patrick Welsh:

Summertime means school for an increasing number of high school students who have struggled in their math courses. But the system could be contributing to the kids’ poor performances.
Sam Cooke once cooed: “It’s summertime, and the living is easy.”
Tell that to the increasing number of middle and high school students who will be sweating out summer school this year because of their meltdown in math.

Related: Math Forum.

Return of the Math Wars

Debra Saunders:

1997 saw the height of the Math Wars in California.
On the one side stood educrats, who advocated mushy math – or new-new math. They sought to de-emphasize math skills, such as multiplication and solving numeric equations, in favor of pushing students to write about math and how they might solve a problem. Their unofficial motto was: There is no right answer. (Even to 2 +2.)
They were clever. They knew how to make it seem as if they were pushing for more rigor, as they dumbed down curricula. For example, they said they wanted to teach children algebra starting in kindergarten, which seemed rigorous, but they had expanded the definition of algebra to the point that it was meaningless.
On the other side were reformers, who wanted the board to push through rigorous and specific standards that raised the bar for all California kids. Miraculously, they succeeded, and they took pride in the state Board of Education’s vote for academic standards that called for all eighth-graders to learn Algebra I.

Math Forum Audio, Video and links.

Madison Math Task Force Minutes

March 7, 2008 Meeting [rtf / pdf]. Well worth reading for those interested in the use of Connected Math and Core Plus, among others, in our schools.
A few interesting items:

  • Mitchell Nathan proposed a change to the name of the Work Group to more authentically describe its intent. There was consensus to accept the change in designation for the Work Group from “Curriculum Review and Research Findings” to “Learning from Curricula.”
  • “Addresses the misconception that there is one curriculum. There are a number of curricula at play, with the exception of the narrowing down at the middle school level, but teachers are also drawing from supplementary materials. There are a range of pathways for math experiences. The work plan would give an overview by level of program of what exists. “
  • “Could say that variety is good for children to have places to plug into. Could expand on the normative idea of purchasing commercial curricula vs. richer, in-house materials. Standards tell the teachers what needs to be taught. Published materials often are missing some aspect of the standards. District tries to define core resources; guides that help people with classroom organization.” Fascinating, given the move toward one size fits all in high school, such as English 9 and 10.
  • “Want to include a summary of the NRC report that came out in favor of Connected Math but was not conclusive—cannot control for teacher effects, positive effects of all curricula, etc. “
  • “Would like to give some portrayal of the opportunities for accelerated performance — want to document informal ways things are made available for differentiation. “
  • “Include elementary math targeted at middle school, e.g., Math Masters. There is information out there to address the Math Masters program and its effect on student achievement.”
  • “Data are available to conclude that there is equity in terms of resources”
  • “District will have trend data, including the period when Connected Math was implemented, and control for changes in demographics and see if there was a change. No way to link students who took the WKCE with a particular curriculum experience (ed: some years ago, I recall a teacher asked Administration at a PTO meeting whether they would track students who took Singapore Math at the Elementary level: “No”). That kind of data table has to be built, including controls and something to match teacher quality. May recommend that not worth looking at WKCE scores of CM (Connected Math) student or a case study is worth doing. “
  • The Parent Survey will be mailed to the homes of 1500 parents of students across all grades currently enrolled in MMSD math classes. The Teacher Survey will be conducted via the district’s web site using the Infinite Campus System.
  • MMSD Math Task Force website

Math Forum audio / video and links.