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147 results found.

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 score very highly on fundamental maths and science, are more likely to understand money-related concepts than those taught directly about banks, credit and interest rates. Countries such as the US or Slovak Republic, which had much higher levels of in-class teaching than Shanghai, performed worse when tested.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD education director, said: “The volume of exposure to financial literacy in the classroom has no relationship with performance. That is very different for maths or science teaching.”

The data also suggest having a bank account or managing phone credits gives a youngster much more opportunity – and motivation – to learn about financial concepts. On average, students in the 13 core OECD economies who held a bank account scored 33 points higher than those who did not.

Madison math forum audio and video and math task force.

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 (MMSD Parent and a UW Math Department Lecturer)
- Dr. Terry Millar of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research
The conversation, including audience questions was lively.

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 UW Math Professor)
- Linda McQuillen, Madison Metropolitan School District
- Gabriele Meyer (MMSD Parent and a UW Math Department Lecturer)
- Dr. Terry Millar of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research

The general format follows:

- Each Speaker presents their passion and views about math as subject matter in the school setting
- views will be decoded into a scope and sequence of curr. in the middle school
- views about the math program at MMSD

- Discussion: Questions relative to a scope and sequence as well as developmental stages of a middle school student
- Audience Questions

The Forum’s goal is to provide an informative event for parents and other interested parties.

Today’s disagreement is about the “math wars.”

The “math wars” is a debate happening in K-12 education about the best way to teach math. Broadly speaking, there are two camps that have conflicting pedagogical approaches:

Explicit instruction focuses on procedural fluency, guided practice, and repetition.

Inquiry-based instruction focuses on conceptual understanding, open-ended problems, and productive struggle.

This is an incredibly high-stakes debate — especially if you have children or loved ones that are currently receiving K-12 math instruction. To explore its contours, we’ve brought on two math education experts

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Math Forum audio/video.

Brian Conrad, a math professor and director of undergraduate math education at Stanford, is guilty of “academic and professional misconduct” for pointing out errors in the California math framework, claims a letter to the university provost. The letter signed by Duane Habecker, a math administrator, charges that Conrad has “ventured into stochastic terrorism” — encouraging violence — for criticizing the work of Jo Boaler, a Stanford education professor who was one of the authors of the framework

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More.

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Math Forum audio and video.

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The complaint may appear overly repetitive, but that’s because it’s documenting an ongoing pattern of disregard for accuracy. Each repeated instance of the same inaccuracy matters.

The repetition is evidence, not personal attack, and the inaccuracies remain unaddressed. 4/7

Now, a district math official has accused him of “stochastic terrorism” for this public criticism.

A few years ago she shifted her approach, turning to more direct explanation after finding a website on a set of evidence-based practices known as the science of math.

“I could see how the game related to multiplication, but the kids weren’t making those connections,” said Stark, a math teacher in the suburbs of Kansas City. “You have to explicitly teach the content.”

As American schools work to turn around math scores that plunged during the pandemic, some researchers are pushing for more attention to a set of research-based practices for teaching math. The movement has passionate backers, but is still in its infancy, especially compared with the phonics-based “science of reading” that has inspired changes in how classrooms across the country approach literacy.

Math forum audio/video.

Singapore Math

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Remedial math

Madison’s math review task force.

Faculty members in the University of California (UC) system have begun to speak out against their campuses’ adoption of lower math standards in order to bolster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

The controversy surrounds a policy enacted by a UC committee in 2020, which changed the admissions requirements for high school applicants in order “to expand course offerings beyond the traditional sequence of math courses that may lead students into the ‘race to calculus,’ to be more inclusive of new and innovative advanced math courses (e.g., data science), and to address equity issues.”

Math forum audio/video.

Singapore Math

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Remedial math

Madison’s math review task force.

Some years ago, shortly before I left the Financial Times, I gave a talk at a literary event in Oxford. Put up your hand, I said to the audience, if you are useless at maths — whereupon the arms of around a third of them shot into the air. At the time, I wrote a column saying something had gone badly wrong when so many people in one of the most intellectually rarefied towns on the planet were not only dunces at maths but wore their inadequacy as if it were a charming quirk.

This week, the prime minister made the same point when he railed against the country’s “anti-maths mindset”. Rishi Sunak’s solution is to force all teenagers to study the subject until they are 18; mine was to roll my sleeves up and become a maths teacher myself.

The difference between our approaches is that mine did no harm. I tried my hardest to get teenagers to learn probability and algebra but after a year, with the relief that comes from deciding to do what you love, I switched to teaching economics and business instead. Sunak’s scheme may be equally well intentioned, but coercing students to go on doing what they hate will be ruinously expensive, counterproductive and borderline cruel.

Sunak, whose formative experience of maths was from his own school days at Winchester, would have done well to visit me as I entirely failed to teach standard-form maths to a Year 10 bottom set in an inner London comp. He would have witnessed a struggling student asking the million-dollar question: “Miss, why are we doing this?” There was no earthly reason. None of them would ever need standard form again. Surely Sunak would have seen that his first task was to do something about the 30 per cent of students nationally who fail to get the lowest pass at maths GCSE.

These teenagers are now required to retake the exam over and over until they pass or turn 18 — with the result that 100,000 students each year will have spent two years notching up successive failures, leaving most of them at 18 feeling they are not only failures at maths, but at life.

Related:

Remedial math at the University of Wisconsin.

“used surveys in early 2020 to assess how students felt in their math classes and what teachers thought about their own efforts to help students feel like they belong”

Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here.

http://seattlemathgroup.blogspot.com/.

Discovery Math

Connected math.

Singapore Math

Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

A new study finds that high school students identify more with math if they see their math teacher treating everyone in the class equitably, especially in racially diverse schools. The study by researchers at Portland State University, Loyola University Chicago and the University of North Texas was published in the journal *Sociology of Education*. Dara Shifrer, associate professor of sociology at Portland State and former middle school math teacher, led the study.

Who can do well in math? How you answer that question may depend on where you live. Whereas people in East Asian countries tend to believe that hard work can lead anyone to succeed at math, people in the United States are more likely to believe that people need natural talent in the subject to succeed. This perception means that students in the U.S. may be particularly susceptible to racial and gender stereotypes about who is and is not “good at math.”

“Americans don’t realize what strange stereotypes we have about math,” says Shifrer. “It really sets kids up for failure here.”

The fact that some high school students are more likely to give up on math than others has important implications for their individual futures and for the lack of diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here.

http://seattlemathgroup.blogspot.com/.

Discovery Math

Connected math.

Singapore Math

Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

On RussianMathTutors.com, a site promoting a Soviet-era style of math instruction, a sample question involves Masha, a mom who bakes a batch of unmarked pies: three rice, three bean and three cherry. The student must determine how Masha can find a cherry pie “by biting into as few tasteless pies as possible.”

While Masha is biting pies, American parents are eating it up.

In the smarter, faster, better quest that is child-rearing in the United States, goal-oriented moms and dads eager to give their children an academic edge have long looked beyond U.S. borders for math education. Singapore math promotes concept mastery and critical thinking. Japanese math espouses the discipline of daily study. Now, another turbocharged math style is having its moment. Russian math, which uses reasoning and abstract concepts to build understanding, is lighting up parent group chats as the country emerges from a pandemic that left children zoning out over Zoom and schools prioritizing social-emotional recovery over homework.

“I always think for students it’s great to aim higher,” said Andrea Campbell, a mother from Newcastle, Calif. Her three children have studied with $20-an-hour instructors from Russian Math Tutors for the past two years as they pursue math competitions. “For math, you can’t do enough.”

Math Forum Audio / Video

Madison’s Math Task Force

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

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

Related: Singapore Math.

Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Connecticut overhauled the way it taught — and the way it ran the classroom. Every minute counted

It’s just after lunchtime, and Dori Montano’s fifth-grade math class is running on a firm schedule.

In one corner of the classroom, Ms. Montano huddles with a small group of students, working through a lesson about place value: Is 23.4 or 2.34 the bigger number? Nearby, other students collaborate to solve a “math mystery.” All the while, Ms. Montano watches the time.

At 1:32 p.m., she presses a buzzer, sending students shuffling: “Ladies and gentleman, switch please!”

This is what pandemic recovery looks like at Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Meriden, Conn., where students are showing promising progress in math, a subject that was hit hard during the shift to remote learning, even more so than reading.

The school’s math progress may not look like much: a small improvement amounting to a single decimal point increase from spring 2019 to the spring of this year, according to state test results.

But by pandemic standards, it was something of a minor miracle, holding steady when test scores nationally have fallen, particularly among low-income, Black and Hispanic students, the children that Franklin serves. About three in four students at the school qualify for free or reduced lunch, and a majority are Hispanic, Black or multiracial.

The groundwork was laid before the pandemic, when Franklin overhauled how math was taught.

It added as much as 30 minutes of math instruction a day. Students in second grade and above now have more than an hour, and fourth and fifth graders have a full 90 minutes, longer than is typical for many schools. Students no longer have lessons dominated by a teacher writing problems on a white board in front of the class. Instead, they spend more time wrestling with problems in small groups. And, for the first time, children who are behind receive math tutoring during the school day.

Related: math forum audio and video

If everything had gone according to plan, California would have approved new guidelines this month for math education in public schools.

But ever since a draft was opened for public comment in February, the recommendations have set off a fierce debate over not only how to teach math, but also how to solve a problem more intractable than Fermat’s last theorem: closing the racial and socioeconomic disparities in achievement that persist at every level of math education.

The California guidelines, which are not binding, could overhaul the way many school districts approach math instruction. The draft rejected the idea of naturally gifted children, recommended against shifting certain students into accelerated courses in middle school and tried to promote high-level math courses that could serve as alternatives to calculus, like data science or statistics.

The draft also suggested that math should not be colorblind and that teachers could use lessons to explore social justice — for example, by looking out for gender stereotypes in word problems, or applying math concepts to topics like immigration or inequality.

Just read this NYT piece on proposed California state education standards that demand that teachers change curriculums to bring racial identity politics into everyday math lessons. So I click the draft standards and the first section cited this CRT paper. https://t.co/tGoJ3nmsB9 pic.twitter.com/qCTEtqzG3T

— Lee Fang (@lhfang) November 6, 2021

K-12 Math links:

“Discovery math” (Seattle lawsuit)

https://www.schoolinfosystem.org/?s=Discovery+math

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

https://www.schoolinfosystem.org/pdf/2009/05/wollack_fishwmc2009.pdf

https://www.schoolinfosystem.org/?s=Connected+math

https://www.schoolinfosystem.org/?s=singapore+math

Math forum

https://www.schoolinfosystem.org/?s=Math+forum+audio+video

California’s new Mathematics Curriculum Framework has become a political hot potato, reports Lawrence Richard on Yahoo News. The state education board will postpone a decision on implementation for 10 months in response to critics who charged it would “de-mathematize math” and prevent high achievers from taking advanced classes.

2007 Math Forum

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way. Its proposed *Mathematics Curriculum Framework* is presented as a step toward social justice and racial equity, but its effect would be the opposite—to rob all Californians, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, who always suffer most when schools fail to teach their students. As textbooks and other teaching materials approved by the State would have to follow this framework and since teachers are expected to use it as a guide, its potential to steal a promising future from our children is enormous.

The proposed framework would, in effect, de-mathematize math. For all the rhetoric in this framework about equity, social justice, environmental care and culturally appropriate pedagogy, there is no realistic hope for a more fair, just, equal and well-stewarded society if our schools uproot long-proven, reliable and highly effective math methods and instead try to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology. A real champion of equity and justice would want all California’s children to learn *actual* math—as in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus—not an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math. The proposed framework:

2007 Math Forum

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

George Zacharopoulos, Francesco Sella & Roi Cohen Kadosh:

Formal education has a long-term impact on an individual’s life. However, our knowledge of the effect of a specific lack of education, such as in mathematics, is currently poor but is highly relevant given the extant differences between countries in their educational curricula and the differences in opportunities to access education. Here we examined whether neurotransmitter concentrations in the adolescent brain could classify whether a student is lacking mathematical education. Decreased γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentration within the middle frontal gyrus (MFG) successfully classified whether an adolescent studies math and was negatively associated with frontoparietal connectivity. In a second experiment, we uncovered that our findings were not due to preexisting differences before a mathematical education ceased. Furthermore, we showed that MFG GABA not only classifies whether an adolescent is studying math or not, but it also predicts the changes in mathematical reasoning ∼19 mo later. The present results extend previous work in animals that has emphasized the role of GABA neurotransmission in synaptic and network plasticity and highlight the effect of a specific lack of education on MFG GABA concentration and learning-dependent plasticity. Our findings reveal the reciprocal effect between brain development and education and demonstrate the negative consequences of a specific lack of education during adolescence on brain plasticity and cognitive functions.

2007 Math Forum

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career.

Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher, but like a small number of instructors in Japan, he taught not just young children but also college students who wanted to become teachers. At the university-affiliated elementary school where Matsuyama taught, he turned his classroom into a kind of laboratory, concocting and trying out new teaching ideas. When Takahashi met him, Matsuyama was in the middle of his boldest experiment yet — revolutionizing the way students learned math by radically changing the way teachers taught it.

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.

2006: Math Forum audio video

I am not at all qualified to introduce today’s guest writer, Sergiu Klainerman.

I barely eked out a C+ in high school calculus, while Sergiu is a professor of mathematics at Princeton who specializes in the mathematical theory of black holes. He’s been a MacArthur fellow, a Guggenheim fellow and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences

Mathematics allowed a young Sergiu, who came of age in Ceausescu’s Romania, to escape to a world where right and wrong couldn’t be fudged, and, ultimately, to a life of freedom in the United States. Without math, his life quite literally would not have been possible.

In the piece below he explains how activists are destroying his discipline in the name of progress. Worse, they are robbing poor children of the opportunity to raise themselves up by mastering it — with untold effects on all of us.

Math, with its seemingly unbiased tools — 2 + 2 always equals 4 — has presented a problem for an ideological movement that sees any inequality of outcome as evidence of systemic bias. The problem cannot be that some kids are better at math, or that some teachers are better at teaching it. Like so much else, the basic woke argument against math is that it is inherently racist and needs to be made antiracist. That is accomplished by undermining the notion of right and wrong answers, by getting rid of the expectation that students show their work, by referring to mathematical testing tools as racist, and by doing away with accelerated math classes.

If that sounds like a caricature, I urge you to read this whole document, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which Sergiu writes about below. As the linguist John McWhorter put it in a powerful piece published yesterday: “to distrust this document is not to be against social justice, but against racism.”

Sergiu wrote me in an email that the situation in his field reminds him of this line from Thomas Sowell: “Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”

This week, as promised, is education week. Like Shark Week! But dorkier. And, I hope, far more important. This is our first installment.

I’m pleased to publish Sergiu Klainerman:

In my position as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, I have witnessed the decline of universities and cultural institutions as they have embraced political ideology at the expense of rigorous scholarship. Until recently — this past summer, really — I had naively thought that the STEM disciplines would be spared from this ideological takeover.

I was wrong. Attempts to “deconstruct” mathematics, deny its objectivity, accuse it of racial bias, and infuse it with political ideology have become more and more common — perhaps, even, at your child’s elementary school.

This phenomenon is part of what has been dubbed “The Great Awokening.” As others have explained powerfully, the ideology incubated in academia, where it indoctrinated plenty of bright minds. It then migrated, through those true believers, into our important cultural, religious and political institutions. Now it is affecting some of the country’s most prominent businesses.

Unlike the traditional totalitarianism practiced by former communist countries, like the Romania I grew up in, this version is soft. It enforces its ideology not by jailing dissenters or physically eliminating them, but by social shaming, mob punishment, guilt by association, and coerced speech.

When it comes to education, I believe the woke ideology is even more harmful than old-fashioned communism.

Communism had a strong sense of objective reality anchored in the belief that humans are capable of discovering universal truths. It forcefully asserted, in fact, the absolute truth of dialectic materialism, as revealed by its founders Marx, Engels and Lenin. Communist ideology held science and mathematics in the highest regard, even though it often distorted the former for doctrinal reasons.

Mathematics was largely immune to ideological pressure, and thus thrived in most communist countries. Being skilled in math was a source of great societal prestige for school children. And it was a great equalizer: those from socioeconomically disadvantaged families had a chance to compete on equal footing with those from privileged ones.

Related:

Math Forum audio / video

It is not just random social-media postings. In March, MSNBC’s Brian Williams went on the air and endorsed a tweet that stated: “Bloomberg spent $500 million on ads. U.S. Population, 327 million . . . He could have given each American $1 million.” His guest, New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay, concurred that “It’s an incredible way of putting it. It’s true. It’s disturbing.”

It is not true. Instead it is a spectacular failure of arithmetic. Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million in ad purchases could have otherwise given each American $1.52 — not $1 million. And dividing Jeff Bezos’s $200 billion in wealth equally among 330 million Americans would provide $600 each, not $1 million or $3 million.

Additionally, 260,000 people “liked” a tweet condemning how “Jeff Bezos is about to become the world’s first trillionaire” (he has $800 billion to go).

It is tempting to dismiss these claims as random, innocent mathematical errors. In reality, they are central to the growing “Democratic Socialist” worldview, which is increasingly united around the belief that seizing the wealth of Jeff Bezos and other billionaires can finance the future they want. This belief explains the far Left’s non-stop fixation with billionaire wealth (such as the widely circulated but false claim that billionaires have added $584 billion in wealth since the pandemic began). In particular, the Left is obsessed with the world’s richest man (“Jeff Bezos has decided he will not end world hunger today” recently received 500,000 Twitter likes). Just last week, protesters built a guillotine in front of Bezos’s home.

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

WEAC: __$1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators__

Assembly against__ private school forced closure__.

Wisconsin __Catholic schools will challenge local__ COVID-19 closing order. __More__.

__Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results__

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, __despite spending far more than most__, has __long tolerated disastrous reading results__.

My __Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers__ on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

__“An emphasis on adult employment”__

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum __Madison School District Report__[__PDF__]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): __functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration__

“The issue with data is one can manipulate it to show anything you want if you have an agenda,” says YouYang Gu, an independent data scientist. Cherry picking is easy — prediction is much harder, and Gu is getting some attention for the fact that models he’s been creating since April actually forecast what’s happened with the spread of the disease in the U.S.

He recently took to Twitter to urge public health officials to apply scientific thinking. He pointed to data on Louisiana, where cases were rising earlier in the summer and seemed to level off after various counties issued mask mandates.

But breaking the data down by county, he says, revealed a different story. Mask mandates varied in their timing, but places that implemented them late saw no more cases or deaths than those that did so early. “I don’t think there’s currently enough evidence to support the fact that recent policy interventions (mask mandates, bar closures) were the main drivers behind the recent decrease in cases,” he wrote.

That’s not to say that individual behavior doesn’t matter a lot — and the cancellation of big gatherings and other potential super-spreading events is more important than ever — but there may be more factors than we know driving the bigger picture.

A few scientists are examining the possibility that previously hard-hit areas are now being affected by a buildup of immunity, even if it flies in the face of the widespread understanding that the disease has to run through at least 60% of the population to achieve so-called herd immunity. (So far, antibody tests show only some 10-20% of the U.S. population has had the disease.)

The term herd immunity is a little vague in this context. It was created to characterize the impact of immunization. It refers to the percentage of the population that must get immunized in order for a pathogen to die out — a quantity that depends on the nature of the virus, the efficacy of the vaccine and the behavior of the hosts. If natural immunity is starting to help in some places, that would suggest herd immunity is a reasonable and worthy goal of an immunization program.

Related:

2005: “When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before”

2006: Math Forum

__Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results__

2019: Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district’s graduation data rhetoric (and reality).

If they master the latter they will emerge into the world better prepared than some of my own children, who took more “rigorous” subjects at school. After receiving her first payslip, one of my daughters called me to say she had been cheated: she had received less money than she’d been promised. When I explained to her about the taxation system, she was outraged at what she saw as a colossal swindle.

If any students this year ask “why are we doing this, Miss?”, I will tell them they are learning how businesses function, how the economy works and what role they might play in it. If the point of school is to prepare kids for the world, I can think of nothing more worthwhile to teach them.

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

More from the 2006 Math Forum.

Fake K-12 achievement rhetoric.

Students should, imho, learn sufficient skills to navigate a world where cronyism leads to price and service confusion.

Examples include: cell phone fees, student loans, and general financial system practices.

Being good at maths does not necessarily make you good at managing money. You might be able to use Pythagoras’ theorem, but can you compare the merits of a fixed-rate mortgage with a floating one? And while you can handle quadratic inequalities, how confident would you feel working out credit card interest?

Finishing GCSE maths exams aged 16, most of us never again encounter trigonometry and the Sohcahtoa mnemonic, the joy of simultaneous equations or how to work out the volume of a sphere (4/3πr³). So we might ask, “What was the point of school maths?”

As a maths teacher, I love my subject. I find beauty in the way that patterns in the world can be explained by maths — whether it is the insect cicadas emerging in prime number cycles to evade predators or how fractal patterns permeate snowflakes. However, you can achieve the top grade in GCSE Maths (A* in old money, but now a shiny new grade 9) and still not be practically proficient with numbers in the real world, especially when it comes to money.

This is why I am supporting the first National Numeracy Day next Wednesday (I am an ambassador for the charity behind it, which focuses on improving numeracy for adults). Their headline statistic is that just under half of UK working-age adults have the numeracy skills numeracy skills of a primary schoolchild.

This is bad for the individuals concerned and for the companies they work for. The charity has developed “the essentials of numeracy” to test the skills and attitudes needed to use numbers and data to make good decisions at work and home.

Related: Math Forum.

A question of culture

When I was a grad student at UC Berkeley (in the late 1980s), it was under- stood, among my American classmates, that the Eastern Europeans were simply better. They weren’t genetically superior; indeed, many of my Amer- ican classmates, myself included, were themselves descended from Eastern European immigrants. And we knew that we weren’t stupid. Many of us had excelled at mathematical olympiads, even at the international level. But at Berkeley, the Eastern Europeans — students and faculty alike — were known for their intensity.

American-dominated seminars might last for one polite hour; in contrast, a Russian or Rumanian seminar would go on for an entire argumentative evening. Some of us joked that the Russians really came from the planet Krypton, attaining super powers when they came to live among us.

All joking aside, we fledgling mathematicians understood that the single most important thing was not raw intelligence or knowledge (Americans tend to lag behind in the latter compared to all international students). What mattered was passion. The way to become successful in mathematics, like almost every endeavor, is to care about it, to love it, to obsess over it. And in this, Eastern Europeans had a clear superiority, a cultural advantage. They had been trained, from an early age, to love mathematics more intensely.

For many years, dating from at least the Sputnik era, America has suf- fered from an educational inferiority complex. We try to catch up, hunting for the secret ingredients that other nations use. Should we adopt the Sin- gapore curriculum? Put our kids in after-school Kumon programs? Teach them meditation? Yoga?

There’s nothing wrong with any of this; examining the practices of oth- ers’ is bound to be enriching. But it’s not the ingredients that really matter.

There is no single magical special sauce. What you need is a culture of in- tellectual inquiry, and one that fits.

Related: Math Forum.

But what will happen to math achievers who do want to take calculus and pursue STEM majors in college? Will they get what they need in untracked classes?

Black students are more likely to wait until 11th or 12th grade to take Algebra 1, according to the U.S. Education Department, he reports in an earlier story. Native Americans have similar patterns.

“Research indicates that forcing students to take Algebra I before they’re ready can be harmful,” writes Sawchuk. “Is it because they’ve correctly assessed students’ ability and put them in the appropriate course?” said Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “Or is it because there’s some amount of discrimination going on?”

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

Nearly every state includes measures of college- and career-readiness in their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the quality of classroom assignments can help gauge whether students are being prepared for success beyond high school.

What is Equity In Motion?

In this series, we look at how issues or equity are playing out in the daily activities of schools and educators. Specifically, do classroom assignments reflect the more rigorous standards for college- and career-readiness?

Math Forum audio and video.

A quarter of adults struggle to work out how much change they should get in a shop and half cannot read a simple financial line graph, a study suggests.

The study, from Cambridge University and University College London, found “striking weaknesses” in adults’ financial skills across 31 countries.

It says financial literacy is essential if consumers are to avoid getting into debt or being misled on money matters.

The report says the findings point to a need for “urgent policy intervention”.

The researchers analysed more than 100,000 results from 16- to 65-year-olds from 31 countries (listed below) who had completed the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies test in 2011.

Related: Math Forum.

It is astounding to me that mathematics – of all school subjects – elicits such potent emotional reaction when “reform” is in the air. We’ve seen the community response to the Common Core State Standards in the U.S., the potency of the Back to Basics movement in Alberta, Canada, and the myriad of internet examples of the absolute absurdity of “new math.”

At face value, the strong reactions we see can be interpreted as paradoxical. Parents might openly admit they themselves did not understand mathematics, that they actively hate mathematics even, but insist that we don’t dare do anything different for their child in math class! Parents’ befuddlement over their child’s third-grade homework might be seen as a wrong of the new curriculum, not as evidence of the failing of their own mathematics education, that they weren’t provided the flexibility and agility of thought to see simple arithmetic in multiple lights.

It seems that previous generations were seduced to equate familiarity with understanding. For instance, our standard arithmetic algorithms are somewhat bizarre – they are the end result of a human process of codifying arithmetical thinking, designed with the extra goal of using as little of precious 17th-century ink as possible. But if one does them often enough, their routine begins to feel comfortable and familiar.

Related: Math Forum

Project Baltimore analyzed 2017 state test scores released this fall. We paged through 16,000 lines of data and uncovered this: Of Baltimore City’s 39 High Schools, 13 had zero students proficient in math.

Digging further, we found another six high schools where one percent tested proficient. Add it up – in half the high schools in Baltimore City, 3804 students took the state test, 14 were proficient in math.

Related: Math Forum

Natasha Singer & Danielle Ivory:

Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020. An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them, The New York Times has found in a review of thousands of pages of Baltimore County school documents and in interviews with dozens of school officials, researchers, teachers, tech executives and parents.

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results and

“Kids aren’t going to be able to take risks and push themselves academically, without having a trusting support network there,” said Lindsay Maglio, principal of Lindbergh Elementary School, where some teachers improved on traditional get-to-know-you exercises in the first few weeks of school by adding more searching questions, and where all school staff are engaged in community-building lessons in small-group sessions with students taking place at set periods throughout the year.

While noting that getting to know their students is already “something we do feel strongly about,” fourth-grade teacher Beth Callies, now in her 11th year at Lindbergh, said she saw value in a districtwide strategy emphasizing it. “It’s a good push to remind us,” Callies said.

Beyond asking her students to describe themselves through traditional questions such as choosing what animal or what TV show they would like to be, and where they would like to take a vacation and why, Duernberger also invited them to free-associate this year by responding to the line: “I wish my teacher knew this about me.”

Common ground

The students’ answers, which they also read to each other in a follow-up exercise, were as varied as their life stories. Students said they liked to go camping, had two brothers, worked hard, could read-upside down, and had two dogs at home before mom gave one away.Teachers have been encouraged to mine a book by educator Zaretta Hammond known as “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” for new techniques and deeper understanding of the issue. At Lindbergh, Maglio built time into the school day for all staff to meet once a week for 40 minutes with students in small groups “to build community and work on trust,” with possible lessons on topics such as resolving conflicts or bullying.

“It’s really based off the issues that kids are having, so there’s not a set structure (for the weekly sessions),” Maglio said. “We just need to think about being more purposeful in how we plan for all our students. It might be working for 80 percent of students, but we need to think more about the ones we may be struggling to reach.”

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than most – now nearly $20,000 per student.

MMSD highlighted the success of the new math curriculum in its annual report, released last July. The report said the first cohort of schools using Bridges saw an eight-point increase in math proficiency scores and nine-point gains in math growth in one school year on the spring Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exam for third through fifth grade students.

By comparison, fifth grade MAP proficiency scores across the district increased eight points in the last four years.

“(Bridges) focuses on developing the students’ understanding of math concepts,” Davis said. “It is not about how students can memorize certain skills, but really around their ability to problem solve and look at math in more complex ways…and explain their reasoning to their teachers and peers.”

Related (deja vu):

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 someone says “if we can afford X, then surely Y isn’t too expensive” take a closer look. Just how much of those “Y” do we have to buy and how much is the total cost?

Related: Math Forum audio and video.

“I have two daughters now who are perfectly good in math, but they had one or two bad math teachers and they are done. That’s what happens to girls. They walk away from tech and science. And there’s something going on that is not just about the girls. There’s something going on with how these subjects are taught.”

Related:

A Project Baltimore investigation has found five Baltimore City high schools and one middle school do not have a single student proficient in the state tested subjects of math and English.

We sat down with a teen who attends one of those schools and has overcome incredible challenges to find success.

Related: Math Forum

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 the traditional-AP students
Both sample sizes were low

2012: “An increasing number of freshmen in the UW System need remedial math when they start college, according to UW officials.”

2014: “

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

”

Related: Math Forum audio/video.

and: Foundations of Reading Results (Wisconsin Education Schools), or MTEL arrives.

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 that other decorations had been removed to avoid distracting or aiding students during a round of tests.

The subject is English, a second language for most of the children here, who speak either Malay or Chinese at home. At the front of the class, the teacher, Wendy Chen, is showing a film of migrant workers responding to racist comments. It’s a controversial subject: foreign labourers who work in construction, manufacturing and domestic service are often targets of racial prejudice in Singapore. Chen strips the language down to its constituent parts, asking the 13-year-old students to look at the use of the pronouns “we” and “they”. She hands out a newspaper cutting, again about migrant workers, and asks them to analyse it. “Underline who, what, when, where, how,” she instructs briskly.

The atmosphere is industrious. Throughout the day, the children work quietly at their tasks with relatively little chatter. Corporal punishment is permitted as a last resort — for boys only — at Singapore schools. When the teachers need to command attention, they strike an insistent note rather than raising their voices. One teacher, as she senses her class flagging, begins to pepper her instructions with the phrase “my dears”. Further absorbing discipline, many of the children join police or military cadet organisations, and can be seen dressed in uniform and standing to attention in the schoolyard after class. For the boys, who face two years’ national service after graduating from high school, it’s a particularly useful preparation.

Math Forum Audio and Video

Last October, Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham signed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding OCR’s compliance review of access to advanced coursework by Hispanic and African-American students in the District. The resolution agreement was presented at the December 5, 2016 Instruction Workgroup meeting (agenda item 6.1):

http://www.boarddocs.com/wi/mmsd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AFL2QH731563The description of the resolution agreement by Dylan Pauly & Jen Cheatham starts around 2 (h) 16 (m)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaW0YclXc8c&feature=em-share_video_userThe OCR resolution agreement was included on the agenda (item 9.3) of the December 12, 2016 full board meeting as part of the Instruction Workgroup “report out” without discussion.

When OCR does a compliance review, it issues a resolution letter to the subject institution which describes OCR’s review and OCR’s findings. The resolution agreement (signed by the institution) then sets forth what the institution agrees to do to address the issues in the resolution letter.

Adele Rapport (PDF), via a kind reader:

According to the Superintendent, the District did not have a unified cuniculum prior to the 2013-201 4 school year. The Distiict recently reported to OCR that it is implementing “a multi-year, multi-phased plan to engage in course alignment. The end result will be courses that share a common course plan, common titles and course descriptions in the high school course guides, syllabi using common templates and common end-of-course summative assessments.” As summarized below. the District’s cum~nt approach to AL services is the product of several programs and initiatives as well as a recently concJuded audit by WDPI.

In 2008 The District received a $5.3 million Smaller Learning Communities grant from the Department. With these funds the District began, in its words, “to rethink and reconceptualize the high school experience.” As a result of this process, the Distri<.:t in October 2010 announced the "Dual Pathways Plan," with goals that included aligning the curriculum among all four high schools: closing the achievement gap between white students and students of color: and remedying what the District concedes was unequal access for students to advanced courses. The District proposed we meet these goals by implementing two different pathways for high school students: a "preparatory pathway" and an "accelerated pathway". In March, 2011, The WDPI concluded an investigation of the District's TAG program by determining that the District had failed to comply with four State of Wisconsin requirements for TAG programs: (1) establish a TAG plan and hire a TAG coordinator: (2) identify TAG students in multiple domain areas, including intellectual, academic, creative. leadership and the arts: (3) provide access to TAG programming without cost and allow parents to participate in identification and programming. The District subsequently adopted and implemented a corrective action plan to address findings of WDPI's audit. On February 6, 2015, WDPI concluded monitoring the implementation of the District's corrective action plan, finding the District in compliance with all relevant statutory requirements for TAG programs in Wisconsin. Also in 2011, in response to unfavorable feedback from parents and community members regarding the Dual Pathways proposal, the District modified the proposal and enacted a more modest series of reforms focusing on curriculum alignment. The District began to scale back its use of prerequisites for advanced high school courses, implementing a system of "recommended skills and experiences." The District also increased its advanced course offerings for the ninth and tenth grade, and expanded its assessment of elementary and middle school students for advanced kaming opportunities by broadening its reliance on qualitative factors like teacher recommendations. ...... The District offers honors ond AP courses to provide enriched academic opportunities for students. The District does not offer an International Baccalaureate program. Students can take honors courses at the middle school level, and both honors and AP courses at the high school level. None of the high schools offers weighted grades or credits for honors or AP courses. The District's offoring of honors and AP courses varies among schools, and neither the alternative high school (Shabazz City High School) nor the non-traditional high school (Innovative and Alternative Education) which focuses on expeliential learning, offers such courses. The District offored 13 different AP courses in multiple sections during the 2013-14 school year and 24 different AP courses during the 2015-16 school year. Recognizing that its AP course offerings vary across its four high schools, the District recently completed a three-year plan for course vetting and course alignment that includes AP coursework. Pursuant to this plan, the District plans to standardize across all four high schools AP courses that do not have prerequisites. In addition, the Dist1ict's Director of CuITiculum and Instruction said the District has the goal to have a standard set of AP courses across all four high schools: the schools will not necessarily offer all of the same courses, but the AP courses each offers will be drawn from the same set of AP courses. The District will gauge student interest in AP courses in deciding where to offer the courses. However, the District will ensure that core AP courses such as Physics and English will be offered at all four high schools. The AL Direclor noted that a first step in offering higher level math courses at all high schools is to ensure that Algebra 1 is the same at all school. The Director of Curriculum and Management confirmed that the District is realigning the math curriculum. ...... The magnitude of the racial disparity in AP enrollment is worse for math and science AP courses. There were only 18 math and 17 science AP enrollments by African-American students, a rate of 1.2 math and 1.1 science AP enrollments per 100 African-American students. There were only 44 math and 38 science AP enrollments by Hispanic students, a rate of 3.9 math and 3.3 science AP enrollments per 100 Hispanic students. By comparison, there were 526.5 math and 368 science AP enrollments by white students, a rate of 14.9 math and 10.4 science AP enrollments per 100 white students. Thus, in the 2013-14 school year, enrollments by white students in AP math and AP science courses were 12.4 and 9.5 times greater respectively, than enrollments by African-American students, and 3.8 and 3.2 times greater, respectively, than enrollmentw by Hispanic students. ...... Further the data provided by the District show that there was underepresentation of African American and Hispanic students in AP courses at each high school in the District. During the 2013-2014 school year, the disparity between African-American students' participation and all other students' participation was statistically significant in 12 of 15 AP courses offered at East High School, 5 of 13 courses at LaFollette High School, 13 of 17 courses at Memorial High School and 9 of 14 courses at West High School. The disparity between Hispanic student enrollment and all other students' enrollment was statistically significant in 2 of 15 AP courses offered at East High SchooL 0 of 13 courses at LaFollette High School. 6 of 17 courses at Memorial High School and 8 of 14 courses at West High School. In addition. African-American students underrepresentation in AP math ws statistically significant in all 12 of the AP math offerings that were offered at every District high school (in the three courses of Calculus AB, Calculus BC and Statistics) and Hispanic students underrepresentation in AP math was statistically significant in 3 of the same 12 AP math offerings. As for participation in AP science, African-American students' underrepresentation was statistically significant in 8 of 12 offerings of AP science (in the three courses of Physics C, Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Science), and Hispanic students' underrepresentation was statistically significant in 3 of the same 12 AP science offerings.

Related:

Small Learning Communities English 10

Madison’s Long Term, Disastrous Reading Results.

The problem, from a regulatory standpoint, is that they borrow a lot of money to obtain the degree — over $78,000 on average, according to the university. The total tuition is $62,593. And because it’s a graduate program, students can also borrow the full cost of their living expenses from the federal government, regardless of their credit history.

After accounting for basic living expenses, the average Harvard A.R.T. Institute graduate has to pay 44 percent of discretionary income just to make the minimum loan payment.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

DEJA VU: REPORT OF THE 1965 MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT MATH 9 TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE.

More regulation simply makes things worse. Why not make sure that students can adequately assess the cost and benefits of their choices?

Cory Koedel and Morgan Polikoff, via a kind Dan Dempsey email:

Textbooks are one of the most widely used educational inputs, but remarkably little is known about their effects on student learning. This report uses data collected from elementary schools in California to estimate the impacts of mathematics textbook choices on student achievement. We study four of the most popular books in the state from 2008-2013 and find that one—Houghton Mifflin California Math—consistently outperforms the other three. The superior performance of California Math persists up to four years after adoption and shows up in grades 3, 4, and 5.

The textbook impacts we identify are educationally meaningful and come at an extremely low cost. With regard to cost, textbooks are relatively inexpensive and tend to be similarly priced. The implication is that the marginal cost of choosing a more effective textbook over a less effective alternative is essentially zero. In terms of achievement impacts, our findings suggest non-trivial gains in student achievement are attainable simply by choosing more effective curriculum materials. The effect sizes we document are on par with what one could expect from a hypothetical policy that substantially increases the quality of the teaching workforce. But whereas there is much uncertainty about whether commensurate increases in teacher quality are attainable, and how they might be attained—at least in the near term—choosing a more effective textbook is a seemingly straightforward policy option for raising student achievement.

A critical factor limiting the capacity of school administrators to choose more effective textbooks is that there is virtually no evidence on how different textbooks affect student achievement. The fundamental problem limiting the development of an evidence base is that very few states track school and district textbook adoptions. This point bears repeating: most states do not know which curriculum materials are being used in which schools and districts. Without these data, it is not possible to perform evaluations of textbook efficacy. Thus, in most states, decisionmakers who wish to incorporate into their adoption decisions evidence on how textbooks affect student achievement are simply out of luck.

…..

Our work makes several important contributions. First, we have assembled a dataset of textbook adoptions in California, the largest U.S. state with the greatest number of schools. We have received funding to continue collecting these data moving forward. We will continue to analyze the data and go on to study other subjects and other grades. We also plan to make the data available to interested researchers so that others can pursue new lines of inquiry. There are many questions in this area of great import that do not have to do with impacts on student achievement—

for instance, is there equitable access to current curriculum materials? How do charter and traditional public schools differ in their adoption patterns? We hope these newly available data can spawn a new wave of data-driven research on textbook adoptions and their effects. The current research literature is sorely lacking in quantitative analyses of textbooks in schools.Second, our work again demonstrates a method (previously demonstrated by Bhatt, Koedel, and Lehmannxiv) that can be applied in other states, grades, and subjects. We believe at this point that the method is suf ciently well developed that it can be widely applied. By doing this—studying textbook effects across multiple settings—we can begin to develop a better understanding of what is working, where, and for whom. In addition to California, we have collected data on textbook adoptions in Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida. Whether the data we have are suf ciently complete to allow this kind of investigation in each setting is unclear, but we will try.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

DEJA VU: REPORT OF THE 1965 MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT MATH 9 TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE.

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 Extension – Office of Education Outreach and Partnerships. MMSD will continue this for the 2016-17 school year and continue to offer math coursework for teachers to participate. The courses consists of a five course sequence (Number, Ratio, Geometry, Algebra, and Experimentation, Conjecture & Reasoning) with two courses being offered each semester. MMSD will continue to provide some financial support for teachers in each class with priority determined by; 1) middle school teacher working with an existing condition of employment, 2) middle school math teachers, and 3) teachers who began the program in previous years.

NOTE: There is a significant reduction in the estimate of this program from the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year. As a reminder, the change for this program and financial support moving forward was shared with the Board April 2016. The model continues the five course MSMS Program using non-credit courses for teachers currently enrolled in the program. This reduces the annual operating budget to $27,000. In addition, the full-time Math teacher leader’s responsibilities have been repositioned to provide support and professional development for middle school math teachers and for algebra teachers.

Talent management has been working with principals to select best candidates for current and future hiring. Middle school math teachers are now provided with standards aligned curricular resources and job embedded coaching.

Related: Singapore Math, Math Forum, Connected Math, Discovery Math.

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

The University of Wisconsin System is exempt from complying with the requirements of the District’s Contract Compliance Plan.

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 poor at maths, at which they rank 27th out of 34 developed countries. At 15, children in Massachusetts, where education standards are higher than in most states, are so far behind their counterparts in Shanghai at maths that it would take them more than two years of regular education to catch up.

This is not for lack of investment. America spends more on educating its children than all but a handful of rich countries. Nor is it due to high levels of inequality: the proportion of American children coming from under-privileged backgrounds is about par for the OECD. A better reason, in my snapshot experience of American schooling, is a frustrating lack of intellectual ambition for children to match the sporting ambition that is so excellently drummed into them in our local swimming pool and elsewhere.

My children’s elementary school, I should say, is one of America’s better ones, and in many ways terrific. It is orderly, friendly, well-provisioned and packed with the sparky offspring of high-achieving Washington, DC, commuters. Its teachers are diligent, approachable and exude the same relentless positivity as the swimming instructors. We feel fortunate to have them. Yet the contrast with the decent London state school from which we moved our eldest children is, in some ways, dispiriting.

After two years of school in England, our six-year-old was so far ahead of his American peers that he had to be bumped up a year, where he was also ahead. This was partly because American children start regular school at five, a year later than most British children; but it was also for more substantive reasons.

Related: Connected Math, Discovery Math and the Math Forum (audio and video).

Reading requires attention as well. (MTEL)

Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results despite spending more than most, now around $18k per student.

And, National Council on teacher quality links are worth a look.

“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 are chancy endeavors, however. The Common Core math standards were released in 2010 and NGSS in 2013. Now, years on, even enthusiastic early adopters of the Common Core like the state of New York are retreating from the standards. While the ultimate impact of both the Common Core and NGSS is still uncertain, it’s clear these standards go beyond simply swapping one set of textbooks for another — to really take hold, they’ll require a fundamental rethinking of everything from assessments to classroom materials to the basic relationship between teachers and students.

Related: Connected Math and math forum.

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 hear kids in Algebra 2 ask, “When are we ever going to use this?” and for the teacher to reply, “Math teaches you how to think,” which is true — if only it were taught that way.

To say that this is now changing is to invite an eye roll. For a number of entrenched reasons, from the way teachers are trained to the difficulty of agreeing on what counts in each discipline, instruction in science and math is remarkably resistant to change.

That said, we’re riding the next big wave in K-12 science and math education in the United States. The main events are a pair of highly visible but often misunderstood documents — the Common Core math standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — that, if implemented successfully, will boldly remake the way math and science are taught. Both efforts seek to recast instruction in the fundamental ideas and perspectives that animate the two fields.

“What we did in reorganizing the content of school mathematics was long overdue,” said Phil Daro, one of three lead authors of the Common Core math standards.

The changes go beyond the contentious new methods of teaching arithmetic that have grabbed headlines and threatened to blunt the momentum of Common Core math. Both documents developed out of decades of academic research on how children learn, and they reflect similar priorities. They exhibit an elegant rethinking of the basic structure of knowledge, along with new assertions of what’s important for students to be able to do by the time they finish high school.

Related: Connected Math; Math Forum audio and video.

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 errors, who cares?”

But she and some colleagues in the Netherlands were curious enough to check. They built a computer program that could quickly scan published psychological papers and check the math on the statistics. They called their program “Statcheck” and ran it on 30,717 papers.

Related: Math Forum.

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, math competitions are themselves greatly misleading. Furthermore, they’ve become tied to a misleading mythological conception of “genius.” I’ve collected relevant quotations below.

Acknowledgment – I obtained some of these quotations from a collection of mathematician quotations compiled by my colleague Laurens Gunnarsen.

Related: Math Forum.

Mathematical Association of America:

“We are very excited to bring home another first-place IMO award, which serves as a recognition for the the high standard of mathematical creativity and problem-solving capabilities we have in our country,”said Po-Shen Loh, lead coach for the U.S. team and associate professor of mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University.“We are very excited to bring home another first-place IMO award, which serves as a recognition for the the high standard of mathematical creativity and problem-solving capabilities we have in our country,”said Po-Shen Loh, lead coach for the U.S. team and associate professor of mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University.

The six U.S. team members were selected through a series of competitions organized by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), culminating with the USA Mathematical Olympiad. The six team members joined 70 of their peers at Carnegie Mellon University in June to immerse themselves in problem solving for three weeks at MAA’s Mathematical Olympiad Summer Program.

“We have been running the U.S. Olympiad training program with a focus on the long-term development of our country’s talent, and it’s great to see that reflected in the continued team success a second year in a row,” said MAA Executive Director Michael Pearson.

Members of the winning 2016 U.S. team were Ankan Bhattacharya, Michael Kural, Allen Liu, Junyao Peng, Ashwin Sah, and Yuan Yao, all of whom were awarded gold medals for their individual scores. Team members Liu and Yao each earned perfect test scores. The team was accompanied by Loh and deputy coach Razvan Gelca, professor of mathematics and statistics at Texas Tech University.

Related: Math Forum.

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 university is leaving it up to the individual departments to decide whether math will be a required part of a degree’s curriculum.

That means the nursing program will be responsible for setting one level of math students must pass in order to graduate, while the journalism department could set a completely different standard.

“We felt the math requirement was better left to the various programs and majors to decide and to decide what levels of mathematics would be needed,” Monica Brockmeyer, associate provost for student success, told the Free Press.. “We still continue to support mathematics at Wayne State.”

Indeed, in a note sent out late last month to students announcing the change, the university said it “strongly encouraged” students to take mathematics as an elective. The note said two of the foundation classes are still important to take for students looking to go into STEM fields and that the Mathematics in Today’s World class “does an excellent job in introducing students to many important applications of mathematics.”

Related: Math Forum.

American Inst. of Mathematics:

The list below groups open textbooks by course title. All the books have been judged to meet the evaluation criteria set by the AIM editorial board.

Related: Connected Math, math forum audio/video and English 10.

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 time, facing a financial meltdown and several lawsuits over alleged fraud in its recruitment process, had recently started shutting down or selling off its campuses. The students, calling themselves the Corinthian Fifteen, had organized a “debt strike,” refusing to repay their student loans even at the risk of going into default. Their argument was that the Department of Education shouldn’t collect on loans that students were misled into incurring, especially since they earned a degree that was all but worthless or, in some cases, found that their college had shut down before they could graduate.

Related: connected math and the math forum audio/video.

The nation’s high school seniors have shown no improvement in reading achievement and their math performance has slipped since 2013, according to the results of a test administered by the federal government last year.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, also show a longer-term stagnation in 12th-grade performance in U.S. public and private schools: Scores on the 2015 reading test have dropped five points since 1992, the earliest year with comparable scores, and are unchanged in math during the past decade.

“These numbers are not going the way we want,” said William J. Bushaw, executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, an independent panel established by Congress to oversee NAEP policy. “We have to redouble our efforts to prepare our students.”

The sobering news, released Wednesday, comes at the same time the nation is celebrating its highest-ever graduation rate, raising questions about whether a diploma is a meaningful measure of achievement.

Eighty-two percent of high school seniors graduated on time in 2014, but the 2015 test results suggest that just 37 percent of seniors are academically prepared for college coursework in math and reading — meaning many seniors would have to take remedial classes if going on to college.

Related: Math Forum audio/video links.

PDF slides from a recent Madison School District Quarterly Board retreat. Readers may wish to understand “MAP” or “Measure of Academic Progress” [duck duck go SIS 2012 Madison and Waunakee results]

Using MAP for Strategic Framework Milestones and SIP Metrics

Feedback from various stakeholders has led us to examine the use of MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) to measure Strategic Framework Goal #1: Every student is on track to graduate as measured by student growth and achievement at key milestones. In particular, we have received three specific questions regarding our use of MAP data for Strategic Framework Milestones and SIP Metrics for 2016-17:

1. What is the best way to measure growth on MAP?

2. How should the district and schools set MAP goals for growth?

3. How should the district and schools set MAP goals for proficiency?

4. Should we track progress based on Proficient-Advanced or Basic-Proficient-Advanced?

In this document, we summarize the key issues for each of these questions and provide our recommendations.

1. What is the best way to measure growth on MAP?Currently, MMSD uses the percent of students meeting or exceeding fall to spring growth targets on the MAP assessment as both a Strategic Framework Milestone and School Improvement Plan (SIP) metric. In addition, this metric receives significant attention in our public reporting on MAP in other venues and teachers have been trained over the past several years to use it to measure progress at the classroom and student level. We have included growth as a complement to MAP proficiency; it allows us to look not just at how students are performing, but also improvement during the year.

For MAP growth, our initial growth trajectory involved a 10 percentage point improvement each year for the district. This goal has extended to SIPs for the past three years, as schools near district averages have received the goal recommendation of 10% improvement; that recommendation changed to 5% starting in 2015-16. The graph to the right illustrates our original trajectory of 10 percentage points a year, our recommended goals for each year (the previous year’s actual result plus an improvement of 10%), and our actual results from each year.

This graph shows us that the original plan of 10% improvement in growth per year would have placed us around 80% in the current school year. Although we believe in setting ambitious goals, the idea that we would continue to improve 10 percentage points every year likely was not realistic, and now that we are around 60% of students meeting growth targets, we may want to consider a lower target than 10 percentage points each year, as even 5 percentage points is relatively large.

Almost all schools set goals for MAP growth that aligned with a district recommendation: 5%, 10%, or 15%. In addition, we see that very few schools actually achieved growth improvements of 5% or more, with changes in growth generally clustering around 0%.Recommendation: Schools/groups within 10 percentage points of the MAP growth threshold would receive a recommendation for 2% improvement and schools/groups more than 10 percentage points from the threshold would receive a recommendation for 5% improvement.

## On the other hand, one might view this discussion positively, compared to the use of “facts and figures” ten years ago, in the Math Forum.

2015-16 Analysis: Equitable Distribution of Staffing.

Call to Action: Together as a community, we can commit to ensuring all of our students are successful. We must work in partnership, creating an organized effort to lift up our students of color, especially our African American students.

The MMSD Information and Technology plan undergirds all three of the goals and five priority areas in the Strategic Framework. The plan includes deliberate preparation, implementation, and monitoring phases to ensure each project’s success. We are learning from emerging best practices, building on successes, spreading out costs and addressing key challenges that arise. Technology is a powerful tool for enhancing teaching and learning and meeting students’ needs in creative, innovative and flexible ways. We are committed to providing more equitable access to technology for all students.

The first cohort (G1) began device implementation this school year after a full year of planning and targeted professional learning. Staff and students from other schools are in need of devices to access core digital resources, intervention programs, linguistic resources, and just-in-time learning. To continue progress towards equitable access and device implementation as stated in the original Tech Plan, we would like to phase in the next cohort of schools (G2) in January 2017 by instating the following actions:

Behavior Education Plan – Draft:

The Behavior Education Plan (BEP), MMSD’s policy for addressing behavior and discipline, was approved by the Board of Education in the spring of 2014 with initial implementation in the fall of 2014. The BEP moves us toward the use proactive approaches that focus on building student and staff skills and competencies, which, in turn, lead to greater productivity and success. Moreover, the BEP is also designed to reflect a commitment to student equity as we hold all students to high expectations while providing different supports to meet those expectations. Ultimately, the BEP seeks to decrease the use of exclusionary practices through the use of progressive, restorative discipline while also impacting the significant disproportionality experienced, in particular, by our African American students, male students, and / or students with disabilities.

Given the complexity of implementing the many layers of the BEP, ongoing implementation of the BEP continues to require differentiated and stable supports for our schools including allocation of resources targeted to the needs of students. BEP focus areas for 2016-2017 include implementation of Positive Behavior Support (PBS) universal school-wide systems, PBS classroom systems and practices, behavior response, and tier 2 and 3 interventions.

Priority Actions for Board Consideration (Draft – February 2016):

Pathways Professional Development – In order to support the planning and implementation of personalized pathways in year one, the District will provide professional development to support the first health services pathway.

$400,000 Grant Total (Grant Funding for Professional Development – pending)

$200,000 -(Direct Grant to support local Professional Development)

$200,000 – (In-Kind Grant for Professional Development)

Major Capital Maintenance- The capital maintenance budget is currently funded at $4.5 million, well below the $8.0 million target level recommended in the latest (2012) facility study.

$500,000 – Provides incremental progress towards annual funding goal of $8,000,000 to maintain our schools. (Funding from Local) – Questions have been raised about past maintenance and referendum spending (editor)

Priority spreadsheet that requires new funding.

Measuring Strategic Framework Goal #3:

Goal 3 of MMSD’s Strategic Framework is that “Every student, family and employee experiences a customer service oriented school system as measured by school climate survey data.” The district’s Climate Survey, first administered in the spring of 2015, provides the data we need to measure progress on this goal. In this document, we introduce our recommendations for using climate survey data to set goals and track progress at the district (Strategic Framework via the Annual Report) and school (SIP) level.

Our recommendations are designed to answer five questions:

1. How should we account for different surveyed groups?

2. What metric(s) should we use?

3. Which dimensions should we include?

4. How should schools set goals?

5. Should schools goal set on focus groups?

Introduction

Personalized Pathways- Draft 2016-2017

The development of Personalized Pathways is a major strategic priority action for 2016-17. The goal next year is to prepare for and establish the right conditions for a successful launch of Personalized Pathways in the fall of 2017 that will improve the level of engagement for our students, the number of students on track for graduation and our graduation rates. In alignment with state legislation, the continued development and expansion of Academic and Career Plans (ACP) undergirds the development of Personalized Pathways by ensuring that every student graduates with a clear post-secondary plan that has been developed throughout their secondary school experience. The key actions for 2016-17 are outlined below and are essential to improving the readiness levels of our schools and central office staff.Personnel

Next year, the expansion of ACP to 7th and 10th grade will require a small increase of 1.9 FTE at middle school and 1.5 FTE at high school (total 3.4 FTE) to support these new work streams.With the continued expansion of ACP to grades 6 through 12 over three years, staffing will need to increase across our middle schools to 3.8 FTE where it will level off for full implementation. ACP expansion at high schools will also need to expand over the next three years to support the number of students needing experiential learning related to college and career exploration, as well as Pathways coordination, leveling off at 6.8 FTE. The funding strategy may include repurposing existing roles or grant opportunities.

Indeed, spending more than $500,000,000 annually for 27K students provides “plenty of resources”.

“The thing about Madison that’s kind of exciting is there’s plenty of work to do and plenty of resources with which to do it,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of a sweet spot for Jen. Whether she stays will depend on how committed the district is to continuing the work she does. plenty of resources”, Derek Mitchell, 2013.

Katherine Beals & Barry Garelick:

“In general, there is no more evidence of “understanding” in the explained solution, even with pictures, than there would be in mathematical solutions presented in a clear and organized way. How do we know, for example, that a student isn’t simply repeating an explanation provided by the teacher or the textbook, thus exhibiting mere “rote learning” rather than “true understanding” of a problem-solving procedure?

“Math learning is a progression from concrete to abstract. The advantage to the abstract is that the various mathematical operations can be performed without the cumbersome attachments of concrete entities—entities like dollars, percentages, groupings of pencils. Once a particular word problem has been translated into a mathematical representation, the entirety of its mathematically relevant content is condensed onto abstract symbols, freeing working memory and unleashing the power of pure mathematics. That is, information and procedures that have been become automatic frees up working memory. With working memory less burdened, the student can focus on solving the problem at hand. Thus, requiring explanations beyond the mathematics itself distracts and diverts students away from the convenience and power of abstraction. Mandatory demonstrations of “mathematical understanding,” in other words, can impede the “doing” of actual mathematics.”

Related: Math Forum: audio/video.

I notice that the kid didn’t write them as (x,y) but wrote them as x,y. I wonder how come he did that? Or, more precisely, I wonder if he doesn’t see much of a difference between (x,y) and x,y or if three is some other reason for leaving off the parentheses.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

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 that he had a proof for it, but he never wrote it down.

Most people think Fermat was mistaken, for the proof became a sort of holy grail of mathematicians. And it wasn’t until 1995 that the British professor Andrew Wiles published a proof of Fermat’s conjecture, using many 20th century techniques that were unavailable to Fermat. The proof runs 109 pages, and—trust me on this—if you don’t have a Ph.D. in math, you won’t understand a word of it.

Related: Math Forum audio/video and Connected Math.

What’s more troubling is that many middle-class families take this propaganda as gospel and reject efforts to maintain meaningful oversight and accountability.

The Problem Is Us

Now, New Jersey may be an extreme example. We’re die-hard local control fanatics who cherish our small towns and district identities. As such, we adhere to what Rotherham calls the “middle class politics of education” which “means leaving suburban schools alone to rise and fall as they might. This has led to widespread mediocrity and pockets of excellence…and neutering accountability systems to mask uncomfortable bad news about school performance.”

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results and the Math Forum.

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 a research area then when researchers go elsewhere?

In a response to a question about how can one contribute to mathematics, Bill Thurston notes that our knowledge of mathematics can deteriorate over time.

Related: Math Forum and “connected math“.

KSTP:

The results of a new survey released Monday by U.S. Bank stated that many college-age young adults say they have no idea how to keep a budget.

What’s more, they look to their parents for financial education and advice.

The study’s key findings show college students don’t fully understand credit and credit scores. They have a good perspective on saving, the study found, but they need help understanding investments and retirement savings.

According to the survey results, parents are most often mentioned as students’ financial role models.

“They really felt unprepared to talk about the future or to save for the future, had no knowledge of retirement savings whatsoever and many didn’t know that their parents would have to pay back their loan if they didn’t pay their student loan back,” Christine Hobrough, U.S. Bank region market manager in the Twin Cities, said.

Related: Connected Math and the now 10 year old math forum.

NPR:

Math teacher Sherry Read’s classroom is a total mess. The students are gone for the summer, and light fixtures dangle from the ceiling. The floor has a layer of dust. Down the hallway, workers make a racket while they renovate the school, which dates back to the 1890s. They’re working in what has become an archaeological site.

A construction crew at the Oklahoma City school made a startling discovery earlier this month. They found old chalkboards with class lessons that were written almost a century ago, and chalk drawings still in remarkably good condition. So Read doesn’t mind the mess. In fact, she’s amazed.

Related: Math Forum and Connected Math.

At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks.

Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.

Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.

Related Math Forum and Connected Math.

“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 Countdown, should be working towards giving schoolchildren the resources and opportunity to achieve highly in maths at primary school.

Having created The Maths Factor – an online maths school for primary age children – four years ago, Vorderman will attend the first ‘graduation day’ today, for children who have made exceptional progress through the program.

Related: Math Forum.

Before Common Core I was a typical math teacher. I had my curriculum maps and and state standards which read like a skill and drill check list that I marked off one by one whether the kids understood them or not. I used really “great” methods and math terminology like “butterfly method”, “keep switch flip”, “leave opposite opposite”, and so many more that I would love to forget. I moved to Kentucky the year that KCAS (Kentucky’s Common Core) was adopted and thought “how different could it be?” The answer to that question can be answered easily with a quick peak inside my classroom today.

Today, my classroom is cognitively busy and alive with excitement about numbers. We no longer focus on skills, timed tests, facts, or catchy phrases to make students remember things that have no meaning to them. Today, we do math talks, counting circles, estimating, and reasoning instead of direct instruction. We take the time to understand numbers and their meanings rather than memorizing facts. I don’t drill random formulas and information into students heads so that they can remember it long enough to pass a test rather than understanding it to a depth that can be applied to real life.

I really do understand the reason so many parents seem to get upset about the “new math” associated with Common Core. After all, it is change and change is difficult but here is what I know. I have talked to tons of adults and not one has told me that they have to take skill and drill tests daily at work or risk being fired. When I ask what they have to do at work I get a lot of answers but there is always a common theme, in real life we are no longer asked to use math as a check list of skills that we either know or don’t know. Instead real life is about using the math to solve real problems, to be a critical thinker, to reason, and actually understand what is happening around them. Those are all the things along with many more that Common Core has brought to my classroom.

Much more on the Common Core, here.

Related: Math Forum Audio & Video.

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 urgency,” says Denise Sullivan, the assistant superintendent for curriculum at the Hampton Bays Schools.

Sullivan approached the college president to discuss the problem and forged an innovative partnership.

In an uncommon move, Sullivan and the chair of the mathematics department at the college created a high school course that mirrors the remedial class that students deficient in math have to take when they start college.

The college was “thrilled.” “Nobody else was taking this approach,” Sullivan says. The college had found that only 20 percent of the students who entered in need of developmental courses went on to graduate.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

“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 that courses in each school approach the class the same. After the district’s review of high school curriculum is complete, the ninth-grade algebra requirement and graduation requirements could change.

Like Madison, districts across the state are looking at ways to improve rates at which students pass algebra and are also developing new curriculum that includes algebraic concepts as early as kindergarten, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy.

Signe Carney, who has taught math at Memorial High School for 18 years, said part of the reason for the algebra failure rate is that “people are OK with saying, ‘I’m bad at math,’ and they will never say they can’t read. People think they can or can’t, and if they think they can’t, they won’t succeed.”

Another factor is that algebraic concepts build on each other, so it’s hard to catch up if students miss days, she said.

Related:

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack & Michael Fish @ UW Center for Placement Testing.

Math Forum Audio & Video (2008!).

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 Ayers and other blatant anti-American indoctrinators.

The site, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Teach for America, says that because math is seen as a domain for old, white men, many students cannot identify with it. Therefore, educators should find ways to relate math to the lives of their students.

Related: Math Forum, Connected Math, Everyday Math and English 10.

Math Task Force and When A Stands for Average.

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 development, because it helps bridge the gap from counting on fingers to complex calculation, according to the new brain scanning research.

The progression from counting on fingers to simply remembering that, for example, six plus three equals nine, parallels physical changes in a child’s brain, in which the hippocampus, a key brain structure for memory, gradually takes over from the pre-frontal parietal cortex, an area of higher order reasoning.

Related: Math Forum.

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 process, Farrow noted. She said she’s concerned about what those test results will show.

“I think we’re doing all we can, but we need help because these are our kids,” Farrow said. “If they aren’t making it, this state and this country aren’t making it. … This is an emergency. This is a tragedy happening.”

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

However, “it’s in all of our best interest to work together on this,” Cross said.

Related: Math Forum.

Madison’s math review task force. Have the results of the task force made a difference?

Americans could use a crash course in math.

According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are vacant for more than twice as long as other positions — largely because employers can’t find people with the math and science skills to fill them.In fact, high school graduates with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are in greater demand than college grads without them.

Related: Math Forum Audio & Video and wisconsin2.org.

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 using a grossly inferior math curriculum, Everyday Math. Most school districts in the area (and around the country) have dropped it because it fails to provide basic competency in elementary-level mathematics, crippling students’ ability to learn algebra and higher mathematics later in their career. Everyday Math is a prime example of “fuzzy math,” with students spending much their their time inventing their own algorithms, writing long essays, using calculators, and doing group projects. Everyday Math is a wonderful example of the tendency to jump on the latest fad, which may sound good, but fails in the classroom.

So you would think the district would be doubly sure not to make a serious mistake again.

Last month, a committee established by the district provided their recommendation of a possible new curriculum. Their rankings were:

1. EnVision Math

2. Go Math!

3. Math in Focus (MIF), which is a U.S. version of Singapore Math.As I explained in my last blog of the subject, their evaluation was a great disappointment. Math in Focus, based on the extraordinarily successful Singapore Math approach, was downgraded because it advanced student’s too rapidly (compared to the latest fad, the Common Core standards). Go Math! is glossy and weak. EnVision, their top choice, is glossy and full of excessive reading and writing, making it a poor choice for students who do not have strong English skills. But better than Everyday Math for sure.

Much more on Everyday Math, here.

Related: Math Forum audio/video.

Locally, Madison has also used Everyday Math.

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 with division that requires the use of squares, slashes and dots. They rage over impenetrable word problems.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

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 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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Chris Rickert via several kind readers:

Wisconsin has a “long way to go in all our racial/ethnic groups,” said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.

My hope is that, given Wisconsin’s overwhelmingly white population, proficiency problems among white students will spur more people to push for policies inside and outside of school that help children — all children — learn.

“I hate to look at it that way, but I think you’re absolutely right,” said Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The low performance of white students in our state may just lead to the type and level of change that’s necessary in public education for black and other students of color to succeed as well.”

Indeed, Gamoran said Massachusetts’ implementation of an evaluation system similar to the one Wisconsin is adopting now has been correlated with gains in reading and math proficiency and a narrowing of the racial achievement gap in math. But he emphasized that student achievement is more than just the schools’ responsibility.

Madison has known for a while that its schools are not meeting the needs of too many students of color.

The issue of low expectations and reduced academic standards is not a new one. A few worthwhile, related links:

- April 2004 West High School Math Teacher Letter

*Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.*

It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined “success” as merely producing “fewer failures.” Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community? - 2009: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use
- 2006: Math Forum audio, video and links
- 2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
- “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
- 2006: Connected Math
- 2005: English 10
- 2009: Action Needed, Please Sign on…. Math Teacher Hiring in the Madison School District
- Madison will spend $374,700,000 to educate 24,861 students during the 2012-2013 school year. $15,071/student.
- wisconsin2.org.

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.

WHEN retailers want to entice customers to buy a particular product, they typically offer it at a discount. According to a new study to be published in the Journal of Marketing, they are missing a trick.

A team of researchers, led by Akshay Rao of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, looked at consumers’ attitudes to discounting. Shoppers, they found, much prefer getting something extra free to getting something cheaper. The main reason is that most people are useless at fractions.

Consumers often struggle to realise, for example, that a 50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price. They overwhelmingly assume the former is better value. In an experiment, the researchers sold 73% more hand lotion when it was offered in a bonus pack than when it carried an equivalent discount (even after all other effects, such as a desire to stockpile, were controlled for).

Related: Math Forum.

I read with interest Nathan Comps’ article on the forthcoming 2012-2013 Madison School District budget. Board Vice President Marj Passman lamented:

“If Singapore can put a classroom of students on its money, and we can’t even put our money into children, what kind of country are we?” asks Passman, Madison school board vice president. “It’s going to be a horrible budget this year.”

Yet, according to the World Bank, Singapore spends 63% less per student than we do in America on primary education and 47% less on secondary education. The US spent $10,441/student in 2007-2008 while Madison spent $13,997.27/student during that budget cycle. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $14,858.40/student.

The Economist on per student spending:

Those findings raise what ought to be a fruitful question: what do the successful lot have in common? Yet the answer to that has proved surprisingly elusive. Not more money. Singapore spends less per student than most. Nor more study time. Finnish students begin school later, and study fewer hours, than in other rich countries.

In Finland all new teachers must have a master’s degree. South Korea recruits primary-school teachers from the top 5% of graduates, Singapore and Hong Kong from the top 30%.

Rather than simply throwing more money (Madison taxpayers have long supported above average K-12 spending) at the current processes, perhaps it is time to rethink curriculum and just maybe, give Singapore Math a try in the Madison schools.

Related:

- 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use
- Singapore Math and Math Forum.
- Singapore school statistics (PDF)
- When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?
- Alabama, unlike Wisconsin, participated in the 2011 global TIMSS examinations. Perhaps one day, Wisconsin will have the courage to compare our students to the world.

Via the Global Report Card. The average Madison student performs better than 23% of Singapore students in Math and 35% in reading.

Oh, the places we go.

I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:

- Despite spending nearly $15,000 per student annually, our Reading Results, the District’s job number one, need reform. 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This is not a new topic.
- The District’s math program has been an issue for some time, as well (Math Forum).
- How does Madison compare to the World, or other US cities? We can and should do much better.
- What is happening with Madison’s multi-million dollar investment (waste?) in Infinite Campus? Other Districts have been far more successful implementing this important tool.
- Are the District’s tax expenditures well managed?

With respect to the current Superintendent Review, the job pays quite well (IRS income distribution data: table 7), so I believe the position should be fully accountable to parents and taxpayers. Matthew DeFour:

In 2014, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad qualifies for a $37,500 payment for six years of service, which like Gorrell’s would be paid into a retirement account. Nerad already receives an annual $10,000 payment into his retirement account, which is separate from his state pension and in addition to a $201,000 yearly salary.

More, here.

The current rhetoric is quite a change in just 8 years. (Why did things change? A number of citizens care, decided to run for school board – won – and made a difference…) I certainly hope that the Board and community do not revert to past practice where “we know best” – the status quo – prevailed, as the Obama Administration recently asserted in a vital constitutional matter:

Holder made clear that decisions about which citizens the government can kill are the exclusive province of the executive branch, because only the executive branch possess the “expertise and immediate access to information” to make these life-and-death judgments.

Holder argues that “robust oversight” is provided by Congress, but that “oversight” actually amounts to members of the relevant congressional committees being briefed. Press reports suggest this can simply amount to a curt fax to intelligence committees notifying them after the fact that an American has been added to a “kill list.” It also seems like it would be difficult for Congress to provide “robust oversight” of the targeted killing program when intelligence committee members like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are still demanding to see the actual legal memo justifying the policy.

More, here on the political class and the legal system.

The choice is ours. Use our rights locally/nationally, or lose them.

A look back at previous Madison Superintendents.

High expectations surely begin at the top.

“Where ignorance is bliss, ignorance of ignorance is sublime.” – Paul Dunham

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

Last week, I went to a Spokane Public Schools math presentation at Indian Trail Elementary School. It was billed as a forum in the school newsletter and on the reader board outside of the school. It was not, in any way, a forum. It was a tightly controlled 20-minute presentation that offered no data, little information, allowed for no parent input and was patronizing in tone.

At one point, parents were asked to define math to the person next to us. (The principal said he would not offer his definition.) We also were told to describe to our neighbor a math experience we’d had. These conversations ended right there, thus being pointless. We watched a video of several small children talking about the importance of math. The kids were cute, but the video was long. It was made clear to us that math is hard, parents don’t get it (see slide 7 of the presentation), “traditional math” is no longer useful, and math is intimidating to all. Printed materials reinforced the idea of parent incompetence, with students supposedly “taking the lead” and teaching their parents.

Parents were warned to stay positive about math, however, despite our supposed fear and lack of skill, and we also were told what a “balanced” program looks like – as if that’s what Spokane actually has.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

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.

Educators at a small private Christian school in Olde Town Augusta are seeing results with a math curriculum imported from halfway around the world.

For the past three years, Heritage Academy has used Singapore Math as its basal math curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade.

In the first year the school adopted Singapore Math, all of its kindergarten and first-grade pupils met or exceeded proficiency standards on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, as did 80 percent of second-graders.

Why use math from Singapore?

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

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.

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.

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.

via a kind reader. Related: Connected Math, Math Forum audio/video, the successful Seattle Discovery Math lawsuit and the Madison School District Math Task Force (SIS links).

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.

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.

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.

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:

- Math Forum audio & video links.
- West High School Math Teacher letter to Isthmus.
- UW-Madison Math Faculty (35 signatures) open letter to the Madison School District about the Math Coordinator Position.
- Madison School District 8th Grade Math Data.

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

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:

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:

- Math Task Force notes and links
- Math Forum audio / video
- West High School Teachers Letter to Isthmus on the Madison School District’s Math Curriculum

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?

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:

- Math Forum
- Madison School District Math Task Force.
- 2004 Madison West High School Math Teacher letter to Isthmus.
- UW Math Professor Open Letter about the Madison School District Math Coordinator position.

[280K PDF Complete Presentation]

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.

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 Task Force
- Math Forum
- Madison West High School Math Teacher letter to Isthmus.
- Watch last Monday’s school board discussion of the local math program here.

schoolinfosystem.org