Sunday, March 30, 2008

Authentic Algebra .................
............and Why it Matters

The National Math Panel Lays Out
the Path to Algebra -- and Why It Matters.

Educators should keep it simple: Define a few key topics and teach them until students master them. Students should memorize basic arithmetic math facts and spend more time on learning to manipulate fractions. How teachers achieve the goals is up to them.

The panel had difficulty relying on sound science as they could find so little of it. Few of the 16,000 studies it examined turned out to be useful. Most were of insufficient quality, too narrow in scope, or lacked conclusive findings. The literature has little on how to train teachers and how good teachers help students learn. So exactly what is going on with those Math Coaches in the SPS and the failure of the SPS to even define grade level necessary skills. Wow what is the school board thinking?

The U.S. secretary of education will hold a national summit this year on implementing the panel’s 45 recommendations. Local control over education could allow the SPS to continue on their same defective math path if the people are continually ignored as in the past. Perhaps the Board can do better than their 7-0 vote to continue reform math nonsense and the continual disregard of preparing students for Authentic Algebra.

Looking at success rates in algebra or proficiency in algebraic concepts, it is incredibly clear that students are not succeeding.

Many students have trouble with fractions?

In recent decades foolishly fractions were viewed as less important than other forms of numbers because you can express everything in decimals or in spreadsheets. If a student has no feel for numbers and what a fifth of a pie is, or what 20% of something is, how can they understand the ratio of numbers involved and what happens as you manipulate any ratio?

Schools lost sight of these important things. In Seattle, the School board, the SPS math leadership, and the UW educators of teachers all facilitated this loss of vision and loss of student math skills.

Many math studies are not very generalizable. The panel found a serious lack of studies with adequate scale and design for them to reach conclusions about their applicability for implementation. What does that tell you when the UW or the SPS says research shows when they attempt a change. The questions now must always be: What research and exactly what do you think it showed and why do you think so? The public statements of Dr Bergeson and written posts by several math reformers do not stand up when we search for positive results on a local scale. We have been the victims of Snake Oil Propaganda posing as research.

An excellent question is: Should the Federal Government be paying for more Research? Looking at the NSF's HED department's mindless funding of no results reform math over the last two decades, the immediate response could be NO WAY. If the NSF would stop the funding of all grant proposals that are in clear opposition to the NAMP recommendations, I would be in favor of Government funding to further the NAMP recommendations. If it is just going to be the continuation of Math gravy train nonsense that helped the UW promote math nonsense in Seattle over the last decade Do NOT spend one cent more.

Professional development math programs for teachers have been in large part a total joke. Look at the results of following the SPS math experts and OSPI over the last decade. There has been little attempt to have teachers learn more math content. Now 62% of Washington teachers have masters degrees but still do not know enough content to teach elementary school math. The math knowledge of the average US teacher is abysmal when compared to teachers in the top performing math countries. Most states refuse to pay competitive wages for math experts and have a shortage of math teachers. Contrast that with Korea, and Finland where they expect to have only the top 10% to 30% of math graduates teaching math. Washington has a math teacher and math knowledge shortage in schools and no plan to do anything about it. OSPI and SPS are clueless in this regard.

Look at the SPS Calculator insanity. Ms Santorno spoke of the need for automaticity [memorization of basic facts]; then ordered classroom sets of calculators so the students in the primary grades would have the calculators required for the Everyday Math books. ---- Now consider the money expended on educational math software and the effectiveness of that pedagogical software. Currently there’s no evidence of substantial benefit or damage. It is conceivable that a product could demonstrate effectiveness on a sizable scale under certain conditions; if it did could OSPI or the SPS even recognize that? Given the failure to heed Project Follow Through research it seems most unlikely.

Success in Math creates real opportunities for people and for the well-being of our nation, the fact that Seattle has entrusted Mathematical decision making to Ms Santorno, Ms Wise, and Dr Bergeson, is beyond the comprehension of informed rational individuals. What category will the current SPS seven member school board fall into? -- Three of the current seven members chose to be members of the irrational uninformed camp just 10 months ago. The same uninformed SPS administrative math leaders will soon be presenting a proposed High School math adoption believed to be Interactive Math Program as posted on Harium's Blog. If that is the case the plan continues to be NO AUTHENTIC ALGEBRA ever.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Prepare yourself for little improvement in the Seattle Schools.


Anonymous said...

HUD Chief, Alfonso Jackson resigned today, March 31, amid criminal allegations. I know longer think about why data has not been forthcoming. These government bosses are nothing but corporate swindlers.

16,000 studies and not one shred of proof that their 'reform measures' have succeeded. This is appalling. Probably, they'll get away with it too.

Anonymous said...

What math curriculum(s) do you recommend for grades 9-12?

T squared

Anonymous said...

T squared,
Not trying to beat a dead horse, but you know, its like there are so many kids now that don't have a chance of ever graduating and what we've been saying all along I don't think anyone has ever cared.

I have an absolute hatred for the school leadership. They have profited from the miseries of others, mostly children. They refuse to recognize that literacy is as important in math education as it is for all subjects.

I have no words left to describe the state of math research and why it hasn't been investigated more deeply remains a mystery. And since the statute of limitations is 5 years, most of these people will never be prosecuted. I find it disturbing.

I want nothing to do with this country and seeing bush and his entourage making more promises to clean up the banking system only makes things seem worse. He is vain, reckless, and foolish. I despise him and the republicans. Math reform is just one more hoax, along with Reading First and NCLB.
Why teach?

Name one curriculum that gets outstanding results.

Backed by research

High approval ratings from parents and children?

Excellent training for teachers

Meets World-class standards

Seamless, indepth focus on important math topics from grades 1to 12.


You see what I mean, no one listens...

OSPI and their supporters can go jump in the lake.

Anonymous said...

There's no justice here - look at the Dept of Education - absolutely contemptible. Why have it at all?

This society is more segregated than ever and our students clearly show a lack of education. Look at the streets of Seattle. OSPI is downright hopeless. SPS has its head in the sand. UW ed dept is a duck farm. Oracle, seen any EBDs lately. What a pile of s...!

“The only way to comprehend what mathematicians mean by Infinity is to contemplate the extent of human stupidity.” - Voltaire

Anonymous said...

"Just think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are even stupider!” - G. Carlin

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.” - A. Camus

"The wise understand by themselves; fools follow the reports of others” - Tibetan Proverb

“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” - Harlan Ellison

Anonymous said...

Prejudices are what fools use for reason.” -- Voltaire

The argument that somehow we've got to get rid of minority scholarships so that we can have a free and fair America implies that we have a colorblind society where minorities are equal in their pursuit of funds to go to school.
William H. Gray

Anonymous said...

What math curriculum(s) would an anti-fuzzy math person recommend for grades 9-12?

T squared

dan dempsey said...

Hey T-squared,

If we are talking the kid who comes to ninth grade in the SPS with a level one math WASL score, like 1/3 of the entering class will, I would recommend Singapore math grades 3, 4, 5. 6 complete with the challenging word problems.

If you had a kid that was clueless but talented and was clueless because of being instructionally disabled with the Pathetic reform math nonsense in the SPS - then I would definitely see using the Algebra readiness materials from Mind Institute.

Now if we a taking a normally prepared kid in grade 9 USA we are talking a grade 7 Singapore kid.

I really like New Math Counts from Singapore it has lots of examples and a nice layout. It is a five year set that covers pretty much the same materials that the New Syllabus Series covers in 4 years or the New Elementary series covers in 4 years.

I have been a fan of Paul Forester's stuff but have not looked at his Algebra or Advanced Algebra recently.

T-squared I guess the big question is are we talking math preparation for scientists and engineers or just regular college prep math.

These day so many kids know so little arithmetic it is really hard for me to envision big time college prep mathematics for studs.

Keep me posted. Why do you want an answer to this question?

Anonymous said...

Our high school is looking to adopt a new math curriculum for grades 9-12 and is considering CPM, Core-plus, and SIMMS. Having read so many negative comments about these curriculums, I'm wondering if the "anti-fuzzy math" people can suggest a more useful alternative. I'm most interested in an Algebra 1/Geometry alternative designed for the typical high school math student. Any ideas?

T squared

dan dempsey said...

T-squared here is what I know. Core-Plus is so far off the NMAP recommendations that when the state puts a course ending algebra test in place, who ever recommended core plus will be led to the Guillotine.
Think France 1789

Although many of the high performing math nations use an integrated curriculum, it looks nothing like the ineffective junk produced by the NSF. See the Sandra Stotsky statement preceding the National Research Council 2004 in my Math Algebra II High School essay.
Do not expect a state test for integrated math that will cater to the defective Integrated programs used in much of the USA.

John Freal of Blaine High School was involved with SIMMS development early on. He told me it is nice supplementary material but has gaping content holes.

Drop me a line off blog and I will send you John's email address he is extremely knowledgeable and could be an excellent resource for you.

Also Ted Nutting is conducting a review of a large number of high school text series. I can give you his email also off blog. This could be a wonderful resource.

I am partial to Forester. Unfortunately I have not looked for a real math book for some time. Given that the use of real math books has not been allowed very many places during the Bergeson reign of terror.

If you haven't got k-8 math right you are really stuck -- Think Seattle. I was amazed that Tacoma got the Saxon Results they did at middle school given the years of disaster previous to its implementation.
Those Tacoma teachers deserve or admiration and thanks. The scores for this Spring will be interesting when compared to Seattle's, that low income demographic is great for getting the socio-economic disparity out of the comparison.

I am incredibly impressed with the Mind Institutes Algebra Readiness package as I've already mentioned on previous posts. I am getting set up to pilot it during the 4th quarter starting in the next couple weeks.

I'll run some posts on how it goes.

This is the only decent road I've seen to save a large number of kids from math ignorance given the pathetic k-8 math education so many have been subjected to. Clover Park and Seattle have a lot in common given that they have both been the victims of following Bergeson's reform nonsense to the letter.

Hopefully this stuff will work fairly well and CPSD may be able to implement it next fall on a larger scale. I hope to develop a great program around this at AI High School next year.

Anonymous said...

I think Dan is correct about deciding whether your needs are supplemental or core. A district's curriculum can begin to look so fragmented and ad hoc that eventually it must decide if the whole system doesn't need to be completely overhauled.

Singapore would be difficult to implement in secondary only, unless its first been adopted in primary.

I would adopt it for a primary ELL program and let the results speak for themselves. Pretty soon the whole district would be using it. But you have to implement early.

You could try using a lower textbook (grade 6) maybe in high school and then accellerate the students. But it would be too radical for most teachers and the community. Its difficult for everyone to let go of their closet mentality and admit that their kids, even white kids, aren't learning what is being taught in the classroom. Did I say Washington schools were racial?

Singapore might work in an ELL program as was done in Quebec with a line of successful textbooks, but the program was implemented correctly starting in grade 1. And each year a new textbook was added.

TIMMS noted the elegance of this extraordinary progam, and divided Canada into two groups - French- and English-speaking. The French speakers did significantly better than the Anglophiles. Toronto rated above the US.

What they failed to note in their study was the French-speakers also included Chinese and Russian ELL students who had started grade school in Canada.

Even more funny is the fact that Cummins is from Toronto (he freely admits Toronto is a puzzle). And in Toronto, Russian Jews created their own schools - they absolutely detested the public school system.

If you choose CPM then your district should adopt the entire 6-12 curriculum for the same reasons.

Mount Vernon families voted to reject the standardized curriculum (core plus) in favor of using traditional textbooks at the high school, but they didn't see the connection to the elementary or middle school programs.

They also have a large Latino population to contend with, since Burlington and Woolley use standardized textbooks that most of the kids can't read anyway. So their schools remain mostly white. At least those who graduate. Did I mention racism?

La Conner uses CPM and they are getting great results - their school has also worked hard to improve the graduation rates of Native Americans. I think this shows CPM works for addressing the needs of a diverse community. And in this Age, what community is not diverse.

It would have made more sense to adopt CPM, since it was developed in the Central Valley with (English Dominant Latino (EDL) students in mind. It is not a watered down curriculum by the way. Its in a format that is easy to read - the problems are based on world standards. Course 1 is perhaps the most difficult course of the series to teach - it is difficult to complete all the units in a year.

They added middle school later, since it was realized kids weren't entering high school with the math skills they needed to attack algebra problems.

If your district is using TERC or Everyday Math, or Connected Math chances are then you will have to supplement CPM. They will be at least a year behind by the time they reach 8th grade.

I don't recommend adding an extra course, but rather streamlining the text use (9/13 units of Course 1) and adding a non-writing component (non-threatening formative assessment activities) and target number sense.

At some point in a student's career, you have to forget about grading because it no longer matters to them. The student is able to assess for themselves what they need to know or don't know.

As a teacher, you only need to point out what they don't know and then give them an opportunity to learn what they should be learning. That is a valid social contract.


*** If whole curriculum adoptions, literacy, teacher training, and world standards are the success criteria for your district, then either CPM or Singapore would be correct choices.

Inquiry and discovery methods work for some students, but they are exclusionary (leave out the majority of students).

Direct teaching works for everyone. Some districts are using this fact to make themselves look better than they really are. Be careful before comparing districts.
Especially, districts that use Core Plus or IMP. They are hiding something extraordinary and you can tell by looking at their Title I expenditures.

1. Look at the success of alternative programs. Is the principal bragging about a program that maybe graduates 17% of its students?

2. Look at student turnover. If more than a quarter of the students are leaving, then its probably the quality of the algebra program.

3. Look at ethnic diversity. Does it match the community's?

4. Graduation and dropout rates are manipulated to make achievement appear better than it really is.

5. Look at the enrollment in pre-calculus, chemistry, and physics programs. If the programs are small, its because the math program is weak.

6. If you see a huge decline in math enrollment between 10th and 11th grade. Its the quality of the math program.

All that one has to do is go to the attendance office around March and find the checkout binder that records all the students who've left school since September.

If every principal can tell their school board that they raised test scores in their district, doesn't that completely ignore the fact that so many people are still unsatisfied with the quality of the math program.

Anonymous said...

I attempted to use CPM Course 1 with a group of 11th graders in an alternative ed program. These kids hadn't had any teacher since leaving eighth grade. They had been raised with Everyday. It was a futile exercise, so I used a supplement (Marcy cook). So the issue here is pretty much number sense. You won't make progress unless the kids have a good grounding in number sense.

dan dempsey said...

And Number Sense appears to arise from arithmetic.

Anonymous said...

Yes, number sense is sort of the base for deeper understanding. I would include factoring (being able to break down numbers into products of prime factors) - it includes different types of numbers, like irrational or transcendental numbers. Operations with fractions and decimals. I would include automaticity (mental arithmetic). Choosing the right form of a number to solve a problem in the most efficient way (fewest steps).

Students tend to score lowest in number sense if they score low on tests like the WASL.

dan dempsey said...

As a friend said to his child:

No wonder you know so little math, there are hardly any numbers in your math book.

Few numbers = .....
..............little number sense

Clearly a difficult equation for many math administrators to deeply understand.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy the feedback. Anyone else have input on CPM versus Core-plus?

T squared