Saturday, June 7, 2008

Math Materials From Professor B
These look good has anyone used these?

From Professor B materials:

In numerous instances, contemporary math education, in spite of claims to the contrary (“we adhere to NCTM standards”), provides no alternative to children, during their impressionable years, besides memorization of facts and “steps” for getting answers. It presents a curriculum that fails to deliver an enormous number of arithmetical connections. This unnatural way of forcing children to function in a desperate and futile attempt to “learn” mathematics is precisely the training necessary for transforming the vast majority of children into non-thinkers and, consequently, poor problem solvers (see the article on our website entitled, “Memorization Is a Nuisance to Elementary Mathematics Education”). If the “honor students” they produce can only do the mechanical “steps” to get the answers, but are not exposed to the reasons why they work, then the honor status is an illusion. Where is the mathematics? It’s in the structured meanings and understandings that are bypassed by steps (for getting answers). Conditioned by these mechanical procedures, these students will “pay the piper” when faced with high school or college mathematics which challenges them to structure meanings and understandings. A few recover; the vast majority falters.

Check out Professor B materials HERE


Anonymous said...

This helps put Professor B into a proper perspective and personally I think it is time that communities all over the US rejected the NCTM reform mathematics and begin looking for alternatives - they've been around for awhile, so you won't have to look far.

The 60's and 70's movements were really inspirational for educators and mobilizing ethnic communities. My aunts were both reading teachers in Chicago and Washington DC - I had an uncle who at the time was working for Kennedy to integrate schools. So its not surprising that you would find a textbook developed for children in NYC.

In order to produce rapid social changes, you must empower communities with effective curriculum.

On "Ethnomathematics": Math Is Not a Neutral Train Runnin'

Back in the late 60's I began to rethink the way I taught math and the content of the math I was teaching. I was a young man still in my 20's and I was moved to do this because:

(1) In the 60's I was teaching youngfolk who graduated from NYC hi schools crippled with math miseducation and were not getting the math I was literally dropping on them (as was done to me- but by chance and specific kinds of socialization at Lincoln U. in PA -I "got it"). Our students believed that Whitefolks did math (the Asian math whiz myth was not developed yet) because they were genetically "capable" and we were not. This was the racial inferiority complex and racist assumptions that defined a Black person's education life. For example, at Queens College where I taught math in the SEEK Program from 1968-69, there was a white math prof in the math dept. who gave an interview to the campus newspaper saying that Blacks don't have the mental capacity to do math... and if they do, it's because they have some "white blood" in them.

(2) Because of my deeply involved revolutionary political activism (Panther Party/Black Arts Movement/Black Studies Movement) and from the teachings of folk like John Henrik Clake and Dr. Ben, the growing knowledge of the world of math before and beyond Europe... I began to rethink just what is mathematics and who does it and why?

(3) Because of the above two realities, I began to think about the connection of math knowledge and its central importance to not only understanding the enemy, but what place in future society would we Blackfolk be in if we were "distanced" from math, science & technology (we now know he answer!). By the time the Black Scholar published my little essay in 1970: "Mathematics & the Black Liberation Struggle" I understood that mathematics is an integral part of all societies... and is presented or "done" differently in each of those societies. I also understood that the historical roots of math was out of Africa- not just the great civilization of Kemet (Egypt), but other African civilizations in different eras contributed to the vast math knowledge base that flowed to Asia, the Americas and later Europe.

(4) In this great period (60's & 70's) of strong Black education research & struggles (Black Studies, Community Control and the struggle for control over African/Diaspora research), it became clearer to me that we had to redesign our math pedagogy (ways of teaching) if we are going to bring our people into the positions of POWER. Capitalism was using science and technology in an exponential manner for its profit maximization demands and for its increasing control and surveillance of people and nations. By the end of the 60s, we had already entered a world that was becoming dominated by those who not only controlled the means of production, but also INFORMATION. One of the ways it was being done was to suck the knowledge out of humans and place/store it in a machine called a "computer." Unfortunately, there were only a tiny handful of politically active Blackfolk in the early to mid 70s who were scoping this out. By about 1974, I wrote another piece for the Black Scholar on Technology and the Black Liberation Movement where I tried to hilite this trend in capitalism and warn about how we will become more oppressed and alienated as a people if we don't produce a new generation of conscious Black science/tech activist-scholars and workers.

The pioneering work of the then incarcerated Brother Frank Chapman, Claudia Zaslavsky ("Africa Counts") on the history of math and science out of Africa gave me ammunition and inspiration to push my pedagogical ideas outside the elitist/gender-biased/racist box. Further my SUNY-Old Westbury brother colleague Dr. Everard Barrett (Dr. B) showed me ways of further enhancing my teaching methods. In 1973 or 74, he went into the then decrepit (still is) Black school system of Roosevelt, LI... took a random group of 3rd graders and within a school year had them passing 9th year algebra exams!! His pedagogy flowed to his teaching of adults at Old Westbury also.

(5) There were numerous alternative math/ethnomath/criticalmath conferences, essays, organizations, programs and books developed during the past 35 years. But, because the field of mathematics is one of the most conservative intellectual fields of study and because much of the leadership in this new field of math studies and pedagogy was lead by people of color from all over the world, it got constantly kicked to the curb or relegated as wild radical politically correct rantings of kooky 60s holdovers.

However, by the mid80's Brother Bob Moses's Algebra Project gets to be known to public school and college educators all over the US. He was able to synthesize a number of things many of us had been struggling to get "mainstreamed." The Algebra Project is one of the most successful middle school math programs in the US. If a Diane Ravitch type conservative would look at it, she/he would see "ethnomath" being used along with critical thinking pedagogical methods that push the students to go far beyond what is actually expected of them in middle school. Hence, Algebra Project students arrive at a much higher level of understanding some of the most sophisticated algebraic concepts... and are able to articulate this to others. even tho these sessions are not test-driven, Algebra Projects students do very well on hi-stakes testing because they have the confidence AND a DEEP understanding of math ideas.

By 1993-4, we (a number of education activists and parents- many of whom are still fighting today) created an Algebra Project-NYC as got it started sucessfully in 5 school in District 13 and later a couple of schools in district 17. Hundres of parents and students and teachers met all over the city eager to be part of something that was truly successfully getting midlle school Black & Latino students excited and knowledgable about math. Unfortunately, thru DOE bureacratic mess and internal Algebra project board's over cautiousness, the Project faded from the scene in NYC by 2000. But the Project is going strong in Mississippi and other places. We can bring it back to NY. We SHOULD bring it back to NY.

During this period (1975-1990) the works of Mozambiquan math educator- Paulos Gerdes -became well-known within the ethnomathematics world. I had the privelege to not only meet him and his colleagues but saw his successful work -first hand- in action in Mozambique and South Africa. Gerdes's work is rooted in "ethnomath." It's rooted in bringing African youth to very sophisticated math levels thru an African-centered math based on the various ways African did and do math. It is a successful math education program that has been up and running since the late 70's... in spite of US supported civil wars & IMF/World Bank machinations.

(6) So... I know this math education reform struggles firsthand. I also know that Western math is one of the most multicultural-based math on the planet! It is a creole mix of math from Africa, Europe, India, China and the Americas that evolved into what we see today first thru Europeans studying from Africans in Egypt and North Africa, then thru Arabs and Moors dominating the culture of Southern Europe for seven centuries, then thru the travels of Marco Polo (and other Europeans of his time) to the East, then thru the conquering encounters of Europeans thruout the Americas. One needs only to read George Joseph's "Crest of the Peacock- The NonEuropean Roots of Mathematics" to see what I'm talking about.

(7) This Ethnomath/criticalmath/African-centered Math Movement is an international movement that has been growing over the decades -in spite of the conservative onslaught to rollback math education to the 1930's. The Rethinking Mathematics book is a step in the right direction. what is also needed are people who teach teachers how and why to change their negative education ways- especially in the middle and hi school levels.

(8) Math is not a neutral thing. Yes, Math is universal (and the Western version of it has become standard because of whom the victors are- just like the basis of all computer language is English and binary numbers). All over the world People do Math- People live and work in a society -society is governed by political, economic machinations and spiritual beliefs -so math ideas are rooted in social, spiritual, economic and political realities of a people's society. Math is not hovering in the heavens outside of people... waiting to be discovered by a "genius". Math is inside of us- all of us -waiting to be discovered and used. It is a way of thinking influenced by Nature and the social world around us....

I Can say more, but I hope this helps put a context on the racist conservative attack on the attempts to transform math ed so that EVERYBODY can learn deeply the power and beauty of mathematics for the sake of liberation and the survival of Humanity and the Earth.

In Struggle,

Sam Anderson

Posted by Black Educator


I think its a great program because students comprehend what they're learning. And its scalable, as teachers benefit from the trainings.

I'm still a proponent of Singapore for a number of reasons.

1. world standards
2. eliminates tracking (high end curriculum)
3. organization
4. vision (selected problems are carefully researched)
5. geometry focus
6. developed by the ministry of education for mobilizing an entire student population k - 12 for preparation for college level mathematics.)

Anonymous said...

The prebriefing of the Exemplary National Committee by Project 2061 Director Roseman, then with the NSF, concluded the most heavily tracked subject taught in school was mathematics and justified the range of curriculum that was judged exemplary or promising.

Curriculum that fails to deliver creates what is known in the trade, as segmented marketing and you literally ten-fold your revenue by filling in the gaps at both ends of the subject spectrum and anything else that lies in between that was left out. In the case of an empty- headed book like Core Plus you have a vacuum to fill. Bellevue parents have money to burn, so why not do it - no crimes been committed - we'll just abuse kids for 15 years with stupid, pointless questions.

Anonymous said...

is this diary from you, or is that a quote from this professor B person?

what I endured 30 years ago in math - 12 years of drill and kill - did stink for most of us, even those of us tracked in the 'smart' kid classes.

HOWEVER - everyone can master basics and HAS to master basics (fractions, percents, positives and negatives ...)

AND, without mastering basics, you are 99.999% guaranteed to spend a life as a serf.

because of World War Two, and our take over of the british empire, our country has been so affluent that we could 'afford' to come up with b.s. excuses upon excuses for kids not mastering basics, much less becoming globally comptitive.

Anonymous said...

Yes, blogging has its limits, Sam Anderson wrote the essay entitled - "On Ethnomathematics: Math... so what's after that is the essay, which has so much sincerity and insight that it must be true. And I put in the link, because of the essay and mentions Dr. B.

The link is at the beginning because I thought it was important, but it was the last thing I did and that's why it ended at the beginning.

If you don't know Sam Anderson...

Sam Anderson <>- Education Director, Center for Law & Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, The City University of New York -- Member of Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence and the Independent Commission On Public Education (ICOPE)

Blogging is informal, so sometimes it can look like a diary - those first two paragraphs I wrote, but I've been writing about mathematics education, social justice, and grant writing for over 15 years, so I've decided educating the public is more important and I am trying to write more plainly. My uncle did work for Robert Kennedy.

Your comment:

"HOWEVER - everyone can master basics and HAS to master basics."

Belongs in standards - it is part of our vision of what we want children to learn by the time they graduate. The present adopted curriculum denies most children that vision.

What you call basics is standard for most of us (long division, etc - we learned to do operations the most efficient way possible in school for a very good reason.

The reform movement broadens that definition to include non-standard algorithms and methods of problem-solving. The tests we use to measure achievement do not count non-standard solutions. The standardized textbooks teach non-standard algorithms, what teachers usually call enrichment. I don't consider enrichment, the same as support - some teachers do and this is very unprofessional (just my opinion)

The problem posed by NSF-funded systemic grants, like SCALE, is that new teachers are now being indoctrinated in an ideology that has not shown itself to be very successful. It has essentially reversed the gains made by public educators in the 70's and 80's.

Bellevue School District is an excellent example of how administrators made promises to educators and union leaders to supplement the Core plus (Integrated) curriculum and then backed out of the agreements at the last hour.

I am not arguing that we go back to "drill and kill" that makes no sense either - but if you ask a child 'How much homework do you have assigned every night?' Honestly, its probably too much and what kinds of problems do kids bring home - drill and kill assignments - the only difference is they don't bring home a textbook. They're worksheets that have nothing to do with what they're learning at school.

How many parents are used to seeing marks like this:

homework F
classwork A-
tests F
Overall D+

My professional opinion is that this is a dishonest way to grade a child and it absolutely says what our public school system has become - pointless - so it is hardly egalitarian or democratic.
I agree with Dan, Core-24 sounds more like the name of a discotheque and its just another program disguising a terrible truth of what's happenned to our public schools in the past two decades.

There are well-written textbooks in the pipeline and parents want their kids to have access to the knowledge that is in those books.
Those textbooks were designed to inform and entertain students - they were written by teachers who knew the only way to reach children was to create books that would speak to them. Words have value; only if they have meaning.

Most learning in math can be taught out loud and their are all types of activities that can be used to get children working in unison. This is repetition, but it is not drill and kill.

Reading ability should not limit what children learn in math. Math is a specialized type of reading, since learning how to organize one's thoughts are more important than decoding text - you don't have time to do both when you're learning 'basics'.

Why would one want to learn multiple ways of multiplying, if eventually only one method will work for all numbers. Our civilization has moved past counting fingers - we live with real numbers and some of us even get to use imaginary numbers.

I am not going to sit passively and take the type of criticism that is currently coming from the reform movement - especially the NCTM, which has made this math war into a personal vendetta and why not, the crummy textbooks they help sell are making some of its members filthy rich.

Adopt the highest standard that has a curriculum to match it and you will be doing this country a great favor. For one, you will eliminate tracking and all students will get the same curriculum.

I thought this up if that's what you mean by the quote - but the idea is not a new one and I think Sam Anderson would agree. This was the whole point of integrating - it had to do with curriculum. At least that's my opinion. Integrated math resegregated schools and communities because it will not work with disadvantaged children. For one, they use non-standard English. Two, public school is the only government institution where disenfranchized groups can make the greatest gains in improving their standard of living.

"In order to produce rapid social changes, you must empower communities with effective curriculum."

Do not confuse Ethnomathematics with Ebonics?

Ethnomathematics teaches the same mathematics - but its the study of the methodology(the activities we use in classrooms to advance learning. The current reform efforts would have us believe that children sitting quietly in a study hall is the best method of learning mathematics or any subject for that matter. Nothing could be further from the truth and schools are doing a grave injustice. I only wish and pray that parents will revolt and sue the g..... districts for the lousy support programs they have created with Bergeson's blessings.

Ridiculous, wasteful, useless...

Anonymous said...

I think you would agree that an adult who can learn how to read in school, should also be able to recall their multiplication facts. But this is for real, I've met young adults, turning 20, born in Washington, who could not recall their basic multiplication facts and they could not do long division. The integrated math programs and some of the lousy support programs in this State have got to be changed for good. Imagine students taking Core I for four years and never passing or learning anything useful. They weren't even using drill and kill types of activities or being instructed by a math teacher. What gives with that administrator?

Anonymous said...

to anon at 11:45

1st comment on 2 quotes.

quote 1.

'Honestly, its probably too much and what kinds of problems do kids bring home - drill and kill assignments - the only difference is they don't bring home a textbook. They're worksheets that have nothing to do with what they're learning at school.'

quote 2.

"Most learning in math can be taught out loud and their are all types of activities that can be used to get children working in unison. This is repetition, but it is not drill and kill.'

question - I teach high school, and from what I saw of middle schools in a year of substituting across 3 big WA. districts with high poverty low test scores was kids never mastered the basics cuz they were busy doing 'inquiry / discovery learning' / 'cooperative learning' / 'groupwork' / 'differentiated instruction' which = pandemonium with squirlly 12 and 14 year olds.

pandemonium = no learning. PERIOD.

I might be completely wrong, but, to me mastering a lot of the basics just take some quiet time and practice until you master it - sure, it helps to talk about what positive and negative numbers are and it is fun to play games with the red and black cards to practice positive negative numbers ... BUT, at some point you just have to shut up, concentrate, practice and learn.

I've only been in classrooms for 4 years, and I've spent 30+ years working, mainly with screwballs of all skin colors, and for some reason screwballs can master all the zillions of steps of baseball card collecting or gambling or internet porn or drugs or booze or this weeks fashion or cars or ... a million other distractions, BUT

they can't master fractions and percents,

they can't model their employment / pay agreements and changes to those agreements ??


for getting beyond the basics I think we do need stuff which is interesting - I don't give a shit about physics math or astronomy math, as far as studying to take tests go, but, operations research / non linear, linear and discrete optimization is really really interesting.

so, finally - mastering the basics - some quiet, some concentration, some practice



Anonymous said...

You haven't observed a class using Dr. B and I would suggest you go to Jamaica or Singapore or Thailand and observe a classroom learning math. Quiet, it is not.

My observation of an alternative program was dead silence - children were not allowed to talk and worse they were given Core Plus that they couldn't take home and there were no calculators. Try to take Core plus without a calculator - the book spends a good deal of time teaching kids how to input data for calculators.

If you have no structure to run your activity then you have pandemonium. If group work is not guided then you have pandemonium. It makes no sense to put a blanket rule down - no talking!!! when the expectation is the children will be working together.

As a substitute you have a dilemma - I can understand that, but your getting into the middle of a bad situation and I agree its probably going to look like a war zone. Don't do it then.

If we have better textbooks then at least we can have better control over classrooms. Kids expect to learn something when come to school.

Anonymous said...

I find some HSTs are the problem -muddlers have to use profanity, they would learn more by trying to replace their excuses with their ideas and then they would start making more sense.

If you don't have the experience, training, desire, or patience for managing middle school kids then don't do it - you'll be happier.

The person teaching AP stats, Int. Algebra, Computer Science, or Calculas really doesn't fit in this debate at all, because they don't have the pleasure of using some of this messed up curriculum, some of us are forced to use everyday in our classrooms.

"Teach the basics, stop making excuses" - a HS Math Teacher that teaches, but no one listens...

If you teach in a support track at a high school, you are probably a new teacher.

At least have the honesty to use textbooks that children can read and learn from. Stop making excuses for bad textbooks. Stop subsidizing the textbook industry and their supporters.