Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sudhakar's Thoughts

Dan -

Only in America....

I have visited many countries, developed, undeveloped, and developing. I have not come across any person or organization that argues what math is. They all seem to have an intuitive grasp of what kids should master by high school. If there isn't agreement on what math is at the fundamental level, we cannot even get past first base. Before Obama and Arne Duncan, or even Dorn, turn this ship around, they need to deal with this massive boat anchor called Ed School Establishment. Pardon me, I know I am preaching to the choir.

Part of what is happening is, in my mind, reaping what we sow. We as a nation neglected teaching the fundamentals for the last three decades. Some of the kids who went through these self esteem days of schooling are now teaching elementary and middle school math. Data show that most elementary and middle school teachers never took advanced math in high school, and did not major in math or science related subjects. I would not expect them to be thrilled about math and science achievement. When these kids end up in middle school, no wonder they need help in arithmetic! It is like ignoring a cold until it turns to pneumonia, and then spending many times the money to treat it. I had to home school my kids to see the difference for myself. The WORST I did was with my eldest son, who passed his AP Calc exam in 11th grade. The best I did was with my second son, who passed AP calc in 9th grade. My daughter is on track to do AP calc in 9th grade as well. What is funny (and sad) is that my daughter's 6th grade math teacher, who taught CMP2, said she did not have aptitude for math. That was the last year she spent in a regular school.

What gets me with the SPS recommendation is the concept of "balance". This is a non-option as far as I am concerned. When someone chooses a curriculum for its "balance", they will lose the bright kids due to boredom, and confuse those who don't get it. I was forced to spend some time with my son in India with his Discovering Algebra 2 book, because we were on a long vacation during school year. The chapter was "logarithms", and I could not find more than one useful formula in the chapter. There were almost no useful examples to serve as models. My son and I gave up on the book, and I taught him what I recalled from memory, going back to my high school days in 1971. He came back to school ahead of his classmates in Logarithms. The teacher was still trying to decide how to make sense of the chapter! He ended up getting tutored by me for the rest of the class, and aced the course.

So, "balance" in curricula, in this context, is mediocrity in disguise. Worse, it looks good on the surface, has a lot of fluff, but has no meaningful substance inside. It is as if someone tried to interpret math for the math poor - without much success. In the end, no one benefits. It is a lose-lose proposition, and a recommendation only a mother (in this case, the "mother" is the entity that recommended it) can love. It was the same reason given by Beaverton schools when they went with EDM - "balance". Another generation of Beaverton elementary kids left behind.


Anonymous said...

A vocal minority controls the math curriculum debate and as a result negatively influences the lives of so many innocent, young people.

Wait a minute, isn't that in the US and I thought this was a democracy.

Anonymous said...

Here's Rand's response (another report!!!)

Achievement for All???? written by???? We know them well.

The chapters are downloadable in PDF.

They'd like to see better research!!! and MORE evidence!!! Gee, I remember a UW study not to long ago that had professors filling in a survey about how they felt about the textbooks they were reading....Nice work. And you even got published. wow, what a joke.

dan dempsey said...

USA is not a democracy, it is a republic. In a Republic we realize that decisions are very complex and we rely on our representatives to fully research the issues and produce the best solutions possible in the interests of the citizens.

In the SPS the Directors are essentially un-salaried. This unfortunately means they can not thoroughly research every issue. They must rely on the Central Administration's leadership and there is the rub.

Why would anyone listen to a Central Administration that has produced over a decade of math disaster? Beats me but on May 6, 2009 perhaps we shall find out.

Anonymous said...

An unsalaried position yes, but there are perks - its a stepping stone (eg. Alan Bersin). You do what you are told to do or you don't belong. It explains a great deal.

dan dempsey said...

You do what you are told to do or you don't belong...So who is really doing the telling?

Anonymous said...

The mysterious force :)