Monday, June 1, 2009

Disadvantaged Learners ..Orbits

The Issaquah data tells a similar story. The information on Education Research at the end is a repetition of an earlier email I sent , intended to provide context for others.

The fact that data for Shoreline, Bellevue , Seattle and Lake WA tell a similar story to that of Issaquah in regards to Low-Income, Black and Hispanic students says to me that the root cause of poor math learning is not the teachers, or teacher Professional Development. Instead, these disadvantaged groups do not get the help at home in learning math that is available to middle income and above groups. Help that comes from parents, other family members, or via a tutor.

My personal experience in working with 3rd and 4th graders at a 40% Low Income school in Lake Washington tells me that all the new math learning has to take place in the classroom with homework devoted only to review/reinforcemen t of previously mastered material so as to build long term memory.

The Discovery based model of teaching does not do this and with no boost in the home learning for disadvantaged groups, these groups from elementary school through high school will continue to suffer as they have in the past and be excluded from STEM career opportunities.

This can be changed by moving to a more structured, example based, practice based curriculum with the teacher and helpers providing immediate feedback to individual students as they work through practice problems.
This does not mean giving them the answers, rather, it means identifying where they are stuck and helping them realize their misunderstanding by asking the right questions and/or giving them related but simpler examples to consider. Working through a variety of problem types and a large number of problems increases one’s stock of math knowledge, improves skills, and increases the math confidence of every student. The Discovery materials may provide some nice activities to break up the routine once the math knowledge underlying the activity has been mastered by the students. This will provide a richer experience for the student with less frustration and less waste of precious class time.

-- David Orbits

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