Friday, August 20, 2010

Professional Development in Math
What is it?

Math Common Core Standards writer Dr. Wu of UC Berkeley wrote a paper


Section 8 is particularly interesting:
8. The need for in-service professional development

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the disheartening results of Deborah Ball's survey of teachers on their understanding of fraction division ([Ball]). I would venture a guess that, had her teachers been taught the mathematics of K-12 in a way that respects the five fundamental principles of mathematics, the results of the survey would have been far more satisfactory.

[ As found in section 5 of the linked paper..
The five fundamental principles are:
(1) Every concept is precisely defined and definitions furnish the basis for logical deductions.
(2) Mathematical statements are precise. At any moment, it is clear what is known and what is not known.
(3) Every assertion can be backed by logical reasoning.
(4) Mathematics is coherent; it is a tapestry in which all the concepts and skills are logically interwoven to form a single piece.
(5) Mathematics is goal-oriented, and every concept or skill in the standard curriculum is there for a purpose.]

Until we improve on how we teach mathematics to teachers in the universities, defective mathematics will continue to be the rule of the day in our schools. It is time for us to break out of the vicious cycle by exposing teachers to a mathematically principled version of the mathematics taught in K-12. Unfortunately, such short-term exposure in the university may not be enough to undo thirteen years of mis-education of prospective teachers in K-12.

Uniform achievement in the content knowledge of all math teachers will thus require heavy investments by the state and federal governments in sustained in-service professional development. To this end we need in-service professional development that directly addresses content knowledge. Funding for such professional development, however, may be hard to get, for content knowledge does not seem to be a high-priority consideration among government agencies. For example, in a recent survey by Loveless, Henriques, and Kelly of winning proposals among the state-administered Mathematics Science Partnership (MSP) grants from 41 states ([Loveless-HK]), it was found that:
"Some of the MSPs appear to be offering sound professional development. Many, however, are vague in describing what teachers will learn." Typically, these "MSPs' professional development activities tip decisively towards pedagogy." For example, although the professional workshops described in [TAMS] were not part of the review in [Loveless-HK], they nevertheless fit the description of this review. The [TAMS] document begins with the promising statement that the "TAMS-style teacher training increases teachers content knowledge." But other than mentioning "teacher workshops focused on data analysis and measurement.. . . Early grade teachers also studied length, area, and volume," the rest of the discussion of the mathematics professional development focuses on persuading teachers to adopt "constructivist, inquiry-based instruction." The lack of awareness in [TAMS] about what content knowledge elementary teachers need in their classrooms is far from uncommon. It is time to face the fact that the need for change in the funding of in-service professional development is every bit as urgent as the need for more focus on content knowledge in the pre-service arena.
Thus it appears that Professional Development for math teachers is currently damn near anything that sucks up time and dollars .... now what it should be is exactly what Dr. Wu prescribed.


Dr. Wu discusses the Mis-Education of Math Teachers.... this describes the SPS perfectly. Any elementary teacher that received inservice training in Everyday Math has seen Wu's description of "mis-education" up close and personal.

I wonder how SPS math coaches would fare on a test of mathematical content knowledge?

Check the web for SPS academics math..... you will find:

"Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems."


It seems the principle requirement to be an SPS math coach is to be a huckster for the "FUZZY" pedagogical nonsense the Central Admin is still selling.


Anonymous said...

Stand and deliver with everyday math!!! MU'WHAHAHAHAHAHA

Anonymous said...


Have you looked at the Model Teaching Standards and State Policy Implications released by CCSSO as part of Common Core?

It specifies that PD is to be built around the inquiry approach.

Perhaps they can get pizzas to explore fractions.

Bowen Kerins said...

Hi Dan, I have read many of your posts with interest, including the analysis of Prentice Hall and Discovering Algebra's approaches to equation solving.

Maybe I missed it, but I am curious about your opinion on our curriculum, CME Project, which is published nationally by Pearson in 2008 and currently used with success in Chicago, Boston, and many other school systems. I feel CME addresses many of the concerns you have about Discovering, while giving students the opportunity to learn and practice important concepts before they are brought to mastery.

This might not be the best forum to ask about this, but I am curious and have not seen much comment about CME in these debates. Dr. Wu was a valued advisor to our program, and our lead author was an advisor on the Common Core Standards.

Thanks for your time and consideration. I feel that there are good ideas on both sides of this "traditional versus reform" debate, and that our curriculum has a lot of respect for the positive aspects of both perspectives.

Best wishes,
Bowen Kerins, EDC (one of the CME Project authors)