The post Reform Math: The Symptoms And Prognosis appeared first on Education News.

]]>*by Robert Craigen and Barry Garelick*

It is obvious to many parents that something is off in their children’s math classes: Instead of learning math facts and standard methods, their kids must use cumbersome procedures, find multiple ways to do simple tasks, and explain in writing what they have done. In general, they need more help than their parents did when they were in school.

For two decades now parents and children have been collateral damage in a struggle that has come to be known as the “math wars”. Opinion is sharply divided on how best to teach K-12 math. The tension is between conventional, or traditional, instruction versus what is known by various names including “reform math” (to proponents), or “fuzzy math” (to critics).

Reform math differs from the conventional approach in many ways. To help parents ascertain whether their children are being exposed to reform math-borne illnesses, we have set out a brief guide to key symptoms of a reform math approach.

**The Symptoms**

**“In the past students were taught by rote; we teach understanding.” **First, ‘rote’ literally means ‘repetition’ — and this is a good idea, not a bad one. Second, it is simply false that teaching was without understanding — by design, in any case — in the past. There have always been teachers who taught math poorly or neglected to include a conceptual context. This does not mean that conventional math was/is never taught well.

Under reform math, students are required to use inefficient procedures for several years before they are exposed to and allowed to use the standard method (or “algorithm”) — if they are at all. This is done in the belief that the alternative approaches confer understanding to the standard algorithm. To teach the standard algorithm first would, in reformers’ minds, be rote learning. But this out-loud articulation of “meaning” in every stage is the arithmetic equivalent of forcing a reader to keep a finger on the page, sounding out every word, every time, with no progression of reading skill. Alternatives become the main course instead of a side dish and students can become confused — often profoundly so.

**“Drill and kill is bad.”** Reformers believe that making students do repetitious ‘rote’ exercises will deaden students’ souls and impede true mathematical understanding. Actually the reverse is true: repetitive practice lies at the heart of mastery of almost every discipline, and mathematics is no exception. No sensible person would suggest eliminating drills from sports, music, or dance. De-emphasize skill and you take away the child’s primary scaffold for understanding. As for killing fun, that all depends on the spirit of the exercise. Drills are boring only if they are made boring.

**“The guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.”** “Guide on the side” is also known as “student-centered learning”. Sounds wonderful until you realize it means that it reduces the teacher to a mere facilitator of holistic “inquiry-based” or discovery learning experiences. Students teach themselves. Providing information directly is regarded as “rote learning” – and a bad thing. Recent meta-studies in cognitive science by Sweller et al, and Mayer, have shown that “minimal guidance instruction”—the corresponding term in that field — is a very poor way to teach novices, though it has some merit for teaching experts. To be clear, “novices” would include elementary school children when learning arithmetic and 7^{th} and 8^{th} grade students learning algebra.

**“‘Just in time’ learning.” **This approach prescribes giving students an assignment or problem which forces them to learn what they need to know in order to complete the task. The tools that students need to master are dictated by the problem itself. For example, students might first encounter long division in a lesson, late in their education, about repeating decimals, where it is an essential ingredient. Many reformers consider long division too tedious and unproductive to teach until it is absolutely needed. The question of how repeating decimals work supposedly motivates students to overcome this barrier. This is like teaching someone to swim by throwing them in the deep end of a pool and telling them to swim to the other side. The teacher shouts the instruction to the students, who are expected to swallow the method whole along with mouthfuls of pool water, in one go. The students who by some miracle make it to the other side are apt to say, “I don’t know how I got here, but I sure don’t want to do that again!”

**“Ambiguity is a great way to learn.” **Another aspect of discovery learning. It reveals an underlying pattern that dominates Reform/Fuzzy math: it has no bottom-up structure, lacks coherence, and uses deliberately confusing elements to force a child to decide for themselves how to do this or that, and what, if anything, constitutes a correct answer. While children are psychologically unsuited for lack of structure and ill-defined expectations, reformers hold that “struggle is good”. For experts, struggle is suitable; e.g., an expert swimmer may struggle to perfect a swim stroke whereas a novice may struggle to keep from drowning—a struggle that doesn’t teach them how to swim.

**“Flip the classroom!”** Flipped classrooms can be implemented in a number of ways, but a trend emerging in poorly implemented reform math programs is the class becoming a homework-like learning-lab environment. The student is expected to learn at home by watching videos on the internet — videos consisting of direct instruction on mathematical procedures. The direct instruction of the classroom is often replaced with “stimulating and engaging activities”. This puts the onus on children to (1) have access; (2) be in a good home environment; and (3) self-motivate to pick up the lessons. But if a student does not understand something in the video, the rest of the lesson is not going to make sense. How much time does the teacher have the next day — in a lesson packed with inquiry-based activities — to backfill what students didn’t understand from the video?

And another inconvenient question: Isn’t the education community’s avalanche-like acceptance of the flipped classrooms a tacit admission that learning procedures *is* important?

**“We’re making students think like mathematicians.” **Professional mathematicians are often puzzled at what is meant by this. Mathematicians know that students need both to master procedures and to have a basic understanding of their conceptual underpinnings. Reformers make the mistake of not distinguishing between how novices learn and how experts think. Reformers are often heard to exclaim, “I wish I had understood it this way when I was learning it”. But children do not have that adult’s many years of experience. Denying them the foundational mastery to acquire mathematical expertise deprives students of essential formative experiences.

**“Group learning.” **Working in groups is not limited to just math classes. It has been a trend over the past two decades that shows no sign of letting up. Group work can be a healthy supplement to teacher-driven lessons or for highly social kids. But it is an inefficient way to get through a lesson in which new technical skills are to be learned. Here are four groups for which this approach is a particularly bad idea: (1) very poor performers—who shrink from participating and can panic at exposure among peers; (2) very high performers—who resent that others in the group look to them to carry the burden, (3) students with social handicaps—for obvious reasons; and (4) students with communication deficits—such as, but not limited to, having a different native tongue as classmates.

**The Prognosis **

Finding a cure for a system that refuses to recognize its ills has proven futile. Parents confronting school administrators are patronized and placated. School officials will agree and say something like, “Yes, students should learn math facts and procedures (and we do this!). Yes, teachers ought to actually teach, (and we do this!). And yes, students should do drills (and we do this!)” This is all followed with: “We use a balanced approach,” which is often followed with: “We’re saying the same things; we’re in agreement”

The purpose of these bromides is twofold: 1) to make everyone feel good, and 2) to make parents go away. Pressed to define what “balance” means, the reform camp will say, “Show why things work first to gain understanding; then use the understanding to teach traditional mathematical operations!”

Such statements reveal internal biases about priorities — priorities that intrinsically lack balance. Whether understanding or procedure comes first ought to be driven by subject matter and student need — not by educational ideology.

And in answer to the statement that we’re all saying the same thing: No. We’re not saying the same thing at all.

Why don’t those arguing for better math education (and who insist they are using a balanced approach) look at what those students are doing who are succeeding in pursuing majors in science, engineering or math? If they did, they would see students learning standard algorithms and practicing many drills and problems (deemed dull, tedious and “mind numbing”) and other techniques that they believe do not result in true, deep, and authentic understanding.

But such an outcome based investigation is not occurring. Some parents whose children are not doing well in math believe what they hear from school administrators that, “Maybe your child just isn’t good at math.” Parents who recognize the inferior math programs in K-6 for what they are get their children the help they need. Unfortunately, parents who lack the means have fewer options.

**Robert Craigen** is associate math professor at University of Manitoba and co-founder of Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Math (WISE Math).

*Barry Garelick** has written extensively about math education in various publications including The Atlantic, Education Next, Educational Leadership, and Education News. He recently retired from the U.S. EPA and is teaching middle and high school math in California. He is co-founder of the U.S. Coalition for World Class Math. *

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]]>The post Bipartisan Arizona Bill Would Allow Tech Classes In Place Of Math appeared first on Education News.

]]>State Lawmakers in Arizona say that a bill allowing high school students to take a computer science course instead of required math course will make students more competitive for technology jobs. HB 2265 was introduced by Representatives Tom Forese and Ruben Gallego who said they came up with the idea after seeing an inconsistency in the amount of computer science jobs available vs. graduates who had the skills needed to obtain those jobs.

“You have this huge delta in terms of unemployment, yet the jobs of the future are already here and we’re not ready for them,” Forese said.

Forese says that the state’s public universities are not graduating enough science majors to keep up with demand of computer science jobs. Gallego says that business leaders have told him they would love to hire Arizona graduates but that they cannot fulfill the demand, causing businesses to recruit out of state. “Local workers would cost the company less, and then you’re employing people here in Arizona,” he said.

Rachel Leingang with Cronkite News Services reported on the bill, saying that according to Forese, the bipartisan effort shows that computer science is a valuable tool for the state’s students. It received a unanimous endorsement from the House Education Committee.

Arizona state law requires students to take four math credits.

The law says that “one credit that includes significant mathematics content as determined by the local school district governing board or charter school” may be used as a math class.

HB 2265 would allow school districts to make a computer science class one of the math courses required for graduation. The Arizona Board of Regents would determine whether or not those courses are acceptable for college admission. The Arizona Board of Education says in terms of the bill, they are neutral, but a statement from the agency implies they would not change for the school districts.

“Because of the wording of this rule, it is our position that a school district is already free to adopt a computer science course to cover this fourth math credit if they deem it to ‘include significant mathematics content,’ and the bill is not really necessary,” said the statement, attributed to Christopher Kotterman, deputy director of policy development and government relations.

Executive director of community relations for the Tempe Union School District says students are offered an Advanced Placement Computer programming course and an honors mobile device programming class taught by math teachers in exchange for math credits.

Gallego says he understands that some schools use computer science classes, but that “legislation would send a message at the state level and inform parents of the options their children have” and that the bill would “encourage students to learn a skill that could even get them a job right after high school”.

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]]>The post James Shuls: Students Display Deep Understanding by Getting Answers Correct appeared first on Education News.

]]>**by James V. Shuls, Ph.D.
Director of Education Policy, Show-Me Institute**

Fill in the blank: In math, what matters most is the ______. If you answered “the process,” you picked the answer supported by mainstream colleges of education and teachers throughout the country. If you replied “the answer,” give yourself a pat on the back because you are correct.

Think about it. When your accountant does your taxes, when the carpenter builds your home, when scientists conduct experiments, what matters most? I can tell you, it is not the process. If the accountant gets the wrong answer, you could be in big trouble with the IRS. If the carpenter’s measurements are off, your house could crumble. And if the scientist’s calculations are amiss, their findings are invalid. The answer matters most.

Unfortunately, too many in the field of education have given correct answers a bad rap and held up the process as king. Let me illustrate with an example. My second grade daughter has been working on many word problems this year as part of her school’s push to give “real world” examples. In the problem below, she correctly identified that the answer could be found by doing subtraction. That is, she needed to find the difference between the two numbers.

She used a standard algorithm and she got the answer correct — or did she? Not according to her teacher.

Grades are not assigned in second grade at my daughter’s school, but students are given a rating of one through four. These numbers coincide with: does not meet expectations, developing, meets expectations, and exceeds expectations. The problem solving skills that she displayed here probably deserved a “meets expectations.” Instead, she received the lowest rating possible.

Why? She did not follow the process. Interestingly, there have been other problems where she reached the wrong answer, but received a higher score.

This is not the first time I have taken issue with the math instruction at my kid’s school. Two years ago, when we were in a different school, in a different state, I pulled my children out of a school because of the math program. At that school, they used a discovery learning approach and shunned standard algorithms. When we moved, we chose our current school because the district embraces standard algorithms and explicitly teaches concepts. Though the curriculum and instructional strategies are completely different at the two schools, there is one underlying principle to which they both subscribe. They believe that getting the correct answer does not imply “deep understanding.” In the former school, students had to display their thinking in some form besides the standard algorithm. In the latter, students have to demonstrate their problem solving skills by following the prescribed process.

Both schools are amiss. When a student gets an answer correct, they are displaying deep understanding. They are displaying problem solving skills. Of course, there are times when a student may haphazardly stumble into a correct answer. That is not what I am referring to. What I mean, is that when a student can correctly identify the type of problem and can solve for the answer using some type of process, they understand the concept.

All of this is not to downplay the role of the process. The process matters tremendously. But as educators, we should not be so dogmatic about it. When we do so, we send mixed messages to kids and we prevent them from enjoying math. There are few things as discouraging as knowing you have done something right and then getting criticized nonetheless. Rather, we should celebrate correct answers and, when necessary, demonstrate more efficient methods or other ways of thinking about problems. This should be done while keeping in mind that what matters most is that our students have a method that works and is transferrable to other problems.

We continually tell students to “think like scientists” and “act like mathematicians.” Do you know what good scientists and mathematicians do? They get the answer correct. It’s time we elevate correct answers to their appropriate level of prominence and put the process in its place. The best way for students to display “deep understanding” is by getting answers correct.

**James V. Shuls**, Director of Education at the Show-Me Institute, earned his Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Arkansas. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Missouri Southern State University and a master’s degree from Missouri State University, both in elementary education. Prior to pursuing his doctorate, James taught first grade and fifth grade in southwest Missouri. His primary research interests are in the areas of school choice and teacher quality. His work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including: Phi Delta Kappan, Social Science Quarterly, Education Week, The Rural Educator, Education News, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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]]>The post Julia Steiny: Common Core Math Expectations Are Only A Baseline appeared first on Education News.

]]>**by Julia Steiny**

We’re going to discuss Common Core today, so take a chill pill. I’m not saying CC presents nothing to be upset about, but getting upset just clouds clear thinking.

CC is by no means perfect, but it’s not Evil incarnate, either. So let’s get to know it. Finding the good parts will remind us that we don’t really want to return to zero accountability, or 50 definitions of proficient, such as we got from No Child Left Behind, or continued stagnant progress in the country’s educational achievement. Most importantly, if not, Common Core, what?

Conveniently, the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) wrote two one-pagers that describe “The Shifts” in thinking that are at the standards’ philosophical heart. If you look at no other CC materials, read these. Even for educators, digesting the standards themselves is a daunting task. So before joining one of the inflamed bandwagons out there, get a bit of grounding in original documents. Many CC controversies are bogus hysteria — such as the standards requiring limits on bathroom time — but some are very real.

Using The Shifts’ math page, let’s examine the frequent accusation that CC “dumbs down” math expectations, in part by not *requiring* Algebra I until the 9th grade. This is a legitimate concern since Algebra II is generally the gatekeeper to all but the least selective colleges. Historically, schools found that only by pushing Alg I into middle school would it give struggling math students, often low-income minorities, plenty of time to repeat math classes and still reach the “college-ready math” benchmark. Not an insignificant worry. Let’s consider it:

The philosophical shifts for math are organized under “Focus,” “Coherence,” and “Rigor.” The first shift is this:

*The Standards call for a greater focus in mathematics. Rather than racing to cover topics in a mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, the Standards require us to significantly narrow and deepen the way time and energy is spent in the math classroom. We focus deeply on the major work of each grade so that students can gain strong foundations: solid conceptual understanding, a high degree of procedural skill and fluency, and the ability to apply the math they know to solve problems inside and outside the classroom.*

**Admit it: that’s not so nuts.**

So let’s make three points:

**1. CCSS are about the timing of testing skills. **

Despite opponents claiming otherwise, standards are NOT a curriculum. CC offers “exemplar” curricula suggestions — some truly bad — but by all means, ignore them. The standards only identify *when* particular skills will be assessed. Algebra I concepts won’t be tested until the spring of 9th grade.

But no standard prevents schools from offering advanced math to any and all students, so talented kids absorb the sequence of math skill-building that ends with Calculus as fast as their clever heads let them. Shame on schools that don’t push all their kids to their highest potential. Kids on a fast track will ace those Algebra I skills by spring of 9th grade.

**2. The CCSS are only a bottom line, a minimum guarantee.**

There’s surprisingly little controversy over the meaning of “college-ready math.” Ready for which college? Because they range from community colleges to the Ivies. A recently published research report, “What does it really mean to be college and work ready?” addresses the issue directly. The NCEE researchers found that at any given time, 45% of all American college students are attending community colleges. The great majority of these students bomb basic skills tests, especially in math, and end up paying for remedial classes that do not get them closer to an actual degree or certificate. The report argues that the math needed for most of the Associate’s degree programs, as well as passing the Accuplacer or other placement tests are solid 8th-grade skills with a smidge of Algebra I and Geometry.

Algebra II is usually the gatekeeper to college, and often a high-school graduation requirement. So schools race through a bazillion topics without ensuring that all kids acquire at least a solid set of practical skills. The lack of those skills is wrecking the academic careers of largely low-income students attending community colleges.

**3. Redefine “college-ready” math to ensure all kids get the basics. **

I am totally gung-ho for the training that Algebra II offers the mind, but not at the expense of setting up those community college kids for success — never mind winning back the hearts of students who give up high school altogether or any dreams of post-secondary training. After all, the NCEE report found that only about 5% of jobs require the skills in Algebra II and above. We might have to be more specific about which-college ready we mean.

Yes, the lack of Algebra II would likely keep students out of highly-selective Ivies, but frankly, the kids I’m concerned about weren’t going to Dartmouth, Vassar, or Reed anyway. By all means intrigue, cajole and push the low-income, statistically-least-likely-to-succeed kids so some of them get over the hump and into selective colleges.

But are we “dumbing down” or recalibrating “college ready” so tons more students could be prepared for an accessible success? Again, nothing is stopping schools from challenging the daylights out of the students who can handle it.

*Julia Steiny** is a freelance columnist whose work also regularly appears at **GoLocalProv.com** and **GoLocalWorcester.com**. She is the founding director of the Youth Restoration Project, a restorative-practices initiative, currently building a demonstration project in Central Falls, Rhode Island. She consults for schools and government initiatives, including regular work for The Providence Plan for whom she analyzes data. **For more detail, see juliasteiny.com or contact her at **juliasteiny@gmail.com* or c/o GoLocalProv, 44 Weybosset Street.

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]]>The post Oregon Wants To Delay Math Textbooks Despite Loom Of Common Core appeared first on Education News.

]]>Betsy Hammond writes in The Oregonian that in 2010, Oregon voted to replace its state developed math, reading and writing standards with the more rigorous Common Core standards, which have since then been adopted by 45 states.

In the Spring of 2015, students will take new tests that will replace the once easier Oregon Tests of Knowledge and Skills. The new tests which will be written by a multi-state alliance to cover the Common Core skills and standards will be called Smarter Balanced.

To prepare for the new harder testing, the state’s Board of Education screened and released several potential textbooks for being aligned with the newly adopted standards. In 2013, the Board released a list to all school districts of the textbooks that met the criteria, allowing them to make a selection for the ones they wish to purchase for this upcoming fall.

It was scheduled for the Board to also review and create a list of math textbooks in the same manner this year but that will be delayed, as reported by education officials.

The proposed two-year delay has not been widely shared with education insiders nor offered for public debate, James Genereaux, a textbook sales executive based in Tigard said. He appealed to board members Tuesday to delay a decision to hear from superintendents, curriculum directors, advocates for minority students and proponents of technology- and engineering-related education, among others.

Critics of the potential delay such as Genereaux argue that it will be a disservice to the tens of thousands of Oregon students who will be taught from outdated teaching materials that won’t prepare them for the new demands.

In response; the main reason to delay, said math education specialist Mark Freed, is to give the state time to modernize its textbook-review process to include free teaching materials developed by parties other than textbook publishers.

State law currently limits the state to reviewing materials whose backers pay $50 for every book or other item they want reviewed, he noted. Creators of free materials or small-time publishers are often unable or unwilling to pay, he said.

Also by withholding reviewing math textbooks, it will allow the state to continue its traditional cycle of 7 years for releasing an approved list to districts for buying new books, although it is argued that the release of the new list will put elementary and middle schools behind a year, making it 8 years since the last one’s release.

Although districts are allowed to buy new math books on their own before 2017, and the state has said it would offer support to those who try, many small and medium districts lack the time and people to vet a huge array of textbooks on their own, Genereaux said.

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]]>The post Julia Steiny: The Education Non-System Sets Kids Up for Failure appeared first on Education News.

]]>**by Julia Steiny**

While debates about standards still burn out of control, “readiness” has become a hot topic. Wherever the standard or benchmark lies, what does a kid need to be ready to meet it? What prepares a kid to be work-ready? Ready for college? Ready for high school? We’ve hit a wall with beating up kids, teachers and schools for failing to meet standards, so now pundits are looking upstream to understand what could be improved before students drop out of high school or post-secondary training.

In May 2013, the National Center for Education and the Economy published a report called What Does It Really Mean To Be College And Work Ready? As they searched for answers to their question, they found endless unsubstantiated opinions. Employers, Higher Education and even folks on the street have very strong feelings about the skills necessary to the adult work world, or the training grounds that eventually lead to said world. Such feelings abound because even with America’s high unemployment, many jobs go unfilled for lack of qualified workers, while low-skills jobs, like old-style factory manufacturing, are drying up. The U.S. way outspends all other developed nations on K-20 education, so why aren’t more youth ready to be successful in the modern economy?

NCEE contends they found virtually no research on the subject, so they conducted their own. They focused on the English and math skills necessary to be ready for community colleges because at any given time, roughly 45 percent of America’s college students attend community colleges. For many students, these are the gateway to a 4-year degree. And they offer the bulk of initial vocational and technical training, “for everyone from auto mechanics and nurses to emergency medical technicians and police officers.” The report asserts that without the skills to complete at least a 2-year certificate or degree, young people will struggle to keep a family out of poverty.

**Standards exist along a continuum. **

We would love for all kids to be medical-school ready, but let’s walk before we run. College drop-out rates are alarmingly high generally, but community colleges experience the greatest losses. “College for all” is not practical or helpful. But all students should be at least community-college, which is to say, workforce ready. Currently, we send a high proportion of badly-prepared students off to borrow and spend tuition money before they drop out, inadvertently creating a crisis of debt and wasted human capital.

(At the other end of the standards spectrum are the utterly-neglected talented kids. They deserve our — my — attention, but not today.)

**Community colleges often replicate the bad Literacy habits of high schools. **

NCEE found that community colleges generally require texts that are of an 11th or 12th-grade reading level — not highly demanding — but that high-school graduates struggle with them nevertheless. Most importantly to my mind however, “students are not expected to make much use of those texts.” Apparently, the days of ubiquitous essays and book reports, using texts that teachers know well, have given way to what’s known as “high-engagement” reading — think the “Twilight” series — and maybe writing a “reflection” paragraph.

Writing itself teaches reading, literacy and thinking. Learning to write unpacks the structure of language and teaches how to use evidence to build an argument, to make a point. The advent of computer-scored tests has been no favor to writing which can only be assess by capable readers and editors. Grading papers has always placed a heavy load on English teachers, eased only when schools were clever about ways of giving them extra time to grade work and coach students directly.

But from the first job-application cover letter to the world of work itself, writing skills are deal-breakers. Kids aren’t ready because the system didn’t get them ready.

**K-20 needs to re-think the Algebra I through Calculus path.**

Nor is the system serving them with math.

NCEE argues that many students and career paths depend on “middle school mathematics, especially arithmetic, ratio, proportion, expressions and simple equations.” Also critical to community-college career tracks are subjects that are “rarely, if ever, taught in American elementary and secondary schools, including complex applications of measurement, geometric visualization and schematic diagrams.” But Algebra II is the gatekeeper to college admission to any but the least selective college. So students get pushed through the traditional track without ensuring the solidity of middle-school foundations. Kids can’t build high-level mathematical skills on educational Swiss cheese. That’s the system at work, setting a lot of kids up for failure.

Mind you, all students should be encouraged to shoot for the Calculus goal because math trains the mind in useful ways, including “modeling” or the ability to frame a real-world problem in mathematical terms. But unless the 8th-grade skills are strong, why bother?

Identifying a basic platform — call it “community-college ready” — is not a dumbing down because it’s only the guarantee of the basics. Currently we aren’t giving kids the basics, never mind a strong sense of what the future has in store for them. Selective colleges and employers are not going to put up with cheesy work.

Most impressive to me was NCEE’s image of a so-called system that is really fragments, sections not particularly talking to one another.

*Julia Steiny** is a freelance columnist whose work also regularly appears at **GoLocalProv.com** and **GoLocalWorcester.com**. She is the founding director of the Youth Restoration Project, a restorative-practices initiative, currently building a demonstration project in Central Falls, Rhode Island. She consults for schools and government initiatives, including regular work for The Providence Plan for whom she analyzes data. **For more detail, see juliasteiny.com or contact her at **juliasteiny@gmail.com* or c/o GoLocalProv, 44 Weybosset Street.

The post Julia Steiny: The Education Non-System Sets Kids Up for Failure appeared first on Education News.

]]>The post South Carolina Sees Continued Math, Science Teacher Shortage appeared first on Education News.

]]>South Carolina is still unsure about how to solve a shortage of math and science teachers in its public schools, leaving school districts struggling to fill middle and high school vacancies in the key areas of algebra, geometry and calculus — and for employers seeking to fill jobs in math and science related fields in the future.

The percent of total bachelor’s degrees awarded in mathematics and statistics in 2012-13 was 1.1% – 252 degrees out of 23,584, according to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education. Additionally, fewer than 150 concentrated on education with the intention to enter the classroom. Compared to business, management and marketing programs, which award roughly a quarter of bachelor’s degrees each year, the number is miniscule.

A shortage has dogged the state for years according to the S.C. Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement at Winthrop University. Math and science vacancies were surpassed only by vacancies in special education at the elementary level in its 2013 Teacher/Administrator Supply and Demand Survey.

“As long as I have been responsible for this survey, it has been most definitely a problem,” said Jennifer Garrett, the center’s coordinator of research and program development.

Aimed at encouraging high school students to consider the teaching profession, the center oversees the Teacher Cadet and Teacher Fellows programs. However, stigmas still exist, including a sense among young people that teaching is not as valued by society as in years past, Garrett said.

As Carolyn Click of The State reports, on average, 5,200 S.C. public school teachers leave the classroom each year, including nearly 1,200 who retire from the profession. Fewer than 2,200 graduates a year are supplied by South Carolina’s teacher education programs.

The Teach Science and Mathematics campaign to recruit more students to teach in middle and high school will be launched by USC’s College of Education with the backing of Duke. The campaign will utilize social media, videos and other technology to attract math and science majors to the teaching profession through the assistance from USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the Columbia advertising and public relations firm Injeanious Media. As part of its campaign to recruit teachers, the university is also working with the Association of Land-Grant Universities.

The push runs in concert with the national “100k in10” effort launched in 2011 and aiming to recruit 100,000 teachers in science, math, technology and engineering by 2021.

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]]>The post Study Finds 3-Year Olds Understand Multi-Digit Numbers appeared first on Education News.

]]>New research led by a Michigan State University education scholar reveals that 3-year old children understand multi-digit numbers better than previously thought. According to the study, those kids may be prepared for more direct math education when they enter school, according to Science Blog.

The study was published in the journal Child Development and was funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. It makes recommendations for U.S. students who are not performing well in mathematics international tests compared to other nations.

“Contrary to the view that young children do not understand place value and multi-digit numbers, we found that they actually know quite a lot about it,” said Kelly Mix, MSU professor of educational psychology and co-author of the study. “They are more ready than we think when they enter kindergarten.”

Understanding place value is very important. It is the gateway to higher math skills such as addition with carrying, and there is a strong connection between place value skills in early elementary grades and problem-solving ability later on.

“In short, children who fail to master place value face chronic low achievement in mathematics,” according to the study.

The researchers, including Mix and Richard Prather and Linda Smith, both from Indiana University, tested children ages 3 to 7 in several experiments on their ability to identify and compare two- and three-digit numbers.

Children, in one task, were shown two quantities and asked to point out which was larger. “There was significant improvement in interpreting place value from age 3 to 7,” Mix said, “but it was remarkable that even the youngest children showed at least some understanding of multi-digit numbers.”

According to Mix, the unexpected results are possibly due to the fact that children in today’s society are bombarded with multi-digit numbers – from phone numbers to street addresses to price tags. She also said it is interesting that children may be developing partial knowledge of the place value system at least partly from language.

Children regularly hear multi-digit numbers named while also seeing them in print, such as when parents comment on a calendar, ask their child to push the elevator buttons or look for a room number in an office building.

In previous research and teacher observations, it was indicated that children do not understand the symbols for place value – and, thus, multi-digit numbers – until well into elementary school. Normally, young students receive specialized conceptual instruction on place value, such as with place value blocks.

Children were trained by the researchers on place value blocks and found no improvement. However, training with written symbols alone did yield significant benefits. According to Mix, more direct instruction with place value and multi-digit numbers should be considered in the early grades.

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]]>For many students, learning algebra is a boring thing; there are hundreds of tweets every hour talking about how much students hate algebra. Teaching and learning algebra can be difficult, but a computer program is seeking to make learning and teaching algebra more interesting.

Zoran Popović, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, created a video game to help kids learn math and remove the negativity surrounding algebra by making it as simple as possible to understand and learn.

The video game, DragonBox, is a Norwegian game app that introduces algebraic concepts with animal-faced cards, then builds up to numbers and computational signs. The video game was developed earlier this year by Popović who first became known for his popular online game, Foldit, which challenges players to create intricate protein patterns by bending and rearranging amino acids into new shapes, writes Julia Greenberg of Wired.

In DragonBox, kids are given a mix of cards and a box and they follow simple rules to get rid of all the unnecessary cards. Eventually, the player is left with a box on one side of the screen and an irreducible number of cards on the other—the equivalent of solving for x. As harder concepts are introduced, students who need more time on a level get additional problems; those who understand it move on.

DragonBox is based on the vision that children should be trained to think creatively. Players discover algebraic rules and play with them. They have to use the rules to solve puzzles which leads to a lot of trial and error. It also encourages a tremendous amount of high-level thinking, which can be difficult to achieve in a classroom setting, according to DragonBox App website.

In an experiment with DragonBox Adaptive in Washington, an average of 93% of K–12 students successfully mastered concepts after only 90 minutes of gameplay, and they did not want to stop. Popović uses this method as the basis for an entire sixth-grade math curriculum in trial now in Seattle and next year in Brooklyn and Brazil. He wants to use digital tablets to help teachers adjust their lessons to individual performance.

MIT’s Education Arcade and the Learning Games Network teamed up to develop a new video game that they hope will engage kids to start thinking. The new free video game, Quandary, is designed to teach ethics while aligning with Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts for third through eighth graders, writes Katrina Schwartz of Mind Shift.

Also, GlassLab, a nonprofit video game development group in California is building six educational video games. The game development group is based at the California campus of publishing powerhouse Electronic Arts (EA) and has received a $10.3 million grant to create video games that they expect will change the way kids learn.

GlassLab designers have teamed up with educators and scientists to create the next generation of educational video games that can teach skills and concepts beyond rote memorization. The games will allow kids to learn how to construct a wind plant and how to build a solar power plant in a virtual world.

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]]>Critics of the Texas Board of Education are concerned that the Board is watering down academic standards after a preliminary vote in favor of scrapping algebra II as a high school graduation requirement. This will shift the focus away from solely college prep and allow students to focus on vocational preparation. Additionally, Texas wants to step back from strenuous accountability policies which many fear can lead to dropouts.

According to Eric Gay of the Associated Press, revoking the algebra II requirement has been the main focus on the debate over the changes. A majority of academic experts and school administrators said it’s a key prerequisite for success both in college and beyond. However, plenty of high-paying jobs are available without a college degree or high-level math as argued by some trade groups.

The Board of Education, which is charged with implementing the overhaul for the start of the 2014-2015 school year, considered keeping the algebra II requirement despite the objections of lawmakers who approved the overhaul. In the end, though, the board didn’t defy the Legislature.

Texas will also cut back its accountability policies and standardized tests because of the belief that it causes students to drop out due to high expectations and fear of failing. The new law would also cut the number of standardized tests from 15 to 5, but the board is unable to change that.

The new law would mean that students who want “distinguished” diplomas would still be required to take algebra II. These degrees would allow them automatic admission into any Texas state university. Students who choose this path will also be required to complete STEM courses — science, technology, engineering and math.

The board removed a proposed algebra II requirement for students who choose all other diploma paths: arts and humanities, business and industry, multidisciplinary studies and public service. Students can also earn “foundation” degrees that don’t include higher math or science requirements and don’t focus on a particular discipline.

When it looked like the board might include algebra II as a requirement for most diploma plans, the two powerful sponsors of the law – state Sen. Dan Patrick and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, made an unplanned appearance before the board to argue against such a move. An Amarillo Republican who introduced the proposal to require algebra II for STEM diplomas, Board member Marty Rowley, said that leaving the course out of all but that diploma path was what the Legislature intended with the original law.

“I feel like we serve the interests of those who have given us this charge in the first place,” Marty said, “as well as the students and the educators and the parents we represent by taking that requirement out.”

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