The post Wayne State Drops Math Requirement, Pushes Diversity Instead appeared first on Education News.

]]>A public research university in Detroit has decided to no longer require students to take a math class in order to graduate, while at the same time faculty members continue to push for the creation of a “diversity” course.

Wayne State University, with an enrollment of around 27,000 students, will now let individual departments determine whether or not a math course is a necessary part of curriculum.

“We felt the math requirement was better left to the various programs and majors to decide and to decide what levels of mathematics would be needed,” Monica Brockmeyer, associate provost for student success, told the Free Press. “We still continue to support mathematics at Wayne State.”

Campus officials noted that the decision was made in part due to a feeling that the current math requirement, in which students must take one of three different math courses, asks students to complete a course at the same level required by most high school math departments, writes David Jesse for *The Detroit Free Press*.

Students were informed of the decision in an email from campus officials, who said that math would not be a requirement until fall 2018, or until the adoption of a new general education program by the university.

While the university looks over its general education curriculum, which is expected to continue into the fall, professors at the school are calling for the addition of a three-credit “diversity course” that would be a requirement for all students.

In a May 2016 memo written by the university’s General Education Reform Committee, the authors state that the courses would offer students the ability to examine diversity on a domestic level and to then consider how it applies to real world challenges on a local, national, and global scale, writes Jennifer Kabbany for *The College Fix*.

Not everyone approved of the decision. Ashley Thorne, the executive director of the National Association of Scholars, a group that supports liberal arts education and academic freedom, said that general education requirements were put in place in order to ensure that students learned what the college felt to be important information. She added that deciding to drop the math requirement shows that the school’s “leaders do not have their priorities straight.”

She went on to say that diversity is a concept, not an academic subject, and therefore is not a core part of the college curriculum.

“Focusing on individuals’ race, ethnicity, sex, and sexuality in this way has been demonstrated to lead to racial animus, segregation, stigmas, discrimination, and poor academic performance. It also politicizes education.”

The committee’s proposal also called for the creation of “quantitative experience courses.” While it is unclear whether the courses would replace the math requirement, the goal would be for them to help students better understand quantitative representations such as graphs and tables and to then use this information to communicate.

Of the 27,578 students enrolled in the school, 18%, or 4,881, are black. Meanwhile, 7%, or 2,057 are Asian, and 54%, or 15,004 students, are white.

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]]>The post Rare Calculus Classes Raise Questions on Advanced Study appeared first on Education News.

]]>According to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, fewer than half of all high schools in the United States offer calculus courses, and only 63% of them offer physics courses.

The reasons high schools have stopped offering these courses are attributable to a lack of resources, shortage of experienced staff, and insufficient demand. Students are unable to succeed at a higher-level coursework if a strong foundation is not laid in mathematics and the sciences.

Megan McNulty of Deseret News writes that there is also a racial disparity in schools that lack access to core science and math offerings. 25% of the schools with the highest black and Latino populations did not even offer Algebra II, while only a third offered chemistry.

Some are wondering if the lack of upper-level math and science courses is such a bad thing. Many students end up deflating their grade point averages after struggling with upper-level math that they do not need for their college majors or later careers.

For example, according to Desert News, a report by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School found that 30% of New York City high school students in the class of 2014 failed the Algebra I exam. Those who failed at the first time took the test two more times, and the pass rate for repeat failures fell to 20% percent. More than 2,500 students took the Algebra exam more than five times. The authors of the study call this the “Algebra Whirlpool.” Data like this suggests that educators might need to reassess what subjects are considered as part of a core curriculum.

Additionally, in a column for Forbes, Steven Salzburg of Johns Hopkins University has recommended getting rid of calculus classes in high school altogether to make space for computer science and statistics courses. “My daughters are taking the same courses I took long ago: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. These are all fine subjects, but they don’t serve the needs of the 21st century,” Salzburg writes.“What math courses do young people really need? Two subjects are head-smackingly obvious: computer science and statistics. Most high schools don’t offer either one. In the few schools that do, they are usually electives that only a few students take.”

Nonetheless, high-level math coursework remains relevant who are entering college. US News writes:

“Colleges view chemistry and Algebra II as vital indicators of students’ ability and aptitude. And these two courses are essential to preparing more students for a future in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) that offer high-paying jobs and add to our nation’s economic potential.”

The Foundation for Excellence in Education launched its own Course Access program that allows students to select courses for themselves from an online catalog. The program is designed to “maximize the use of resources, better serve students and ensure districts are evolving with the needs of the 21st-century student.” For interested readers, more information about Course Access is available online.

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]]>The post Harvard Study Finds DreamBox Software Boosts Math Skills appeared first on Education News.

]]>The Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University has released a report showing that intelligent adaptive learning technology can improve math achievement for students.

Researchers at Harvard found that the effects of DreamBox Learning’s Intelligent Adaptive Learning platform, an elementary math program that provides individualized instruction based on a student’s aptitude level, benefited young students’ performances in math by four percentile points. These gains were made after only fourteen hours of using DreamBox.

“DreamBox’s technology and curriculum are informed by decades of research about children’s natural development and growth in mathematical reasoning,” says Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President and CEO of DreamBox Learning. “These research findings suggest that students at the 50th percentile who use DreamBox consistently for about an hour each week could end the year performing near the 60th percentile on assessments that are widely used and well-respected in the industry. This new report from CEPR validates the effectiveness of DreamBox’s approach in supporting students whether they start below, at, or above grade level.”

The study examined the impact DreamBox usage had an individual test scores of nearly 3,000 students in grade 3-5 in two different school districts in California and Maryland. The results concluded that DreamBox usage considerably increased students’ achievement in math. Moreover, these districts were comprised of culturally and economically diverse students, which make the results of the study that much more definitive.

DreamBox Learning was founded in 2006 in Bellevue, Washington. The company’s learning platform has since won 40 top education and technology industry awards, and it is in use in all 50 states and throughout Canada.

DreamBox technology captures every decisions a student makes and adjusts the student’s learning path. Each of the learning routes provided to students represents a path tailored to a student’s unique needs. The program recommends that student engage with it for 60-90 minutes each week for the most effective results.

“We’re dedicated to the success of each unique student and are committed to continually studying the effectiveness of DreamBox in terms of measurable impact on individual learners,” said Dr. Tim Hudson, vice president of learning at DreamBox Learning. “The strength of these predictive correlations is reinforced by the fact that this study analyzed the individual pre- and post-test scores of thousands of students, regardless of how much of the DreamBox curriculum they had completed. Because we want to be strong partners who complement the work of schools and teachers, we’re proud to see these new, compelling results in the upper elementary grades.”

The Harvard study represents the power that new learning technologies can have in accelerating student achievement. Specifically, DreamBox allows students to gain a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and lays a strong mathematical foundation that will serve them later in their academic careers. Instead of digitized textbooks, the learning technology enables students to engage with mathematics in dynamic ways to facilitate deeper learning.

The Harvard study on DreamBox Learning is available online.

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]]>The post About 1 in 3 HS Seniors Prepared for College Math, NAEP Shows appeared first on Education News.

]]>According to the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 37% of American 12th-graders are academically prepared for college math and reading. These numbers mark a dip from two years early when an estimated 39% of high-schoolers were prepared academically.

The biggest declines in proficiency came at the bottom tier, with growth in the share of students “below basic” in their abilities. In 2013, 35% tested at “below basic” in math, whereas that number has increased to 38% today. This marks the first drop in math scores in a decade. In reading, the average score was 287 out of 500, considerably lower than the average score of 292 in 1992.

Furthermore, the average scores among students in the bottom 10th percentile, as reported by Lauren Camera of U.S. News, dropped precipitously by four points in math and six points in reading. The reading scores for these students hit its lowest level since the test began its assessment of students’ abilities.

“These numbers aren’t going the way we want,” said Bill Bushaw, the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, the organization that released the scores. “We just have to redouble our efforts to prepare our students to close opportunity gaps.” The Education Department has also urged educators to double down on their efforts to prepare students for college effectively.

Policymakers and educators worry that students’ lack of preparedness hampers their college education. Unprepared students who go to college often burn through their financial aid and waste time taking remedial classes that do not earn credits toward a degree.

The results of the report were demographically split as well. In reading and math, Asian students performed the best, with around 48% of them scoring above proficiency levels. White students scored next best, while black and Hispanic students scored at the lowest levels in reading and math. Only 12% of Hispanic and 7% of black students tested as either proficient or above in math, notes Leslie Brody of the Wall Street Journal.

The report did not contain all bad news, however. High school graduation rates are rising, and 42% of test-takers said they had been accepted into a four-year college. Additionally, the dropout rate has improved for every racial and ethnic group. The report also found students did worse on these tests if their parents had not received a high school education, a phenomenon that disproportionately affects students of color.

Additionally, officials at the Department of Education are cautioning against extrapolating bleak conclusions from these results. Despite sounding concern, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, Peggy Carr, said that the drop in scores among students may be because more students are taking advanced level coursework, which is much more challenging. Moreover, since dropout rates are declining, the test was given to low-performing students who historically would not have even been in class, thus depressing the results.

The results of the 2015 assessment are based on a nationally representative sample of thousands of 12th-grade students from 740 schools, including private institutions.

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]]>The post Girls Still More Math-Anxious Than Boys, Study Says appeared first on Education News.

]]>According to a new study, more girls have negative feelings about math, and those emotions can result in “mathematics anxiety.”

But researchers at the University of Missouri, the University of California-Irvine, and the University of Glasgow in Scotland announced that they believe several issues that do not include math performance contribute to higher mathematics anxiety in more girls than boys.

“We analyzed student performance in 15-year-olds from around the world, along with socio-economic indicators in more than 60 countries and economic regions, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom,” said Dr. David Geary, Curators Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science.

The research showed that girls’ math anxiety was not connected to the level of engagement their mothers had in science, technology, engineering, and math careers. It was also not related to the inequality of genders in the countries studied by the researchers, writes PsychCentral’s Janice Wood.

In more gender-equal and developed countries, the gender difference in math anxiety was larger. Also, boys’ and girls’ math performance was higher overall.

The study found that in 59% of the countries that were analyzed, the differences in gender anxiety were over twice the number of gender differences in math performance. These statistics, say the scientists, indicate that factors other than performance are the cause of higher math anxiety in girls than boys.

Geary says the study points to the fact that gender differences in the areas of mathematics anxiety and performance are complex.

Mathematics anxiety is defined as “negative feelings experienced during the preparation of and engagement in math activities,” writes the BBC.

The Glasgow University School of Maths and Statistics Professor Dr. Libert Vittert said that math anxiety can affect a student’s future job prospects.

Vittert added that she was told by a teacher when she was about 14 that it would be a good idea to stop taking math classes because she was unable to understand the subject. Dr. Vittert pushed on to receive a degree in pure mathematics from MIT and now has her Ph.D. She believes it is important to keep girls interested in STEM subjects.

In some cases, parents have an expectation that boys will do well in math and other STEM subjects. This assumption does, however, create an underlying mindset in girls that they are not good mathematicians, says Snow McDiggon of Parent Herald.

The fact is that women are underrepresented in many STEM fields, writes Jennifer Harrison for Gadgette. And even though many women are excellent mathematicians, females many times feel more anxious about math.

Highlighting role models in STEM-related fields is one way to start helping girls feel more empowered in mathematics. Also, parents and teachers alike can begin to be intentional in their encouragement of their females students’ and daughters’ performance in STEM classes.

But PsychCentral quoted Stoet, who said:

“Policies to attract more girls and women into subjects such as computer science, physics, and engineering have largely failed. It is fair to say that nobody knows what will actually attract more girls into these subjects. Policies and programs to change the gender balance in non-organic STEM subjects have just not worked.”

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]]>The post Stanford Report Touts Benefits of Visual Element to Math Education appeared first on Education News.

]]>Researchers at Stanford University have released a report titled “Seeing As Understanding: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for our Brain and Learning” that aims to dispel the notion that visual math, such as pictures, finger-counting, and diagrams, are only for lower-level tasks, and that higher-level math deals exclusively in symbols, notations, and words. They present evidence to suggest that visual mathematics may help students of all levels see, understand, and extend mathematical ideas.

Generally speaking, students who prefer visual thinking are regarded as having special needs, and children grow up thinking that counting on their fingers is an immature approach to mathematics. However, several mathematics organizations such as the National Council for the Teaching of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) have long advocated for visual representation of mathematics in the classroom. Stanford’s new study reaffirms these groups’ advocacy and urges the necessity of fostering visual thinking.

Scientists argue that the human brain is comprised of “distributed networks,” and when humans handle knowledge, different areas of the brain are activated and communicate with one another. When we study mathematics, brain activity is distributed through many different networks, including two visual pathways. The failure to exploit these pathways through visual mathematics potentially hampers students’ mathematical abilities.

Notably, researchers found that students with structural disadvantages such as low-incomes, lower-literacy rates, etc., perform just as well as their more advantaged peers after a 15-minute session with visual exercises. The researchers emphasized the importance of students learning numerical knowledge through linear representations and visuals. According to the report, the dorsal visual pathway in the brain is the core region for representing the knowledge of quantity.

Additionally, a yet-to-be published study from researchers at Stanford demonstrates that children between the ages of 8 and 14 are developing part of the ventral visual pathway, an important brain “network.” This development indicates that as children learn, the visual processing parts of their brain become more interactive. If this interaction is not stimulated by visual activities, parts of children’s brains will not reach their full potential.

A section of the report is devoted to exploring finger-counting. There is a specific region of the brain, the somatosensory finger area, that is dedicated to the perception and representation of fingers. Often, when doing mathematical problems, our brain’s “finger-area” is stimulated whether or not we are using our fingers. The researchers urge mathematics educators to take advantage of this “finger-activity”; children who develop proficiency counting on their fingers will further brian development and promote future mathematics success. Regrettably, argue the researchers, most educators discourage finger-counting.

Despite the evidence, millions of students in the United States do not engage mathematics through visualization and representation. Most students approach it as a numeric and symbolic subject. The evidence, however, gathered by the report will help students and educators to “understand the impact of visualizing and seeing to all levels of mathematics, and suggests an urgent need for change in the ways mathematics is offered to learners.”

The full report is available online.

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]]>The post Report Sheds Light on Adults’ Use of Education in the US appeared first on Education News.

]]>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the primary federal entity used for analyzing and reporting data having to do with education in the United States, has released the results from its Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). This program is a large-scale study of adult skills and life experiences relating to education and employment.

The PIAAC conducted surveys of 3,660 adults ranging from 16 to 74 over the course of a year, measuring these individuals’ levels of literacy, problem-solving skills, and numeracy, a metric used to evaluate basic mathematical and computational skills.

In literacy, American adults perform at a rate consistent with the international norm. Additionally, the United States has a larger percentage of adults performing at the top and the bottom of literacy skills compared with other countries.

In numeracy and in problem-solving skills, the United States as a whole performed below the average. The United States features a smaller percentage of individuals at the top levels in numeracy and a larger percentage of adults at the bottom in problem-solving skills than other places evaluated by the PIAAC.

Specifically relating to the United States, American adults who perform at the top proficiency level in literacy, in numeracy, and in problem-solving skills are those aged between 25 – 34, rather than those in other age intervals.

A strong performance in literacy and numeracy is indicative of employment. In literacy, 15% of employed individuals performed at top literacy levels, while 12% of employed adults performed that well in numeracy. Adults who are unemployed or out of the labor force performed at much lower levels in literacy and numeracy.

Unsurprisingly, 75% of unemployed U.S. adults lack a high school accreditation; of these individuals, a third performed at the lowest level of literacy. Among these undereducated Americans, white Americans outperformed Hispanic and black Americans in literacy, in numeracy, and in problem-solving. Unemployed Americans performed no worse than the unemployed of other countries.

Among adults between 16 – 34, there is a strong correlation between one’s education and one’s performance in the workforce. Generally speaking, the higher level of education completed, the higher an adult would perform at top proficiency levels in all three of the areas. These statistics correlate with race. Much smaller percentages of black and Hispanic young adults performed in the top proficiency levels than their white peers. This disparity bespeaks an inequality of resources and opportunities available to young people in communities of color.

Interestingly, the correlation between education level and performance tapers off as age increases. For example, there were no measurable differences between adults ages between 66 – 74 and performing at the highest proficiency levels, who had a Bachelor’s degree or an advanced professional or graduate degree. As mentioned, the level of degree attainment correlated with performance among young Americans. These statistics indicate the changing nature of American education and underscore the necessity of a college degree in contemporary America.

The full report of the findings can be found online, and the data is of interest to anyone who wants a better understanding of Americans’ levels of basic competencies and how these relate to issues of age, education, employment, and race.

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]]>The post Louisiana Voucher Program Students Struggle on Math, Study Shows appeared first on Education News.

]]>Louisiana’s private school voucher program has shown widely-varying results in a study suggesting that students in the program scored substantially lower than public school students in math during the first year of the plan.

Researchers at Tulane University stated in the report that students did better on math performance in their second year of the program, but were still below their public school peers, reports the Associated Press.

The results of the study were confined to grades three through six, but a majority of students enter the voucher program at other grade levels. The researchers added that the examination did not reveal whether the findings would be the same for students who joined the plan the first year they began school in kindergarten.

The program was established to provide tuition for some low- or moderate- income students whose only choice would have been to attend low-performing schools. First a pilot program in New Orleans, the plan was extended across the state in 2012 by lawmakers based on a push by former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

There are currently over 7,000 young people involved in the project. While Jindal and other supporters saw the program as a way for students to leave poor schools, opponents have asked how effective the vouchers are and if the diverted money is harming public schools that are in need of funding.

The Education Research Alliance for New Orleans at Tulane and the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas jointly released the study. The researchers said reading scores were lower for voucher-school children than the scores of their public school counterparts, but not as dramatically as math scores.

The focus of the report was on students who had attended public schools and took 2011-2012 state standardized tests before they enrolled in the voucher program in 2012-2013 school year. The program was formerly known as the Louisiana Scholarship Program.

“Our estimates indicate that an LSP scholarship user who was performing at roughly the 50th percentile at baseline fell 24 percentile points below their control group counterparts,” the report said. The gap narrowed to 13 percentile points in math in the second year. There was an eight-point difference in reading the first year but reading scores improved in the second year to a point where they were not significantly different, statistically, from the control group, the report said.

The Louisiana voucher program is the fifth-largest in the country, writes Lauren Camera for US News and World Report. But another paper published two months ago found that voucher-school students had lowered math, social studies, reading, and science scores. The possibility of a student achieving a failing score grew by 24% to 50%.

Other states are considering similar programs, and the private school scholarship sector is becoming a reality in states across the nation. Advocates of the programs say the number of students using vouchers rose by 130% since 2008-2009.

The voucher program in Louisiana extends private school options to students enrolled in a school graded C, D, or F, or who are beginning kindergarten. Voucher kids take the same state exams as their peers in public schools, says The Times-Picayune’s Danielle Dreilinger.

Some of the explanations put forth to account for these unprecedented results include that private schools might not have been equipped to educate kids from disadvantaged families; that schools’ curricula might not have been the same as the state’s mathematics standards; Louisiana’s program being larger than programs that have experienced positive results but were smaller; and that more expensive and prestigious private schools might have had a better chance of providing more diverse support for kids at risk often do not accept vouchers.

Will Sentell of The Advocate said the results are sure to have an impact on debates that will take place during the regular 2016 legislative session. The deliberations will likely concern putting restrictions on the voucher program, which costs the state roughly $42 million a year.

“We must remember all scholarship program students previously attended failing and underperforming schools,” said Ann Duplessis, president of the pro-voucher group Louisiana Federation for Children and a former state senator from New Orleans.

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]]>The post A Closer Reading of ‘The Math Revolution’: Get on Board or Get Left Behind appeared first on Education News.

]]>By Barry Garelick

Peg Tyre, author of “The Good School” and “The Trouble With Boys”, is well regarded by many, including those who write about education. But I believe she missed the point in her latest article in The Atlantic. The story explores why there has been a surge in the number of teenagers who have excelled in advanced math topics as evidenced by increasing numbers of award winners in prestigious math competitions such as the International Math Olympiad. She describes what those students are doing differently than the students who do not make it to such airy heights. In my opinion, her article amounts to an advertisement that tells parents to get on board or get left behind.

**A One-sided View of the Extracurricular Schools: Where Conceptual Understanding Rules the Roost**

Tyre focuses on the extracurricular schools that these students attend, one of which is the Russian School. Students start early in such schools—as early as first or second grade—and continue on. (Other venues include the website “Art of Problem Solving” which she mentions.) In discussing the Russian School, Tyre talks with the founder of the school about his experiences with his kids when they were in second grade in Newton, Massachusetts in 1997.

“I’d look over their homework, and what I was seeing, it didn’t look like they were being taught math,” recalls Rifkin, who speaks emphatically, with a heavy Russian accent. “I’d say to my children, ‘Forget the rules! Just think!’ And they’d say, ‘That’s not how they teach it here. That’s not what the teacher wants us to do.’”That year, she and Irina Khavinson, a gifted math teacher she knew, founded the Russian School around her dining-room table.

Although this makes for a compelling story, we really don’t know what his kids were being taught. We only know that they were being taught to do something step by step, and Rifkin admonishes them to forget the rules and just think. The average reader, having been told by countless newspaper articles that depict traditionally-taught math as rote memorization with no understanding, may assume that this is what was happening. Many such readers have therefore been led to believe that conceptualizing mathematical problems is something you can do with little instruction or foundational skills and memorization— a pervasive theme of the article that Tyre, as a highly skilled writer, manages to keep understated.

She accomplishes this by first acknowledging that fluency is important and also by describing the prevailing disputes about how best to teach math:

“

Fiery battles have been waged for decades over what gets taught, in what order, why, and how. Broadly speaking, there have been two opposing camps. On one side are those who favor conceptual knowledge—understanding how math relates to the world—over rote memorization and what they call “drill and kill.” (Some well-respected math-instruction gurus say that memorizing anything in math is counterproductive and stifles the love of learning.) On the other side are those who say memorization of multiplication tables and the like is necessary for efficient computation. They say teaching students the rules and procedures that govern math forms the bedrock of good instruction and sophisticated mathematical thinking. They bristle at the phrasedrill and killand prefer to call it simply ‘practice’.”

It would have been informative if she had identified the “well-respected math-instruction gurus” who claim that memorization of procedures as well as addition and multiplication facts obscures student understanding. It would also have been extremely valuable and instructive if she had asked the opinions of the heads of these various extracurricular schools where they stood on the matter. As the paragraph stands, however, it is left to the reader to decide which one is correct. In the context of the rest of the article, the reader is led to believe that in the supposed dichotomy between procedure and understanding, understanding always should take precedence. (She makes this point explicitly in her book “The Good School” in the chapter on the teaching of mathematics.)

**And the Other Cherished Concept: Problem Solving**

Tyre talks also of “problem solving” which, like conceptual understanding, she casts as something that can be taught independent of foundational skills. Her disdain for such skills is embodied in the following statement:

“Sitting in a regular ninth-grade algebra class versus observing a middle-school problem-solving class is like watching kids get lectured on the basics of musical notation versus hearing them sing an aria from Tosca.”

Problem solving is much more complicated than that. One doesn’t learn to sing an aria from Tosca by doing just that. It is based on years and years of training in basic vocal skills. The majority of music lessons are about skills. Musicality is built up from mastery of the basics — and it is the same thing with math problem solving. Students are given instruction in solving basic types of problems such as distance/rate, mixture, work, number, coins, etc. Though frequently derided by reformers as not motivating students to solve them, nor giving any significant problem solving skills, these type of problems are an essential starting point. From there, students are given variants of the problems—well scaffolded so that they ramp up in difficulty—and eventually graduate to non-routine problems.

But for many educational experts and their followers, foundational skills play a minor role in learning how to solve problems. In their view, problem solving is taught by giving students open-ended, multi-answer problems and an insistence on different approaches. There is a belief that continued exposure to difficult problems for which students have had little or no prior knowledge builds up a problem solving *schema*, and provides them the motivation to learn what is needed to solve such problems on a just-in-time basis.

But math problems are not necessarily useful just because they may require outside-of-the-box insight and/or inspiration. Nor are they likely to result in a problem-solving “habit of mind.” Tyre falls prey to this fantasy, though it is highly unlikely that the Russian School and other schools operate in such manner.

**The Real Message: Let’s Help the Gifted**

Tyre’s solution to delivering better math education to more students is to get more students into these special schools—by better identifying gifted students and attending to their needs, particularly in low-income areas. She argues that No Child Left Behind, in fulfilling the noble goal of providing help to struggling learners, did so at the expense of those who could benefit from accelerated learning.

What this argument leaves out is that the programs in place to teach math in the lower grades have over the past two and a half decades slowly and steadily been influenced by reform-math agendas and do a poor job of teaching basic facts and skills despite the increased focus on helping the weaker performers. What Tyre proposes is to expand the number of students who go to such special schools to include those from low-income families. But this “let them eat cake” solution fails to help those low-income students who remain stuck in poorly taught math programs because they were “ungifted”.

Furthermore, it is not obvious how one would select gifted kids in the earliest grades for math potential. Math is not an all or nothing proposition. Success breeds interest and love, and success in the earliest stages of anything has more to do with the mechanics than some deep understanding or analysis. Finding and separating these kids is not the role of educators. They should not attempt to separate those with promise versus those who just work hard.

Tyre concludes with:

“Perhaps the moment is right for members of the advanced-math community, who have been so successful in developing young math minds, to step in and show more educators how it could be done.”

I would agree that perhaps the techniques used in these schools *could* be extremely effective – particularly the mastery of basic skills and facts which serve as the foundation on which students can build conceptual knowledge and problem solving skills. If they offer a proper (STEM-level) curriculum in class, push a little bit, and then provide advanced opportunities after school (in areas like math, robotics, poetry, etc.), then students will get what they need—thus fulfilling what she calls “a noble goal”. Kids in a STEM level curriculum can join the after-school programs and be successful later on. AMC math and the International Olympiad are competitions, not curriculum. The teacher should be the mentor and the one driving (and pushing) the learning process with a group of equal-level students. This should handle all required top-level learning. After-school should only be for “extra.”

If, however, the after-school program provides properly taught lower level instruction that students should have received in the first place, then it’s just a divergent form of tracking. Given the direction math education has been going for the past twenty five years, it is not hard to guess how Tyre’s article will be interpreted.

———-

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 has written a book about his experiences as a long-term substitute in a high school and middle school in California: “Confessions of a 21st Century Math Teacher.”

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]]>The post Bedtime Math App Shows Results, Newark Encourages Use appeared first on Education News.

]]>According to a study published this week in the journal *Science, *one app truly does help elementary school children learn the subject of math.

Researchers from the University of Chicago looked at a demographically diverse group of first-graders and their parents, totaling close to 600, from across Chicago. One group was allowed access to the iPad app “Bedtime Math,” which uses stories and sound effects with math problems children can solve with their parents. Meanwhile, the control group was given a reading app that offered similar stories but no math component.

By the end of the school year, researchers had discovered that the Bedtime Math app did help students perform better in math, which they say could be an important asset to parents who are unsure of their own math skills. Students who used the app on a frequent basis were typically around three months ahead of their peers in math achievement compared to the students who only used the reading app.

In an interview with Eric Westervelt for NPR, University of Chicago professor and one of the paper’s lead authors Sian L. Beilock said:

“We’ve shown that, when parents interact with their kids and talk with them about math, that really impacts what kids learn. We were interested in this because it really is a no-frills app, an easy way for parents to interact with their kids, to talk with their kids about math. It’s not an app that they use by themselves. And we thought that that potentially had promise in terms of what math knowledge kids gained.”

Beilock said the key was for parents to talk to their children about math, which should be looked on as part of the bedtime routine, writes Adrian Cho for *Science*.

The app, created two years ago by astrophysicist-and-mom Laura Overdeck, is now being promoted through a partnership between Overdeck and the Newark Public School system, the largest public school district in the state of New Jersey.

The district is putting the app to use as part of its efforts to close the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students, in addition to the confusion that students across the state hold concerning the subject of math in general.

Overdeck spoke to NJ Advance Media, saying that this is the first time partnering with a school district. She hopes it will show that math can be fun to do at home.

Six elementary schools in the district are participating in a pilot program using the app and are encouraging parents of children in kindergarten through the second grade to download it. They suggest that parents use the app on a voluntary basis for five minutes at a time with their children before bedtime for a few days a week. Officials plan to survey parents in order to see how the program is working.

According to the district’s Special Assistant of Math PreK-5 supervisor Darlene DeVries, the program will be encouraged within all 40 Newark elementary schools by next fall.

The post Bedtime Math App Shows Results, Newark Encourages Use appeared first on Education News.

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