Weekly Math Updates

April 19, 2006

  • Provo Herald Article - Alpine District continues to lose students to charters
  • Salt Lake Tribune Article - Charter School Funding Tight
  • Teacher Speaks Out
  • Parent Story - "Multiple" problems
  • Weekly Comic

Hi all,

Wow did I goof on Monday. Somehow I sent out the link to the wrong Herald article but the right web address for the comments. I'm human (darn it). If you haven't read the correct Provo Herald article, it's a must read. You also need to know the author got his math wrong when he stated 10% of the district is opting into charter schools. He was commenting on the district as a whole and didn't note that almost all charters are only K-6 or K-8. We're probably closer to 20% of the district being dissatisfied enough to opt into alternate education avenues when you consider homeschoolers, private and charter students, and the waiting lists for people that haven't been able to get into a charter. It's completely amazing how the district responded in the article. The correct link is below.

Provo Herald Article - corrected address link
Alpine District continues to lose students to charters
by Caleb Warnock

Comments page: http://www.heraldextra.com/component/option,com_smf/topic,12437

Additional comments on KSL's site after quoting the Herald piece: http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=148&sid=218242&comments=true

Salt Lake Tribune Article
Charter School Funding Tight
by Celia Baker

This article shows the total disparity of how the state funds Charter schools versus public schools. It's an interesting look at how Charters do more with much less...about $1500 per student.


Teacher Speaks Out

"Letting some of the cat out of the bag...As an elementary teacher (6th grade, subjected to having to teach CMP)I find our work environment more oppressive now than ever in my nearly thirty years in education. A lot of the oppressiveness stems from reform efforts---accountability, standards,curriculum, etc. A friend teaching in another district here in WA that adopted TERC told me the teachers in his building basically speak in code about the math, teach pretend math (TERC), and then close their doors and sneak attempts at teaching the kids some real math. Why? They are afraid of being brought up on charges of insubordination---they have been told they are not to supplement TERC. And to think they are only trying to do what they think (as educated professionals, of course)is in the best interest of their students. Fortunately, it is not that bad in my school, although I have learned to keep my mouth shut. The people who need to hear wouldn't listen anyway, as I have discovered. So, I do what I can. At some point I will have to be out in the open. One among the ranks of WA educators who is very outspoken about the math standards and testing in the state (so outspoken he drew the attention of the state supt. of schools who called his superintendent) says that any educator who speaks out against the reform (state standards, testing, math curriculum, etc.) does so at their own peril."

Oak: For you careful readers, you noticed this is not an ASD employee. It's a teacher from Washington state. When I forwarded this email to an ASD teacher, I got this response back:

ASD Teacher: "I have certainly learned to keep my mouth shut.  Things get misconstrued and wording gets changed around.  I find it easier to just do what needs to be done inside the classroom, yet, those who do speak out really do it at their own peril.  I agree with that 100%."

Parent Story

Oak, I signed the petition last fall. I have a son (4th) and daughter (1st) who attend Rocky Mtn. Elementary. We live in the bourndaries of Deerfield Elem. in Cedar Hills but I pursued the opportunity to enroll them in the Spanish Immersion program offered at RM. I have been SO much happier with the work the kids do, with the prepararion and variety the faculty have, and a couple of years ago was going to ASD meetings to add my voice to the mix. As I'm sure you have received the polite, dismissive letters that the ASD sends following the meetings, I was very frustrated. This was when my son was in first grade at Deerfield and I was told, to my face, that they discourage the use of flash-cards and extra workbooks to supplement my son's learning. How do you honestly call yourself an educator and tell a parent "Don't teach them to much. We know best." I knew I had to find an alternative. As I said, my son is now in 4th grade and is excelling, but every once in a while we still get stuck on these lame "Follow-up Worksheets" that are supposed to chart their acquistion of the principles. As my son was completing his recent assignment on factors and multiples, I happened to look at the back and was stunned at the incorrect definitions given as examples to illustrate the terms described, and explain the principles. If it confused me as a college-grad, imagine how bewildered a child would feel as they look to the examples and definitions to clarify the principles. I include as follows: On the answer portion of the front page it reads -- MULTIPLES are all of the numbers that can be multiplied to reach. The multiples of 6 are 6,12,18, 24, 30, etc. Then on the back page it lists this: MULTIPLE A multiple is the result of two factors being multiplied together. For example,16 is a multiple of 1 and 16, 2 and 8, and 4 and 4. Is it just me or are these TOTALLY OPPOSING definitions!! And that's not all -- In the section of "Suggested Classroom Strategies" (as though you can sit in groupthink when you take a standardized test) It talks about different ways to "Break-Apart" or divide numbers. I got to the last example "DEALING OUT (DIVISION): 78 / 4. They then proceeded to create 4 boxes with the numbers, 10, 5, and 1,1,1,1 so that each box has a total of 19 per box. So, apparently if you added up 19, 4 times, it would result in 78. But 19 x 4 =76. And 78 / 4 doesn't equal 19, it equals 19.5. They showed no remainder or info that the problem's answer was incomplete and incorrect. After re-reading it, I got more and more flummoxed and I wanted to send this to you; and maybe I'm not a dork for wondering and questioning this Investigations. My biggest problems with Investigations lie in the fundamental differences of math and language arts at the elementary school levels. Math is a highly OBJECTIVE process. Language Arts are highly SUBJECTIVE. Why is the ASD trying to subscribe to a program that only confuses what is the natural cognitive process of acquiring math knowledge? Why should my elementary age children be expected to have a mastery of the language, sufficient to explain their processes of thought, reasoning, and logic? They are still learning how to spell and stay on the lines and remember their punctuation. Now they have to be able to explain how they "come up" with the answer. That's the great thing about math at this level. YOU DON"T HAVE TO "COME UP" with the answer -- it is there waiting to reveal itself with the application of proper algorithms and computation of data. Only with a strong foundation of number knowledge and computational skills, can a student ever hope to enter the real world of mathmatics in High School and College. My other major problem is the punitive, highly subjective way that many teachers grade the assignments. It has seemed very skewed that those students who are naturally stronger using "traditional" methods are often marked down, even if the answer is right. They are told -- "It's just not right enough." (Whatever!!!) My husband spent hundreds of hours at BYU getting his degree in Mechanical Engineering, and if you didn't show all your steps to how you got to the answer, you were marked down; you were also credited with following the steps in the computation, even if your final answer was wrong. My background is a degree in Psychology and a minor in English from BYU, so I have much more training in writing, and the subjective nature of that discipline. I apologize for the rant, but I try to not let my frustration at the arrogance and beauracracy of the ASD seep into my day to day. With a new baby, I have enough of that. I appreciate all you are doing. I just signed up a friend tonite. I wish there was more I could do. Thanks for your time and I will really try to step out and do more.

[name removed]

Weekly Comic

Archive: http://www.oaknorton.com/weaponsofmathdestruction.cfm

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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