Weekly Math Updates

December 13, 2008


  • 2007 TIMSS Results Made Public
  • Stupid in Utah
  • World Class Math Study
  • A Teacher Tries Singapore Math and Comments on it
  • Articles of Interest
  • Great Free Resources

Howdy folks,

Be sure to watch next week as I'll have a little Christmas present for you... :)

2007 TIMSS Results Made Public

This past week the scores from the last TIMSS exam were released.  They were of special interest to see what would happen with Singapore's scores since they switched their curriculum a few years ago from Primary Math to "My Pals". Interestingly, they dropped a little bit and no longer hold the top spot in the world, giving some level of evidence that Primary Math is indeed the very best curriculum.

The NASA math bill being written for this legislative session mandates that those who apply for and receive grant money to participate, will use the Primary Math series for 1-6 (Kindergarten will use the relatively new "Earlybird" book since Singapore doesn't do Kindergarten with their children), and "New Elementary Math" for 7-8.

To see the details on the TIMSS results, you can visit these sites.  The United States did move up slightly in comparison to the top ranking countries.

Report: http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2009001

Charts: http://nces.ed.gov/timss/tables07.asp


Stupid in Utah

For those of you that missed last Saturday's "Red Meat Radio" with Howard Stephenson, it was two hours of exposing some of the problems that exist within the Utah education community, and specifically in the Department of Education.  Senator Stephenson did point out that most of the people are great people interested in the real education of our children.  It's just those other bad eggs that give educrats a well deserved title.  Among the things mentioned was how the legislature is trying to make the education community transparent and give parents the ability to see their children's scores shortly after an exam.  The Ed folks don't like that because it means accountability and there are people within the department specifically working against the State Superintendent and the legislators who are trying to enact this.

The Tribune carried an article last week that talked about the show and you can read it at this next link.  What you need to know is that Senator Stephenson is one of the best advocates and most principled legislators you could ever get to know.  Having worked with him for a couple years now, it has been a privilege to have his support and friendship.



World Class Math Study


This study was recently pointed out to me and it's a great resource.  The authors of this study state:

"Curriculum was the only factor found to differ significantly between the A+ countries and the poor performing U.S. states. It was not teachers, not demographics, nor any other non-school factor."

Unsurprisingly, this was the list of why the U.S. curriculum was suffering compared to top performing countries.

The U.S. curriculum was found to be, in comparison to the A+ countries:
-Not focused (far too many topics, particularly in the lower grades)
-Highly repetitive (topics introduced too early, too little depth, endlessly repeated)
-Incoherent (not presented in logical, step-by-step order)
-Not very demanding (especially in middle school years)

Examining the widening test gap, the researchers found the same thing all of you know, that these fuzzy math programs favor wealthy parents who can afford tutoring and supplementing for their children.  They actually increase the education gap between the rich and the poor.

"They further noted the eerie similarity to the ever-widening gap between the children of well-off or sophisticated parents and those of the disadvantaged at the higher grades within the U.S.
-They concluded the U.S. curriculum favored the children of well-off or sophisticated parents who could provide supplementary tutoring, and was terribly unfair to the disadvantaged.
-'The learning of the luckier students snowballs while that of the less fortunate ones - those dependent on the incoherent American curriculum - never begins to gather momentum.'"

The researchers then looked at what California has done over the last few years when their standards were raised and the impact that has had on education in California.  The results are impressive and if you look at the graphs in the document above, you'll see outstanding increases over the 5 year period they studied the conversion to world class standards and better curriculum.


A Teacher Tries Singapore Math and Comments on it

A 6th grade teacher in Utah attended the Singapore math training in October.  She works at a Title 1 school with high poverty.  She was so impressed by what she saw at the training, she immediately went back and started to incorporate it into her classroom.  These were her comments passed on to me this week.

"I have been using many components of Singapore math--especially modeling and  story problems--daily.   I don't use Houghton Mifflin at all!!  I have also incorporated "The Mozart Effect" in the classroom.  I have seen some pretty amazing things happen, as well as very encouraging comments.  "What?? No math homework??"  "Mrs. [name removed] this is the first time I've ever understood math."  "Math is my favorite class."  "I think we need Mozart today."  "I just love those story problems."  I've heard these comments from the 'smart' kids as well as those who struggle.  The boy who always fell asleep in class now stays awake the entire class.  Something must be working!!
When the principal came in to observe she said, "I couldn't even do that math!"  She doesn't know my little secret.
Thanks for the updates.  I look forward to this legislative session and hearing more about NASA math."

As I previously wrote, at Benchmark charter school in Arizona, they are the top math school in the state, they use Singapore math, and over 94% of the students in the school report that math is their favorite subject.  Curriculum makes a difference.


Articles of Interest

Singapore math makes a difference in Philly.com

"Opinions vary on how to best tackle the international competitiveness problem. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics hopes to work with states to narrow and focus what they teach. Schmidt advocates a single national math curriculum.

'What Singapore has,' he said, 'is a coherent, focused, rigorous set of standards, and that's the competition our kids are facing.'"

NPR: All Things Considered
U.S., Others Show Improvements In Math, Science
The results of an international test of math and science knowledge have been released. The good news: U.S. students showed significant improvements. The not-so-good-news: so did everyone else.


Till next week,

Oak Norton











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