Thursday, September 11, 2008

Math problems of the week: 6th grade Connected Math vs. Singapore Math

1. The first assignment in Connected Mathematics Prime Time: Factors and Multiples

My Special Number

Many people have a number they find interesting. Choose a whole number between 10 and 100 that you especially like.

In your journal
*record your number
*explain why you chose that number
*list three or four mathematical things about your number
*list three or four connections you can make between your number and your world

As you work through the investigations in Prime Time, you will learn lots of things about numbers. Think about how these new ideas apply to your special number, and add any new information about your number to your journal. You may want to designate one or two "special number" pages in your journal, where you can record this information. At the end of the unit, your teacher will ask you to find an interesting way to report to the class about your special number.

2. The first assignment in Singapore Mathematics Primary Mathematics 6A

A watermelon weighs m kg and a pineapple weights 2 kg.
(a) Express the total weight of the fruits in terms of m.

(b) if m = 4, find the total weight of the fruits.

(c) if m = 6, find the total weight of the fruits.


Apparently I'm in the minority: I don't have a favorite number. But I do have preferences within mathematics, and generally prefer algebra to number journaling.

If you have favorite numbers, or other mathematical preferences, please share them.


lgm said...

Ok! I don't have a fav #, but my mathy 6th grader does. This would be a handwriting practice assignment for him as well as a public speaking opportunity. The SM6 assignment was a quicky too at the time. Ds's teacher started out with exponents (the new skill) embedded in Order of Operations (review from last year) and understanding the term 'evaluate' (new vocab).

I could see the CM assignment as a useful background check if the students actually took it seriously, however in Gr. 6 very few are going to remember composites, primes, multiples and other such terms from the limited time they spent with it in Gr. 5, so it's probably a waste of a day for the nonmathy unless the teacher had a good discussion to go with it. I think square numbers are actually in the Gr. 5 state test prep, although they don't refer to them as such.

Does your school do math following a curriculum stringently or do you follow state objectives? Here we follow state objectives, so the teacher is using the text as a source of problem sets. They don't go chapter by chapter at all.

Kathryn said...

Hi, I just wanted to say hello and that I've read many of your older posts with interest. I'm also a left-brainer and always struggled with the "creative" assignments in high school. I also had trouble when applying to college (I'm only 26, so I was in high school when the colleges started looking at more than grades and SATs) because I had no leadership roles and I didn't think that any teachers would give me a recommendation since I was so shy that I never participated in class (luckily I've gotten over that shyness since then).

Now I'm a high school math teacher at an international school in Vietnam with mostly affluent Vietnamese students (I taught one year at a charter school in California) and have seen a lot of the differences between Asian and American math here.

One big difference between Asian high school students and American high school students (and I know that I'm generalizing) is that the majority of Asian students are much more motivated than their American counterparts. I have several ideas where this come from, including cultural expectations, some of which are good and some of which are bad. The good ones are the respect for teachers and the willingness to study hard. (But there are some darker reasons--some parents here hit their children if they do poorly or cause discipline problems). In addition, many Asian students will go to extra classes after the normal school day is over. Some of my students will get up at 5am just to do their homework for normal school because they got home so late from their extra classes. I think that this is one of the reason why Asian countries are ahead of the USA--but I don't necessarily think it's a positive thing. I really do think it's important for kids to do activities other than school all the time (although I don't think that they should necessarily be "leadership" activities).

Another problem (as I'm sure you know since you have elementary aged kids) is that American elementary teachers usually are very weak in math. So, they teach in an overly simplistic way that doesn't get students to think critically.

I do think that there is some merit to the American math curriculum, however. Many students (especially the right-brained ones) really do well in a classroom with hands-on and cooperative environment. The majority of students are not left-brained.

Also, I believe that it's important for students to see applications of the things that they are learning and why they are practical. Many Vietnamese people I know have complained that they learn a lot of math but they don't know when or where they will ever use it. The teachers in the US with a strong mathematical background will teach that. Unfortunately, there aren't that many of us with a strong mathematical background. And, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gone overseas. The classroom management issues in the States are a serious problem for people trying to teach math in high school and junior high. Many teachers I know have either changed jobs or decided to go back to school so that they could become qualified to teach at a college level in the hope that those students would be more motivated.

I actually have a lot more to say about this topic, but I'll save that for later. =P Thanks for writing your blog; it's very interesting to me. I will bookmark your page and check back.

lefty said...

LGM--we seem to follow the state curriculum pretty closely. I'll learn more as the year progresses. I think you're very right that few 6th graders will take it seriously.

lefty said...

Kathryn, Great to hear from you. Thanks for all your thoughts. I know nothing about the Vietnamese math curriculum. Can you enlighten me? Is it anything like Singapore Math?

Obi-Wandreas, The Funky Viking said...

I teach in an urban school. By 6th grade a lot of them will have "69" be their favorite number.

I'm stuck teaching Connected Math, but I have never once assigned any of the journal sections. I use the time they would've spent on that to supplement with some real math.

rightwingprof said...

Okay, I'm now officially horrified.

Dawn said...

My 10 year old daught (who uses Singapore's Primary Math 5 right now) looked these over. Her reaction to the first question was confusion. She didn't understand why it was math.

Her answer to the second was actually the answers. she much preferred it.

Anonymous said...

Mathematical "things"? They couldn't call these things, whatever they are, by name?