Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Everything but the math curriculum, II

An article in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer profiles one of the few schools in the Delaware Valley to use Singapore Math: the five-year-old Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School (FACTS) in Philadelphia's Chinatown, whose math scores have risen impressively:

In 2006, 27 percent of fifth graders passed the state math test; this year, as seventh graders, 67 percent passed.
For a reaction, the article turns to Janine Remillard, a professor of math education at University of Pennsylvania, who cautions against giving too much credit to the Singapore Math curriculum:
Remillard... said that while Singapore math may be responsible for the improved test scores at FACTS, other curricula - such as Everyday Math, used in many districts around the country, including Philadelphia - have also shown promise when taught well.

"A curriculum provides a way of representing the mathematics, but it is only one piece of the puzzle," Remillard said. "How the teacher uses that curriculum is really, really critical."

How true. Good teachers trump nearly everything. Including--though I challenge you to find a math education professor who will admit this--the most "traditional", "drill-and-kill" of math programs.

But the one thing a good teacher can't trump--unless s/he simply tosses most of it out the window--is a curriculum that places too low a ceiling on conceptual challenge.

And that is why Singapore math trumps Everyday Math--and Investigations, and Trailblazers, and Mathland, and Connected Math, and the rest of the lot.


jh said...

It's it interesting . . .

If they had a course called "Everyday Literature" and studied the latest bestselling beach books, English teacher would have a fit.

But introduce a curriculum that is the same in math, and no one care . . .

Mrs. C said...

Um, they DO have courses like that!!! Check out your local elementary and see for yourself. :]

Paul B said...

I gave my seventh grade math class the Singapore Math 4A placement test because I needed a really good map as to where they were with core skills.

Median score 11%.

Here's the five point... 0,3,11,14,68

Makes my head explode!