Saturday, December 26, 2009

Favorite comments of '09: Niels Henrik Abel, Cheryl van Tilburg, and Beth on math projects

Re Summer math projects, grade 5 and Summer math projects, grade 4:

Niels Henrik Abel writes:

As you prepare your game "Package" be sure to include...A colorful and creative game board

So in other words, were a kid to design a game like chess that was challenging yet had a dull & boring game board, he would be marked down?

I guess that's an indication as to what's truly "important."

Cheryl van Tilburg writes:

Instead of ignoring the assignment (which just causes your child grief at the beginning of the school year), I alter the assignment to make it more appropriate for my child. For example, instead of the board game, I would have my student complete several multiplication worksheets and complete a weekly timed test of multiplication facts.

Then, my son brings the completed worksheets and time tests to school, along with a note from me explaining the "differentiated assignment." I include my phone number so that the teacher can call if he/she has any questions. To date, I haven't received any calls.... (I use this same approach when it comes to poster projects in my kids' English class.)

Is this a pain in the neck? Yes. But the way I figure it, things won't magically change without input from parents and other educators who understand that projects based on creativity aren't appropriate for all children.

It's also important to talk about this option with other parents in your child's class/grade. Other families also struggle with these creative summer projects and would welcome some advice how to handle them. (And there's something comforting about knowing that other parents are in the same boat!)

Things won't change until parents band together and demonstrate that they mean business. It's hard to be the only one to speak up (you and Catherine over at KTM are great role models in this regard -- and many others!) If five children come to class with a "differentiated" summer project, that sends a powerful message to the teacher (that hopefully will be passed on to administrators).

And Beth writes:

How do I hate this project? Let me count the ways:

1.) Like a lot of elementary school homework, it's really Mom-work. There's no way your average 9-year-old could complete this without massive assistance from Mom. From locating the grocery store, to buying the poster board, to getting a flyer, to nagging the kid into doing the work, this is one more headache for Mom.

2.) Most of the effort involved is pointless. For a bright child who balks at pointless work, "imagine you're planning a picnic ... now make a poster ..." is the beginning of existential despair. I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. I've seen this happen.

3.) This is a huge time waster. An extremely well-organized Mom might be able to get her child through this in about 3 hours, but that's a bare minimum. Remember there's a trip to the grocery store, and a trip to buy poster board.

4.) Public school is supposed to provide a free education. As soon as you require poster board that you don't provide, you've violated that. In this recession, people are really pinching pennies, and for some families, this is asking too much.

5.) It's called summer vacation because it's supposed to be a vacation! Hello!

I don't see this as a left- or right-brain problem. This is about the schools thinking they have a right to tell me what to do with my kids in our own time. I don't agree.

1 comment:

Barry Garelick said...

Thank you. I'll keep these in mind the next time my daughter gets a "poster" project assignment for English class. I'll have her write a report. I will resist the urge to send along a note stating the her mother and father are very busy with their full time jobs and can't devote the time to creating the poster that the teacher wanted.