In a piece in this weekend's New York Time Magazine, Judith Warner discusses the bipartisan nature of the attack on science. In the late 1980s and 1990s, she notes, came an attach by the left: the sweeping postmodern relativist assault on scientific Truth. This assault, she claims, lost steam after it was parodied by the "progressive" physicist Alan Sokal in his "Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." At this point, she claims, the attack on science switched from left to right, now directed, in particular, at the science of global warming.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
I. The third problem set in "Unit 4: What's that Potion?" in the 5th grade (TERC) Investigations Math Student Activity Book, Session 1.1:
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
|Out in Left Field is proud to publish a letter from Barry Garelick to Deborah Ball. Deborah Ball is Dean, University of Michigan School of Education. She is also listed as an advisor/consultant to the second edition of “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space.”|
***Update: Blogger is swallowing a large number of comments on this thread (even though these comments are unmoderated). To ensure your comment appears, feel free to email me a copy of what you post here at katharine [dot] p [dot] beals [at] gmail [dot] com.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I'm a big fan of sentences. When I edit my work, I'm constantly combining and recombining them, altering the order of phrases, or their depth of embedding, to maximize clarity, flow, and efficiency. Following this, almost in lockstep, is clarifying my message. This works in both directions: the more I play around with sentence syntax, the clearer my thoughts become; when I know exactly what I want to say, the ideal sentence structure comes along for the ride.
The usefulness of sentence-based rhetorics was never disproved, but a growing wave of anti-formalism, anti-behaviorism, and anti-empiricism within English-based composition studies after 1980 doomed them to a marginality under which they still exist today. The result of this erasure of sentence pedagogies is a culture of writing instruction that has very little to do with or say about the sentence outside of a purely grammatical discourse.But first, what are these sentence-based rhetorics that have fallen out of favor?
According to Christensen, you could be a good writer if you could learn to write a good sentence. His pedagogy consisted of short base-level sentences to which students were asked to attach increasingly sophisticated systems of initial and final modifying clauses and phrases-what he called "free modifiers." Effective use of free modifiers would result in effective "cumulative sentences," and Christensen's most famous observation about teaching the cumulative sentence was that he wanted to push his students "to level after level, not just two or there, but four, five, or six, even more, as far as the students' powers of observation will take them. I want them to become sentence acrobats, to dazzle by their syntactic dexterity."Another "sentence-based rhetoric" was Edward Corbett's "imitation exercises," which involved the "the emulation of the syntax of good prose models." Students would begin by copying a model sentence word for word. Then came "pattern practice," in which students construct new sentences that parallel the grammatical type, number, and order of phrases and clauses of the model sentence, perhaps with the help of a syntactic description of the model sentence's structure. Students might also perform syntactic transformations (informed by Noam Chomsky's Universal Grammar) on the model sentence. In Corbett's words, the aim of such imitation exercises was to "achieve an awareness of the variety of sentence structure of which the English language is capable." Other advocates of imitation exercises noted that student writing "is often stylistically barren because of lack of familiarity with good models of prose style;" the remedy was explicit emulation of good models.
The result of this backlash was that most writing instructors came to believe that "research has shown that sentence combining doesn't work."
Sunday, February 20, 2011
A third grade girl attempts, unsuccessfully, to add several large numbers using an Investigations Math strategy. She then adds them successfully using traditional "stacking" (disallowed at school) in a fraction of the time the Investigations method took her:
Filmed and edited by a fellow concerned parent who is a specialist in math remediation.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
What lesson will most educators draw about schools and social skills after looking through last week's Education Week?
From role-playing games for students to parent seminars, teaching social and emotional learning requires a lot of moving parts, but when all the pieces come together such instruction can rival the effectiveness of purely academic interventions to boost student achievement, according to the largest analysis of such programs to date.Only if they read as far as the ninth paragraph will they encounter the idea that academic gains may result simply from better behaved students being easier to teach, and not from some broader, fuzzier connection between social skills and academic achievement:
In the report, published Feb. 4 in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development, researchers led by Joseph A. Durlak, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Chicago, found that students who took part in social and emotional learning, or SEL, programs improved in grades and standardized-test scores by 11 percentile points compared with nonparticipating students. That difference, the authors say, was significant—equivalent to moving a student in the middle of the class academically to the top 40 percent of students during the course of the intervention. Such improvement fell within the range of effectiveness for recent analyses of interventions focused on academics.
Corinne Gregory, the president and founder of the Seattle-based schoolwide SEL program SocialSmarts, suggested the improvement ...[occurred] in part because educators could teach more efficiently with calmer, more cooperative students.And only if they reach the twelfth paragraph will they learn that:
One finding ran counter to both the researchers’ expectations and prior research: Simple teacher-led programs vastly outperformed multifaceted programs involving schoolwide activities and parent involvement. While classroom-based programs showed significant improvements across all five social measures and academics, comprehensive [school and home based] programs showed no significant effect on students’ social-emotional skills or positive social behavior, and were less effective at improving academic performance.
Monday, February 14, 2011
With the release of Edward Glaeser's book Triumph of the City, and with a new University of Michigan study on group cooperation, the supposed virtues of cooperative groups are once again the talk of the media—as seen, for example, in a recent New York Times Op-Ed by David Brooks on "The Splendor of Cities" and a recent article in last weekend's Wall Street Journal on the "Sunset of the Solo Scientist".
You can be sure that anyone in the education establishment who reads these articles will find just what he or she is looking for: more reasons to make students spend significant time working in groups. Confirmation bias blinds most people to the underlying fallacies:
1. Cooperation does not equal collaboration.
I’ve made this point many times over: Many (and I’m guessing most) group collaborations, while they include collective brainstorming, ongoing conversation, and, ultimately, some sort of collective wrapping up, have people spending the majority of the time working on their own. Construction sites and film sets aside, how often is the bulk of the work, and of the time spent on it, accomplished by people occupying the same open (cubicle-free) space and constantly interacting and doing things together?
2. Carefully chosen cooperative games aren’t representative of most collaborations.
A corollary to 1: The specially-designed cooperative games of the University of Michigan's recent psychological experiments aren’t representative of most human endeavors. The fact that highly cooperative groups (those with higher social or “group intelligence”) outperform less cooperative ones on certain highly cooperation-dependent games says nothing about collaborations in general. Were the same experiments performed on real-world collaborations in STEM or business, would “group intelligence” still be the most important factor?
4. Even ostensibly “cooperative” groups can be arenas for competition and bullying.
(Another point I’ve made many times over and won’t belabor here).
3. Density and frequent contact do not equal cooperation.
I haven't read Glaeser's book, but some of the reviews of it I've seen suggest that brainstorming and competition, and not necessarily group cooperation, are key ingredients in how cities advance civilizations via increased human interaction.
5. The rarity of solitary geniuses does not equal their demise.
As one WSJ letter notes in response to the WSJ’s recent article on the “Sunset of the Solo Scientist”:
Minds like Einstein’s or Newton’s come infrequently, and the gap in time between theirs and the next true greats may be now. Or maybe not. What about Stephen Hawking? He may yet eclipse Einstein.
Maybe you just don’t know who today’s greats are. Some may not be recognized until well after they’re dead. Ideas are still the realm of individuals.
Great ideas typically spring from a single mind. Teams of researches may trudge through mountains of data but not have the “Aha!” moment… ever.
I think that encouraging individual, critical and creative thought is the only way to create true greats.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Several months ago, I wrote a post about how frequently people assume that autism involves deficits in abstract thinking, and proposed several reasons for this widespread misconception:
1. For many people, abstraction is synonymous with fuzziness, flexibility, and open-endedness. Because autistic people tend to be rigid, ritualistic, precise, pendantic, and/or detail-focused, and because many of them don't do well when faced with open-ended questions or open-ended tasks assigned to them by other people, they do not look like abstract thinkers according to this misconception of "abstract." All too often, for example, people forget that the concept of "polygon" is no less abstract than the concept of "love."
2. Many people, especially in education, conflate logical inferencing with the sorts of inferencing that good readers engage in when making sense of a text. As I've discussed in previous posts (here and here), many of today's assigned texts require the sorts of social inferences and and bridging inferences (integration of background knowledge) with which autistic children tend to struggle. These are not the same as inferring the contrapositive or doing a reductio ad absurdum.
3. Many people, as I discussed in a recent post, confuse labels with concepts and assume that a child who doesn't know the label for a given concept also doesn't understand the concept. Many labels for abstract concepts and logical processes are difficult for autistic children to pick up on their own: they often require explicit vocabulary instruction that other children don't need. Unless and until they receive such instruction, many people will assume that they don't understand the underlying abstractions--e.g., that if he doesn't know the word "because," he doesn't understand causality.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
I hate doing my son's public school homework with him. It takes him about 10 minutes and is so idiotic. I can't keep from hiding my disgust. What a waste of time.
I was just going over his work (1st grade). They began with worksheets he could have completed when he was 3. After 2 months, they began addition with equations in sequential order. (1+1, 1+2, 1+3...) Now, they color in pieces of pie to introduce fractions. It has improved through the year, but the progress is excruciatingly slow and many of the problems give you the answer in the diagram which means they really aren't figuring anything out.
We are enjoying a private program from a Russian Math school. I think it is similar to Singapore Math in that it addresses Math problems from many perspectives and builds very quickly while continuing to introduce new concepts. Much more challenging and fun too.
Precisely: it might seem from a distance as if the removal of all but English and Math means school days full of relentless academic pressure. Look a little closer and you see that the pressure is actually that of a relentlessly descending ceiling.Russian Math began the first day by teaching them symbols (>, <, = and more). They then used these to compare two equations at a time. This taught him to add while at the same time compare numbers to get a sense of how they relate. They were also shown geometric shapes that fit into each other. They had to either combine two shapes or break apart two shapes. By the second class, they were comparing diagrams that demonstrated weights on a scale and comparing subtraction equations.Since then, he has learned how to measure the perimeter of different shapes and solve for X in equations. He can add and subtract multiple numbers in one equation, do simple multiplication, and measure objects in centimeters and inches. He can distinguish multiple shapes within a complex form and solve simple algebraic problems. In his free time, he began to add very large numbers (fifteen digits long or more) because of an exercise he did in his Russian Math class (around the 7th or 8th class).
I understand the public schools are teaching to the struggling student. But, I can't imagine how a dumbed down curriculum helps anyone. I could see using the current curriculum as a supplement for a student who is struggling. But, I don't really see how it is helping the majority of kids. The irony is, they have taken all other subjects out of the curriculum except English and Math. And, this is the Math they are teaching?
As for lifting the ceiling and raising the floor, getting my hands on the Russian Math series is high on my to-do list.
Monday, February 7, 2011
As science fair season kicks into high gear, participation among high school students appears to be declining...The article makes clear, however, that science fairs are still alive and well in middle schools--along with at least one of their many potential downsides:
“To say that we need engineers and ‘this is our Sputnik moment’ is meaningless if we have no time to teach students how to do science,” said Dean Gilbert, the president of the Los Angeles County Science Fair, referring to a line in President Obama’s State of the Union address last week.
In middle school, science fair projects are typically still required — and, teachers lament, all too often completed by parents.And many high schools are still encouraging their scientifically minded students to participate:
Some high schools funnel their best students into elite science competitions that require years of work and lengthy research papers: a few thousand students enter such contests each year.But the Times claims that other students, by not participating in science fairs, aren't getting exposed to the scientific process (as if science fairs are the only--or best--way to learn scientific thinking):
What has been lost, proponents of local science fairs say, is the potential to expose a much broader swath of American teenagers to the scientific process: to test an idea, evaluate evidence, ask a question about how the world works — and perhaps discover how difficult it can be to find an answer.
But does requiring broad-scale participation in science fairs really increase the overall scientific skills and scientific creativity of American students? Much of what passes for science skills in the science fair world, after all, amounts to skills in public speaking, verbal expression, and graphic design (or having parents with such skills). Much of what passes for scientific creativity is the showy visual creativity of the props and poster.
“Science fairs develop skills that reach down to everybody’s lives, whether you want to be a scientist or not,” said Michele Glidden, a director at Society for Science & the Public... “The point is to breed science-minded citizens.”The Times cites just two reasons for the decline of the science fair: competition from other extracurricular activities, and the pressure of state-mandated testing in math and reading:
One obvious reason for flagging interest in science fairs is competing demands for high school students’ extracurricular attention. But many educators said they wished the projects were deemed important enough to devote class time to them, which is difficult for schools whose federal funding hinges on improving math and reading test scores. Under the main federal education law, schools must achieve proficiency in math and reading by 2014, or risk sanctions.[snip]Many science teachers say the problem is not a lack of celebration, but the Obama administration’s own education policy, which holds schools accountable for math and reading scores at the expense of the kind of creative, independent exploration that science fair projects require.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
J first learned about death when he was 4. He'd discovered his first computer game, Bugdom, and whenever his bug was smashed by a foot or consumed by a giant slug, or died any of the other deaths that the different levels that Bugdom has to offer, he'd restart the game with a new bug and stoically carry on.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
I. From the 5th grade Everyday Math Student Math Journal Volume 2, p. 290:
[click on picture to enlarge]
|II. From the 5th grade Singapore Math Primary Mathematics Workbook 5A (volume 1), p. 17:|
[click on picture to enlarge]
|III. Extra Credit|
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
|Out in Left Field proudly presents the first in a series of letters by an aspiring math teacher formerly known as "John Dewey":|
Links to the former letters of the former John Dewey are: Letter # 1, Letter # 2, Letter # 3, Letter # 4, Letter # 5, Letter # 6, Letter # 7, Letter # 8, Letter # 9, Letter # 10