Thursday, February 2, 2012

Math problems of the week: tasks for families in Investigations vs. Singapore Math

I. The explanations and tasks that (TERC) Investigations explicitly gives to parents as part of its 3rd grade measurement unit [click to enlarge]:


II. The explanations and tasks that Singapore Math explicitly gives to parents as part of its 3rd grade measurement unit [no clicking necessary]:













III. Extra Credit:
Which curriculum shows more respect for parents: the one that explicitly involves them in teaching, or the one that doesn't.

18 comments:

FedUpMom said...

Oh man, if there's one phrase I never want to hear again, it's "parent involvement." Involve me out!

Notice the confident assertion that "kids find these activities fun". Not my kids.

C T said...

Baby steps and giant steps for third graders? Wow, those are some high expectations they've got there....

Barry Garelick said...

In Waterloo, Iowa, Investigations in Number, Data and Space, is being used and getting rave reviews, according to this article.

Here's a quote taken right from the article. Stop me if you've heard it before:


"Administrators describe the curriculum, published by Pearson Education, as providing rich, problem-based, student-centered lessons that foster inquiry and develop critical thinking skills. They believe the result of developing those skills will be increasing student achievement."

cranberry said...

Our public school uses Everyday Math. With 3 kids, I learned to ignore what the sheets outlined for family activities.

First, and most objectionable, the activities assumed that nothing the family might plan to do in that time might be a better use of time. You thought the kids could come home, have a small snack, play outside a bit to let off steam, quickly do a reasonable amount of homework, have dinner, take a bath, go to bed? No, no, no! You have to do a group project of measuring or counting miscellaneous objects.

The lack of respect for parents is ingrained. Instead of cooking dinner, organizing for the next day, paying bills, or making certain the homework got done, (and families often have more than one child), parents are supposed to spend chunks of valuable time on poorly planned make work.

Also, children are tired at the end of school. Homework is fine for reinforcing concepts already learned, under the guidance of an adult who understands the concepts. It is not the time to draft parents into forcing the kid to explore a new concept in the most inefficient way possible.

T M Widdershins said...

My children were victim to Investigations for most of their elementary experience. I found my parent involvement actually required me to purchase additional materials to fill in all the holes left by this curriculum. We have moved to a different state, with a more traditional curriculum. My son still struggles with the traditional algorithms that he needs to know. It's difficult to motivate a small boy to learn math all over again when he gets home from school. My kids hated the "group" activities these kinds of curriculums advocate. I am still angry about the money spent on this curriculum by my prior district which has only lined the pockets of Pearson Education -- but has certainly taught little to no math skills.

Philip said...

I understand the annoyance at busy work - which I think should be avoided in classroom and out, but this comes across as parents wanting nothing to do with their kid's education. That will only feed into the problem, making schools feel like they have to force the parents into being parents.

I give my students extra credit if they discuss my blog with their parents, or an adult they live with. Once a week, I make it homework. So far, I've only received positive feedback... but I wonder if there are those who are afraid to tell me what they really think.

GC said...

Phillip,

The reality is many parents can't or won't be involved in their kids' educations. Trying to force parents into involvement harms students. I grew up in a large poor family with a sickly mother who had to work and take care of my invalid grandmother. I didn't get any academic help at home.

Luckily for me, I went to school in a country that had a traditional, sit in rows, whole class direct instruction method of education. I went home every day and knew how to do my homework because it was always reinforcing what I learned during the school day.

This kind of education that didn't demand parental involvement or expect me to spend a lot of time learning things for myself served me very well. When I went to school to some extent academic success or failure was in my own hands. As soon as you demand parental involvement or discovery type methods of learning, you immediately put underprivileged kids at a huge disadvantage. They don't have the help at home. They don't have a large base of knowledge that they can apply to methods of self-learning. So, the gap between the haves and have nots grows larger.

Education is supposed to be a great equalizer. Unfortunately modern methods of American education have made academic success much less likely for kids who don't get much help in the home. Success or failure is no longer in the student's hands. It is completely dependent on whether the parents can or will help.

I have a career that demands creativity and problem solving. These were never a problem for me despite the lack of focus on them in my education. I never had problems working with others or in groups despite never doing this in school (and being somewhat introverted). This is true for many millions of successful people around the world, who never did cooperative learning or never discussed a homework assignment with a parent. So, a lot of modern teaching methods really aren't necessary but they can be very harmful to kids who don't have help at home. They are probably one reason that social mobility has been in decline in the US.

FedUpMom said...

Phillip said:

***
this comes across as parents wanting nothing to do with their kid's education. That will only feed into the problem, making schools feel like they have to force the parents into being parents.
***

That's exactly my point. Why should it be the school's business what kind of a parent I am? The idea that parents are accountable to teachers is exactly backwards. Who works for whom?

FedUpMom said...

Philip said:

***
I give my students extra credit if they discuss my blog with their parents, or an adult they live with.
***

Philip, not every child lives with an adult who can do this, for all kinds of reasons. I think this is very unfair, and will penalize kids for circumstances that are beyond their control.

Philip said...

FedUpMom asked: "Why should it be the school's business what kind of a parent I am?"

Because the schools in the U.S. are being held accountable for how you raise your kid.

There are plenty of studies that show how parental involvement increases a child's chance of success. (Funkhouser & Gonzalez 1997; Patrikakaou 2004; Dearing,Krieder, Simpkins, & Weiss 2006...)

For instance, from Funkhouser and Gonzalez: "When children's families are involved in school, the children earn higher grades... graduate from high school at higher rates, and are more likely to enroll in higher education than students with less involved families."

The newest post from Joanne Jacobs starts out like this: "Black males who do well in college have parents — and at least one K-12 teacher — with high expectations, concludes the National Black Male College Achievement Study."

Why wouldn't teachers want parental involvement?

I have not had one parent complain to me about the assignments yet - maybe they will. But the notion that I'm harming kids by asking them to discuss social studies with an adult for 10 to 15 minutes once a week is absurd. (This is coming from the comment: "I think this is very unfair, and will penalize kids for circumstances that are beyond their control.") I print out copies, I have made translations, I have accepted them late at full credit...

In this case, I'm not the one that's hurting the kid, or being unfair. The parent is. If there's a situation that's truly out of the kid's control - I allow them to complete the assignment with another teacher, bus driver, or Wal-Mart door-greeter.

Maybe I'm the one out in left field, but it saddens me when a bus driver invests more time in a kid's education than a parent does.

@GC: (From the quote: "Success or failure is no longer in the student's hands. It is completely dependent on whether the parents can or will help.") I would take issue with your use of the word, "completely" there, but I get your point.

But this isn't a new issue. There have always been families that are involved and invested in their kid's education and families that weren't. We will still see kids who've overcome difficulty, and we'll see kids riding off the success of their parents.

FedUpMom said...

Philip said:
***
But the notion that I'm harming kids by asking them to discuss social studies with an adult for 10 to 15 minutes once a week is absurd.
***

You're not asking them to do it -- you give them extra credit for it. That means that a kid with the kind of parents who are eager to do this has an extra advantage over a kid who doesn't have such parents.

Instead of granting extra credit to kids based on what kind of parents they happen to have, why not grant it on the students' own efforts?

FedUpMom said...

Philip said:
***
In this case, I'm not the one that's hurting the kid, or being unfair.
***

Sure you are. You're awarding extra credit based on what kind of parents the kid happens to have.

***
Why wouldn't teachers want parental involvement?
***

I don't mind you wanting it, I mind you trying to enforce it. You can't make parents do what you want by sending home misguided homework assignments. All you do is tilt the playing field a little further to the advantage of kids with compliant parents, and the disadvantage of kids with noncompliant parents.

FedUpMom said...

Philip said:

***
I have not had one parent complain to me about the assignments yet - maybe they will.
***

The kind of parent who isn't available for this assignment is exactly the kind of parent who isn't available to discuss it with you.

GC said...

Phillip,

I shouldn't have said completely. But educational methods that assume no parental help are better for kids that don't have it. I have seen this be a big problem with some kids I know, who due to various circumstances have a little or no help at home.

These are cases of single parents who do care but often work odd hours that really reduce time spent with their kids. These are kids that are now in high school, who have performed poorly in school largely because the schools sent home so much work for the parents to help with. This included both homework assignments and time consuming projects.

These are kids who likely would have done well academically if the schools were using different teaching methods that expected less home involvement. The schools have made overcoming difficulties far harder for kids.

Hainish said...

"There are plenty of studies that show how parental involvement increases a child's chance of success."

Yes...And instead of seeing this as a problem on the part of the education system, teachers see it as a problem on the part of the parents/society/the economy/what have you.

A school's duty is to equalize chances for its students, not to make them even more contingent on factors outside of their control. When you reward some students for having involved parents, you essentially punish others for having "chosen" wrong family to be born into.

Philip said...

Wow, there are a lot of comments.

First of all, lets get to some commonality:

1. I don't think students should be punished based on their home life.

2. I don't think students should fail a class because they don't do any homework.

3. I'm not in favor of homework at all, unless it has a legitimate point.


But I think I should clarify a few things from my extra credit/ homework policy.

I am asking them to do it (read the class blog) - I assign it for homework about once a week.

When they read it, I ask that they read it with a parent, or adult they live with. However, they can discuss it with another adult instead. Like I said, I've had students discuss it with other teachers, or with bus drivers. (I give printed copies.)

I am not granting extra credit based on the parents - it's based on their efforts. They just have to discuss it with someone.

Furthermore, I offer a few other extra credit opportunities as well - ones that have nothing to do with parents.

The blog serves as both reinforcement for learning, and a communication tool between home and the classroom. I have found that the vast number of parents appreciate this. (I have called over 45 families - they all said it was a good idea, they loved it, etc... I was working my way through my classes, but I haven't had the time to finish off the calls.)

Students do best when there's a partnership between the parent, teacher, and student. If they don't have a parent they can talk to, they can go to another adult.

As for not seeing this as a problem on the part of the educational system - I do see it that way. There's plenty of blame-shifting going around. So, I'm trying to do my part to encourage a little parent involvement. If the parent doesn't have the time, a teacher will fill in (again) to fulfill that role - so the kid still gets the homework credit, or if they desire, the extra credit.

Maybe I'm blinded by the kid who told me his dad can't read very well, and loves it his son reads it to him. (I'm not trying to judge, but extenuating circumstances in his home life seemed less than ideal.)

Or the mom who wrote on the note, "Thank you so much for doing this. I read it with ________ every day before school and enjoy some mommy/daughter time."

lgm said...

>>"There are plenty of studies that show how parental involvement increases a child's chance of success."

The most important factor is school success is the quality of the teacher. Having a parent that knows math and has the time to teach it at home when the child is assigned to a dud means that the child's chance of success has increased dramatically. Yup, he's gone from a teacher with no clue, who in my district is paid near $100K base salary and was grandfathered in on the certification deal to an unpaid parent who actually knows the material and how to teach it. Why go to school? Why continue to fund people who don't produce?????

Philip said...

Igm, it seems like we're fighting two different fights here.

I am in NO way in favor retaining bad teachers. I'm not sure which state has a base salary of 100 K. I think ours is 32K.

With all the new laws passed in Indiana this year, teachers are sincerely concerned about the prospect of making a max of 45K for the rest of their lives.

I believe the parent is the child's first and most important teacher. I'm saying this as a parent and as a teacher. So you're right. Quality of teacher is the most important.

I wouldn't want my kid in a bad teacher's class. I would fight to get her taken out, but that doesn't negate my role or responsibility as a parent.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/232583-the-most-important-factors-in-determining-a-childs-success-in-school/