Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Favorite comments of '13, cont: Barry Garelick, Deirdre Mundy and Lynn Guelzow

On  Do the authors of the Common Core really want us to replace step-by-step math with words, pictures, and applications?

Barry Garelick said...
I've had Bill McCallum, lead writer of the CC math standards, twice state publicly that the Common Core standards do NOT prescribe or encourage any particular type of pedagogy. Once in a comment on my Atlantic article, and once in response to a comment I made on an interview with Jason Zimba in Rick Hess' blog that Ed Week publishes.

The CC party line is that the standards are pedagogically neutral. That people choose to interpret them to require a constructivist implementation is, in the view of the CC authors, the teachers' choice not theirs. The teachers, schools, school districts, and PD vendors, if pressed to explain their choice, will say "The CC standards require a deep conceptual understanding as well as procedural fluency and the traditional method of math teaching doesn't do a good job of that." The CC authors are mum on that, and will defer in the usual manner: "It's the teacher's choice, not ours".

But in effect, the choice HAS been made subtly. The standards reflect a pedagogical bias, by emphasizing "understanding" and "explaining". The standards feed into the momentum of reform math ideology over the last 20+ years that holds that the traditional methods simply are not effective at getting to "deep understanding". The reform math thought world of what is "deep understanding", ironically, comes down to a rote approach to concepts via pictures and certain buzzwords designed to win points on the open-ended and "authentic" assessments that are being developed for this brave new deeply conceptual world.

Deirdre Mundy said...
I have a homeschooled fourth grader (she finished her third grade work last month, so poof! She graduated!) Her math has ALWAYS been mostly book work (Saxon). What I've seen is that once she masters a skill (multiplication, or finding the missing addend, or simple fractions and reducing) in the book, she THEN starts using it in the real world. Then, in turn, the book work becomes more automatic and easier.

But the real world applications that make sense for her and WORK are the ones she sees by herself.

Kids have the real world all day. Let’s do some math in math class!

Lynn Guelzow said...
I've seen the Constructivist CC in action as my daughter's 8th grade algebra teacher has implemented the standards this year. We are in the midst of substitution now. From my child's view of the world - most of the kids are completely lost.

There was almost no instruction at all - but the kids were given a "real world" problem to solve involving 5 variables and told to figure it out on their own that night. Because we'd been doing algebra on our own using Dolciani - we were able to easily solve the 5 variable problem

The other kids weren't so lucky and the entire next class period was taken up with going over the problem. So now, we've lost 2 entire class periods to solve one complicated (but mathematically easy) problem with lots and lots of confusion.

Using Dolciani - that one problem would have taken up 15 minutes at most with an entire class.

So eventually, they will "learn" substitution, but the method used by the teacher is extremely time consuming (so much discussion and flailing around in groups takes a lot of time), and the teacher will move on to the other methods of solving a system without ever having given them a problem involving a fraction, a negative number, or anything with numbers bigger than 10.

In case you are wondering, all of the other kids solved the 5 variable problem using guess and check - the numbers were that easy. So there's your conceptual understanding, I suppose.

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