Friday, January 8, 2016

Favorite comments of '15, cont: FedUpMom, Barry Garelick, and lndmayg

On Exeter Math: Reform or Traditional?

FedUpMom said...
Wow. You start with a hand-picked group of bright, motivated, hard-working students, and then you throw a curriculum at them that they can't possibly handle themselves, so they must rely on help from each other and their over-available teachers (do they have any private time?) This seems like a great way to produce young adults with no sense of independent agency.

Wouldn't it be better to give them clear problem sets which might be occasionally challenging but that they can still solve on their own? Shouldn't school be about giving kids tools that they can use themselves?


Barry Garelick said...
The availability of and encouragement for teacher help amounts to direct instruction--which raises the question of whether that should have been done in the first place. No, better to sustain an illusion that the kids are doing it all by themselves. Sounds like a self-sustaining juku.

lndmayg said...
My son had an honors geometry class at his boarding/prep school that used the Exeter curriculum. He and more than half of his classmates ended up dropping the class and going down to the regular traditional geometry class. Even with super-available teachers, there is only so much extra help that is reasonable for students to seek, especially for introverts like my kids. It was practically impossible for him to study for a test with only his notes to use. If he missed something there was no chance he was going to learn it from his notes. A textbook would not have been helpful as the first few units did not seem to be about geometry at all. The kids who did not drop the class had Algebra II as their prior class instead of Algebra I, so there are real questions about how much kids were learning and how much they actually were applying prior learning.

We had a similar bad experience with a Harkness method precalculus class for my older son at a different boarding school. He struggled all year with the "figure it out yourself" methodology. He is very strong in math and went on to all 5s on the Calc AB, Calc BC, and Stats AP exams after classes with traditional instruction.

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