Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to catch up in Eureka Math

This weekend I was asked a question via my YouTube channel. The question is a common one that I have heard numerous times. It isn't unique to Eureka Math either...I've heard it my entire 26 years of teaching.

Here is a screenshot of the question and my quick response at the time.

As I reflect on my response, here are some additional thoughts...
  • The strategy of "catching up" a student by going backwards two years just doesn't make sense to me. Essentially, the strategy is flawed from the start because it takes a student who is already struggling with mathematics and merely piles more math on top of the student. In order for this strategy to work, not only does the struggling student have to learn the current year's standards, but also the standards from the previous year or two. For a student already struggling with math, this is just plain silly.
  • Eureka Math (EngageNY), being OER, affords us the ability to print "just in time" content for a student in need. Rather than subjecting the struggling student to the ENTIRE previous two years' worth of math, let's just print an occasional worksheet from a previous year. The strategy here is to have laser-like purpose for what "old" math to teach the student.
  • Most importantly, before we try to "fix" the student, let's first reflect on what went wrong in the first place that caused the student to need fixing? This is UDL!!! Moving forward, how can we select strategies for engagement, representation, and expression that remove the barrier to learning in the first place?
Just a thought.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Research Finds Effects Of Homework On Elementary Students

After over 25 years of studying and analyzing homework, Harris Coopers’ research demonstrates a clear conclusion: homework wrecks elementary school students.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Are Timed Math Tests Harmful to Students? — MashUp Math

Question: Which of these statements best describes an exceptional math student? If you chose one of the first three statements, then your beliefs about the essence of math understanding may be rooted in misconceptions.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why Parents Should Not Make Kids Do Homework

President Obama’s pick for Education Secretary, John King, Jr., is headed for confirmation Mar. 9. King’s track record shows he loves standardized testing and quantifying learning.

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Here’s why I said no to homework for my elementary-aged kids

Here’s a shocking thought: What if not doing homework was better for your kids? Would you still make them do it? We want what’s best for our children, and when kids hit school age we follow the teacher’s lead. If the teacher assigns homework, we enforce it at home. Even in elementary school.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Looking for the magic bullet

Today I was asked for my opinion on ST Math. I have heard this type of question many times before. It goes something like this...

"I have heard that ST Math improves student test scores. What is your opinion of XXXXX Elementary School asking the PTA to fund the annual subscription?"

Here is my response today...
Hey there... 
I know ST Math (Ji Ji Math) pretty well. I've observed it in action and have been asked numerous times to give my opinion about it. In short, it costs a lot of money for minimal (if any) gains. Nearly all of the studies showing a benefit to students involved low-income students only. It is never made clear whether the students benefitted from ST Math specifically, or if students merely improved because ST Math provided "extra math time" and ANY extra math time would have created the same benefits. 
It is pretty easy to find evidence on both sides of the ST Math question...
Has no effect: 
Has an effect: 
What worries me about schools that are considering ST Math is that there is a belief that ST Math will improve student results WITHOUT teachers having to change their instructional strategies. I've observed teachers in computer lab time using ST Math as a glorified babysitter.  
The NUMBER 1 thing that improves mathematics achievement is improving the quality of the math instruction in the classroom. ST Math is low on the list. 
My suggestion: Use the money to pay for PD that will improve the teaching that goes on in the classroom. Alternatively, the annual cost of ST Math could purchase 50 - 100 Chromebooks each year. 
Sorry dude. ST Math is not the magic bullet. What we need is just good teaching.

When investigating ST Math, schools are attempting to outsource the instruction to a computer, while completely ignoring that the teacher's instructional strategies are far more important than ANY software. Unfortunately, all the money is spent purchasing the site license allowing no money left over to improve the quality of classroom instruction.

Please...let's stop looking for a magic bullet. Instead, let's focus on using our mathematics instructional coaches effectively to improve classroom instruction.

It is hard work, but much better than expending our time and energy looking for a magic bullet.