Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This Week in Mathematics Education

I was given a set of bulletin board framing strips to use in the classroom. They are made by a publisher, not a teacher. Check out the red polygon. Oh by the way, recall that 'oct' means 'eight'.

A student appears in a Geometry class (10th grade). The teacher soon finds out that he/she is performing a very low level (2nd grade is the estimate). He/she doesn't know the difference between a square and a rectangle, doesn't understand the concept of 'half', and doesn't know the answer to twelve divided by three, or three divided by one. The situation is not an isolated incident. The same teacher had a student this year, enrolled in Advance Algebra, who couldn't find page one of the math book, couldn't graph a point, and also didn't know his multiplication tables.

What if Social Promotion in the elementary grades is the official policy of the school district? At what point is a student retained? Apparently not in high school. An administrator at one of the high schools said that if a kid is in the 11th grade then he/she should be in Advanced Algebra because that is the age appropriate class, even though the student hadn't passed math for years. Apparently the previous classes are not called "pre-requisites" until college.

 Also in the news, U.S. Falls Short in Measure of Future Math Teachers. In my opinion, too many American elementary school and middle school teachers are under-qualified to teach math effectively. The comment at the end of the article by Dr. Gage Kingsbury, a senior research fellow at the Northwest Evaluation Association is ludicrous.
“ suggest that you can’t be a good middle school math teacher unless you’ve taken calculus is a leap, because calculus isn’t taught in middle school. So I think they overreach a bit.”
It is essential that a teacher have a broad understanding of mathematics to be able to effectively teach Algebra and pre-Algebra, both of which are middle school courses.

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