Elizabeth Green, of Chalkbeat has a new piece out on teaching fractions. She is the one who wrote the piece “Why Americans Stink at Math” which appeared in the NY Times Magazine and was riddled with errors and assumptions that the cognescenti and punditry were totally unaware of and just assumed she was right. And when people pointed out her errors, (see, for example here and here) the errors continued to go unnoticed.
“The Math Lab’s emphasis on learning math by talking and thinking about it is clear almost as soon as the students enter the room. A list of the class’ “math community agreements,” posted on a board, reminds students to “add onto each other’s thinking” and “analyze and observe each other’s work.”
“To help students internalize that philosophy, Van Duzer led an activity called “convincing a skeptic,” where students were asked to fold pieces of green paper into squares one quarter the size of the original and then convince their partner that the new shape was, in fact, one-fourth of the original.”
Sorry; that’s about as far as I got. (I recognize the “convince me” gambit from Steve Leinwand’s promotion of the technique). Being able to explain and convince rather than be instructed in the basics and given scaffolded problems to help reinforce procedures and understanding is off the table. Such techniques in the worldview of reformers is apparently too procedural and rote-like.
Then there’s this:
“As teachers reflected on Tuesday’s lesson, a debate of their own emerged. They began wondering about how Cipparone handled what the group would begin calling “Kris’ problem” — the moment that morning when Kris misplaced five-thirds on the number line and Cipparone had to make a split-second decision about whether to correct him before the students left for the day. Deirdre Flood, a teacher at Brooklyn’s P.S. 11, said it could make sense to end the lesson ambiguously if “every single [student] made a decision before they left, so they were thinking about it on their way out.” ”
Because ambiguity and not teaching students what they need to know (particularly when they need to know it) has just worked out great for the last 25+ years, now hasn’t it?
Just call me unconvinced.