Spin Meisters, Dept.

What with the TIMSS results being released showing slight improvement in students of 4th and 8th grades in the US, the explanations and credit-taking will be coming fast and furious. And leading the pack is the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM):

“The TIMSS results for fourth- and eighth-graders are encouraging because we are seeing elementary and middle school students continue to show long-term growth,” said National Council of Teachers of Mathematics President Matt Larson. “This may reflect an increased focus on mathematics in the early grades and could be a longer-term effect of standards reform and the implementation of research-informed instructional practices in more schools.”

Left undefined in this statement is “research-informed instructional practices”. There are a lot of those. Some of them aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Others are better. Are they talking about papers by Sweller, Kirschner and Clark who maintain that minimally guided discovery doesn’t work, and who advocate direct instruction and worked examples? Or are they more in the Jo Boaler direction?

Also, to what extent has tutoring/learning center instruction played a role–a question yet to be addressed but becomes increasingly important as the numbers of these establishments goes up.

Watch this space for further spin; I’m sure there will be some.

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3 thoughts on “Spin Meisters, Dept.

  1. I agree with your tutoring comment. In Ontario, the Grade 4 result is steady, but the Grade 8 result has increased. By Grade 8 many families have found, paid for and benefitted from actual math tuition. I expect this detail to be ignored by Ontario authorities.

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  2. “Also, to what extent has tutoring/learning center instruction played a role–a question yet to be addressed but becomes increasingly important as the numbers of these establishments goes up.”

    If these educrats want to have any credibility, they WILL address the tutoring issue. Otherwise it’s a moot discussion.

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  3. “slight improvement”

    Our K-6 school state testing grades went up when they changed from MathLand to Everyday Math. “Slight” is the key word, and does their long term go back 30 to 40 years to before modern reform math teaching ideas? Has TIMSS changed over the long term and can they provide proper calibration for longitudinal studies? Schools can also send home questionnaires to parents to ask what they are doing at home or with tutors. It would be a very simple thing to do! The modern meme is to have parents come to math open houses (so they can be helpers at home) and to send home notes telling us to practice “math facts.” Their “implementation of research-informed instructional practices ” goes back more than two decades. Their long term “slight” improvement better be longer than that and it has to be based on proper calibrated longitudinal data. Also, does this “slight improvement” even reach the proficiency level of CCSS testing? Are the improvements at the lower level or the upper level?

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