Stop me if you’ve heard this before, Dept.

The Lowell Sun News (from Lowell, Mass) has an article about a new book on how to teach math. The book is called “Teach Math Like This, Not Like That” by Matthew Beyranevand and features examples from the local area of Lowell, where the author is from, with names of teachers who, according to the author are doing it right. Those who in the authors opinion aren’t doing it right, according to the article, are also offered as examples, but the names of those teachers are changed.  Hey, this author sounds like a real fun guy!

In case you’re wondering what’s the right way and what’s the wrong way, this paragraph gives a clue:

“Beyranevand’s mission is to move away from the practice of memorizing things such as equations and multiplication tables in favor of building conceptual understanding and increasing student engagement and interest in learning math. Rather than drive kids to hate math, he seeks to make it joyful and meaningful for them.  In the book, Beyranevand takes 40 different ideas, from communicating with students and parents to differentiating instruction, and provides examples of how each is done, traditionally and in more innovative, impactful ways.”

Sorry to be skeptical but I’ve heard this refrain more than a few times. (I’ve also heard the word “impactful” used; I’m guessing it means effective but I’m open to information anyone cares to impart.)

I’ve heard about “memorizing–bad; conceptual understanding good”, as if the two don’t work together and as if math is traditionally taught as rote. (And for those who maintain that memorizing IS bad and that it devalues learning the concepts, and that speed is not important, you might be interested in this column on Dan Willingham’s blog. )

I’ve also heard about lesson plans being about stating the objective and then summarizing what the students have learned at the end of the lesson.

I’ve heard about developing relationships with students as if teachers don’t ever show an interest in them as people.  I’ve heard that students have to be engaged which is accomplished by making things entertaining.

What I don’t hear is that students get engaged when they feel they are (and can be0 successful, and they feel successful when they are given the means by which to do so.  And so far, the means by which many are proclaiming is the way to do this, are so far off, they aren’t even wrong.  What I also don’t hear is how requiring students to solve problems in multiple ways can result in confusion and frustration–particularly when anchor methods (such as, say, oh I don’t know, standard algorithms or procedures) are given first so students can get their feet wet and feel they’re on the right track.  Not to say that this book has these faults, but having looked at the author’s website, I’m guessing I’m not too far off.

Of particular interest to me is that Rowman and Littlefield is the publisher of this book series (and yes, it’s a series of three books). They’ve published “Betrayed” by Laurie Rogers, about how the reform methods of math education are not working and what to do about it. They’ve also published Eric Kalenze’s book “Education is Upside Down” which takes a critical look at how the education establishment embraces fads and trends that are unproven and ineffective and their rejection of traditional methods of education.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re publishing this new book about math education given what publishers are all about.

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3 thoughts on “Stop me if you’ve heard this before, Dept.

  1. And meanwhile parents are now completely resigned to paying tutors.The mom I spoke to today can see the problems and her child is not yet in grade 1. She already recognizes that the bulk of work/teaching is falling to parents.But she is not a teacher and doesnt want to be.

    At the end of the conversation, she said ‘Well we are lucky we have people like you to help us’.

    Em no! Education taxes are high. Yet her faith that the system will teach her child has gone, before grade 1.
    She knows the reality. They have to pay.

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  2. Traditional publishers are all about finding a demand and filling it. Did you ever notice that proper math textbooks are given simple names, like Algebra I and Geometry? The same publisher might offer another, lower expectation series, but add in the subtitle – “Tools for a changing world.” Sales reps switch gears depending on who they are talking to. The big fallacy is that educators who buy the latter series never concede that the curriculum defines a permanent lower track. In K-6. It’s worse because there are no alternative or opt in traditional approaches to compare. They think it can be “joyful” with high expectations and deep understanding. Meanwhile, parents who know better keep quiet and create their best students at home and with tutors.

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