SteveH wrote a long comment addressing many of the statements Dan Meyer and others made in comments on a blog post that I talked about in a previous post.
I saw SteveH’s comment this morning, but then this afternoon it was gone. I don’t offer any theories for its disappearance, but instead offer my readers the original comment to digest and think about He opens his comment quoting something Meyer said in an earlier comment and then responds:
The quote from Meyer:
“They’re making an argument about what students can’t or shouldn’t do before submitting to pain. They’re suggesting a precedence and a prerequisite. That’s the argument that needs addressing and dismantling.”
Can we ever get past this cherry-picked strawman? You know that’s not the position that many of your critics take. All traditional math textbooks and teaching methods introduce concepts first in a carefully-built scaffold. Then comes the homework to get individuals to better understand the subtle variations that are far more mathematically meaningful than basic concepts. Even basic skills require subtle understandings. Very few things are ever rote. This deeper level of understanding has to be carefully constructed on a unit-by-unit basis over years using individual problem sets. That’s what all STEM-prepared students get with AP and IB math sequences.
I’m open to seeing other opt-in sequences for those who might have other beliefs, but drill-and-kill, if it ever existed, has been gone from K-6 for decades without any opt-out options. Where are the results? I had to help my son at home with math when his schools foisted MathLand, and then Everyday Math on him, but once he got to high school, I didn’t help one bit. He just got a degree in math. All of his STEM-prepared friends had to get help at home or with tutors in the early grades. When I grew up, I got to calculus in high school with absolutely no help from my parents. That’s no longer the case with full inclusion and curricula like “trust the spiral” Everyday Math.
All properly-taught math sequences start with concepts, and engagement and curiosity are no magic wands for ensuring mastery. What works is what we see for AP and IB math. I don’t see STEM-prep success cases any other way. The problem now is that students in lower grades are stuck with a CCSS slope to no remediation in College Algebra and that the only ones who make the nonlinear transition to proper high school math have to get help at home and with tutors in the lower grades. If that doesn’t happen, it’s all over and no amount of engagement and concepts or “Pre-AP” math will fix it.
This has never been a question about basic concepts. it’s a question about eliminating low expectations and ensuring proper mastery and mathematical understanding on grade-by-grade basis that keeps all math doors open for each individual student for as long as possible. With curricula like Everyday Math, schools trust the spiral and have abdicated all responsibility of mastery beyond the low CCSS slope. Just ask us parents of your best students what we had to do at home. Engagement and curiosity was not my main focus, but that didn’t stop him from playing with GeoGebra for hours at a time – something that was neither necessary or sufficient. Mastery increased his curiosity, not the other way around.