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10 Sep 2005 - 02:53

clocks without hands

This just in from Lamprey River, New Hampshire: kids will be learning a new way to tell time this year! This is a news article that parodies itself. From the article:

RAYMOND - Students at Lamprey River Elementary School will learn a new way to tell time this year, thanks to a math program called Everyday Math.

They will be learning to tell time from clocks that have no hands. At least the first time they spiral through telling time.

The research-based and classroom-tested program (which is also recommended by No Child Left Behind) will break with the traditional worksheet-centered approach and embrace a more hands-on strategy.

Except that the hands will actually be off. The clocks. At least to start.

Principal Jane Lacasse says that rather than teaching children basic computation facts, Everyday Math emphasizes concepts and making sure children understand why. The program is centered on a "spiraling curriculum," which means that instead of moving on to a new topic after the old topic has been completed, classroom teachers will keep coming back to topics that had already been studied and expanding on them.

Hence, we'll start in first grade with handless clocks, then add the hour hand, then the minute hand, then the second hand, and in fifth grade we'll take up money, starting with pennies.

For example, Lacasse said, in first grade, children might learn to tell time to the hour, while in second grade, when time-telling is revisited, they will learn to unravel the mystery of the clock to the quarter hour or to the minute.

"The mystery of the clock" used to be taught outright in first grade, didn't it? Never to be spiraled back to again? Why not just ditch the clock completely, send it the way of the slide rule? Telling time is so 20th century.

The school purchased Everyday Math from the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, investing in new textbooks and workbooks (although assistant principal Dan LeGallo is quick to point out that "this is not a textbook program").

I'll bet they spent real money on those non-textbooks.

The school also had to retrain its personnel.

I'll bet they did! They had to train them to tell time from the handless clocks. Perhaps they told them that there were hands on the clocks that only the most virtuous people could see.

What on earth does it mean to be "recommended by No Child Left Behind"?

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on the one hand:
obviously this approach is deeply flawed.
let me go out on a limb here, though:
the deep flaw is (or is closely related to)
the concept of "developmental appropriateness".

let me be perfectly clear (if only i can!): i'm suggesting
(in my usual obnoxious "i have all the answers" way)
that "we" -- KTM & suchlike "amateurs" (check yr dictionary)--
should avoid using terminology that,
as useful as it might appear in its own right,
has already been co-opted by the enemies of clarity
(in the usual, nay, almost universal manner
of political discourse) as a codeword for its own
literal opposite (cf. "critical thinking"
or "holisitc assessment").

devlopmental appropriateness, as i understand it,
is a property of individuals -- and by this i mean,
emphatically, not a property of (reified)
"age groups" (or, and i hope my readers will know
how much it pains me to feel that i have to say this,
"genders" or "races"). i mean, duh. are we bigots?

somebody upthread somewhere, made a big deal about
the individual student being the appropriate
unit of study. yes. obviously. duh.
get over this whole "social science must become
real science" fetish and it'll be just as clear
to you as it is to everybody else.

we teachers are called upon, not only every day,
but at very nearly every moment of
our working days, to decide what the "developmentally appropriate"
next right thing might be to say (or do)
(to [or with] a given student or group of students).

not to put too fine a point on it:
that's our fucking job. bringing in some
bullies that have never even tried
to do our job is (i wish i could say "obviously")
probably doomed to fail. (unless our actual goal
is "pushing people around" as opposed to, say,
"helping people understand the world").

oh. p.s.: i learned how to tell time
from my mother -- and it wasn't easy!
(the whole "ten of", meaning "ten till"
thing was a particular sore point as i recall ...)

-- VlorbikDotCom - 10 Sep 2005

OMG, Carolyn, you weren't kidding about self-parody. Did you see how many meetings those poor teachers have to attend between the reading and math programs? And then in the same breath to talk about budget cuts.

There is so much to make fun of I can't possible know where to start. I think one of my favorite parts, though, is the librarian, uh, "media generalist." One always needs a generalist around.

-- SusanS - 10 Sep 2005

we teachers are called upon, not only every day, but at very nearly every moment of our working days, to decide what the "developmentally appropriate" next right thing might be to say (or do) (to [or with] a given student or group of students).

That's for damn sure.

Having taught composition, film studies, and now a bit of math, I THINK MATH IS WORSE!

I didn't have to spend a lot of time thinking about the individual developmental 'spot' of students with writing and with film studies; in the Land of the Verbal people are......on the same page!

They really are.

As a teacher or professor, you can work from a store of shared cultural knowledge (I realize E.D. Hirsch would be a dissenter here, but still).

Math is such a strange and even bizarre subject--I think this more and more; I'm coming to see math as a Pure Human Creation having practically nothing to do with ordinary folks & folk psychology--that, teaching children, you never know what might be inside their heads. (Or my own head, for that matter.)

Maybe as I go along I'll start to develop a 'folk typology' of 'Common Mistakes & Misconceptions' I can look for in kids.....

I do know, now, to keep an eagle eye out for Fraction Deficiencies (also Measurement Deficiencies in the wake of Christopher's TONYSS blow-out on the measurement sub-test.)

-- CatherineJohnson - 10 Sep 2005

'Recommended by No Child Left Behind' is, probably, an excellent example of Rank Inaccuracy in Reporting.

Everyday Math is not recommended by No Child Left Behind; no curricula are recommended by No Child Left Behind, and certainly not Everyday Math.

I'd love to know, though, whether the school thinks E-Math IS recommended, or whether the reporter thinks so.

-- CatherineJohnson - 10 Sep 2005

Here's the fun part!

Parents will be able to learn about Everyday Math at monthly math nights

-- CatherineJohnson - 10 Sep 2005

Don't we already do everyday math by definition, though... every day?

I'll bet those math nights (and Connected Math does them as well) make those professional development seminars teachers have to attend look like differential equations classes.

Conversely, if I were a teacher teaching connected math, I think I'd be shaking in my boots at the prospect of facing technical parents all loaded for bear.

-- CarolynJohnston - 11 Sep 2005

"'Recommended by No Child Left Behind' is, probably, an excellent example of Rank Inaccuracy in Reporting."

I was puzzled by this, too.

I think I am able now to retrace the convoluted thought processes undergone by the reporteress.

NCLB insists material must be "research based". EM and the rest of the fuzzy bunch insist their crap is all "research based". Ergo NCLB "recommends" fuzzy crap by implication or otherwise.

-- CharlesH - 11 Sep 2005

"Research based" in education is getting to be like "all-natural" in food marketing. Everyone's got it and it doesn't mean a thing.

-- CarolynJohnston - 12 Sep 2005

Title: clocks without hands
TopicType: WebLog
SubjectArea: EverydayMath
LogDate: 200509092251