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19 Feb 2006 - 16:34
update: oops Ms. Kahl did send home state test prep material (see below). Apparently, Christopher has a PACKET. Good! He and his dad are working on the scale drawing right now. (see below) They're having a blast. fyi, I think scale drawing is a fabulous assignment. Christopher is finally getting some extended practice using a ruler, and of course a scale drawing means fractions, ratios, & proportions. It's true Christopher couldn't do this assignment on his own. (I'm feeling smug today because my fiercest competitor-mom, aka the 'Homework Nazi,' could not do this assignment. She told Ed, 'I didn't even know where to start.' Hah! I say Hah! because this woman is good. She's blowing me out of the water.) However, Ed isn't doing this assignment for Christopher. He's helping.
update update Ed is grumpy. The scale drawing was fun for the first two hours. The last two hours weren't fun at all. "This is vacation." "I don't see why they're giving this much homework on vacation." "I have a huge amount of work to do myself; this took 4 hours." "Christopher doesn't know anything about ratio." "He doesn't have any conceptual understanding at all." "He kept looking for formulas to do things." "He didn't even know where to begin." "He doesn't have a lot of natural ability in math." [ed.: Any assignment that ends with the parent deciding his child doesn't have any natural ability in math is the wrong assignment a far as I'm concerned] "She has no idea how to structure an assignment." [ed.: ditto] Over dinner Ed was pondering the 'packet,' which turns out to be a special Glencoe-produced 58-page booklet called "Mastering the Intermediate Level Mathematics Test: Diagnose — Prescribe — Practice Workbook." Fifty-eight pages of items aligned to the New York state test, with no answers or solutions. Apparently our job over 'break' is to Diagnose — Prescribe — Practice and also create our own answer key. Well, thank God I've got Smartest Tractor lighting the way (pdf file).
back again I've been off doing Career Stuff that's actually been quasi-fun. I say quasi because my particular career seems to involve heaping loads of crapola* (not a nice word on Sunday!), not to mention the occasional bolt from the blue. The other day I called my agent and, when her assistant answered the telephone, said, 'Hi, this is Catherine.' The assistant said, 'Who?' That's the crapola aspect; I'll spare you & me both an extended account of the bolt from the blue part (though poor Caroline is slated to get an earful today....) Anyway, I've been off because I was doing Career Stuff that was actually a blast. This involved going into the city to meet with our kids' psychiatrist, Eric Hollander (that was the fun part), after which I decided to surprise Ed in his lair. (What is that woman in white doing in the picture?) It had to be a surprise, because I didn't have my cel phone with me. I didn't have my cel phone with me, because I forgot my cel phone. I need WAY more exercise. So I decided to drop in unannounced. Naturally that didn't work out; Ed wasn't there, and when he finally did get there he had five minutes to get to a faculty meeting. So there was nothing left to do but visit the NYU bookstore and look at every single education title on both floors.
what are graduate students in Diane Ravitch's department reading? Nothing by Diane Ravitch, that's for sure. It was all constructivism all the time. Every last textbook. That and feel-good books about heroic white teachers teaching poor black children — books like Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School. (I'm thinking a 'small' victory probably doesn't include teaching kids enough algebra to graduate from high school, but I don't know.) There were many of these books. Until that visit, I hadn't realized that heroic white teacher saving poor black children must be an important fantasy element in ed schools today. I say fantasy element, because I'm pretty sure all of the teachers in all of the books were white, while all of the kids were black. Certainly Jaime Escalante was nowhere to be seen. (Of course, neither was Rafe Esquith, and I don't expect to see Our School turn up on the assigned reading lists any time soon, either.) Perusing the offerings, you wouldn't know teachers teach math. Everything was about 'literacy' and 'authentic assessments' of literacy and the like. Which is probably just as well, considering. There was one book that stuck out like a sore thumb: Techniques for Managing Verbally and Physically Aggressive Students. I think that was the title. This book was so unadorned by photos of Beaming White Teachers surrounded by Adoring Black Children that it was refreshing. Leafing through the pages I found instructions on what a teacher should do when he is being strangled by a student. The 2 or 3 books that did address math were constructivist all the way. Liping Ma was absent; John Van de Walle's now-classic hundred-dollar tome Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally, Fifth Edition was present in abundance. The funny thing was, the store management had stocked a bunch of food business textbooks just across the aisle from the ed books. There was a book on restaurant math — I think it was Math Principles for Food Service — that was pure direct instruction. No photos of smiling white teachers surrounded by black students yearning to succeed in food services, just stuff you need to know. Chapters on 'weights and measures,' 'portion control,' 'converting and yielding recipes,' 'production and baking formulas,' and 'using the metric system of measure.' If you're going to make it in food service, you're going to need some math. Seeing as how the first chapters cover addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, apparently you're not going to learn any of this math in grade school. Part 1 is titled: Using the Calculator.
upstairs, downstairs So those were the texbooks, which are housed downstairs in the basement. Upstairs, in the 'commercial' section, I found:
New York state tests coming right up In March. Christopher's class took a sample test (pdf file) this week; only 2 kids scored a 4. Christopher thinks he got a 3. Apparently the teacher told them that any kids scoring a 1 or 2 would be moved down to Phase 2-3. This is the Highly Accelerated, Algebra-in-the-6th-grade, Death March to Algebra-in-the-Eighth Grade Phase 4 extravaganza I've been banging on about. Only two of 19 children can score a 4 on the sample test and apparently there are enough kids in danger of scoring 1s and 2s that the teacher is talking about it in class. So here's the scoop. Christopher is studying algebra in the 6th grade, but he can't do percent. I pulled the Sample Test, which turned out to be the test Christopher's class took this week, and asked him about problem number 26:
On Friday and Saturday, there were a total of 200 cars in the parking lot of a movie theater. On Friday, 120 cars were in the parking lot. Part A What percent of the total number of cars were in the parking lot on Friday? Show your work. Part B What percent of the total number of cars were in the parking lot on Saturday? Show your work.
Christopher has no idea how to do this problem, in spite of the fact that he's just 'finished' the chapter on ratio, proportion, and percent in Prentice-Hall. (Says he 'froze up' on the test; expecting another D; etc.)
my vacation and welcome to it We are on mid-winter vacation this week. For my vacation, I will be teaching Christopher how to do percent. I know how I'm going to do it. I'm going to use the Singapore-Saxon bar models and the Saxon-Dolciani percent charts. I think I'm starting to get a feel for teaching-to-crammery, which is the skill middle school parents need most. If I've got 5 days to teach percent word problems to proto-mastery, I'm going to need bar models & charts (& possibly Saxon's brilliant starter WP variables to boot). If that were all I had to do this week, I'd be cool. It's not. I'm also going to have to figure out what's on the freaking test. I read some guy last week complaining that Most Parents don't have the Sense of Responsibility it takes to find out what the state standards are. Sure, sure; we all know about those Parents who don't have a Sense of Responsibility as defined by the people who write state standards. How many parents fall in this category? I'd estimate, conservatively, that perhaps 99% of all parents have zero interest in what the State Standards are. The reason 99% of all parents have zero interest in what the State Standards are is that their Bayesian priors are telling them the State Standards are likely to be:
a) impossible to find b) bunkGiven my household's limited common sense-y, my own attitude can be characterized as: 'Damn the Bayesian priors, I want those standards!' Thus, I have now attempted to a) locate and b) comprehend my state standards. Which means I am now qualified to tell you that all those irresponsible parents are correct. Spending your Sunday morning tracking down New York state standards (pdf file) is what Carolyn calls a FWOT.
a visit to the mathematical reasoning strand!
1. Students use mathematical reasoning to analyze mathematical situations, make conjectures, gather evidence, and construct an argument. Students:
That certainly clarifies things.
New York state standards
the return of common sense-y So forget about the New York state standards. If I need standards — and I do — I'll use California's. My job now is to go through every page of the Sample New York state test, pull out the problem genres, and teach them to crammery. I have one week to do this. We're going to have to pedal, because we also have to help Christopher with the massive scale drawing exercise Ms. Kahl has sent home for the kids to do over vacation:
The Task: Stop daydreaming and design the bedroom of your dreams! This project requires you to be creative and draw up the floor plans of your ideal bedroom. Will you have a big screen television, a walk in closet, or even a king sized bed? You will map out the blueprint for your room and show the furniture and items contained in our room from an aerial view in the form of a scaled blueprint. The blueprints must contain at least two of each of the following geometrical figures:
Oookaaaayyy! Two trapezoids coming right up! And two parallelograms! In a 6th grader's dream bedroom! Making those real world connections!
my vacation and welcome to it, part 2 Getting Things Done:
question You are teaching accelerated 6th grade math. You give your class of 19 students a sample New York state standards test. Only two children score a 4, 'exceeds state standards.' Many of the children, who have just taken a test on ratio, proportions and percent, miss the percent question. For mid-winter vacation you assign:
Alright. It's 2:28, and I must go for my 45-minute aerobic walk-run. If I do this 6 days a week until I'm dead I'll be younger next year and, even better, I'll stop screaming at my kids. So I'm going to do it. Because I am a responsible parent! When I get back I'll analyze the test. Then I'll break the news to Christopher that we're going to spend mid-winter break cramming math. Farewell, Ms. Kahl! We who are about to die salute you!
update, update, update: Verghis speaks!
For the blueprint, why not have a square study desk whose top is decorated with (a) 2 trapezoids, (b) 2 parallellograms, (c).... This should (1) satisfy Ms. Kahl's requirements and (b) blend nicely with the surrealism that pervades the math curriculum. Don't you think?Yes! I do think!
resources for grade 6
* heaping loads of cr***** probably doesn't distinguish my job from most other people's jobs, I realize
pre-algebra is bunk
death march to algebra
NYU ed textbooks; NY math test
state test impending doom
teaching to crammery in middle school
the kind of kids who can be taught to crammery
free teach to crammery clip art
Glencoe Top Secret Test Prep
Amsco protects its 'customers
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Maybe you've covered this before, but why would a state test be administered in March? I can understand if this is a general math knowledge test (I guess), but if it is subject-specific, why would it be given in the middle of the semester? -- ChrisV - 19 Feb 2006
On Friday and Saturday, there were a total of 200 cars in the parking lot of a movie theater. On Friday, 120 cars were in the parking lot.... I have a math brain and I had to read this question two or three times to understand it. What if some cars were there on both Friday and Saturday? Anyway, here's a similar problem that seems better worded to me. Tom had 200 pennies. He gave 120 pennies to Sally. What per cent of his pennies did Tom give to Sally? What per cent of his pennies did Tom keep for himself? -- SusanJ - 19 Feb 2006
FWOT heh -- CarolynJohnston - 19 Feb 2006
I have a math brain and I had to read this question two or three times to understand it. </i? Me too! I didn't want to say anything, because I thought maybe I was just being dense, but that question is horribly worded. -- ChrisV - 19 Feb 2006
Oops. Sorry about the formatting. -- ChrisV - 19 Feb 2006
Chris V DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Feb 2006
um.....I was referring to the state test in March we had the English test in January -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Feb 2006
I REALLY need a life-extending 45 minute walk-run -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Feb 2006
7 out of 18 kids got a 4 in Christopher's friend's class this is INSANE -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Feb 2006
The problem didn't make any sense to me, either, but I'm used to it. -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Feb 2006
In an act of complete and utter laziness, I have my students calculate all of their marks as a percent. It makes averaging columns and rows of data very easy for me. But, it requires each of them to constantly work daily with fractions, decimals, and percents. A consequence of my self-serving laziness has been an accidental development of a comfort level of using fractions, decimals, and percents by my students. It was not intentional, but after a while, they are reducing 6/9 to 2/3 to .67 with lightning efficiency. Every year my school participates in an exam. It is a bit of a peacock contest with some of the snooty schools in the district. Here are some of the past exams. The solutions are included. There are tests for both grade seven and eight. -- SmartestTractor - 19 Feb 2006
Don't know if this helps, but this is the way I taught Thomas to do percents: Think of it as an equation. (percentage/100) x total = number. Then you fill in the values that you have and isolate the remaining variable. For the problem that you quoted, total = 200, number = 120 (for the first day). So we have (percent/100) x 200 = 120, or percent = 120/2 = 60. Likewise for the second day, %age is 40. -- VerghisKoshi - 19 Feb 2006
-- VerghisKoshi - 19 Feb 2006
For the blueprint, why not have a square study desk whose top is decorated with (a) 2 trapezoids, (b) 2 parallellograms, (c).... This should (1) satisfy Mts. Kahl's requirements and (b) blend nicely with the surrealism that pervades thae math curriculum. Don't you think? -- VerghisKoshi - 19 Feb 2006
If the car problem were on my test, I would have to say that not enough information has been given to solve the problem. On Friday and Saturday, there were a total of 200 cars in the parking lot of a movie theater. This sentence, as written, says that there were 200 cars in this parking lot all through Friday and Saturday. Therefore, the next sentence cannot logically follow: On Friday, 120 cars were in the parking lot. So, you have information that doesn't make any sense in this problem. I know what she is asking for in this problem. But any kids who is a math brain is going to be confused. Where does she get her problems from? If she's writing her own, I really would have to question how well she knows the material. BTW, did you ever send her back her area problem and tell her that the dimensions cannot possibly be correct? -- AnneDwyer - 20 Feb 2006
"So, you have information that doesn't make any sense in this problem." I agree. It has multiple interpretations. What's the "total", 200 or 320? -- CarolynJohnston - 20 Feb 2006
I HAVEN'T SENT THAT AREA PROBLEM BACK! I WILL! THANKS FOR REMINDING ME! -- CatherineJohnson - 20 Feb 2006
If the diagram is an overhead view (as it seems to be), the two circles can be a trashcan and a lamp. -- GoogleMaster - 20 Feb 2006
Key to Percents. Ayup, that should do it. -- BrendaM - 21 Feb 2006
This problem is on the NY state sample test. Believe it or not. -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Book 2 top of page 3 (pdf file) -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Hi, Brenda! Key to Percents. Ayup, that should do it. I just saw this. - snort - -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Let me tell you, I made a DIVE for Saxon after reading this test. -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006