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Success! Christopher came home with a 93 on his Mid Unit review yesterday. He was very happy. Later on I heard him talking to his friend S on the phone. S had called to report that a girl in their class had been 'demoted' (I think that was the actual word Christopher used) from Phase 3 to Phase 2.
Back story: Our school district tracks kids in math starting in 3rd grade. There are 4 tracks: Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, Phase 4. Phase 1 is children with special needs (I assume); Phase 4 is (in theory) accelerated. The math tracks have been a bone of contention here in the district. Last year 300 parents tried to prevent the school from de-tracking math. They lost. So now we're moving to . . . well, I'm not sure what we're moving to. I can never keep the plans straight. I think the idea is to get down to no tracking at all, but in the meantime we'll have 3 tracks, with the highest track being smaller than it is now, because the Middle School is determined to whittle it down. Their view is that there are gazillions of kids in Phase 4 who don't belong there, and can't do the work. I'm sick about the whole thing, because I had no idea that the de-tracking business was part and parcel of a district-wide decision to adopt the constructivist Trailblazers series. If I had had a clue we were talking about bringing in fuzzy math, I would have been marching in the streets.
Anyway, back to Christopher and his friend S. S was in Christopher's Phase 3 class last year, doing even worse than Christopher was. Over the summer I ran my own little Caroline-Hoxby-like natural experiment with the two boys. I began formally teaching Christopher using Saxon Math. S had a normal summer. Shortly after school began again in the fall, Christopher & S were back together again in Phase 3. I say 'shortly after,' because the school had placed S in Phase 2, so at the beginning of the year that's where he was. Then his parents complained, and he moved back to 3. Christopher was now getting As while S was still getting Ds and Fs.
That's the difference 6 weeks studying Saxon Math with your mom makes. Then, in early February, Christopher moved to Phase 4. This has made a HUGE impression on everyone, and it was the subtext of the boys' conversation. Both boys were exulting over the 'demotion' of J, a girl in their class, from Phase 3 to Phase 2. (J is about a foot taller than both of them, and looks like she's passed through at least two stages of puberty, so I'm inclined to give them a pass on this). But then they got into a discussion of their own comparative Math Standings. I heard Christopher report his 93 on the Mid Unit Review; then I heard him say something about how 'My mom had to teach me.' He sounded really animated. Afterwards he reported that S had gotten an 87 on his latest test, and that S 'is doing better in math.' I thought that was pretty interesting. S is a very bright kid who has no business flunking math, and who, last I heard, hasn't had any home tutoring at all. He seems to come to school without his homework on a regular basis. I got the sense that Christopher's progress is sparking S to greater effort . . . because S definitely wanted Christopher to know he was no longer in the D & F category. I think that was the point of the call. I'm wondering whether this may be a side effect of formally teaching math to your child, as opposed to doing the reactive teaching Ed and I were doing in fourth grade. People are natural-born observational learners, and a boy who sees his friend pulling ahead in math is going to feel like he ought to be pulling ahead in math, too. S has come a long way: from Phase 2 in the fall, to Phase 3-with-Ds-and-Fs, to Phase 3-with-solid-Bs. All of this without much extra help. Pretty darn good.
ATeachersStory ("I like the idea of math")
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Users must register to comment.Peer pressure is probably the most effective technique one can apply to get kids to learn math. I had 5 or 6 kids in school who were good at math with whom I was in competition. At various points things came along which I didn't grasp immediately. When some of the other kids grasped the concepts before me I become highly motivated to learn them. Kids who lack smart peers are bound to do worse in math in general. -- WichitaBoy - 25 May 2005 Hi Wichita Boy! I am JUST coming to this! Carolyn put up her post about the positive findings for 'cooperative' learning, and I was mulling them over . . . And it suddenly came to me today that when cooperative learning works, that's the reason: observational learning. When you have kids in a functioning group, you have 'core' imitation processes (I don't know what they are, but I know they exist) plus you've got competition & peer pressure. I'm sure that's why math leagues are so good for kids' learning. Wish to heck I could get one going around here. -- CatherineJohnson - 25 May 2005