KTM User Pages
30 Nov 2006 - 13:50
from NYC HOLD:
Letter #1 I am a physician who was initially [a] mathematics major in college. I just found your Web site today and wish I had known about it 6 years ago when my oldest daughter began kindergarten in District 2. It was not until third grade that I realized just how little math she was learning, and how behind she was in basic skills. According to her teachers, everything was fine, but then no testing or assessment was done, other than the state wide tests - and I recently discovered that our teachers do not even get access to their student's individual results! Needless to say we've been struggling ever since - we tried Kumon, had a private tutor, and have used the McGraw Hill Math series workbooks as well -. Unfortunately, attempts other than tutoring, such as workbooks don't teach -they just provide for practice of taught skills. My daughter is a bright child, but math is not "natural" for her. She has never done well "inventing" her own ways to do problems, and I have been stymied as to why the school was not teaching her how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, etc. Once taught, and after sufficient practice, she gets it. I was never asked to invent math - I was taught the ways that math scholars developed over the centuries - why are we asking our children to reinvent the wheel? Our best year of math at PS --- was 5th grade, when all the teachers were new to NYC, all three having come from teaching in the Midwest. Suddenly there were worksheets coming home and quizzes in class, and my daughter had a sense of what she was expected to know, and I did too. All too late as far as I am concerned. Now in sixth grade we are still catching up I have now ordered the Saxon series to aid me in teaching both her and her 2nd grade sister (who unlike her older sister gets math almost intuitively, so it will be much easier going) At any rate your mission statement summarizes everything I have been saying to friends and other parents at school for the past 4 years. I too, am convinced that our school has for far too long been taking credit for the extra work that the parents are doing in math - this is why our children are doing well, not because of the curriculum!
Christopher tells me he is to bring in $11 for a state test prep booklet. ELA? I asked. The ELA test is coming up in January. No. Not the ELA. Math. Christopher is to take $11 to school to purchase a state test prep booklet for math. uh-oh Houston we have a problem. I don't feel like spending $11 on a state test prep booklet. Why don't I feel like spending $11 on a state test prep booklet, you ask. I don't feel like spending $11 on a state test prep booklet because:
In conclusion, I don't feel like spending $11 on a Top Secret state test prep booklet because if I'm going to do the school's job I want the school's materials — all of the school's materials, not just the materials the school sees fit to share with me.
Actually, even if the school did see fit to make my reteaching life a tad easier, I'm not sure I'd want to shell out $11 for a state test prep booklet. Last year's actual grade 7 math test is here. The sample tests teachers use for training on the scoring rubric are here. (I believe that's what these tests are.) So we've got two sets of actual New York state math assessments with answers available free online. Why spend $11 for a booklet? Wait! Don't tell me! I have the answer to that! If the school doesn't have to pay for it out of the school budget, it's not really money.
Table of Contents NY math standards
New York State standards: grade C
sample problems, NY state test
math journal, day 2
math journal, day 3
thank you, Saxon Math
don't study for the test
math standards- intermediate (pdf file)
State Assessment mathemathics
sample state tests 2005
State Tests 2006
-- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006 Back to main page.
KtmGuest (password: guest) when prompted.
Please consider registering as a regular user.
Look here for syntax help.
"I have been stymied as to why the school was not teaching her how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, etc. Once taught, and after sufficient practice, she gets it. I was never asked to invent math - " Everyday Math does not require kids to invent. I don't see any discovery going on at my son's school. They just do the class worksheets in class and the Homelinks at home. the biggest problem with EM is the emphasis on ideas and words and not on practice of real math skills. My 5th grade son can tell you all about polygons and the difference between a scalene and isosceles triangle, but he takes a lot of time to do a long division problem. His teacher is now supplementing EM with extra long division problems, but only dividing by a single digit. Last night I compared this supplement with the EM Homelinks assignment about the uses (? - 5th grade!) of division. It was pathetic. The problem is NOT inventing. The problem is NOT constructivism. The problem is that these curricula think students can learn math without mastering the basics. (hard work) One could argue that it really isn't necessary to do hundreds of long division problems by hand, but they don't do any (almost). It's not about multiple ways of understanding. It's about avoidance of practice. (hard work) Even though a student might be very fast with a calculator, things change in 5th and 6th grades. The differences are fractions and word problems. Calculators can't save you and you can't keep avoiding practice. (hard work) Grand concepts of inventing, discovery, understanding, multiple methods cover the simple fact that these curricula don't require mastery of skills for all students by a specific time. I would have to dig up the exact quote, but that's what EM says. Math without mastery. (hard work) -- SteveH - 30 Nov 2006
They just do the class worksheets in class and the Homelinks at home. the biggest problem with EM is the emphasis on ideas and words and not on practice of real math skills. I think your school may have altered the program. The EM material says "Explorations" are a core part of what they're supposed to be doing, and the website shows invented algorithms. -- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006
algorithm for multiplying by 5 (pdf file) -- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006
Everyday Mathematics Center -- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006
The problem is that these curricula think students can learn math without mastering the basics. (hard work) It's not even that hard! At least, it's not that hard for a lot of kids. I breezed through Saxon, and so did Christopher. He hasn't had nearly enough experience with long division, though. Stil says he hates it, which is a sign that he hasn't reached automaticity. -- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006
In our school things are much worse than "math without mastery." It's school without mastery, or....parents on the hook. Main Street School just sent home a newsletter filled with news of the kids "exploring" and "investigating" math - and then telling parents they were sending home triangular division/multiplication math facts cards. The parent was to store the cards in a safe place and help the child learn (memorize) his facts; then a deadline was given for memorization to occur. They actually used the word "memorize" to describe what was to happen at home. They gave parents no information about how to help their kids memorize the facts; they're just supposed to do it. Our school, apparently, now assumes that "memorization" is easy, natural, and obvious. Just memorize it! In fact, memorization isn't easy, especially when you don't understand the material. Parker & Baldridge have several pages on the best process for teaching kids their multiplication facts; this takes places in stages & you leave the most difficult facts 'til last. Was any of this information offered to parents? No. Triangular flash cards come home in the backpacks; parents are given an order and a deadline. Unbelievable. -- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006
The listserv may help a bit, since I'll be able to post what I've learned about helping your child memorize math facts. i.e. for us and for a number of other parents flash cards didn't work; we had to use worksheets (still don't know why, but it's true) I'll also be able to post links for free worksheets I find it incredible that the school is (apparently) offering no advice whatsoever on what to do if the triangular cards don't work. -- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006
I suspect individual teachers are giving plenty of help. I still think the newsletter should indicate that help is available. Better yet, I think the school should be responsible for teaching math facts. -- CatherineJohnson - 30 Nov 2006
"In fact, memorization isn't easy, especially when you don't understand the material. Parker & Baldridge have several pages on the best process for teaching kids their multiplication facts; this takes places in stages & you leave the most difficult facts 'til last. " Last year in 3rd grade I was drilling my daughter with flash cards and we were getting nowhere. This was for addition, subtraction and multiplication. It was frustrating for us. Then over the summer we went thru 3rd grade Saxon, lesson by lesson. Learning this way was never painful. I remember one of the first things Saxon taught and practiced was counting by twos and by sevens. I now realize that was to establish the base for multiplication. This year in 4th grade some kids in her class are still struggling, and math fact drill sheets are sent home with instructions to practice. Iíve spoken with a mom whose daughter is still working on mastering these, and I think how it doesnít have to be this way. -- TexasDesert - 30 Nov 2006
I remember one of the first things Saxon taught and practiced was counting by twos and by sevens. I now realize that was to establish the base for multiplication. I remember first coming across the skip counting in Saxon and thinking is was useless. But once I had my son do it I, too, started to see why it was such a great practice skill in prep for mastering arithmetic facts. After skip counting for weeks, my son's ability to add and subract money (or whatever) seemed much better and quicker. The confidence he gained was even more important. -- SusanS - 30 Nov 2006
I was reading a book written by a woman whose husband suffered a massive brain injury and subsequent severe disabilities. This meant this woman was - working full-time to pay the bills - running the house, becuase her husband couldn't - raising their two kids, and her husband couldn't help - doing theraputic exercises with her husband every night - coping with her husband's behavioural problems (eg he got insanely jealous at one point and kept blocking her as she was trying to move around the house). As you can imagine, at that point in her life she didn't have any spare time. What would have happened to those kids if the school had relied on their parents to teach basic maths? -- TracyW - 30 Nov 2006
-- ChrisAdams - 30 Nov 2006
The schools outsource math facts to parents so they can focus on "higher order thinking skills" in the classrooms. Of course, parents are amateurs; even those who have the time and inclination to drill don't know the most efficient methods. Nor do they appreciate how much drilling is involved for kids to become automatic. It would be nice if the schools would explain all this to parents. I learned the hard way. -- RobynW - 01 Dec 2006
"I think your school may have altered the program. The EM material says "Explorations" are a core part of what they're supposed to be doing, and the website shows invented algorithms." I don't think so. Perhaps they just avoid some of the suggestions. In the 3+ years my son has taken EM, I don't recall a single invented algorithm. I haven't seen anything like that written up in any of their workbooks. I see little that could ever be considered discovery learning. -- SteveH - 01 Dec 2006
Tex So the worksheets aren't working for these kids, either? yikes Christopher COULD NOT get his math facts from flash cards; then got them easily from the work sheets.... -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
I find it outrageous that our school would send home, IN A SCHOOL NEWSLETTER, a directive to the parents to have their kids memorize their math facts. Who reads school newsletters? -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
I'm sure they sent something else, too, but still.... PLUS: ISN'T TEACHING SUPPOSED TO BE A PROFESSION REQUIRING ADVANCED TRAINING? BUT WE PARENTS CAN JUST LA-DEE-DA TEACH THE MATH FACTS??? Come on. -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
Tracy EXACTLY -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
I find the whole thing appalling - and what we're clearly seeing here in Irvington is SOCIAL INJUSTICE: only the strong (and the dual-parent, no-life-threatening-illnesses families) survive. It is shocking. Most families go through periods when they're not able to dothe school's job as well as their own. Suppose you've just had a second or third child, for instance. How on top of math facts are you going to be? My school district has an image of parents that is simply not to be believed. We have infinite amounts of money, infinite amounts of time, and we can teach whatever they don't want to teach with no help at all. We can just do it! -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
btw, we're having one of those periods. Ed's recovery is pretty grueling, and my siblings and I are VERY distressed about my mom.... Christopher this year has terrific highly responsible teachers. They are carrying the load. If they weren't, we'd be in big trouble. -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
Here's an example of C's teachers carrying the load. He got an 85 on one of his science tests, which isn't good because of the Top Secret competitive process to get into Regents earth science next year. I emailed the teacher telling her that - just saying: Top Secret Admissions Process Help! Help! - and also saying that in general we define "mastery" as a 90%. Nevertheless, an 85% is probably close enough to mastery; our issue is Earth Science in 8th grade. She immediately started making up review sheets for the kids so they could practice for the test with us, and she told them that's what they should do. She took it upon herself to offer a way for parents to help their kids do better. And Christopher did do better. -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
Skip-counting is great! It was a revelation to me, too! -- CatherineJohnson - 01 Dec 2006
Well I'm a happy camper. Christopher's math scores arrived; he's down to a 3 in math, too. We have the middle grades slump right here at home. The only good thing is that Ed is finally getting seriously activated. Ed's one of those people who thinks his own kid is naturally smart (and his own wife is naturally exaggerating-the-threat)....but lately he's been talking to colleagues whose kids went to superb private and/or parochial schools and are now shipping out to Harvard & Princeton. It's becoming apparent to him that those kids were way ahead of Christopher at this stage of the game. And since our high school strictly limits Honors students, the likelihood of Christopher getting a serious education in high school is looking bad. Unless we can elbow him into the good courses. It's incredible that we're dealing with this. When Ed was in high school, teachers would actually throw him out of their classes and tell him he had to go take an Honors class. Irvington School District's entire approach to accelerated and/or Honors courses is to try to keep kids out. That's the goal. -- CatherineJohnson - 03 Dec 2006
The schools outsource math facts to parents so they can focus on "higher order thinking skills" in the classrooms. Of course, parents are amateurs; even those who have the time and inclination to drill don't know the most efficient methods. Nor do they appreciate how much drilling is involved for kids to become automatic. It would be nice if the schools would explain all this to parents. I learned the hard way.
Parents This kind of math, no matter what program you choose, is difficult for the parents because it looks so different from what theyíre used to. We did quite a bit of parent education. My particular group wrote a grant proposal, and we won some money to do family math nights. We did three family math nights last year, and tried to educate our parents about what the new conceptual math looked like, what the state testing looked like, why it was a good fit and what their kids would be doing. We also talked about how they could help at home. Even though they might not understand some of the work their kids were doing, there were still a lot of things they could do to help the program. The math nights have helped a lot. I took one of my math nights and just addressed Trailblazers. I actually took them through the steps of how they teach addition and subtraction, using all the base-ten blocks and the manipulatives and how it flowed into the algorithm. After that, I did not have another negative letter. There are still a lot of parents who are worried that, at the end of 3rd grade, kids havenít memorized all of their multiplication facts. The focus of the math night that I just had was on games that parents and children could play at home to work on math facts, just using decks of cards and things. These are things they can work on with their kids that are fun and easy to do. I donít want to spend a half hour in class memorizing multiplication. We have far greater things, bigger things to think about. MATH TRAILBLAZERS
An elementary school curriculum for grades KĖ5, developed by Teaching Integrated Mathematics and Science (TIMS). -- CatherineJohnson - 03 Dec 2006
yeah, drilling math facts is a lot of fun that's why they gave the job to parents -- CatherineJohnson - 03 Dec 2006
How many jobs exist in which you can decide that the customer has to do the stuff you don't want to? -- CatherineJohnson - 03 Dec 2006
So I looked up the reading level of the one book Christopher has read in 7th grade. The Outsiders He'd already read it last year for pleasure. 5.1 That's grade 5, first month. -- CatherineJohnson - 03 Dec 2006
Maybe he can get a low 3 next year, instead of a high 3. (His teacher didn't choose the book; the book choices are made "higher-up" I believe.) BUT! As the high school tells us, we parents shouldn't pressure our kids! Everyone has his place! -- CatherineJohnson - 03 Dec 2006