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Is This the Key/Secret to Learning Math?

  1. Jan 30, 2016 #1
    Does this 81-year-old hold the key to teaching kids how to understand math? (Jan. 24)

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/loca...4f6116-c12e-11e5-9443-7074c3645405_story.html

    But week after week, Johnson still drives from her Clinton home to the after-school program at the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation campus in Southeast and, according to officials at the program, consistently lifts underperforming math students to grade level and beyond. This month, she received a copyright for a diagnostic test that she says can assess specific gaps in students’ math knowledge in minutes.

    She’s now working with the foundation to raise money to digitize the test, which includes eight to 10 math problems for each grade level, so that it can be used in schools throughout the country.

    “I believe all students can learn math if they understand the laws,” Johnson said. “If a student masters a problem on my test, I don’t care what test they take, they master it.”

    From this week's Washington Post. Any thoughts on this anyone?

    Sounds kind of cool, actually. This part does seem very important:


     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 30, 2016 #2

    symbolipoint

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    Public school administrators and most teachers will tell you that you are crazy, if you tell them that studying Algebra(Basic Algebra, like in "Algebra 1") will teach students the rules by which numbers work. The teachers and administrators will tell you that Algebra 1 is too advanced, and that students must first master Basic Arithmetic before they are ready to learn the rules.
     
  4. Jan 30, 2016 #3

    Student100

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    The article doesn't really say much of what she does, so it's hard to have any thoughts on it. Mathematics doesn't have "laws".
     
  5. Jan 30, 2016 #4
    It's sad that it seems revolutionary to make sure students understand what they are doing, though I agree that this seems to be rare. I encounter plenty of high school students that have a poor understanding of basic operations.

    On a lighter note, this reminds me of a cartoon I saw the other day:

    1453909595-20160127.png

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=4000
     
  6. Jan 30, 2016 #5

    ZapperZ

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    Isn't it rather strange that we are still talking about the "best" way to teach kids mathematics in 2016? Considering that the US is often cited as being behind China, Korea, Singapore, Norway, Sweden, etc. in terms of students' knowledge of mathematics by the time they finish high school, why are we trying to invent the wheel? How come no one is looking at how those countries are teaching their kids in math?

    Is it because those kids spend a lot of time with their school work, and kids around here simply won't put that same type of effort? So we're trying to invent a "short cut" and end up messing things up that our kids suck in math when compared to students in those countries?

    Zz.
     
  7. Jan 30, 2016 #6

    WWGD

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    I think it also has to see with the cultures in those countries, which value knowledge over fame, popularity, etc. Though maybe these cultures have the disadvantage of being too tied down to tradition and not having enough people willing to rock the boat ; there are plenty of this type in the U.S.
     
  8. Jan 31, 2016 #7

    Mark44

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    I've seen textbooks that have sections on the "laws of exponents," "associative law of addition," etc. Many books use the term "property" instead, but these two words can be considered synonyms.
     
  9. Jan 31, 2016 #8

    Student100

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    Property is a better word I think, but that's just arguing semantics I guess.
     
  10. Jan 31, 2016 #9
    There is no key or secret to understanding math. Teaching strategies that work for one teacher may not work for another because teaching is an interaction between people, and different people have different personalities, attitudes, expectations, etc.

    American society needs to focus on empowering teachers and holding students accountable for learning. Currently neither of those things is happening to anywhere near a large enough extent. The problem gets worse as each generation of under-prepared students become the next generations' teachers.

    Hopes placed in quick fixes like this are distractions from the much deeper issue that is the real problem.
     
  11. Feb 1, 2016 #10
    The real key to understanding math is to love it. If you love it, you are going to put in the time and effort to know more, to understand more. Also, everyone learns in different ways so any one way of teaching math is not going to work for everyone.
     
  12. Feb 1, 2016 #11

    WWGD

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    Maybe the best you can aim for is to have teachers who are well-prepared and enthusiastic, who can transmit their enthusiasm to students through their teaching.
     
  13. Feb 1, 2016 #12
    That is certainly an important part of the effort. Unfortunately the way administrators, parents, and students treat teachers, and the way students are not held accountable for learning interfere with that effort. Most teachers have their spirits broken. Or never consider adopting teaching as a profession in the first place because of these issues and the low pay.
     
  14. Feb 1, 2016 #13

    WWGD

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    Yep, " how we appreciate our teachers" is another empty statement along the lines of " our employees are our greatest assets" (to be fired when we want to squeeze $1 in profits, in the short run), "we love our customers" , etc.
     
  15. Feb 1, 2016 #14

    1oldman2

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    I suspect you may have hit the metamorphic nail on the head.
     
  16. Feb 1, 2016 #15

    WWGD

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    Thanks, I think it then comes down to each playing to its own strengths and not trying to be something else. Still, easier said than done for some reason.
     
  17. Feb 1, 2016 #16

    1oldman2

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    Exactly what the "system" needs to hear, why isn't the system listening? I have a feeling we are battling a "Quantity over quality" approach here. along with a value system that may be lacking correct values.
     
  18. Feb 1, 2016 #17

    WWGD

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    Sadly systems often tend to be more concerned with perpetuating themselves than with doing what they are intended to do.
     
  19. Feb 1, 2016 #18

    Mark44

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    This problem seems borne out by the results of GRE exams for people with Ed degrees vs. all other degree fields.
    Some figures that I have, from GRE scores for Education majors between 10/1981 and 9/1984:
    Verbal ability: 444
    Quant. ability: 470
    Analytical ability: 403
    These scores were the lowest of the 11 category groups students were divided into.These categories were: Humanities (included Arts, and Languages+Other Humanities); Social Sciences (included Education, Behavioral Science, Other Social Science); Biol. Sciences (inlcuded Bioscience, Health Science, Other Applied Bioscience); Physical Sciences (included Engineering, mathematics, and Physical Science)

    The Verbal Ability scores ranged from 444 (Education) to 534 (Languages + Other Humanities). The Quant. Ability scores ranged from 470 (Education) to 667 (Engineering). The Analytical Abilities scores ranged from 403 (Education) to 574 (Physical Science).

    These scores are dated, going back more than 30 years, but they are a snapshot in time, and I doubt that things have changed much in the intervening period.

    In the private sector, employees are periodically evaluated, with the best employees promoted, and the worst employees let go. In contrast, in education, good teachers aren't rewarded, nor are poor teachers winnowed out. Teachers' unions (especially the NEA) vigorously fight any sort of evaluation of teachers. After an initial trial period, it's virtually impossible to fire an incompetent teacher. I speak from experience, having taught 2 years in a public high school, and 19 years at the college level. I also put in 16 years in the private sector, workiing at a large software firm in the Seattle area.
     
  20. Feb 1, 2016 #19

    WWGD

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    I had , as an adjunct , a student-attendance rate of close to 100% (attendance not required in college) , good evaluations from teachers. No complaints filed against me by any student . But the a-hole chair did not like the way I dressed (though he himself looked like a lumberjack -- at the end of the day -- and even wore low-riders), so my contract was not renewed. As an adjunct I have very few rights, so I could do next to nothing and lost my position.
     
  21. Feb 1, 2016 #20

    Mark44

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    I'm sorry you lost your position. I was the head of the math department where I taught (community college) for 3 or 4 years, and it fell upon me to hire adjunct instructors, up to 25 of them in some quarters. There were too many of them for me to observe them individually, so I relied on student evaluations. There were a couple whose contracts I didn't renew, based on reports from students that I deemed were reliable and reasonable.

    Your department's chair's complaint was about how you dressed. Can I ask what you wore that upset him so much?
     
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