Tag Archive for 'math'

“Our teachers think they’re all effective.”

According to Stannis Steinbeck, principal of Broadus Elementary School in Pacoima (CA, US), this is the view of the members of her faculty. According to data about the teachers’ effects on student achievement, not all teachers are effective. It should come as no surprise that some are more effective than others and some are woefully ineffective.

Jason Felch, Jason Song, and Doug Smith of the Los Angeles Times aggregated achievement test data over seven years and across many students assigned to 6000 teachers to assess which teachers consistently improved and which consistently diminished their students’ outcomes.
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PreK pays

According to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), a study examining the benefits of providing pre-kindergarten programs in New Mexico (US) revealed that there were significant and important benefits for children. Jason Hustedt and colleagues found that there were significant improvements in children’s language, literacy, and math competence associated with attending pre-k programs.

[Their] results show that New Mexico PreK produces consistent benefits for children who
participated in PreK, compared to those who did not, across all three years of the study. Positive impacts of PreK were found in each of three content areas important to early academic success – language, literacy, and math. Findings in literacy and mathematics were statistically significant in analyses for each school year of New Mexico PreK. Findings specific to our measure of early language were statistically significant for the first two years of the study, and using a combined, multi‐year data set.

I had to wonder what curriculum the New Mexico pre-k programs followed. It appears that about half of the sites do not report the curriculum they use. However, one uses Bank Street, nine use High Scope, and the remaining 60-some use Creative Curriculum. Imagine what kind of effects these pre-k programs could achieve if they used more effective curricula!

Hustedt, J. T., Barnett, W. S., Jung, K., & Goetze, L. D. (2009). The New Mexico preK evaluation: Results from the initial four years of a new state preschool initiative. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.

The report is available for free. See the Website for the New Mexico PreK program.

Engelmann explains

Zig Engelmann, progenitor of Direct Instruction (DI), has posted a video of a talk he gave earlier this month. The presentation is an explication of the underlying principles of DI, “Theory of Direct Instruction.”

In the presentation (video below the jump), Mr. Engelmann shows some of his chops from his undergraduate degree in philosophy. He starts with philosophers’ fundamental arguments and shows how those correspond (or don’t) with learning and teaching concepts. For example, as he works through John Stuart Mills’ five methods of induction from A System of Logic, he makes clear how each would apply to teaching. I suspect that this particular sequence will show many people why DI instruction (the examples used in the scripts, not the teaching behavior) is structured the way it is.
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Keep or sweep?

In “Schools to Retain Controversial Math Curriculum” Michael Birmbaum reported that a local education agency has elected to continue teaching arithmetic using a curriculum that has minimal evidence of effectiveness. Mr. Birmbaum, who works for the Washington (DC, US) Post, wrote about the decision by the school system of a county that is in neighboring northern Virginia (it’s, in fact, where I attended first through third grades).

Prince William County elementary schools will continue to teach mathematics with a textbook series that has drawn parent criticism and national scrutiny, despite deep divisions in the community over whether students should be given other options.

The curriculum from Pearson Education, “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space,” which is used in thousands of classrooms nationwide, has been debated virtually since Prince William began using it three years ago under the administration of Superintendent Steven L. Walts. Critics say it fails to help students learn basic skills and facts.

Continue reading ‘Keep or sweep?’

Math murdered

Weapons of Math Destruction Comics
Math murdered

Over on Weapons of Math Destruction, Oak Norton and Bob Bonham have another fun cartoon. It shows a police officers examining an outline on (presumably) a street; the caption begins, “Common sense was seen fleeing the crime scene….”

Jump over there and have a look at it in a higher resolution.

Some factors affecting effectiveness

According to an analysis by Gregory J. Palardy and Russell W. Rumberger, differences in teacher effectiveness have larger effects on young children’s outcomes in reading and math than do differences in teachers’ backgrounds factors such as level of education and types of certifications held. The teacher quality effects were also substantially greater than the effects for children’s families’ SES in their study and than the effects for class-size reduction (25 25 versus 15 students per classroom) reported in another study.

Professors Palardy and Rumberger arrived at this conclusion by analyzing data from a large data set that is representative of students in the US. They used a sophisticated analytic approach that permitted them to assess the effects of inputs, processes, and outputs at the school, classroom, and individual student levels.

This study uses Early Childhood Longitudinal Study data to investigate the importance of three general aspects of teacher effects—teacher background qualifications, attitudes, and instructional practices—to reading and math achievement gains in first grade. The results indicate that compared with instructional practices, background qualifications have less robust associations with achievement gains. These findings suggest that the No Child Left Behind Act’s “highly qualified teacher” provision, which screens teachers on the basis of their background qualifications, is insufficient for ensuring that classrooms are led by teachers who are effective in raising student achievement. To meet that objective, educational policy needs to be directed toward improving aspects of teaching, such as instructional practices and teacher attitudes.

Palardy, G. J., & Rumberger, R. W. (2008). Teacher effectiveness in first grade: The importance of background qualifications, attitudes, and instructional practices for student learning. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30, 111-140.

Link to the abstract.

Bad math brain

Click for larger version from Weapons of Math Destruction

Those clever folks over at Weapons of Math Destruction have stuck yet again with another witty take-down of mal-education in the mathematics area.

As much as I like this one, I think the image of the face for the child “on fuzzy math” should be different. I see fuzzy math and its cousins as resulting more in happy witlessness. That’s the idea: Make it fun and engaging; students’ll just figure it out magically…re-discovering everything from counting through Archimedian insights and onto the calculus. Shouldn’t those kids be smiling?

For those outside the US who are not familiar with the brain-vs-brain-on theme incorporated into this cartoon, here’s a hint: There was an advertisement that first appeared in the 1980s showing a man holding a chicken egg and saying “This is your brain,” then cracking the egg into a frying pan and saying, “This is your brain on drugs.” Here’s a link to a Wikipedia entry about the brain-on-drugs advertisement.

Oh Well…off to a thumbnail catalog from Weapons of Math Destruction for the big version of this cartoon.

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