Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why international math scores have us jumping –but not for joy!

An article caught my attention:

Bad math marks are bad for business: Elaine Chin

According to a report released from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, Canada now ranks 13th in the world for international math performance when we’ve previously always made the top 10.  
The best future jobs all require a strong set of mathematics. The top paying jobs of the future are all expected to involve high level applied math. Just take a look at Canadian Business’ list of Canada’s Top 50 Jobs for 2013 . Certainly not every child has strength in math or interest, but let’s work toward giving them a better start in their early learning years.

What is the solution? 

How many hours do they spend
on these, rather than doing fractions?
Let's get rid of the awful 'new math' texts, based, not in foundational research, but in glossy, for-profit text books produced to challenge our kids. Yes,  challenge, but they leave many behind. 
I am firmly convinced that we must swing that darn pendulum again. We spend millions on PD for teachers. Not only on materials, but in doing in-service training. Despite this, our EQAO tests, rather than testing arithmetic and other skills, creates more difficulties, and waste pressure school hours.

We've been creating curriculum around investigative math, so much better, we thought, to allow kids to fid the way to arrive at the answer, rather than teaching and testing for times tables and other foundations of mathematical curriculum.
Here we have fractions, very complex language,
too many questions on too many topics.

½ ⅓  ⅔ ¼ ¾ ⅕ ⅖ ⅗ 
⅘ ⅙ ⅚ ⅛ ⅜ ⅝ ⅞

The glossy, complex photos and illustrations lead kids astray. ADHD kids cannot focus on what is important. We've lost the logical progressions of mathematical education, as we try to allow kids to create their own solutions. "Investigative Math" Many kids do not have the background to achieve in this manner.

For many, who believe that teaching math shouldn't be didactic, we now know where we went wrong. It is a multi-facted blame, including all stakeholders: teachers who cannot do math, book publishers, administration, school boards, those who jump on a bandwagon without research.
  • Kids cannot make change when the till is down.
  • Kids do not know their times tables.
  • Kids rely too heavily on calculators, without understanding concepts.
  • Kids cannot hold a pencil for a long time.
  • Teachers, having gone through the 'new math', are unable to understand math themselves.
  • Too many teachers admit that they don't like math.

Any teacher should be able to teach this crucial part of the curriculum. Let's blame administrators who have hi-jacked this huge part of the curriculum. Perhaps not at the high school level, for much of this math is specialized, and they need teaching skills and tricks to teach this well, but, again, perhaps we can blame the elementary panel Powers-That-Be.

I've been exploring Jump Math

The research supports teaching math in this way.
I bought the grade 8 curriculum, while I've been rehashing some old skills, trying to tutor some girls in pre-college Trigonometry! It really helps to review it all!
Mighton, who founded it, has gotten some really goo PR and excellent results.

Dr. John Mighton is a mathematician, author, playwright, and the founder of JUMP Math. He tirelessly volunteers his time and expertise at JUMP Math as the lead curriculum developer for the JUMP Math Student Assessment and Practice Books and Teacher's Resources. He also donates all proceeds from publications to JUMP Math.

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