05 January 2008

Want to Learn About Math in Public Education?


Harry (http://garbanzotoons.blogspot.com/) was kind enough to give me some reasons he finds the Everyday Math Curriculum we are currently using to be lacking. It really helped me as a teacher to know that mostly, my instincts about "how to teach this stuff" were pretty well on the money. And my instinct has been to just teach it as I have been taught. This way I understand what my children are doing with the math and can genuinely help them. I also found the EM method of finding about 20 billion ways to do each problem confusing. They expect little children to think of their OWN ways to solve the problem. I thought perhaps we were a mentally deficient family because none of children jumped up and exclaimed, "Egad! I have just employed an algorithm of my own invention! Observe."

This link gives a review as to why the mathematics program we're employing in our homeschool is considered deficient. The mathematically correct website will REALLY give you some concrete comparisons between curriculum currently used by many schools. Interestingly, Saxon Math and Singapore math are also mentioned.

The reviewers don't review how easy a curriculum is to teach, however. They also don't tell you that in the Everyday Mathematics program, you receive two teacher manuals and a supplement manual on testing, a Masters file you can xerox from, and student journals are included EACH YEAR in the program. This makes for amazing amounts of preparation and confusion if you want to teach it right. You teach from the manual, but they tell you to look at this in this book and that in that book and then hand this out to the students and blah blah blah...

I'm too lazy.

We just work through the worksheets, some of the "Master's sheets," and the assesments. If I don't understand something, I go back to the teacher's manual or better yet, I ask Patrick to explain it for me. He's not only mathematically inclined, but he has been through this program before and is now taking algebra in eighth grade.

I was very glad that Harry wrote because I thought I had been teaching the program rather badly. Most of the "games" require manipulatives I don't have, or several students. They're *supposed* to be very important. I skip most of those, although the game with the pretend money where students buy things we've found to be instructive. I also spend time on flash cards because I am old-fashioned, although it is not specifically recommended in the program.

I find myself spending quite a bit of time on some of the concepts. I had very nearly been driven crazy by the idea that my children must know how to convert fractions in second grade. At least it seems as though the students were expected to do this in some of the worksheets. Back to the teacher's manual... they are doing this for INTRODUCTION! Ughhh. At least when I look at their chart listing of skills that should be at "beginning, developing, or secure" levels, I know not to panic when my children can't seem to master "beginning" concepts.

The teacher's manual is also unhelpful in evaluating a child's progress. When is a child failing? There is NO GUIDELINE. One would almost wonder if the kid warmed a seat for a year, does he go on to class next year?? I have taken the arbitrary but reachable goal of having the children pass assessments with at least 80 percent. The Lifepacs we use for science seem to indicate that that is their minimum passing grade. Obviously if my children don't seem to understand a basic concept, we stop and review as well. But I think 80 percent would at least demonstrate a basic mastery.

In any event, this website is an excellent help to me in reviewing the curriculum. When I am able to purchase my own, I'll have some very good, concrete reviews to look at rather than just a couple testimonials from parents who say a program "worked for them."

Any reader who has stuck with my droning for *this long* will probably also enjoy the various histories of math-teaching in schools the website features. It's written in more scholarly tones, but informative.

Thanks, Harry!

1 comment:

  1. Glad I could help. Thanks for the link. You also made some good points on the difficulty of assessing a child's progress. Because there is so little opportunity to practice each skill as so many concepts are hurled at the students in quick succession, assessment is way too subjective. (The EDM people would insist otherwise, but don't let them fool you) If you teach the program the way they insist you teach it, one lesson per day, with "game day" once a week; don't stop to reteach because of the "spiraling effect", so that you can get through the whole grade level in a school year, you are guaranteed that a large proportion of your students will never understand math. As others have said, this program is a mile wide and an inch deep.


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