Friday, July 30, 2010

Struggles Continue with New Math

According to this article in the AJC, Final exams show teens struggle with new math curriculum:

"Teens fared so poorly with Georgia’s newly accelerated sophomore math curriculum last school year that state officials want to put the lowest performers in an easier course in August that more can pass."

Now that's brilliant. If they can't pass, let's make it easier!

"Only 52 percent of the students who took the End of Course Test for Math II in May passed, the state recently reported. Many students in metro Atlanta schools who took the tests squeaked by with barely passing grades, earning modest average scores of C's and D's for their districts.

The freshman class, meanwhile, fared somewhat better on the Math I End of Course Test, with 64 percent passing."

"Tamela Cosby, an Atlanta Public Schools high school teacher, said only 20 percent of her ninth- and 10th-graders passed the final. They also struggled with the material in class.

“Since the course is a little difficult for the students, it's not enough time to teach to mastery,” Cosby said. “They are not really understanding the material. For a lot of them, it’s the reading comprehension. They are not understanding what is being asked of them. It’s not just two plus two, there are word problems. They are not used to thinking in that aspect.”

So, it looks like the real failure here is in reading comprehension and understanding word problems.

About 80,000 teens statewide failed final exams in Math I and Math II in May."

It seems Ms. Cox got out of Dodge just in time.


For a little history on the subject, read the article by Shayna Steinfeld posted here last year called, "All About Math".

For a good discussion on the subject, check out Maureen Downey's blog.


Anonymous said...

The AJC article/blog referred to a Math III Support class which is apparently supposed to be a review of Math I & II and an introduction to Math III (basically a GHSGT prep class).

Has anyone heard about this offering in DCSS schools and how will this fit in regarding credits towards graduation?

Anonymous said...

My child is in the class of 2012 – the group for which the new math curriculum was implemented during their 6th grade year. I noticed that the structure of his math textbook changed during his 7th grade year. There were no explanations for each concept within the book – just exercises/problems. As a parent, when helping my child with homework, I often referred to the textbook as a refresher for myself. It appears, however, that the intent is for students (and parents) to go to other sources for the instructional information needed to understand the concepts.

I’m not even sure they used the text book for my child’s Math II class (as useless as it may have been.) I saw a lot of handouts.

The classes no longer seem to be a building process. Students are going from subject to subject – Algebra – Geometry – Trig – Calculus – within the same class. IMO that makes it even harder for students to absorb the material.

It also seemed that there was little or no review of concepts “introduced” in previous school years. I say introduced because there is a question as to how well students were grasping the concepts before teachers needed to move to the next concept. (Keep in mind, certain standards needed to be covered during the course of the school year in preparation for the CRCT/EOCT.) When questions were raised about this, the response was often that it was something they should have learned in an earlier grade. Many times it was not necessarily the teacher’s preference, but what has been mandated in the curriculum/standards teachers have to cover in a given school year. How many students have become discouraged and no longer even try?

Given the dismal performance indicated by the Math I & II EOCT results, there will definitely be more need for tutoring. Given our even more dismal financial situation, will it happen?

Anonymous said...

I know many people who take their children to be tutored in math after school and they do very well at the tutors but stuggle in the classroom. The concepts are not being "facilitated" so they kids grasp the concepts before they move on to a totally different concept. Mastery isn't the goal here. I feel for these high schoolers when they start taking the SAT and ACT this year. Is there some way we can get information about how they fair in math on these nationwide tests?

I saw this train wreck coming four years ago and put my high schooler in private school where real math is still taught. I know that isn't an option many people can afford but at one time Cere posted
affordable alternatives to government schools on this blog. Cere can you repost that link?

Anonymous said...

Mastery in math is not taught at any level. Not having mastery in basic math skills makes the more difficult math skills that much harder. Until we stop teaching to the test and just exposing children to material, and instead require them to master and deeply understand material, our math curriculum will never get any better but get worse.

Anonymous said...

Math support is already offered as an elective in DCSS high schools. However, I think what the state is proposing is that the Math Support class become a class that can fulfill the math requirement for graduation.

Cerebration said...

Here's the link to the Options to DCSS blog post.

This post tries to highlight low-cost alternatives to public school. There are also many wonderful private schools, however, for many, these are out of reach financially. Some offer scholarships but given the economy, the demand for those is high.

Make sure you read the comments associated with the post. Many people contributed excellent additional resources that are not mentioned in the original post.

I home-schooled both of my children at one point - with the help of a couple of fabulous tutors. It was a great experience and they learned the material quite well.

Anonymous said...

"Mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 31, 2010..."

Now there is a pertinent comment. There's part of the blog is about the awful math scores and the unqiue and new math cirriculum that the state of Georgia wasted time and money to start. It will, of course, be discarded by the next admininstration for a number of reasons, the least of being that most college admissions offices can not make head or tails of Math I, I, etc. or that there is no AP test for Math IV. What more callous decison could we make than to cut students a drift in the middle of their student careers. Math is a walk up the ladder from K to 12 and any revised cirriculum should do the same rather than trhough high school students in to sink or swim.

There is no math gene. Learning Math requires two things 1. students work hard and 2. teachers who love math. Unfortunately there are now more honor students in either India or China than there are students in all of the US. I do not believe in cospiracy theories but if I wanted to destroy public education in the US I would try this math cirriculum, let states set their own standards and tests, and adopt NCLB. Where did we get the idea that all children would be above average? It can only be so when you test for mediocrity as we do in the Georgia High School Graduation Test. Might as well hold a mirror to their nostrils to see if they are breathing.

Back to the gleeful comment. Let the law take its course and quit gloating. Why not post your news on some topic thread that is not about learning?

Cerebration said...

I don't think that person meant to usurp the conversation. Sometimes people simply post news as it it broken on the most recent post. No biggie to me...

That said, I have created a photo on the side panel for us to use to update news on the trial as it arises. It links to the original announcement of the indictments. Hopefully we can keep that conversation continuing in that one place.

We also have a link under PAGES called "News of the Day LINKS", where we try to collect all of the headlines regarding DCSS and the links to the associated news reports.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon at 1:29 ("Back to the gleeful comment. Let the law take its course and quit gloating.")

Where's the "glee" and "gloating" in the post you complain about? I don't see it. At all.

Cerebration said...

I know I certainly take no glee in watching this sad commentary on the total lack of integrity of our former leaders. I am sick about it.

Square Peg said...

By the way, Anon 1:29, I agree 100% that Americans need to remember what the honor students in India and China are doing, and give our students the opportunity to do the same. It is also very valuable for students to exercise the mental discipline needed to master college track high school math.

Our leaders seem to forget that there is no point mandating higher math if students don't understand numbers. Not every student needs to understand precalculus (Math 3), but every student needs to understand numbers and how to use basic arithmetic operations along with some very basic algebra and geometry concepts (elementary or early middle school level). It's a survival skill they need to get by in the modern world. Unfortunately, our educational world is not designed to make sure students master the basics before moving on.

In the car on the way to the mall, my high schooler asked me the square of 85. We mentally calculated it, then she explained that she'd asked because she was figuring what the total discount would be using a coupon that took 15% off the sale price of merchandise that had already been marked down 15% (that is, 85% of 85%). Students who can excel in advanced high school math classes are also comfortable with basic problems like this.

Anonymous said...

EOCTs are a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

The latest waste of money by Premier DeKalb Schools:


To: All DeKalb Employees
From: Tony Hunter, Management Information Systems
Through: Ramona Tyson, Interim Superintendent
Subject: New Launch Page and Logo for the DeKalb County Schools
Date: 30, July 2010

New Launch Page and Logo for DeKalb County Schools

During the summer months, Management Information Systems, under the directive of the Interim Superintendent has been working with an outside agency "AIS Media" to develop a new launch page and logo for the DeKalb County School System website. The launch page also known as the landing page provides an entirely new and engaging look, but most importantly, provides our community, students and other stakeholders with an easy-to-navigate and user friendly way of finding information related to DeKalb County Schools.

The new landing page will go live Sunday, August 1, 2010. It is important to note that the entire rework of the website will occur over the course of the 2010-2011 school year in phases. We will start with the weblinks that are visited most frequently by our stakeholders and work through all departments and divisions to redesign their weblinks into the new interface look. Because of the vastness of the DCSS website, it will take most of 2010-2011 to redesign all of and its associated weblinks. The following year, 2011-2012, the individual school websites will be redesigned to fit this same cohesive and consistent format. Therefore, in its entirety, this is a two-year project.

We hope you are as excited as we are about this new, fresh look for DeKalb County Schools.

Distributed By
The DeKalb County Postmaster

Anonymous said...

I believe that Math Support 3 will be treated as a core class this year and will count for the high school math requirement. Remember that this group of juniors (the class of 2012) are the guinea pigs in the Brad Bryant/Kathy Cox math experiment.

The state and local school systems are in a panic because these juniors (who are failing Math I and Math II in record numbers) will be taking the GHSGT this year. If they fail, they can retake the test in their senior year. So I think they want to slow down the pace and give them most of the year to re-do Math I and Math II and cover anything else that might be on the GHSGT.

It is so sad that a small group of educrats single-handedly managed to cause such unnecessary pain and expense.

themommy said...

Both candidates for state superintendent seem to have huge reservations about the math curriculum and/or how it was implemented.

For those of you interested in following developments on this issue, I recommend you subscribe to this very low volume email list -- Georgia Parents for Math. See the email address below, send them an email and they will add you to the list.

Anonymous said...

The wonderful thing about math is that the rules never change and there are no exceptions to the rules.

A million years ago, where I went to high school, math teachers worked with a textbook. We started at the beginning of the book and systematically worked through all of the skills. Math books are set up this way. You don't have to work every problem. Following the order that skills are presented in a good math textbook works very well.

This school system has a problem when it comes to teaching math. I don't know how you teach a subject like this by jumping around in the books and skipping skills. Or not using a book at all. A skill might not be specifically tested, but if you need it to do more complex math it needs to be taught.

Long before the new high school math curriculum was implemented I paid a tutor good money to catch my child up in math. As an 8th grader she had huge holes in her math knowledge that started in the 4th grade. Every year those holes got bigger. You can't do algebra if you don't understand how fractions work. I could go on but I think you get the idea. Once she learned the missing skills, she got good grades in math.

I think that many of our students find the classes confusing. A good mathematician is not always a good teacher. It is possible to present a concept in such a way that the students don't really understand what to do. Algebra, Geometry, and Trig are not rocket science. You have to learn how the math works BEFORE you will be able to use critical thinking skills to solve math problems.

Cerebration said...

"You have to learn how the math works BEFORE you will be able to use critical thinking skills to solve math problems."

That's the way I've always thought about it too, although I'm not a math teacher.

We've heard that there is a large group of students at Columbia who had to take the Math 1&2 over online this summer. Parents are understandably upset, as working online is not the best way to 'relearn' this math and apparently, the online teacher is pretty unavailable to help. In fact, messages to Dr. Regina Merriweather have gone unanswered. Parents are paying tutors out of their own pockets in an attempt to help their children - however, how many tutors are out there who understand this new material? What are parents to do when they can't find an administrator to help? And what do you do if your online "teacher" doesn't help? And what do you do if you don't have a computer and internet access?

This is just getting messier and messier. Morcease Beasesly needs to prove himself as head of curriculum and instruction and stop this madness. Students are failing left and right, yet our "leaders" continue to keep their heads in the sand and refer to our schools as "premier". That's embarrassing. Stop that.

I hope this new logo drops that "premier" tag.

Anonymous said...

Raise your hand if you hated math in school. Yeah, I thought so.

What did you hate about it? What did you like about it? Well, it hasn't changed. The way its taught hasn't changed, the subjects haven't changed, the approaches haven't changed, and the name of the subject itself hasn't changed. They speed it up, they change the textbooks, but its all about the negative reaction you get from making mistakes. Math is all about mistakes. Who likes making mistakes? Yeah, neither do I.

We have a shortage of math teachers, a shortage of physics teachers, a shortage of engineers.

What do those guys know, how do think, and how is that different than the rest of us?

One thing, my own case, is that I was always ok with the logic of it - how it worked, the ideas behind math, the concepts. What I hated - the stupid little errors, forgot to carry this one over here, didn't line up the columns correctly so I added or subtracted wrong. There's no wonder to the way math is taught, no connection to the real world. And kids are taught TOO much of it.

What!? Too much? When was the last time you graphed a parabola? or graphed anything at all? Calculated a cotangent lately?

So, engineers, physicists, and other scientists, they make the same silly math mistakes, same as all of us, and no less frequently. But they don't harp over it, don't get big red x's all over their paper to discourage themselves. They double check until their show, they go slow, they are methodical. And that's what's missing for most kids in our ridiculously fast-paced math curriculum where you have to cover subject matter that they will never see or use again.

Anonymous said...

12:39, I'm an engineer and can testify to everything you said in your last paragraph. I understand and enjoy the logic of math, but have to double-check my calculations, even (especially?) when using a calculator.

I've tutored groups of elementary students at risk of failing the CRCT. There was not nearly enough time in brief weekly sessions to begin to give them the foundation they lacked. One thing that frustrated me was that they didn't warm to learning concepts. Even with manipulatives and "real-world" problems, they didn't see the underlying concepts at all.

I tried, but eventually found that the most efficient thing I could do in the limited time available was to get them to practice algorithms, such as subtraction with borrowing. They seemed fairly comfortable with practicing the steps to do something the "right" way. For word problems, the most efficient thing was to teach them to recognize key words which indicated that the problem was addition or subtraction or whatever; they hardly had a clue what the four operations were for. We worked on concepts and I think that made a bit of a dent, but my main hope is that if they remember their multiplication tables and can do the steps of long division, more understanding might follow as their minds mature.

For many (most?) children, developing an understanding of math concepts takes more time than teachers have. These particular children really had no time because they had to cover material and face a CRCT about 3 grade levels above their actual level of arithmetic mastery. They pass the CRCT by the skin of their teeth or fail it and retake it in summer school, then will struggle in the next grade next year. I hate to think how they'll fare in high school.

By the way, my son has a phenomenal intuitive grasp of math concepts, but got dinged for not doing the steps the teacher expected (his 3rd grade teacher wasn't comfortable enough with math to understand alternative ways of doing things), or, in estimation problems, not divining the number of digits of accuracy the problem writer had in mind. We hated estimation and number sense problems! Luckily he had the old math curriculum in high school, so he didn't get dinged for not being able to write well about explorations, speculations, and feelings about math problems.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 1:51 PM

"They seemed fairly comfortable with practicing the steps to do something the "right" way. For word problems, the most efficient thing was to teach them to recognize key words which indicated that the problem was addition or subtraction or whatever;"

I couldn't agree more. When a child is having trouble you need to teach them strategies they can use to solve math problems. It would be nice for every child to understand the underlying concepts, but, having a set of strategies that they can apply helps significantly. Those children were probably very happy that you were able to do this for them.

IMHO any teacher who is going to be teaching math at the elementary level should be able to pass a college algebra course. You can't teach something that you don't understand yourself.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 1:51 pm
"For word problems, the most efficient thing was to teach them to recognize key words which indicated that the problem was addition or subtraction or whatever; they hardly had a clue what the four operations were for..."

This works quite well for passing the CRCT and other tests - e.g. ITBS. I used this technique many years ago when I taught regular ed to help my 4th graders (70s and 80s) achieve Mastery of key math concepts. BTW - we used to have Introduction in one grade level, Developing in the next grade level, and then Mastery in the next grade level.

In the 70s, I taught what was called "new math" to higher level math students. This is when we did grouping by math ability even in the elementary schools, and my 4th graders easily grasped algebraic concepts (this was at a Cross Keys feeder school - low income school).

When students do not have a deeper understanding of the abstract concepts of math (not just looking for key words such as more than, less than, total of, etc.,), they will struggle in high school. When they hit the SAT or ACT, they will be at a real disadvantage.

I wholeheartedly agree that students must master the basics, but many key abstract concepts should be mastered before high school.

In the 90s I taught Gifted at a very affluent elementary school in DCSS and also in a school that served students in a low income area in DCSS. My gifted students in the affluent school were taught the abstract concepts of math because the teachers had so many gifted students so this was the norm. My gifted students in the other school were in classes with struggling students and the teachers taught only the basics (the techniques you described). What a difference in the mathematical problems they could complete! Notice I didn't say ability since their quantitative scores on the COGAT were pretty much the same. Same quantitative ability level, but very far behind in math in the school that had low income students - simply because my gifted students had not been taught at an advanced level. The teacher was too busy trying to reach "most of the class".

A sound foundation of the basics coupled with instruction in more abstract concepts is the ideal situation for students that can excel in math. This is probably true for many students if we poured our money into the classroom. In the 70s, I had more than 30% of the entire 4th grade in my advanced math class even in the low income school I taught at - do you think we would have that today?

I think that loving to teach math and the teacher having a good understanding of the subject matter starting in the early grades is very beneficial for students. Looking at my students over the decades, I would say that tracking in math is also beneficial for students that can perform at a higher level. Tracking is not so important in more affluent schools, but it is critical in low income schools. This is just IMHO.

Techie Math Teacher said...

Cerebration said "how many tutors are out there who understand this new material?"

Any tutor worth their pay knows the new material. The GPS math curriculum contains virtually no math not normally taught in high schools around the country in the last 20 years.

Square Peg said it well, "The generic new course names obscure the fact that Math 1-4 is the old high school college track math, algebra through precalculus..."

The GPS math curriculum included 2 changes at the same time. We switched from traditional lecture-and-practice with task-based learning. We also switched from discrete math subjects to an integrated curriculum. We should be careful when critiquing the system. If I had to hazard a guess, teachers (and therefore students) are struggling with the first (task-based) more than the second.

Anonymous said...

Having difficulty understanding certain mathematical concepts, or for parents needing a refresher on a particular math concept, you may wish to visit the following website: "The Math Page"

This website is an excellent resource that presents Arithmetic (complete course), Geometry, Algebra (complete course), Topics in Trigonometry, Pre-calculus and Calculus in an easy to understand format. My kids understood this website's presentation much better.

Cerebration said...

Thanks! I'll add that to the Favorite Links list!

Anonymous said...

Check out this math website: