Thursday, March 17, 2022

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March 21-22-23-24-25-26-27-28-29-30-31, 2022

Critical thinking is the product of knowledge. 

Math taught as reform math via minimal guidance methods over the decades in progressive schools is why students haven't learned much math. It's the teaching, as the late Zig Engelmann would shout!

The problem is that math is not taught for mastery! 
Instead, it is taught to score high on a state test.

Reform Math
Some of the characteristics of NCTM reform math or Common Core reform math are summarized by Tom Loveless, who writes, "You need to put your kids in groups, you need to be using manipulatives, you need to deemphasize procedures and rote learning, you need to emphasize conceptual understanding." [And, you need to use technology.]

The future of learning is not technology. The future of learning is better teaching, not fads, manipulatives, group work, or screens. Yet, "education technology seems to be a priority in many plans." 

All classroom teachers, in my opinion, should be trained to teach complex ideas that make sense to children, beginning in 1st grade, which means that future K-8 teachers should be knowledgeable at or above grade level in mathematics, science, vocabulary study, literature, and history and be required to take at least a college-level precalculus course, half of which is trigonometry, and rigorous, college-level chemistry and physics courses. Also, classroom teachers should learn explicit teaching and writing behavioral objectivesMost of today's teachers would disagree with me and continue to think that they are not the problem, but they are, says the late Zig Engelmann. 

Algebra-1 by 7th Grade

If I can teach average 1st graders to build x-y tables and graph (x,y) points from linear equations (y = mx + b), why can't teachers teach core arithmetic and pre-algebra skills to get most students ready for Algebra-1 by the 7th grade? 

Teachers grossly underestimate the content very young students can learn given proper instruction. Call it low expectations. Ideology should never supersede academics.


I hear a lot about equity, identity/gender, diversity, social-emotional stuff, climate change, etc., but very little about reading, writing, and arithmetic--the academic core in elementary school. It is ideology over knowledge, merit, and academics. I take issue with primary teachers who say there is no time for arithmetic. One excuse has been that kids can catch up in math later. Wrong! Kids do not catch up! 

Teaching the test...
Moreover, teaching to the test is not a sound math curriculum. May I be so bold as to suggest that the time-on-task allocated to reading and arithmetic should be the same, at least an hour each day? What's wrong? It's the 
teaching--a dumbed-down curriculum, inefficient instructional methods, grade inflation, ideology over knowledge, etc. It's also obstructive attitudes of some teachers and influential education leaders.

King & Emanne

Emanne Beasha, a 13-year-old opera singer, born in Amman, Jordan, sang "The Prayer" at King's church in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Day, January 17th, 2022. King preached that we should be judged not by the color of our skin or race but by the content of our character. His Christian message was the opposite of those who preached hatred and racism through Critical Race Theory (CRT). Identity and race do not determine your future. In praise of Emanne's performance, the preacher said, "Give God credit for what he is doing in the next generation."  

Maxford Nelsen of the Freedom Foundation asks
Why are white kids "judged for crimes they did not commit?" 

Lost Instructional Time has been a huge concern. It shows up with the 2nd and 4th graders in my algebra program, one hour a week, compared to pre-pandemic students of previous years. Regular classroom teachers have difficulty catching kids up to grade level arithmetic. I am not sure it is possible unless teachers switch to traditional arithmetic and discontinue reform math. The school year is over in late May. 

Also, some primary and elementary school teachers don't teach math every day as the stress is on language arts and test scores. Teachers believe that kids will catch up in arithmetic in later grades. Wrong! (Note: When I taught 1st grade at an urban Title-1 school in the early 1980s, equal time was given to reading and arithmetic. We also spent time on phonics, grammar/writing, spelling, science, and history.

Since the middle of November, I have taught algebra to two 4th-grade classes and will add a 2nd-grade class at the beginning of February. The urban, PreK-8 school is Title 1. I fuse fundamental algebra ideas with traditional arithmetic. In my Teach Kids Algebra (TKA) program (once a week for an hour), students use arithmetic in almost everything we do. The algebra part is easy for very young children but not the grade-level arithmetic that the classroom teachers teach. Moreover, if middle or high school students have difficulty with Algebra-1, it can be traced to poor preparation in basic arithmetic in elementary school. In short, students lacked the calculating skills needed to solve problems. According to Daniel T. Willingham, problem-solving can be as simple as adding unlike fractions.

Experts are not always experts.

"Experts say that teacher and student emotional and mental health needs must be addressed before academic gaps." I'm afraid I have to disagree. How is this approach going to close achievement gaps? Our kids lag behind kids in many other nations because of backward thinking like this. In short, American students are not taught content that is routinely taught in other countries. We also know that combining in-person with remote has been a disaster. 


After spending part of a day at the 1st-grade class in Austin, Texas, an observer concluded, "Many students were struggling with things like being able to use scissors, work independently and resolve conflicts." Really? Anecdotal observations are not scientific evidence. Avoid seating them in groups if you want kids to pay better attention and don't want kids to talk.

In gifted programs, children should score well on above grade-level tests such as the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY): The School and College Ability Test (SCAT). However, the problem is in many schools is that the children in so-called Gifted/Talented programs cannot match the CTY's quantitative and verbal benchmarks, which are purposely set a couple of years above grade level to find talent. 

I teach algebra to kids in the 4th grade at a city, Title-1 PreK-8 school. One class is 3rd and 4th grade combined GATE (Gifted/Talented) class. Yet, many of the students in the regular 4th-grade class are better at algebra than some kids in the GATE class. The school is almost all Hispanic, with about 20% blacks. I see one white girl in the regular 4th grade.

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