Many of you have probably heard of the Khan Academy before. A few years ago I sent out an email about it when it was a lot smaller but still very cool. Today’s Khan academy could be one stop shopping for almost all your child’s math needs.  With over 2,000 videos teaching everything from basic addition up through calculus, and now videos in a number of other subjects as well. This video from a TED presentation shows the cool things Salmon Khan is now doing to integrate his very clear teaching style into classrooms around the country (and of course, homeschools as well). After watching the video, I strongly encourage you to visit the Khan Academy and click watch to see the video list, and then practice to jump in and have your child try it out. This TED presentation explains what he’s put together.

http://www.khanacademy.com

If you want to read some additional informative conversations happening on the video, visit the TED video site here and look below the video.

For another great math teaching video site visit http://www.patrickjmt.com/

At a family gathering in the summer of 2009, Blair Henderson (my father-in-law) recounted the story of a giant grizzly bear that inhabited Logan canyon years ago. I finally got around to posting it for family and friends to enjoy. Total running time is about 45 minutes.

Last week on the Rod Arquette show, a Judy Park (??? not sure of last name) from the state office of education spoke with Rod concerning the release of the latest PISA scores (http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/) which help show math, reading, and science ability rankings from around the world. The United States was down the list a ways for math and was behind such powerhouse nations as Liechtenstein, Estonia, Iceland, Slovenia, Poland, and Luxembourg (aside from the obvious ones like China and Singapore). We did pull ahead of Qatar and Tunisia thankfully. 🙂 Among the claims made by Judy were the following:

-Utah is above national average in math benchmarking as evidenced by NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores
-The new Common Core standards are something to get excited about and will help the states do better in math

The first one has already been dis-proven a couple years back when Dr. David Wright at BYU showed that since Utah has an over 80% white population, it artificially raises our state average when compared to states that have a much higher minority percentage (minorities tend to score less on standardized tests). He was able to show that when comparing whites to whites, Utah actually ranked 37th and 39th at 4th and 8th grade respectively. This was based on 2005 NAEP data and I would assume nothing has changed since then. This is comparing apples to apples. Utah is NOT above national average.

As for NAEP’s qualifications as a test, several years ago Dr. John Hoven compared U.S. NAEP test questions to those of the world class math leaders. Here are two of his main points from his article (http://edreform.com/_upload/NAEPmath.pdf)

  • “My point is simple: There is a chasm of difference in expectations between NAEP and the problems used by world-class mathematics leaders. We expect too little from our children, and by lowering our expectations we lower their incentive to achieve.”
  • “NAEP classifies its problems as “easy,” “medium,” or “hard.” I benchmarked the “hard” 8th grade problems, examining NAEP’s highest level of expectation for 8th grade math. Most of these “hard” 8th grade problems are at the level of Singapore’s grade 5 – or lower.”

Now for Judy’s second point on the Common Core standards.

Just a few short years ago, a number of people went through an incredibly difficult process to get the state of Utah to raise it’s math standards. Nobody at the state office or state school board wanted to change from standards that were rated by the Fordham Foundation at a ‘D’ level, and the US Chamber of Commerce rated them a ‘C’.  The state board also rejected the notion of just adopting California’s ‘A’ rated standards on the basis that this is Utah and we are somehow unique and different than California so we need our own math standards. No matter that that would have saved us a lot of time and money…

After a lot of work by a lot of legislators, educators, and citizens, Utah capitulated and went through the rewrite process. Upon review, they garnered an ‘A-‘ from the Fordham Foundation. They were pretty good, though still subpar to countries like Singapore that have fewer standards so they can spend more time mastering those concepts. The trite phrase “a mile wide and an inch deep” was referred to repeatedly by educators and board members in this state, but nobody would admit it was indicative of Utah’s current standards that weighed in around 60-70 topics per grade level giving teachers only 2-3 days to cover a topic.  In Singapore, they have an average of 9 days to delve into a topic, master it, and then build on it without having to repeat concepts over and over. This chart illustrates time spent per standard. The area of the rectangles roughly match.

Utah Standards

(http://www.utahsmathfuture.com/singaporemathfacts.cfm)

So now the Obama administration sets in motion the Common Core standards. States were offered bribe money to “Race to the Top” and be one of the first to adopt. Most states jumped right on the bandwagon including Utah which somehow overcame the difficulty of their prior position that Utah is unique and doesn’t need or want something developed by someone out of our state. Some mathematicians look at the standards and say they’re pretty good. Others are not so excited. What’s the difference? One see the path of the agenda, the other sees a carrot (bribe).

“How can the State Boards of Education make decisions when they haven’t even read the standards? Many state’s Board Members had never been initiated into what was in these documents.  What were the policy issues coming out of these documents and whether these analyses truly were in a sense legitimate academic analysis…These are very serious issues about what self- government means at the state and local government level.”–Sandra Stotsky,  professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and holds the 21st Century Chair in Teacher Quality.

The real danger comes in this way. National standards lead to national tests to ensure the standards are followed. Those are followed by a national curriculum to ensure students are ready for the tests. That is followed by tracking teachers and giving them an incentive to have their students progress well. That means teachers and students are tracked in a national database. That opens the door to the government indoctrinating in the classroom through test questions, curriculum, and teacher merit pay based on how well their students test ACCORDING TO TESTS WRITTEN BY THE GOVERNMENT. This is extraordinarily dangerous to our freedom and future. Teachers teach to the test. If the assessments are geared toward social justice, constructivist style questions, it will further the deliberate dumbing down of American students in preparation for a government mandated future.

Here’s the kicker. Someone recently posted a quote on Save Alpine School District .com from John Goodlad’s book Developing Democratic Character in the Young (pp. 161) as saying “the current demand for unprecedented levels of academic achievement is getting in the way of [our] humanistic purposes.”

This is all part of the plan of the progressive educators like Goodlad and Noddings. They don’t care about academic performance. Their emphasis is on creating democratic citizens that are fully enculturated into a social and political democracy. You may think schooling is non-partisan and non-political, but in this same book’s preface you will find Goodlad in disagreement stating, “Schooling is a practical, political affair.” They know their purpose and it is not academic excellence. It is the subjugation of a nation by turning them into obedient little automatons. This is why Goodlad had Marxist revolutionary Bill Ayers speak as the keynote speaker in Goodlad’s NNER conference in October 2010.

How important is math to America? We aren’t competing against China anymore, we’re competing against the top students in China. Until Utah’s education system and legislature take this seriously, we’ll continue to slide all the while touting how great we are doing for the amount of money we’re spending. I’ve got news for you Utah, plenty of other countries spend less money than Utah and outperform us. Why? Real standards and real curriculum. It’s time to pilot Singapore math in Utah and replicate the success of Benchmark Charter School in Arizona where 94% of all students say math is their favorite class and they prove it by being the top scoring school in the state.

http://www.utahsmathfuture.com/americas_dire_straits.cfm

In the August 2004 issue of Teaching Children Mathematics, 5 co-authors from Alpine School District and BYU’s mathematics education department (Scott Hendrickson, Daniel Siebert, Stephanie Z. Smith, Heidi Kunzler, and Sharon Christensen) collaborated on an article entitled “Addressing Parents’ Concerns about Mathematics Reform.” This article appeared over a year before I entered the “math war” and was a result of hundreds of parents before me making the effort to get rid of fuzzy math in ASD. This publication by the NCTM went out to teachers all across the country in an effort to support “reform” math programs being implemented and contains ASD’s strategy for dealing with parents (aside from the one that has district administrators tell multiple parents “you’re the only one that’s complained about this program” when they come in for a visit).

In the article, this is how they describe dealing with vocal parents.

During the first few meetings, we encountered a small but vocal group of parents (Oak: boy does that line sound familiar) who opposed the reform curriculum. These parents often asked so many questions during the general presentation that we were unable to offer a coherent overview of the new curriculum…

To address this issue, we decided to accept parent questions only after we had completed our initial forty-five-minute presentation. Furthermore, we attempted to anticipate the common questions that parents had and to address these questions systematically and coherently in the presentation and the handout on homework. We found that most parents were satisfied by the presentation and were eager to either visit the classrooms or go home. We therefore created a ten-minute intermission immediately following the general presentation. We invited parents to go directly to the classrooms or stay for a question-and-answer period. Usually, 90 percent of the parents left immediately after the general presentation. Some parents used the intermission to approach district and school leaders to ask questions. These information conversations seemed particularly productive in addressing parents’ concerns. After all the parents who wanted to visit the classrooms had left, we held our question-and-answer session and stayed as long as there were questions. This left the vocal parents with a much smaller audience and prevented many of the antagonistic feelings that had been unexpectedly generated during the first few meetings.

Translating Eduspeak to English: isolate, let them vent, don’t let their message spread

Further down the article we read some of the nonsense about reform math.

Students are given fewer problems so that they have time to reason, build and test conjectures, try multiple solution strategies, and make connections between what they are learning and experiencing and what they already know. Because learning with understanding is now more important than speed of computation, students do not need as much practice as in traditional instruction. Furthermore, to help ensure that students are learning with understanding, a significant amount of instructional time focuses on sharing solution methods, both orally and in writing, so that students can organize their thinking through expression, receive helpful feedback, and be exposed to new ideas. This process of allowing students to work for longer periods of time on context-rich problems and to communicate their solutions enables them to develop many different solution methods they can use efficiently and flexibly.

Context rich problems like “describe a Yekte, what it eats and where it lives.” “What color is the number 5?” “Using a bottle of glue, paste cotton balls on this picture everywhere there is a bird’s nest.” Oh, you can just feel the deep rich learning taking place from these problems. Having fewer problems without any rigor and spending more time sharing solutions means kids don’t learn. How these educators can look parents in the face without a shred of common sense and say, “don’t teach your children the times tables at home or you will mess them up” is just stunning. It’s no wonder ASD can’t produce a single study that supports reform math. The only studies out there show how badly it performs. Here’s one What Works Clearinghouse study that should just be entitled, “How to set your child back with Investigations or Scott Foresman Addison Wesley math.”

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/quickreviews/qrreport.aspx?qrid=117

  • Student math achievement was significantly higher in schools assigned to Math Expressions and Saxon, than in schools assigned to Investigations and SFAW. Average HLM-adjusted spring math achievement of Math Expressions and Saxon students was 0.30 standard deviations higher than Investigations students, and 0.24 standard deviations higher than SFAW students. For a student at the 50th percentile in math achievement, these effects mean that the student’s percentile rank would be 9 to 12 points higher if the school used Math Expressions or Saxon, instead of Investigations or SFAW.
  • …There were no subgroups for which Investigations or SFAW showed a statistically significant advantage.

Thank you ASD for steering the district from Investigations into SFAW. Glad someone did their homework on that program.

Those of you outside ASD are not isolated from these programs. Pay attention to the work your children bring home and find out what they are using in their classrooms. Be involved in your children’s education.

This NY Times article is excellent. It points out how studies have shown the falsity of the “learning style” debate where educrats say, “well some children are visual and some are auditory.” This is a false theory which has tended to promote Investigations math style instruction. There are several other major tips to effective studying based on research that’s been done such as varying the room you study in, and mixing different content in a study session. Very highly recommended.

Education article

Neat concept.

I really like what this teacher has to say about children needing to derive formulas instead of just being taught them and I like how he integrates physics with math.

For those of you that saw last Sunday’s Provo Daily Herald front page story, the reporter claimed I made a number of statements which I did not. I understand how a reporter occasionally gets things wrong, especially from oral conversations, but in this case, I gave the Herald a letter in writing and they completely destroyed what I wrote and put words in my mouth I never said. This is my response. Please pass this on to everyone you know to help people understand how wrong the Daily Herald got my story. The original article I sent the Herald can be read here so you can see exactly what I did write.
Original Letter
Rebuttal

Well, for having a blog, I’ve been posting pretty slow here, eh? Actually, I’ve not been lazy, just busy. A LOT of my time is being spent at www.UtahsRepublic.org in exposing the lack of constitution oriented education our children are receiving in the school system. Please go take a look and sign onto the petition.

Someone sent me a link to this NY Times story about how Alice in Wonderland was really a story about math. Who knew?

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/opinion/07bayley.html?pagewanted=all