Homeschool boxing class was cancelled this week, so climbing with friends had to do as a substitute.
That bare feet weather is going to end soon, I think. Freeze warning tonight. Although even that might not last. I remember a few years ago, we spent the first part of Thanksgiving week in a rental cabin in the north Georgia mountains, and it was in the 80’s.
That was a great weekend, except for the dropping-the-phone-in-the-creek part. (And for the record, that time, at least the “phone in a bag with rice” solution worked.)
Here’s your good education-related reading for the week. From the Atlantic, “Explaining your math: Unnecessary at best, Encumbering at worst”
Explaining the solution to a problem comes when students can draw on a strong foundation of content relevant to the topic currently being learned. As students find their feet and establish a larger repertoire of mastered knowledge and methods, the more articulate they can become in explanations. Children in elementary and middle school who are asked to engage in critical thinking about abstract ideas will, more often than not, respond emotionally and intuitively, not logically and with “understanding.” It is as if the purveyors of these practices are saying: “If we can just get them to do things that look like what we imagine a mathematician does, then they will be real mathematicians.” That may be behaviorally interesting, but it is not mathematical development and it leaves them behind in the development of their fundamental skills.
The idea that students who do not demonstrate their strategies in words and pictures or by multiple methods don’t understand the underlying concepts is particularly problematic for certain vulnerable types of students. Consider students whose verbal skills lag far behind their mathematical skills—non-native English speakers or students with specific language delays or language disorders, for example. These groups include children who can easily do math in their heads and solve complex problems, but often will be unable to explain—whether orally or in written words—how they arrived at their answers.
About once a week, a “ridiculous” Common Core math problem is passed around Facebook, but the reaction to said problem doesn’t go much deeper than “Wow! So complicated!” Although some of the article commenters disagree, I think this article gets to the heart of the problem with this new approach. Any of you who are struggling to help your kids with this new paradigm might benefit from reading the article.
I am not a math person, but neither am I “math-phobic.” I made A’s in math all through high school, but never took anything more advanced than Trig and what we called “advanced math” back in the day. It may have had elements of pre-Calculus, but I doubt it.
I’ve spent almost 30 years now helping kids with math homework and almost four homeschooling. So I’ve thought through a lot of math and worked with non-mathy people in helping things make sense. (For the record, of the five of my kids, two are very mathy and so I never paid much attention to what they were doing).
The first year we homeschooled, which was three years ago, my older son was in 6th grade, and because we were doing our Europe thing and the question of returning to school in January was an open one, for math, we stuck with the then-school’s program, so if he did return, he would be on track. It was the Pearson enVision program, very reflective of Common Core principles in a way that was immediately discernible even to me, a non-math person.
And I have to say, as a non-mathy person, I didn’t hate it. I thought it was sort of interesting. What I liked was that it presented a number of different approaches to a topic, different ways of solving problems. I thought the emphasis on number sense was good.
(As you can see from the first quick take, I’m using enVision with
John Cena the current 5th grader. We bounce between it, Beast Academy and Khan Academy. Thankfully the new Beast Academy arrived yesterday, so we can settle back into that for a while. It really is the best. Check it out!)
But here’s what I had a real problem with, and still do, as I read more about this approach in articles such as the one I have linked.
It is good to expose children to a number of different problem solving strategies, number sense, various ways of using mental math, as well as the ability to explain one’s reasoning (the subject of the article). But…the way it pans out in reality is that a student’s grade becomes dependent on the mastery of all of what I would call this “background” as well as – in terms of the “explaining” part – verbal expression.
It is insanely complicated and burdensome. Grades are a contentious matter, but I have no problem with kids being exposed to all of this interesting mathematical thinking in instruction (if a teacher/school desires to go that way – imposing federal or even state standards of instruction is another issue. I’m against it, obviously.), but I think the making a final evaluation in math instruction at the elementary and middle school level dependent on comprehending all of it is idiotic and ultimately not helpful to students, teachers or schools.
(Which is one more reason it is unfortunate that the NCEA does not seem to be backing off from its embrace of Common Core – Catholic education should be in part about the dignity of the individual student and, as much as possible in a classroom environment, enabling individual student learning in ways that are attentive to individual differences and interests, and imposing standards that have evolved from secular interests motivated largely by financial gain stands in opposition to this goal. As I have said before Common Core is a money-making enterprise and, because just remember – no one makes money when teachers are using older, non-revised textbooks and school districts don’t have to pay for consultants and workshops to bring everyone up to speed on constantly evolving pedagogies…sort of like the liturgical music scene, amIright?)
If you ever feel tired…read her story.
If you ever wonder how the Church can “go to the margins” …read her story.
If you are under the impression that before the last couple of years Catholics were unaware of the missionary call of Christ and spent their lives closed up in fortresses….read her story.
Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on St. Frances Cabrini from my Loyola Kids’ Book of Saints. To reiterate – it’s an excerpt. There’s more at the beginning at the end to relate her story to a younger child’s life. It’s in a section called,“Saints are People who Travel Far From Home,” along with St. Boniface, St. Peter Claver, St. Francis Xavier and St. Francis Solano.
By the late 1880s, Mother Cabrini became interested in a new problem. Hundreds of thousands of Italians moved to America, seeking a way out of the poverty of their new land. Very few of these immigrants were successful right away. Most lived in worse poverty than they’d endured back in Italy. They lived in crowded and dirty apartments, lived on scraps, and were unable to find work. Sad stories traveled back to the home country, right to Mother Cabrini. So Mother Cabrini set out on the long trip to America.
Over the next thirty-seven years, Mother Cabrini was constantly on the move, starting schools, orphanages, and hospitals for Italian immigrants, and others in need. In the first few years she traveled between New York, Nicaragua, and New Orleans. After having a dream in which she saw Mary tending to the sick lying in hospital beds, Mother Cabrini started Columbus Hospital in New York City.
After she founded the hospital, Mother Cabrini made trips back to Italy to organize more nuns for work in America. Between these trips, she and some sisters headed south to Argentina. The sisters went by way of Panama and then Lima, Peru. They made the journey by boat, train, mule, and on foot.
Back in the United State, Mother Cabrini traveled constantly taking her sisters to Chicago, Seattle, and Denver. It was in Chicago that Mother Cabrini, at the age of sixty-seven, passed away. She’d begun her work with just a handful of sisters. By the time she died, fifty houses of sisters were teaching, caring for orphans, and running hospitals. Her order had grown to almost a thousand sisters in all.
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