Why Johnny Can’t Subtract

Many parents and teachers have complained to me that their children can’t subtract.  While most of us managed to get through grade school generally getting subtraction, the whole concept seems to be beyond our children’s abilities.

In the past I’ve blamed Math Investigations and it’s approach to teaching subtraction.  But those complaints have continued this year, even with our new instructional resource.  In fact, the complaints have gotten louder, with many parents upset that Connects moves through material quickly and doesn’t give kids the time to understand and learn procedures.

This pace, which is leading to frustration and a profound lack of understanding, is intentional.  Not because of Connects, but the PWCS Math Department.

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The VA DOE Loves Calculators

The VA DOE loves calculators, because arithmetic is hard and having calculators means teachers don’t have to teach arithmetic and the DOE doesn’t have to test for arithmetic fluency.

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Trust Nothing You Hear from the Education Establishment

When it comes to education we parents have to trust that the teachers and education administrators in our public school systems won’t do anything that will harm our children.  While I think most of our classroom teachers have our children’s best interests at heart, I doubt everything I hear from the education administrators & bureaucrats.

I’m sorry to say that, but I have seen far too much evidence that the education administrators at the local, state, and federal level are corrupt and will willingly and knowingly lie or distort facts, to trust a word they say anymore.  Unfortunately, debunking their lies usually requires a degree of professional skepticism coupled with a willingness to dig into and understand details, something our elected officials are unwilling or unable to do.

The net effect is that the corrupt liars are setting education policy in this county, state, and country and our children are suffering because of it.

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Blame the Teachers, Part (3)

Blame the teachers.  That’s the advice from PWCS for anyone with concerns about the Math program.

I think PWCS is wrong.  I don’t think our teachers are at fault for the problems that continue in our elementary level math program.  I don’t think our elementary level teachers have the autonomy the school division says they do because they have to teach to the test.  Not the SOLs, the CFAs. Read the rest of this entry »

Blame the Teachers, Part (2)

Blame the teachers.  That’s the advice from PWCS for anyone with concerns about the Math program.

During the Math informational presentation at the January 2 2013 school board meeting PWCS staff made a number of statements that I felt deserved a bit more clarification.  This is part (2) of that series.

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Blame the Teachers

Blame the teachers.  That’s the advice from PWCS for anyone with concerns about the Math program.

According to PWCS staff, teachers developed the assessments and have the authority and autonomy to select and use any materials they want in any order no matter what the recommended pacing might suggest.  Teachers can even disavow instructional materials entirely, if they so desire.  Lesson pacing is just a suggestion, not set in stone, and teachers can teach lessons in any order they want based on what they believe will best meet the needs of their diverse community of students.  Our teachers teach the curriculum, not a textbook.

Any concerns or questions anyone has with what’s being taught, the manner in which it’s being taught, the order in which it’s being taught, what’s being tested, or how responses are being graded needs to bring those concerns to the attention of their child’s teacher.  Central office, and the Math Department, exist solely to create learning environments to enhance teacher professional development and student learning.

Got that teachers?  According to PWCS, when it comes to Math, it’s all on you.

If any teachers are feeling like they just got thrown under the bus by PWCS, watch out for the tires, they sting.

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Summer Break & Summer Work

Summer Break

Just a reminder to our readers that we tend to take a break from posting over the summer.  We will return with test score data when scores are released to the public in late July or early August.  Until then, conversations will continue on our facebook page, but articles will not be posted here regularly.

Summer Work

We remind parents of children in grades 3 – 8 that the school system will be implementing a new math program in the Fall.  The school division doesn’t appear to have done any sort of analysis of the gaps between the knowledge expectations of the new program and the Math Investigations based program we’ve been using, nor made any effort to provide instruction to fill those gaps.  As a result, next year will be a challenge for some students as Math Connects, the new program, has different knowledge and work expectations than Math Investigations, the old program.

The biggest challenge will be overcoming the different work expectations.  Our old Math Investigations based program requires students to solve a handful of problems to demonstrate understanding of a concept; Math Connects, our new program, expects students to solve 20 questions as a warm-up.  So be prepared for lots of complaining and whining.

As far as content gaps are concerned: below is a list of topics you may want to ensure your child understands before the school year starts.  These are topics that Math Connects expects students to have learned that Math Investigations doesn’t cover in its core program in the same grade level, if at all.  The list is not all inclusive as I’m sure I’ve missed some topics.  Some teachers have covered these topics, so your child may have already been exposed to or taught them.

Soon to be 3rd Graders

Addition and subtraction facts through 10 + 10 or 20 – 10, to automatic recall (which means they can correctly solve 20 fact equations in 2 minutes).  Pay particular attention to subtraction facts and operations as Investigations doesn’t give subtraction the attention it deserves and many of our students struggle to understand subtraction.

Standard algorithms for addition and subtraction up to or from 999.

Soon to be 4th Graders

Math Facts:  Addition and subtraction facts through 10 + 10 or 20 – 10, to automatic recall.   Multiplication and division facts through 12 x 12 to automatic recall, as required per the VA SOLs.  Automatic recall means 20 fact equations solved correctly in 2 minutes or less.  Students will need to recall both the multiplication AND division facts.

Standard Algorithms for addition and subtraction.

Soon to be 5th Graders

Math Facts:  Addition and subtraction facts through 10 + 10 or 20 – 10, to automatic recall.   Multiplication and division facts through 12 x 12, to automatic recall.  Automatic recall means they can correctly solve 20 fact equations in 2 minutes or less.

Operations with Whole Numbers: Standard Algorithms for addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Standard Algorithm for long division, with a 1 digit divisor and remainder (e.g. 154 divided by 5).

Fractions:  Simplifying or reducing fractions, making fractions similar by finding a common denominator, adding and subtracting fractions with dissimilar denominators by finding a common denominator.   This is basically performing operations with fractions arithmetically, instead of with folded bits of paper or clock faces.

Soon to be 6th Graders

Math Facts: Addition and subtraction facts through 10 + 10 or 20 – 10, to automatic recall.   Multiplication and division facts through 12 x 12, to automatic recall.  Automatic recall means they can correctly solve 20 fact problems in 2 minutes or less.

Operations with Whole Numbers and Decimals:  Standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, and multiplication.  Standard algorithm for long division, with both whole numbers and decimals.

Fractions & Mixed Numbers:  Simplifying or reducing fractions, making fractions similar by finding a common denominator, adding and subtracting fractions with dissimilar denominators by finding a common denominator.   This is basically performing operations with fractions & mixed numbers arithmetically, instead of with folded bits of paper or clock faces.

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