Friday, November 12, 2010

How Einstein Started Solving Its Math Problem

I have long believed that too many teachers teach kids math formulas instead of basic concepts.

Why do they do that? Because they don't understand math concepts! Over the years I heard quite a few of my fellow elementary school teachers complaining about how they couldn't do the sixth grade math that their own children were doing. Actually, the teachers were bragging more than complaining. Rather than studying their child's math book, the cool teachers bonded over the incomprehensibility of the problems. They seemed to think the curriculum should be made easier. But sixth-grade math wasn't where the problem began. A teacher once stood up in a staff meeting in Chula Vista and declared that no one on the staff could pass the the test she had just given to her fourth grade class. Well, I think that is a statement that should be tested. Teachers should be held accountable for their ability to understand basic math concepts. We don't need to spend millions on standardized tests. Why don't principals simply hand out math tests once a year to teachers, and grade the tests themselves?

How San Diego Unified's Math Scores Suffer

November 16, 2010
by Emily Alpert

I wrote last week about how Einstein Academy and its sister middle school boosted algebra scores by changing how math is taught earlier on.

Before it figured out what to do, though, the charter school noticed a familiar pattern: Its algebra scores on state tests were surprisingly low compared to its stellar scores in elementary school math. A similar pattern exists throughout San Diego Unified schools:

How Einstein Started Solving Its Math Problem
November 11, 2010
by Emily Alpert

The math scores at Einstein Academy didn't add up. Kids aced math in the younger grades at the South Park school, a respected charter with enviable test scores.

Yet when they hit algebra, their scores plummeted. Three years ago, just 9 percent of eighth graders in its sister middle school were proficient in algebra on state tests — even kids who seemed to be math whizzes before.

Instead of jumping on algebra and assuming that something was amiss in eighth grade, Einstein stepped back and examined its whole math curriculum from kindergarten up.

What it found was surprising. The problem started much earlier than eighth grade, back when kids were acing math. Einstein's students were developing too many shortcuts and not enough understanding. While that had worked in the short term, it ultimately shortchanged kids.

To tackle the problem, Einstein revamped its whole approach to teaching math last year. Its algebra scores have already jumped, a case study for hundreds of other San Diego County schools struggling with the same problem...

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