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Topic: Other Issues for Grades 4 and 5
Replies: 131   Last Post: Oct 25, 2006 7:55 PM

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Cynthia Garland-Dore

Posts: 68
Registered: 12/3/04
Investigations: An Extremely Weak Math Program
Posted: Aug 25, 2002 2:43 PM
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Mark:

I appreciate your parental concerns. It's very important for parents
to have a strong connection to what their children are learning in
school. I wonder if some of the issues you brought up are with your
fifth grade son's experience and not specifically with the
mathematical experiences in the Investigations program. The issues you
brought up are worth discussing so other parents and students don't
have similar experiences.

I will try to respond to your concerns from my personal experiences
working with K-5 teachers using Investigations for the past 7 years.

On Fri Aug 23 16:44:30 2002, Mark wrote Re. Investigations: An
Extremely Weak Math Program:

>As a parent of a fifth grader, I feel compelled to include my
>feelings/concerns regarding the Investigatons program. As a former
>fifth grade teacher, I share the following concerns:
>
>1. There is a definite lack of a home/school connection. So many
>times, my son has brought homework home where it was nearly

impossible
>to give him help. A general lack of focus and instruction within the
>homework is, I believe, to blame.
>

I know it's very frustrating to try to help your child and not
completely understand what the teacher wants. Is this the first year
your son experienced Investigations? I ask, because parents often find
that the homework looks different some times to traditional textbook
homework when the program is newly introduced. Did your child's
teacher send any letters home about the math being taught or about the
activities sent home? Did you attempt to communicate in any way with
your son's teachers about your frustration?

A number of schools I've worked with have scheduled multiple parent
sessions so parents could learn more about the math their children are
experiencing -- especially the development of number sense and
computation strategies. They discuss the homework and how parents can
help their students.

>2. There are absolutely no previsions for students who may be absent
>and miss instruction or group work. The program is like a freight
>train and it just keeps on moving on. On a couple of occasions, this
>presented an extremely difficult problem for my son.
>

I am sorry your son was put in an awkward position. What do you think
could have helped him? What did the teacher do to help your son? No
child should feel like he or she is left behind.

It's difficult with any program for students to catch up if they miss
a week or more of instruction. It's true that the class experiences
students missed when absent can not always be duplicated. However, my
expectation would be that all children would have opportunities to
learn what they missed in other settings -- through choice time, small
group experiences, teacher / student conference, peer collaboration,
etc.

My experience in classrooms has been that students who miss one or two
days have very little difficulty staying up with what's going on. Part
of the reason for this I think is that the teachers established the
student expectations. Students were encouraged to ask for help if they
didn't understand. Students were encouraged to ask questions and help
each other if they didn't understand. The teachers were actively
engaged in what's going when the students worked in groups. If it
seemed like there were misunderstandings or more time was needed to
understand a concept, the teachers would do it.


>3. There is a definite lack of on-going assessment with little or no
>accountability as recommended by NCTM.


Investigations is full of assessment and accountability opportunities.
There are several embedded assessments in each unit. In addition,
there are additional assessments for each Investigation teachers can
use (in a resource called Assessment Source Books). There are
checkpoints throughout the units for teachers to assess how the class
as a whole or individual students are doing.

Did your son's teachers share how he was being assessed with you? What
would have been helpful to you as a parent for the teachers to
communicate to you? How would you have liked the information reported
to you? I think your suggestions might help teachers think about ways
to better communicate to parents the mathematical ideas students are
studying and how it's being assessed.

Please take a look at the following Ask the Author article by Megan
Murray. She describes the Investigations assessment opportunities in
detail.

Where is the assessment in Investigations?
http://www.lab.brown.edu/investigations/author/q22.html


>
>4. As I have studied the NCTM standards, these standards call for
>students to become proficient in basic facts and algorithims. For
>some, if not many students, this takes practice and memorization. I
>am not, and never have been, a proponent of "drill and kill", but a
>certain amount of practice IS ESSENTIAL!


I completely agree with you. Students must be proficient in basic
mathematical ideas and computation facts. They must be able to think
about a what a problem is asking, decide how to solve it in an
efficient, fluent and accurate manner. They need to be able to know if an answer
is reasonable. Investigations does give opportunities for students to
practice computation in meaningful contexts. Students do learn basic
facts and computational ideas.

I think the following articles would really help you understand what
is being taught through the Investigations experiences.

Developing Computational Fluency with Whole Numbers in the Elementary
Grades
Susan Jo Russell
http://www.terc.edu/investigations/relevant/html/CompFluency.html

Do students learn computational algorithms in Investigations?
http://www.lab.brown.edu/investigations/author/q11.html

The Investigations Curriculum and Children's Understanding of Whole
Number Operations
Jan Mokros
http://www.lab.brown.edu/investigations/resources/studresults/iccuwno.html

Parrot Math
Tom O'Brien
http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kobr9902.htm

>
>5. Have we all forgotten that in California, the Department of
>Education called for a special math adoption to rid the state of
>constructivist math - ALL DUE TO FALLING TEST SCORES!


Your statement is not completely accurate. I live in CA and have
followed the math adoption developments over the past 15 years. It's
true that the CA State Department has shifted the focus of state
standards and criteria for state adopted programs to a direct
instruction focus. Constructivist mathematics has never been the
dominant approach to mathematics in the CA classrooms. So if test
scores are going down, it's not because of an influence of
constructivist mathematics programs.

The following articles will give you some background on what has been
going on in CA:

The Politics of California School Mathematics: The Anti-Reform of
1997-99
By Jerry P. Becker and Bill Jacob
http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kbec0003.htm


The Mathematical Miseducation Of America's Youth
By Michael T. Battista
http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kbat9902.htm









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