I like John's description of "busywork with some math" and your post was very thoughtful. I was fortunate enough in math to have teachers that looked for math before staples. Though my calculus teacher was somewhat a staples and then the math kind of teacher, but not like what you describe. Mostly red ink but not (many) lost points. At my son's school, when I see this, it is usually because the teachers are not very good at math to begin with. I am not saying they are bad teachers, actually they are very dedicated teachers. But they would not understand the significance of what you just wrote.
This has been very enlightening (to me). Besides John's great description (better than my "Absurd!"), you real capture a common frustration in this line...
"Now I constantly fight her attitude of looking for what she should do on paper to please the teacher for the grade, vs. being interested in actually learning something."
Unfortunately, this is a common instinct, even when the curriculum is solid. We really rely on the teachers to discourage this and some do as best they can. I think parents make a big difference in this aspect and it does not help us when the teacher explicitly encourages what should be discouraged.
On Mar 17, 2011, at 3:26 AM, "Julie Living Math" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Busywork projects are common enough unfortunately in my daughter's class. > The last one was a Pi Day project. It could have been a decent project but > the grading was far more geared toward dotting i's and crossing t's, so > there was no learning. > > The grading has so much to do with how students approach a project. She had > a scaling project a couple months ago. She was docked points because she did > her measurements including fractions, so when she converted the scale, she > had long decimal numbers that she rounded off one place too short; never > mind the fact that I had her do the project in such a way that she actually > learned something, and it should have been obvious to the teacher that real, > substantive work was put into it above and beyond what was required. Had she > used sloppy, rounded measurements, the conversions would have been simple > and she wouldn't have been docked, so her reality is that being thorough > cost her a grade, and this isn't the first time. This is the same teacher > that just marked a diligently completed, carefully labeled homework > assignment down a full 25% for the sole reason she stapled two sections > separately and turned them in, rather than staple the two sections together. > She's paranoid now about how she labels, formats and packages her homework > because the cost of a tiny misstep is so steep. When she had a stock market > project, she had a great deal of anxiety about whether she could generate > her graphs in Excel vs. hand draw them, because it wasn't stated on the > rubric. I knew she learned more by generating them in Excel, shoot, she's > been graphing for years, but would the teacher agree, or dock her 25% for > being creative? So what does she do? She does them both ways hoping that she > wouldn't be docked for doing too much work. > > Now I constantly fight her attitude of looking for what she should do on > paper to please the teacher for the grade, vs. being interested in actually > learning something. My son has figuratively had his "knuckles rapped" for > calculating the areas of polygons using a couple basic equations and logic > vs. memorizing dozens of separate equations for each and every polygon. I > mean really, teaching that A=bh is the formula for rectangles, and A=s^2 is > the formula for squares? This is what my daughter is being taught now, and > she is terrified of getting a grade knocked down if she recognizes that the > A=bh formula works for a square as well, or if she recognizes that all you > do for a trapezoid is average the bases and you're back to base times > height, oh no, she has to know the official formula in the proper format. > This also occurred in her chapters on percents, discounts and interest - > they were treated like two totally different subjects, when they use exactly > the same kind of thinking and process. She begins to lose the ability to > recognize basic underlying concepts in a sea of terms and formulas to > memorize. When my son used his logic vs. rote memory, the fact he didn't > write out all the formulas cost him a grade. By the end of last school year > he was trained to memorize and not think about why things work, and with it, > he lost all interest in math. What a shame. > > I am quite happy with the school's English, history and science classes, my > daughter is learning heaps. I just have to work very heavily with her every > week to try and reverse the mindset from her time in math classes to try to > protect her from my son's experience. > > Julie Brennan > >
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