Mary and all, One of my colleagues just this past week was suggesting that TI come out with a new calculator, so that when students type in 3 x 6 or 2 + 8, the answer is "DO IT YOURSELF".
From: "John & Mary Harrison" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "AP Statistics" <email@example.com> Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2012 4:52:26 PM Subject: RE: [ap-stat] Common Core Standards?
Chris is correct that everyone points a finger to an earlier level, but many times there is truth in stereotypes. Many elementary school teachers are supposed to be equally proficient in all areas and while I agree that an early elementary ed teacher should be able to teach arithmetic, it doesn't mean that they enjoy it. Youngsters pick up on that. Then there are the myriad elementary math programs that attempt to teach concepts that are beyond what the child is ready to learn. Teachers are obligated to follow curriculum that too many kids find confusing, parents are unable to follow, and does not allow enough time for fundamentals.
I have an algebra lab (support class) where I have been trying to teach my students the multiplication tables. Why do these students need - I truly mean need - a calculator to add 2 or multiply by 10? They learned 5 different techniques for multiplication, but not any one of them proficiently. Flash cards aren't used anymore. They do not learn standard algorithms so they are at a loss in algebra when working with polynomials. How can they possible factor quadratics when they don't know that 2x6 = 12?
I wish the common core had thought more carefully about what stats concepts can be introduced earlier - for the same reason. Descriptive stats is fine - visual, hands-on descriptions, graphs - those are all easily accessible to a middle school student. But consider how many questions we get every year concerning normal distribution and confidence intervals. Do we really want that "introduced" in algebra 1 or 2? Materials are given to teachers, but they are not given the support they really need. For example, our algebra teachers are told to teach z-scores and normal distribution. ALL their examples are populations - but NEVER is that explained. So, when they create their own materials, they use samples. Is that a big deal? I think so, especially when they use different formulas. I get kids who truly believe that everything is normal and that you can determine percentile rankings in a list of 8 numbers. One of our teachers thought that the tick marks on the graph of the normal curve on the TI were the standard deviations - regardless of the window settings. Too many times they present important ideas as just a series of buttons to push on the calculator. On this list a lot of space is devoted to interpretations, linkage, careful writing. Will the alg 1 and 2 teacher have time for that in the stats unit and still be able to cover the rest of the curriculum? I don't think so.
More importantly, too many times these stats concepts are "stand alone" chapters. They are not connected to anything - with the possible exception of modeling - but that is often taught as science does - choose the model with the highest r value. NO wonder teachers leave it out. Unless it is on the state mandated end of course tests - and it is in VA - they feel justified in spending more time on factoring or logs or almost anything else that IS connected to the rest of the curriculum.
Why are we still doing the "mile wide and inch deep" approach to math? I really enjoy stats. As Benjamin says in his TED talk - if everyone understood stats, we might not be in our current economic mess. I just am not convinced that this is the right way to do it.
On the up side, I suppose that tells me what the focus of next year's vertical team meetings should be.
Mary Harrison Salem High School Va. Beach, Va.
-- Sally Miller T.C. Williams High School Alexandria, VA