Q&A #1280

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Chicago Math

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From: T

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2009040618:09:29
Subject: I hate Everyday Math

As background, Iím not a professional math teacher, but a tutor at a
tutoring center. The parents here care enough to send their kids to a
place to get help and enrichment, but donít have time to enrich their
kidsí education themselves. The SFUSD, for some reason, just switched
to the UCSMP curriculum this year.

I havenít seen this curriculum being applied to the higher grades, but
Iíd guess itís decent there. The concentration on concepts might be
helpful for effective teaching of advanced mathematics.

My problem is that itís not effective for lower grades. The vast
majority of people are not naturally conceptual, and half of
conceptual people are not naturally good at math, according to
research in psychological types. In other words, most of the 4th-5th
grade kids I deal with are actually looking for step-by-step
instructions for solving particular types of problems. If the kids
donít have the instructions, then it takes me hours to teach each of
them the concepts behind their homework. I dread to imagine what itís
like when you have a class of around 30 students.

The practice of having only a few problems (usually 3-6) every time
you run into a topic means homework is occasionally pathological. In
one recent assignment, the 5th graders first guessed which of 2
fractions was closer to 1/2, and it just so happened that the number
with the bigger denominator was closer. Then they had to explain it,
and I had to force some of them to unlearn the wrong interpretation.
Even if the homework is not pathological, having so few problems makes
every problem into a special case, not effective.

The focus on English is commendable for the potential to make word
problems easier, but the highly conceptual language makes it hard to
teach to children who donít speak English at home. I have to remember
to ask the children what each word means, and teach them the words
they donít understand. It seems odd to teach ďlandmarkĒ when the topic
is statistics.

Thereís also not a smooth transition between older math styles and
Everyday Math. We were just thrown into it, and everybody is sinking.

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