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Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching mathematics

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From: Loyd

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2006022222:28:38
Subject: Re: Standardized testing

When Virginia adopted the Standards of Learning (SOLs) lots of
teachers were disappointed.  But for myself, I thought they were a
great improvement because lots of teachers were not as well trained as
they should be and the standards served as a guide. 

It takes awhile for one to get acquainted with the language of
standards.  The standards are often complex when you first read them
because they are written in a style that makes it a little difficult
to know exactly what they are talking about.  

If I was a new teacher in Virginia I would go to the Virginia
department of education web site and read the Standards and at the
same time study some of the released tests.  With a little study, you
can probably see, for the most part, what they want you to teach.

But for most of my teaching experience there were no well documented
standards.  So, it was almost necessary for one to have a math degree
or for the lower grades at least a few hours or a minor in math. 

My first teacher taught all 8 grades and he was very good with
elementary math.  But some of the other teachers I have had knew how
to add, subtract and divide but not much more.  There emphasis was of
course on speed adding and speed subtracting etc.  Less emphasis on
fractions, number theory etc.    

So, in the long run, standards are worth it to me and what they are
trying to teach, matches fairly well what I was taught in college.   

Since retiring, I have taught adults in GED classes, and children and
teenagers from kindergarten to high school in two different training
centers.  I have, just for drill, downloaded most of the Virginia
released tests just to see what they are trying to teach.  I think
they are well written.

But for a new teacher, you don't always have time to prepare before
school starts and with your daily load, it is not easy.  So, if you
can get the time, go to google and find the Virginia web site and look
for SOLs; they should give you an idea of what Virginia wants and I
can almost certify that is what most schools want.  

One problem is that a student who started in another state that didn't
have standards and enters in Virginia in the fifth grade, he/she may
not have the background to keep up with the other kids.  Success in VA
fifth grade depends on the kindergarten, first, 2nd, 3rd teachers
providing the basics.  If not, the student will have trouble
understanding fifth grade work.  So, if you are a fifth grade teacher
you my have to do some re-teaching.  

If you are teaching 4th grade, you should look at fifth grade
requirements just to see if your material will prepare them for fifth

One thing I noticed when I taught GED adult classes, is that most of
them who needed help, never got to the back of the book when they were
in school.  Much of the material they were poor in is what I call
"Back of the Book" such as perimeter, area, volume etc.  There
teachers never got that far in their books.  

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