February 15, 2007

TERC causing trouble in Ohio

(cross posted at KTM II)

School district adopts TERC, problems ensue.

Students start having problems doing simple calculations:

Debate over a controversial math program in Dublin has been multiplied by test results showing that middle-school students there are struggling to divide.

For example, only 29 percent correctly divided 651 by 14 on a test the district administered in December. (The answer is 46.5.)

The district’s 3,000 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders were tested on multiple-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Several questions assessed students’ understanding of fractions, percentages and decimals.

On four of the 11 questions, at least half of the students got them wrong. Students did not receive a grade.

Remediation becomes necessary:

Each of Dublin’s four middle schools is implementing an emergency plan to tutor students this school year. Some will take up to 20 minutes of class time to review basic computation. Others will give algebra students extra homework in division.

Parents hire math tutors:

Some Dublin parents said they have spent hundreds on tutoring services.

Local Kumon centers see enrollment increases:

Abha Jindal, director of Kumon tutoring center on Riverside Drive, said more Dublin children have been coming for help in the past couple of years.

"They don’t know how to multiply or divide," she said.

Administrators start making excuses:

George Viebranz, executive director of the Ohio Mathematics and Science Coalition, said it takes time for the benefits of reform math to materialize.

Decades, apparently.

Blame somebody, like the hapless teachers:

"The challenge we face is the teachers, who are key to the success of the program, are products of the system we are trying to change," he said. "There’s a very strong element of professional development that would have to occur over a number of years."

Should have thought of that before implementing the new program.

Curriculum developer tacitly admits it was wrong:

Ken Mayer, a spokesman for the developer of Investigations, said the second edition of the program puts more emphasis on teaching standard algorithms, the traditional ways of solving math problems. That edition has just been released.

And, resorts to spouting cliches:

He said Investigations improves on the traditional "drill and kill" model, because that method leaves students ill equipped for real-world situations.

"A mechanical procedure can be obscure when they have to apply their knowledge to more and more difficult problems," he said. "(Knowing) when they should be adding, multiplying, that’s when they get in trouble."
A mechanical procedure can also be obscure when it has only been superficially taught. And, students being able to "apply their knowledge to more and more difficult problems" invariably requires the application of some procedure, preferably one that has been taught to mastery.

The article alleges that more recent cohorts score better on achievement tests in the lower grades. I'd like to see those tests.


TurbineGuy said...

I think the more recent scores they are talking about are here.

Scroll to the bottom of the document to see the results.

I am willing to bet that their 3rd and 4th grade teachers are going outside the curriculum to teach multiplication facts to mastery.

Of course knowing multiplication facts doesn't mean the kids will learn how to perform the standard multiplication and division algorythm's which are normally taught in 4th and 5th grade.

MikeZ said...

As long as the little darlings feel good about themselves, what difference does it make?