Reading Log.

Here are my annotations for “What’s Math Got to do With It?”

September 27: read “What’s Math Got to Do with It?” Intro and Ch. 1; Americans might claim they hate math, but they are referring to what they disliked in school. They actually practice math in the world while they decorate their rooms or play sodoku. The workplace needs more workers to be problem solvers, not just people who follow formulas and calculations. Knowledge is transitory, but problem solving is gold.

October 2: “What’s Math Got To Do With It?” Ch. 2 What’s Going Wrong in Classrooms? Math isn’t changing. It is being kept with the same structure that may not be conducive to proper learning for all students in the classroom. The main focus is on curriculum which forces information to be taught quickly and doesn’t allow for the students to interact with material in a way that will stick in their brain. Traditional and Reform methods were talked about. Both taught the same material, but reform allows the material to be more meaningful to students. Students are gradually introduced to topics in the reform book which is very important. They are taught to discuss their thoughts which helps aid learning and understanding. Learning math requires a thought process. When students try to memorize they find it extremely hard and frustrating. Most students want to understand what they are learning. Young people are naturally curious. Students also shouldn’t work in silence. Being able to share what you know instead of just listening, reinsures that you are understanding material. Real life applications are important too. If a student isn’t interested in why someone has hundreds of apples, it’s not going to mean as much to them. Schools should develop flexible thinkers who can draw from a variety of principles when solving problems.

October 11: read “What’s Math Got to do With It?” Ch. 3 A Vision for a Better Future. Communicative approach to mathematics: using multiple representations to show how math could be communicates through words, diagrams, tables, symbols, objects, and graphs. Students are asked to explain work to each other while they are in class. Math isn’t just a set of rules, it’s a form of communication—a language. Classrooms are organized in groups and students are to help each other as they work. Other peoples strengths help out the weaknesses—smart and dumb aren’t useful terms anymore. Everyone has something unique to bring to the table. Project-Based approach: problems were set up to require the use of mathematics, but there wasn’t traditional classroom teaching. Instead the students could pick from a variety of projects and encouraged to make their own choices as far as executing it. The teacher gives valuable information to aid the students without setting it up like a lesson. The projects are a discussion between a group and they rely on each other to solve problems cognitively, not just with textbooks.

October 16: read “What’s Math Got to do with It?” Ch. 4 Taming the Monster. The testing system in the US is disastrous. Students are over tested. “Standardized testing has swelled and mutated, like a creature in one of those old horror movies, to the point that it now threatens to swallow our schools whole.” Now we can turn toward a new method for testing called “assessment for learning.” Reminds me a lot of SBG’s in class. Math tests in America are narrow and don’t test for thinking, reasoning, or problem solving. They assess only the simple use of procedures, completed under timed conditions. Huge damaging effect on what schools are trying to teach. Standardized tests push anxiety onto students who want to do well, but can’t due to the pressure and insecurities they have about grades and a score. They base their math knowledge off of the test and not what they are actually consuming in class. When students become aware of what they are learning and know they need to prove understanding, they are more likely to ingest information and apply it to their minds. Some methods of self and peer assessment help teach students about the goals of the work and the nature of high quality work. It also is important students can see how they can improve after some diagnostic feedback from teachers and other assessments. “Feedback to learners should focus on what they need to do to improve, rather than on how well they have done, and should avoid comparisons with others.” Good assessments should help students know what they are learning, give them the opportunity to show understanding, show where they are at in learning, and allow for improvement with feedback.

October 25: read “What’s Math Got to do with It?” Ch. 5 Stuck in the Slow Lane. Grouping students based on achievement and ability actually slows down learning. Allowing students to help each other, learn from each other, and to grow together is a way Japan excels at student achievement. Students who would be placed in higher tracks can aid and even learn from students who would be on a lower track. Having them interact won’t bring higher track students down, but will allow for more growth from the lower tracks. Tracking decisions made by middle school teachers can affect how far students will be able to go in high school with their math classes. A lower track middle schooler may never have the chance to take Calculus because they are behind. Mixed-ability grouping gives an opportunity to learn, shows student differences and provides more student resources by grouping students to help each other. It also allows for more respect among students instead of the separated groups ostracizing the others for being smart or dumb.

November 1: read “What’s Math Got to do with It?” Ch. 6 Paying the Price for Sugar and Spice. Girls wanted more answers as to why they were doing certain mathematical methods, without the chance to fill those burning questions, the girls scored lower on national tests. Just getting the answer wasn’t enough, they wanted the more hypothetical and reasons behind the math. Boys seemed to be okay with accepting one answer and leaving math concrete. The girls just wanted more from it. Math should be a place to explore, not just a concrete set of rules. This isn’t that all girls follow the same patterns and similarly boys, but each learner is different. People value different types of knowing. Barriers and stereotypes between men and women are hindering learning in the classroom. Girls should now be considered to have just as much opportunity in math and sciences as boys.

November 8: read “What’s Math Got to do with It?” Ch. 7 Key Strategies and Ways of Working. It’s hard for parents to connect with their children and help them especially if the kids are having a tough time connecting in school. This chapter talked a lot about her research in a San Francisco school when she taught a summer school class. She focused on breaking down barriers for kids who were struggling with math in a traditional classroom. Some just needed an outsider to look at them like they still had a chance, some needed an opportunity to understand what they were learning, others needed to be able to use their ideas and take math beyond the textbook. Some students needed a variety of methods and a discussion to help learn, and she was able to provide this counter traditional classroom to see those students excelling in and beginning to actually like math.

November 15: read “What’s Math Got to do with It?” Ch. 8 Giving Children the Best Mathematical Start. This chapter gave a lot of activities and advice toward pushing children in the right direction with their math lives. The math setting shouldn’t be strenuous or warring but rather inviting and have room for students to explore and achieve. Some fun math books outside of textbooks can contain fun experiments and activities to keep students engaged and excited about new math topics. Students should be allowed to let their own math ideas emerge and feel unrestrained when it comes to exploring the math world. Building blocks, puzzles, and other games that involve rotating pieces or solving how something works encourages spatial awareness. The mind is a muscle, if you don’t use it, it gets weak. Giving children the opportunity to exercise their brains will prepare them for a brighter future. Children should also be encouraged to ask questions.

November 22: read “What’s Math Got to do with It?” Ch. 9 Making a Difference through Work with Schools. Four helpful contact points to bring about improvement are the classroom teacher, the department head, the principal, and the parent teacher association. She sets up structures on how to develop meaningful conversation with these people and how improvements can be made. Providing other mathematical opportunities for your children like mentioned in the previous chapter can help. There are many books and with the internet thousands of other resources to help with teaching math. She lists a ton of books and authors she recommends. We can now look at math as being a positive part of our lives. Let’s take the boredom and fear out of math and replace it with excitement and interest.

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