Sunday, January 14, 2018

CLIME Renaissance in 2018?

Figure 1 - NCTM Conference, 1995
Demise of Coalition of Essential Schools (CES)
In a recent blog, Larry Cuban writes about the demise of Ted Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools. In it he asks this question:
Is this a story of a reform birthed in one educational crisis dying during a later one? Or is it a story of a reform centered on one person who, over time, built an organization that lost ideas and energy while failing to generate sufficient funds after the founder left? Or is it a time-tested story of a reform that succeeded by spreading its progressive gospel far and wide appearing in many other policies, programs, and places?
Demise of CLIME?
After 30 years of participation in CLIME (Council for Technology in Math Education - an affiliate of NCTM) I’ve decided to step down and offer an opportunity for another individual to take the helm of an organization that has played a significant role over the years in keeping technology on the front burner of NCTM’s vision for quality mathematics education.

Like CES but on a smaller stage CLIME had some significant high points:

1. In the beginning there was Logo.
Seymour Papert was an inspiration for many math educators who believed that his Logo program and philosophy could make a huge difference in math education. An “after hours” meeting at the 1986 Washington NCTM conference resulted in the formation of a committee (of which I was a member) that eventually became that affiliate of NCTM in 1988.

2. The membership grew over the years.
In 1995 at CLIME’s annual “after hours” session (similar but on smaller scale to Dan Meyer’s Shadowcon) CLIME invited Seymour Papert to speak. Over a hundred educators attended the event anticipating Seymour’s talk. Unfortunately at the last minute Seymour was not able to attend, but the rest of the agenda (figure 1) went on as scheduled. An interesting side note is that as far as I know Seymour was never invited to speak at a NCTM function. What alarmed NCTM board directors was that he was critical of NCTM’s approach to reform. Judge for yourself. Here’s what he had to say in 2000.
I think they [the Standards] are going in the right direction but they are incredibly conservative, from my point of view. But again, I’d make reservation that if one has to work within the framework for schools as they are and curriculum as it is, maybe there isn’t very much room for making radical change. One of the ways in which the council is conservative is that it does not make full use of a computer-based construction of learning. I think the would have done much better if they had originally integrated Logo* in their proposals. But there is no question that an imaginative Logo-using teacher wants to follow these Standards can do it better with Logo.” - Seymour Papert**
3. In 1996 The CLIME newsletter went electronic and was named CLIME Connections. 
A Website was considered at Clime's 10th anniversary Meeting in San Diego. The remarkable story of Daryl Stermon's Internet trailer intervention at the annual NCTM meeting that year is definitely worth a read. (I was there. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures.)

4. In 2012 we made a significant difference with NCTM.
See the late Mark Workman’s letter to CLIME which acknowledged our contributions. For more details see my blog which acknowledges our resolution for improving how technology can be more effectively showcased at NCTM conferences.

5. In 2015 was there a paradigm shift?
A comparison of CLIME's after hours sessions and Shadowcon. link

At that time (2015) I was hopeful that more meaningful changes were coming to NCTM. However I was dismayed by two recent actions promoted by the current president of NCTM. First, there was the president’s post "Mathematics IS STEM Education." This was an indication to me that things at NCTM would be “business as usual” in a situation where the majority of students who are bored with math will continue to have to suffer that condition at least until a president shows up who doesn’t just toe the conventional wisdom, but also encourages creative and, yes, radical approaches to math curriculum reform in the spirit of Seymour Papert.

The second event is the highly anticipated rolling out of the book "Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics: Initiating Critical Conversations." Originally NCTM published a draft of this book for public review. Dan Meyer blogged his comments about it here. Here's a quote from Dan's blog:
NCTM proposes that all students take four years of math in high school. 2.5 of those years will comprise “essential concepts,” taken by every student regardless of career or college aspiration. Students may then take one of two paths through their remaining 1.5 years, one towards calculus, the other towards statistics and other electives.
Electives sound promising for good students who would love to get away from the 4 year "Royal Road to Calculus" path and do something more meaningful in the time they have left in high school. STEM programs which would be excellent alternatives are left out of the discussion. With all due respect, Mr. Larson, Math Education alone is NOT STEM education! For a senior that would do a STEM project that illuminates the mathematics that he has been learning could be a game changer for that student. He may actually see the value of math for the first time since elementary school.

So despite my recent disappointments with the turn of events, I'm an optimist at heart and believe strongly that we still need an organization that will not be afraid to step out of the box and challenge unproductive directions that NCTM likes to follow.  I hope one of you who agrees with me and will step forward and take the mantle of CLIME to the next level whatever that turns out to be. I will continue to be a friend of CLIME (our designation for member). If you are so inclined to lead CLIME into the future, please let me know (ihor@clime.org). Also let me know if you are planning to attend the 30th annual CLIME meeting.

CLIME “After Hours” Meeting in Washington, DC
We will be holding a CLIME get together in Washington to celebrate 30 years of CLIME participation as an affiliate group of NCTM.

Date: Thursday, April 26, 2008
Time: 7:15-8:15 (right after Shadowcon)
Room: Marquis Salon 14 (Marriott Marquis)

Recommendation: The Panel recommends that computer programming be considered as an effective tool, especially for elementary school students, for developing specific mathematics concepts and applications, and mathematical problem-solving abilities. Effects are larger if the computer programming language is designed for learning (e.g., Logo) and if students’ programming is carefully guided by teachers so as to explicitly teach students to achieve specific mathematical goals.
** Here’s an 18 minute clip of Papert talking about middle school math as it was implemented in 2000. Have things changed all that much since? (I think not.)

For a more detailed look at CLIME's story (1986-present) see link.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Catalyzing Change in High School Math

Math and STEM Ed
It’s been a long time since my last blog, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to comment on the new High School initiative that will be available for sale at the Annual NCTM Meeting in Washington next April.

NCTM has a newly drafted, rather optimistic manifesto for high school math teachers titled Catalyzing Change in HS Math which offers an alternative (Option A) path to what I call the Royal Road to Calculus - 4 years of high school math culminating in a year of Calculus (Option B.) Option A includes statistics and other electives in the last year and half of a student’s high school math experience.

Option B is a given for those students that have the mindset to persevere in math. Jo Boaler in Mathematical Mindsets writes that that doesn’t mean these students will necessarily experience the joy, wonder and beauty that math learning can bring to those who learn math intrinsically.  But these eager beaver students will persevere and get the grades they want. But what did they learn and what will they remember? (1) In option A NCTM proposes 2.5 years on the road to Calculus, then a choice: statistics and/or other electives like quantitative literacy, discrete mathematics, financial mathematics, mathematics in the fine arts, and history of mathematics. I was amazed that STEM pursuits were not included. But that’s not surprising after president Matt Larson claimed in his monthly message that "Math Education Is STEM Education" which I disagree with. See my comments following Matt’s message.

CLIME “After Hours” Meeting in Washington, DC
We will be holding a CLIME get together in Washington to celebrate 30 years of CLIME participation as an affiliate group of NCTM.

Date: April 26, 2008
Time: 7:15-8:15 (right after Shadowcon)
Room: Marquis Salon 14 (Marriott Marquis)

(1) For a good review of Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets, read Mathematical Mindsets and Easy Fixes by Dylan Kane.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

CLIME Updates

Next April, 2018 CLIME will be celebrating its 30th anniversary and I will be stepping down as president and I look forward to have someone step forward to take my place to continue to lobby NCTM to promote powerful uses of technology in math education.

Technology is our best hope to break the cycle of continued failure particularly with our underachieving students. What it will take is something similar to an Apollo-like project that Keith Devlin encourages where motivation via video games play a central role in math learning.

Please let me know (ihor@clime.org) if you are interested in leading CLIME to next level wherever that goes. I will continue to play a support role (e.g. supporting the CLIME blog).

We will be holding a CLIME get together in Washington to celebrate the 30 years of CLIME participation as an affiliate group of NCTM. More details will follow.
https://www.theglobalmathproject.org

CLIME Connections (Issue No. 217)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Breaking News: NCTM splits with Math Forum

"At its July meeting, the NCTM Board of Directors decided that effective January 1, 2018, in order to create synergies on staff and among volunteers and reduce expenses, that all full-time NCTM employees would be located in the Reston, Virginia office. The decision to consolidate all NCTM staff in Reston was not purely a financial one, but was made for other business reasons as well, including the potential positive energy The Math Forum staff could have brought to the focused work of the departments at NCTM headquarters in Reston. Math Forum staff elected not to continue their employment with NCTM. The Board of Directors is very disappointed in this outcome, but NCTM is pleased to have been able to extend the Math Forum’s existence after Drexel ended their relationship with The Math Forum. We thank each and every member of the Math Forum for their commitment to mathematics education and hope each of them reconsiders their decision to leave NCTM." (Read entire post written by Matt Larson & Robert Berry.) Also, read this Twitter post.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Designing Curriculum that Students Would Love

Over the past twenty-five years, we have learned that standards alone—no matter their origins, authorship, or the process by which they are developed—will not realize the goal of high levels of mathematical understanding by all students. More is needed than standards. For that reason, NCTM has developed Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, the next in its line of landmark publications guiding mathematics education into the future.
-Principals to Actions (preface)
As I review the NCTM Orlando conference list of sessions (details in my next blog), I’m reminded again that technology plays a "secondary" role in the scheme of all things NCTM. The main thrust is teaching and learning - mostly without technology. Principles to Actions (PTA) devotes 53 pages to T & L with very little mention of technology. Technology and Tools (which include manipulatives) gets 11 pages of cover. But there is very little to offer in the way of examples of how technology plays a role in teaching and learning. As in your typical standards the details of how best to use technology is left to the teacher. I was promised that the new NCTM’s Taking Action series would show how to implement effective math teaching practices. I got a copy of Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices (Grades 6-8) hoping that there would be good examples of using technology in the classroom. But alas it’s a rehash of  PTA with very few ideas about using technology in the classroom.

What makes this all depressing is that math achievement has not changed much since forever. So what would make a major difference?  If only the curriculum was designed with children’s interests in mind. A few textbooks have made an effort in this direction. Harold Jacobs' books and EDC’s Transition to Algebra come to mind, but they are in the minority. Textbooks should be books that children actually want to read and technology is the best platform to make that happen. Lessons should include games, puzzles, challenges and projects that will excite students. They should be in the mainstream if we ever want to engage students in math in a powerful way. This won’t happen as long as math education remains in the custody of most textbook companies that are unwilling to experiment (take risks) with their products.
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Next April CLIME will be celebrating its 30th anniversary and I will be stepping down as president and hope that someone will take my place to continue to lobby NCTM to promote powerful uses of technology in math education. Technology is our best hope to break the cycle of continued failure particularly with our underachieving students. What it will take is something similar to an Apollo-like project that Keith Devlin encourages where motivation via video games play a central role in math learning.

Please let me know if you are interested in leading CLIME to next level wherever that goes. I will continue to play a support role (e.g. supporting the CLIME blog).

We will be holding a CLIME get together in Washington to celebrate the 30 years of CLIME participation as an affiliate group of NCTM. More details will follow.
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CLIME Blog #215


Thursday, September 7, 2017

The World's Greatest Collaborative Project: Replicating Eratosthenes' Measurement

Measuring shadows in Passic, NJ (2006)
Back in 2010 John Burk wrote about this measurement in his blog:
"I’ve wanted to do this experiment ever since I was a sophomore in high school, and heard of how Eratosthenes was able to measure the circumference of the earth just by looking down a well in a couple of towns in Egypt 2000 years ago. A few years ago, when I was at a boarding school, I even got up on stage and challenged the students to come with me to measure the earth with a stick, but somehow, I never followed through. This year, I had the equinox marked on my calendar, and contacted my reliable, physics partner in crime, Frank Noschese. [...] We thought it would be great to give skype a shot, and try reproduce the Eratosthenes measurement between our two classrooms." (Read John’s entire blog.)
I too was inspired to recreate the measurement way back in 1972. Here’s what I wrote about it iin my book “The Wannado Curriculum” starting on page 100:
"In 1972, I came across an article in an issue of NCTM’s The Mathematics Teacher that described one teacher’s effort to collaborate with another school in an attempt to duplicate the astonishing experiment in which Eratosthenes successfully measured the circumference of the earth from Alexandria, Egypt, in approximately 200 BCE. I was inspired to try the activity with my second-year algebra class. I attempted to involve two schools—one in Michigan and the other in Florida—but sadly, nothing materialized.
Fast forward to 1995. While creeping along the Internet (surfing was in its infancy), I read that a high school mathematics teacher in Illinois was hosting something that she called the Noon Observation Project. It turned out to be a worldwide collaboration among schools that sought to recreate what Eratosthenes had done so long before. Because the experiment required participants to measure shadows at about the same time (when the sun was at its highest point in the sky), “real-time” communication was extremely important."

Fast Forward to today. You too can recreate the measurement! It's a great way to kick off the school year with your students. The easiest way to do this is to participate in the World Wide Noon Day Observation Project starting this week.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tech Use in Math Classes Continues to be Minimal

This year's edition of the "Technology Counts" survey from Education Week found 74% of eighth-grade math students "never or hardly ever" use computers in class, and just 1% of students say they use computers in math class daily, according to EdTech: Focus on K-12. (more)

While the percentage of students who use a computer in math class at least once every few weeks has been steadily increasing over the past few years, 74 percent of eighth-grade math students report they never or hardly ever use computers in class. (more)

Every once in a while I come across articles like this that remind me that we still have a long way to go in order to get school districts to get their teachers to use computers in teaching math. When teachers are asked why they don't, they usually come up with at least one of these reasons:
  • Lack of of necessary equipment and/or software
  • Not enough teacher training
  • Preperation for testing doesn't allow for time to "explore" with computers
And thus the beat continues.

I recently got a copy of NCTM's Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices for Grades 6-8 hoping to see how the guiding principle of "technology as a tool" would be highlighted especially in this grade band where using technology can be so effective. But alas there was almost no mention of technology until the last chapter (which has the same name as the title of the book). There they indicated that technology should be used appropriately. Even in the video vignettes there were no computers involved only graphing calculators mostly sitting on tables and not used by the students. Clearly the focus of Taking Action (6-8) is about effective mathematics teaching practices without computers.

I can see value for using this book with teachers involved in lesson study or at the university level. I don't think very many teachers will use it as a guide for teaching because it's too much like a textbook for teachers learning how to teach math. Anyone agree or disagree with me? Let's have a "conversation" at #climetech.