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.
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.
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.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Remembering Sharon Dugdale & Don Cohen

Sharon Dugdale & Don Cohen
I've been amiss in not sharing earlier the passing of two wonderful educators (here and here) both of whom were influential in my thinking about teaching math (Don) and using technology (Sharon) to empower my students.  In the 1970's both Sharon and Don worked with Plato an early prototype of a computer-assisted instruction system that ran educational software. Don shared an example of software that was a part of the Madison Math curriculum with me at a conference in 1977. Sharon worked earlier on the Plato system to develop a fractions curriculum (including Darts and Green Globs - 2 of my all time favorites) which are still available today. Don went on to work with students (ages 3 to 73) for 38 years teaching them a variety of math topics including Calculus for 4th graders. My condolences to both their families.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Top Education Researchers Jump Ship to Join Digital Promise

Dr. Jeremy Roschelle and Dr. Barbara Means
"Education research is about to pick up its clock speed.

When people talk about the “gold standard” of research, the name SRI International often comes up. Now they will have to add Digital Promise to that list.

Nonprofit Digital Promise said today that two of education’s leading researchers, Dr. Barbara Means and Dr. Jeremy Roschelle, who had co-directed the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI, are joining Digital Promise. Means and Roschelle plan to create a new research center at Digital Promise that will help scientists look for ways to better tie research to practice in the classroom."

So begins the article (title of this post) about two outstanding researchers in the area of technology and education. Jeremy has been a long time friend of CLIME and his research in technology and math have forwarded CLIME's thinking in how technology can be used effectively in the math classroom. Their new plans at Digital Promise sound exciting and we at CLIME look forward to following their progress. Here's the link to the article noted in the title. Also a link to some of their their planned work at Digital Promise.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

ALC brings Equity & Advocacy to the Forefront

Figure 1.
I attended the ALC (Affiliates Leadership Conference) last week in Baltimore where the theme was “Intent to Impact: Addressing Access, Equity, and Advocacy in your Affiliate” (1).  One of the goals of the conference was for each affiliate to come up with a game plan to forward the action on this theme in their affiliate group. CLIME had already considered what to do about contributing to NCTM's advocacy positions (2) on this topic. CLIME will collect stories about how districts are making sure that ALL their students have access to computer devices and appropriate resources to ensure powerful learning. This will hopefully contribute to inspiring districts to pursue the vision of liberation (see figure 1) in the way they structure their school environments and curriculum.

Our first story is about Kerease Epps "Using Math To Multiply Access For All Students" a blogpost on the LEE (Leadership for Educational Equality) website.

Chicago native Kerease Epps (TFA Detroit ’13) knew growing up that the system she was a part of as a Chicago Public Schools student wasn’t one that gave all students a fair chance. Now as a recruitment manager for an education nonprofit dedicated to closing the achievement gap in mathematics, she’s working to ensure that students get the support they need to succeed.

Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?
I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago and attended Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for my entire academic career prior to college. (more)

For more stories about math, technology and minorities see link.


(1) Affiliates are organized by geographic area or a specific topic in mathematics education. The topical groups - 11 in all - are called Affiliates-at-Large. CLIME with their focus on technology is an affiliate-at-large group. (See the directory of all affiliate groups.)

(2) Access, Equity and Empowerment: Advance knowledge about, and infuse in every aspect of mathematics education a culture of equity where each and every person has access to and is empowered by the opportunities mathematics affords.
Advocacy: Engage in public and political advocacy to focus policymakers and decision makers on improving learning and teaching mathematics.
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment: Provide guidance and resources for developing and implementing mathematics curriculum, instruction and assessment that are coherent, focused well articulated and consistent with research in the field, and focused on increasing student learning.
Professional development: Provide professional development to all stakeholders to help ensure each and every student receives the highest quality mathematics education.
Research: Ensure that sound research in integrated into all activities of the Council.
Technology: Promote strategic use of technology to advance mathematical reasoning, sense making, problem solving and communication.

(Approved by the NCTM board of Directors, October 20, 2012.)