Saturday, March 29, 2014

Nestled in a nondescript area of Paterson, NJ surrounded by aging warehouses and auto repair garages lies Panther Academy a high school I visited last Thursday and was fortunate enough to watch a small group of high school students - budding future scientists and engineers -  recreate an experiment that Eratosthenes did 2200 years. Mr. Salama helped his  students use the shadow angles and some trig functions to come up with the central angle of the earth. The class partnered with a school in Kuantan, Malaysia to get their sun angle. By subtracting Paterson's sun angle  from Kuantan's they determined the angular separation at the center of the earth known as the central angle was 37.2 degrees. They also knew that the Malaysian school was 4130 km away by comparing latitudes.  So they were able to figure out that there were 360 / 37.2 = 9.68 "Kuantan to Paterson distances" that circumnavigated the globe. Making that calculation 9.68 * 4130 = 39,937.1 km the students discovered that their measurement was very close to NASA's listing of the circumference as 40,030.2 km.
 Mr. Salama helps steady the meter stick as the students determine the shadow length.
Shafi Ahsanul gave the summary report.

In May, the class will go on the field trip and use Al-Biruni's method for determining the circumference of the earth. I'm looking forward it.
 Diagram illustrating a method proposed and used by Al-Birunito estimate the radius and circumference of the Earth

Friday, March 28, 2014

Access and Equity in Mathematics Education - Where's the Technology?

This week I received the following email. I want to share it with the CLIME community. Please read and comment. Mine is the first one.
Ihor Charischak

NCTM At-Large Affiliate Presidents:
Over the past two years, NCTM has been working to revise its position statement on equity.  As part of this process, it was suggested that each of you be invited to review and comment on the statement from the perspective of your organization.  The attached statement reflects the work of NCTM Board members and some discussions among the Board.  You are invited to submit your comments for the consideration of the authors and the NCTM Board.  We would appreciate your comments by April 3.

Kind regards,
Ken Krehbiel
Associate Executive Director for Communications
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Access and Equity in Mathematics Education
A Position of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
(Note: Work in Progress - not final version - for review only)

Question
What does creating, supporting and sustaining a culture of access and equity in the teaching and learning of mathematics require?

NCTM Position
Creating, supporting, and sustaining a culture of access and equity requires being responsive to students’ backgrounds, experiences and knowledge when designing, implementing, and assessing the effectiveness of a mathematics program. Acknowledging and addressing factors that contribute to differential outcomes among groups of students is critical to ensuring that all students routinely have opportunities to experience high-quality mathematics instruction, learn challenging mathematics content, and receive the support necessary to be successful. Addressing equity and access includes both ensuring that all students attain mathematics proficiency and increasing the numbers of students from all racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic groups who attain the highest levels of mathematics achievement.

The practices of access and equity include, but are not limited to, high expectations, access to high-quality mathematics curriculum and instruction, adequate time for students to learn, appropriate emphasis on differentiated processes that broaden students’ productive engagement with mathematics, and the strategic use of human and material resources. When access and equity have been addressed well, student outcomes—including achievement on a range of mathematics assessments, disposition toward mathematics, and persistence in the mathematics pipeline—cannot be predicted by students’ racial, ethnic, linguistic, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Achieving equity with respect to student learning outcomes by closing existing learning gaps and increasing opportunities to learn requires that educators at all levels operate with belief that all students can learn, focus on ensuring that all students have access to high-quality instruction, challenging curriculum, exciting extracurricular opportunities and the differentiated supports and enrichment opportunities necessary to support student success at continually increasing levels.

To provide access and equity requires all stakeholders to monitor the extent to which all students have access to challenging mathematics curriculum taught by skilled and effective teachers who differentiate instruction as needed, monitor student progress and make needed accommodations, and offer remediation or additional challenges when appropriate.  To do this effectively, teachers must work collaboratively with others educators, including special education, gifted education, and ELL teachers, to ensure that all students have the support needed to maximize their success in the mathematics classroom. In addition, teachers need to collaborate with colleagues to implement the effective teaching practices to promote a growth mindset in their classrooms and school.

Districts and schools must review policies to ensure that systemic practices are not disadvantaging a particular group of students based on assumed stereotypes. This should include a review of the use and impact of tracking, protocols for student placement in mathematics, regular opportunities for both remediation and enrichment, and student outcomes, including persistence within the PreK-12 mathematics pipeline over time.