Monday, April 14, 2014

David Staples, the Wildrose and their war on teachers and learning

Here is Bruce McAllister and David Staples
 talking with Alberta teachers.
David Staples is a columnist who has an interest in education.

Bruce McAllister is a Wildrose MLA and education critic in the Alberta Legislature.

Together, they are waging war on teachers and learning by demanding that teachers teach in a way that mandates children play a passive role in school. Together, they argue there simply is not enough memorization and tests in school.

Standardized Testing


When the Wildrose and David Staples cite a real world need for annual standardized testing, I ask some questions:
1. As a columnist, can you share the standardized multiple choice test that the Edmonton Journal makes you do to keep you accountable and transparent? As a politician, would you be willing to take Alberta's Diplomas exams and have your results published for all to see?
2. As a columnist, can you share the standardized rubric that the Edmonton Journal uses to score and judge your columns? As a politician can you share the scoring guide that citizens use to score and judge your work?
4. As a columnist or a politician, can you show me the column you wrote or the bill you voted on where you are not allowed access to the Internet, fact-check or talk to anyone? 
5. As a columnist or a politician, if there were no standardized test scores, what would you know about education?
We need to stop thinking we can meet all
children's needs by pretending all children
have the same needs.
It is hypocritical for adults to demand students and teachers be held accountable in ways that they would not hold themselves to.
Standardized testing is what constitutes an amazingly contrived and unrealistic form of assessment that is used by people outside the classroom to judge and control what happens inside the classroom without ever visiting the schools.

Teachers are not afraid of accountability -- but they do oppose being held accountable for things out of their control. Teachers also know that there is nothing transparent about having children fill in bubble-tests.

The best feedback parents can receive about their children's learning is to see their children learning. The best teachers don't need tests because they make learning visible via projects and performances collected in portfolios.

This is a shift from test and punish accountability to more authentic public assurance. The Alberta Teachers' Association also outlines a vision for A Great School for All, and the Alberta Assessment Consortium offers A New Look at Public Assurance.

And here's my story about how I teach and my students learn without grades.

"Old" and "New" Math


Staples continued his war on learning with a column that featured Ken Porteous who is a retired chemical engineering professor from the University of Alberta. Porteous writes: 
The discovery approach has no place in arithmetic at the junior elementary level. There is nothing to discover.
If there was ever a need for a single statement that one could show people such that their response would predict whether they knew anything about how children learn -- this is it. 

To carry this mindset out to its (il)logical conclusion, I guess there is nothing left to discover in this world...

Teachers and other early childhood development experts who understand how children learn define their careers by children's Aha! moments. These are the moments when metaphorical lightbulbs illuminate on top of children's heads. Anyone with a clue about how children learn knows that these Aha! moments rarely, if ever, happen because kids were simply told to have them. Aha! moments are not passively absorbed or memorized -- they are actively constructed by the student with the artful guidance of a teacher.

The best teachers have teeth marks on their tongues because they know that when kids are simply told the most efficient way of getting the answer, they get in the habit of looking to adults instead of thinking things through for themselves. They understand that learning happens when the child is ready to learn, not necessarily when someone is ready to teach -- teachers call these teachable moments.

I am a huge supporter of teacher professional development where teachers learn how to be better teachers, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking that a back to basics approach that romanticizes the past will make things better for our children.

Let's not pretend that traditional math instruction didn't confuse and turn a lot of students off of math. When adults think back on their schooling, it's easy to succumb to something called Nostesia which is a hallucinogenic mixture of 50% nostalgia and 50% amnesia which distorts rational thinking.

Wishing tomorrow to be just like yesterday won't make today a better place. We aren't going to get more children to love math by pretending that school already doesn't have enough lectures, direct instruction, worksheets, textbooks, tests and memorization.

Staples and the Wildrose would like Albertans to believe that they are waging war against the government and education consultants but the truth is they are also attacking teachers who work hard to engage students in a way that has them play a more active role in constructing their own understanding with the artful guidance of their teacher.

While some teachers and parents may agree with Staples and the Wildrose, it's important to note that many teachers in Alberta feel that they are doing more harm than good. When Staples and the Wildrose mislead the public by telling teachers how they have to teach, they make it harder for great teachers to do their job.

Here's my take on the math wars, and Alfie Kohn's article answers the question: What works better than traditional math instruction?

Columnists are not Journalists and (most) Politicians are not teachers


Staples is a columnist -- which is not the same as a journalist, and I fear that too many people don't understand the difference.

He is not required to check his biases or opinions at the door -- in fact, as a columnist,  he has a better chance of selling newspapers and collecting page-views online with his biases and opinions fully intact. Staples is biased because that is his job.

Research isn't sexy and it doesn't sell unless it's accompanied by sensationalism, and when it comes to sensationalism, Staples sells the Wildrose. Making claims that teachers are no longer teaching children basic arithmetic may make for a snappy headline and a wedge issue to gain cheap political points for the next election but it couldn't be further from the truth.

As a side note, when I tried to share my math post with Bruce McAllister on his Facebook page, he deleted it and blocked me. You'd think that the opposition party would have a keen sense of appreciation for opposition, but I guess not.

"I wish a columnist and politician with no teaching experience would just
 come in and tell me how to teach," said no teacher ever.
And yet Staples isn't always wrong -- he knows just enough about education to get in trouble. His columns are filled with half-truths that are supported by cherry picked research, revisionist history and preconceived notions. He props up math PhDs, engineers, testing consultants, bureaucrats and others who have expertise in areas other than teaching young children math.

Canadians love their Olympians, but nobody confuses a hockey players' expertise for a rhythmic gymnastics coach. Similarly, a PhD in mathematics or engineering is not a PhD in early childhood development, psychology or math education.

Mathematicians are not (necessarily) Math Teachers


The best math teachers understand math and how children learn math -- these are two different skills. It is irresponsible to simply assume that someone who is good at math knows anything about how to teach it.
Just because you know how to skate or shoot a puck doesn't mean you have a clue how to properly teach young children how to skate or shoot. If you want to coach organized hockey in Canada, you are required to be educated through a certification process. One expectation is for coaches to learn the content of hockey, and another expectation is to learn how to teach children to skate and shoot.

The teaching part is so important that even if you played hockey at a high level, you would still be required to take the certification program. Knowing how to play hockey or how to do math is necessary but not sufficient for coaching or teaching -- this is why we have coaching and teaching certification programs.

Getting advice on how to teach or play hockey from someone who has never taught or played hockey is kind of like getting advice from a virgin on how to get laid. Opinion needs to be based on experience and expertise -- Staples and the Wildrose have neither.

I'm not saying that there isn't a place for columnists and politicians -- what I'm saying is that columnists and politicians need to be kept in their place, because when David Staples and the Wildrose confuse having an interest in education with being experts, they mislead people.

37 comments:

  1. "It is irresponsible to simply assume that someone who is good at math knows anything about how to teach it."

    Is this directed at me, Joe Bower? I'd love to have a teach off against you. I'm certain I could mop the floor with you. Don't assume that we can't teach. That's what I do every day and I'm good at it. I'm quite tired of your insults on your blog and on your twitter feed. It's unhelpful, childish and unprofessional.

    You think that mathematicians (actual math professors) have no place in curriculum design? Do you really think that? This is not a war about territory, Joe Bower. It's about kids who are getting cheated of a decent math education. There needs to be collaboration with math experts. You can't just shut out end users of mathematics and expect things are going to work out. We are not saying that education profs and teachers shouldn't be involved in curriculum design. Why must you continue to insist that math professors should not?

    Anna Stokke

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    1. Wow! A lot of eloquent words from both sides. As a student of the Wheeler foundation from SFU, I think that mathematicians SHOULD help design curriculum. I also KNOW that any mathematician that has read the Benny article sees the need for constructivist mathematics and that there is lots to discover in elementary arithmetic. You both need to read Skemp, Heibert, VanDwalle, Zaskis and Lockheart's lament. Then maybe you could get along!! While you are at it check out the great math teachers at the Calgary science school and the Wheeler foundations website. I think you MAY FIND YOU ARE ON THE SAME PAGE. Although most mathematicians involved in curriculum and not funded by gov't pay little attention to standardized tests. YOU BOTH sHOULD READ THE ARTICLE CALLED "Benny".

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  2. You're so vain, you probably think this post is about you, don't you...

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  3. Thank you for proving my point. Why can't you make your arguments in a respectful way? Why must you resort to insults? How is that helpful?

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  4. "I'm certain I could mop the floor with you." -Anna Stokke 2014

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  5. I didn't know a "teach off" was a thing.

    Either way, I'm not interested in a competition of the egos. I'll stick to teaching children.

    Anna, you will be relieved to know that when I wrote this post, I didn't think of you once.

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    1. Hi Joe. No, as we both know you have an aversion to being specific when making points about mathematicians -- I guess you want plausible deniability. Like when you insisted that you knew "several" professional mathematicians who helped design the 2008 WNCP curriculum and I asked you to name one -- and you refused. When asked for a reason you said you didn't want me to poison them against the curriculum (ah, that would be the curriculum they helped design -- apparently you think I have some kind of super power over other mathematicians...but then I'm so vain I probably think "you" in your replies meant "me").

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    2. Robert, you have me confused with someone else.

      I don't know anyone who was a part of the 2008 WNCP curriculum and I haven't discussed this with you.

      Joe

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    3. Hmmm you may be right. That could have been Scammell or Martin. I can never get you three sorted out, you all read from the same script.

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    4. But I'll leave my comment there anyway. Am I to gather, then, that you're happy to be specific about whom you are referencing there?

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  6. You made a great point that "the best math teachers understand math and how children learn math." The next best option would be someone who understands how children learn but doesn't know math themselves. The worst option is someone who understands math but not how to teach.

    Bruce McAllister and David Staples both seem to advocate for the third option. They don't seem to care about a teacher's actual ability to teach. It seems they think any old hack who can recite the times tables to a group of students would be successful—hey, that's how they learned it 35 years ago, right? What "worked" for them must work for everyone else, forever and always.

    Anna, why should a math professor be part of designing the math curriculum? The concepts taught in all but the final few grades are generally understood by anyone who has graduated high school. The fact that you have an expert understanding of mathematics means nothing to the K-12 curriculum. What matters there is how to *teach* the concepts, not an understanding of graduate school math.

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    1. "The next best option would be someone who understands how children learn but doesn't know math themselves" That might have been true, Geoff, if we were talking about a training program in pedagogy.

      But we're talking about curriculum. The problem is that there is a conflation of the two going on here. Some zealots even seem to think that pedagogical considerations should supersede content. Not true.

      Curriculum is about content.

      Therefore content experts ought to be primary sources. Pedagogy does not drive content, and does not belong in the curriculum. It is a subsequent consideration.

      You fool yourself if you think that "concepts taught in all but the final few grades are generally understood by anyone who has graduated high school". This is patently false.

      And your false characterization of our position on math facts such as times tables doesn't bolster your position -- it just makes you look uninformed. Ask us about something we actually advocate -- such as the 45 recommendations here:
      http://wisemath.org/us-national-advisory-panel/

      First, a teacher must understand their subject matter much deeper than their students. But even deeper still must be the understanding of those responsible for laying out, for the teacher, the general content framework for that instruction.

      This places a HUGE onus on those setting curriculum to d@#$ well know what they're about. What is the consequence of removing this or that conventional element of mathematical knowledge in grade 2? What will happen if we overemphasize this, or decide that "we know how a mathematician thinks, and we'll plan it so that children become little mathematicians" -- when their conception of what a mathematician thinks like is obviously nonexistent.

      And, when a real mathematician appears on the scene, their contempt for that mathematician is evident to all. Hmm, and they want to turn children into ... Hmmm. Really?!

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    2. Anna, I, and our mathematical colleagues are quite familiar with the curriculum documents, the teacher resources and the writings of those who've influenced the recent WNCP curriculum -- and they are full of groaners, of clear mathematical misconceptions, of made-up things that don't belong, and they are NOT full, on the other hand, of several essential elements of early learning. Such as the presence of standard algorithms, to name just one.

      One telling instance is in a Q&A document in which the WNCP "experts" are telling prospective textbook publishers how they want it explained that you cannot divide by 0. They end up explaining that BOTH n/0 and 0/n are not possible!!

      Now, that's an obvious groaner. But there are subtle things infused throughout the documents, showing the utter disregard, or ignorance, of the authors for many of the most basic sensibilities of the subject.

      You can open up the new WNCP-aligned textbooks and see classic examples of poor scaffolding, incorrect or circular mathematical definitions, non-existent "mathematical" conceptions prominently featured, badly explained (to the point of giving the wrong impression) explanation, poorly articulated examples, and tactical misguidance that will lead to serious problems later in their studies. All of which arises from having a cadre of pedagogues with a shallow understanding of the subject matter and very little evident commitment to the standards of the discipline.

      I'll be happy to discuss specifics. The state of what's being taught Albertan children right now is atrocious.

      Let me tell you, we really have no burning desire to get involved in this. Anna and I are research mathematicians -- that is our driving ambition in this field. We have work to do. This advocacy harms our careers. It does not further our research. We don't receive a dime for any of it. On the contrary it takes us away from our work and sets our research programs back. We only do this because our eyes are open and we can see the problems caused by people deciding they can re-invent the way math is taught, with little understanding of the subject themselves. If somebody else clearly competent to uphold mathematical standards in the teaching of math in public schools stepped forward, I would gladly -- enthusiastically -- melt into the woodwork and catch up on my lagging publications.

      But quite literally, the futures of millions of children are in the balance. If we don't act, who will? Joe ain't about to change course by himself.

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    3. I doubt you want an answer, but in the off chance you actually care about why we believe math professors have something to say about early-years math curriculum -- and you happen not to care that we look at the groaners written into what's being taught in "new WNCP" and offer ways to fix them -- then perhaps you'll be willing to follow a straight-line trace between what happens in Grade 2 math class and likelihood of students entering a profession after completing an undergraduate degree.

      I presume you know that -- essentially -- every major professional program (with the exception of teaching) in North America requires students to pass university Linear Algebra I or Calculus I. I don't care what you think about this -- it is a fact of life. Do you care about whether something that happens when a child is 7 or 8 will cut off professional options when they're 21? I do. I especially care if it's systematic and affects millions of intelligent, ambitious young lives.

      Geoff, I've taught at universities in Alberta (Lethbridge), Ontario (Waterloo), California (Fresno) and Manitoba. Everywhere I go there is a strong consensus among mathematics instructors: ONE thing is needed for students succeed in those courses. With it, every intelligent student has a good chance. Without it, they are set up for failure.

      Do you know what that one thing is?

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    4. Robert, I don't understand your bitterness (partially because you were so unnecessarily verbose). Nearly every sentence, it seemed like you were trying to hold back some sort of putrid anger. It's very evident you consider yourself better than me (and everyone else here who disagrees with you), so why would I bother replying?

      Remember, this is just a debate. It's about the issues, not trying to get a jab in at every opportunity.

      Best of luck in the future.

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    5. Well, that's interesting. On the one hand you say this is a debate about issues, not about getting jabs in ... and but you spend a whole paragraph imputing motives and emotions to me.

      Not very far up Graham's heirarchy: ad hominem and responding to tone (as opposed to content). Happy to continue when you're interested in pursuing the content. My question is part of a long arc addressing your main question.

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    6. In case you're unfamiliar: Graham's heirarchy:

      http://fablegod.com/the-pyramid-of-debate/

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    7. You're right—I can't possibly know your motives. I can only make inferences based on what you said. But don't pretend like you weren't speaking down to me. Give your posts another read and you'll see it.

      The problem is that each side debates with different assumptions. I might say, "education needs to evolve; as we find better ways to get through to more students, teaching gets better." The curriculum does not state how a teacher needs to teach, only what needs to be taught. With that said, please explain how it is that the new math curriculum threatens the future of children.

      You called me uninformed and accused me of falsely characterizing when I mentioned the times tables. That is, however, the basis of Dr. Tran-Davies' petition, which is (whether it deserves to be or not) the focal point of this entire disruption that's occurred over the past few months. Whatever the arguments may have been before that—or those made by advocates other than Tran-Davies—they have not been publicized nearly as much as her petition.

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    8. "... please explain how it is that the new math curriculum threatens the future of children." This is what I was in the middle of doing when you decided to go off and speculate about my motives, Geoff. Do you want the explanation or not?

      I do not mean that MENTIONING times tables falsely characterizes Dr. Tran-Davies' petition. It is when you characterize her as wanting to regress math education by 35 years.

      She (and we at WISE Math) does not advocate for returning to that era, which had its own problems. We advocate escaping from the current sanity by reinjecting some of the valuable things that were discarded with little apparent understanding of the consequences.

      ONE of those things happens to be memorization of times tables. There are others. It is complex to lay out the details in long form -- but the concept is encapsulated nicely in the word "basics".

      In my explanation of how you were mischaracterizing our position I pointed to the 2008 NMAP report which is a pathway FORWARD -- not back to the past. It is founded on solid evidence, and the best of cognitive science and education research. We are not advocating pie-in-the-sky or some person's pet theories.

      We are advocating that which is already established empirically as best practices. And we are quite happy to engage with those who wish to challenge that research basis.

      I encounter so many fuzzy math advocates who can't take the time to read what I point them to and glibly dismiss us as weepy-eyed "traditionalists" longing for grandma's day. Sorry, that doesn't cut it. If you want to know how fuzzy math harms the next generation, then take up the explanation I began above and interact with it. And if you want to converse about what we advocate, then start with our summary of the NMAP report, or if you're more ambitious read the whole report.

      Until you do so, we're only talking in bumper sticker slogans.

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    9. Okay Geoff, all I can infer from your lack of response to my above question is that you're not serious about actually learning how "the new math curriculum threatens the future of children".

      To recap:
      1. it is our view that options for good professional careers later in life should not be cut off by educators or curricula making choices that affect student's early education.
      2. Some choices about what they are taught in early years have the potential to do just that.
      3. So, to explain this connection, about which you appear to profess ignorance, I began constructing a straight line from education-contingent professional career options at the end of university to elementary mathematics instruction and its curriculum.
      4. I got as far as indicating that there is ONE factor universally identified by Calculus I instructors at universities across North America as being the most significant contributor to success in that critical step of progress toward most professional careers.

      Not knowing if you were following the line I was drawing, I left this as a question for you to answer. It was not a rhetorical question; if you like, it was formative assessment. There's no point taking you the next step along this line of reasoning if you aren't following thus far. Either you know what that factor is, or you don't.

      But I can't even tell whether you're bothering to read it, or just sitting there complaining that I'm not telling you "the new math curriculum threatens the future of children". Shall I answer my own question? How do I even know you're listening?

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    10. Incidentally, I'll help you out in your assessment of me. I am not bitter. I am angry.

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    11. Surprised nobody pointed out my slip two replies above (blush).

      Hopefully it's obvious I meant "We advocate escaping from the current INsanity ..."

      :-)

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  7. Ok, so instead of responding to my questions above, you're going to focus on one thing I wrote and call me vain. While you're at it, why don't you trash me on twitter? I'm always surprised to see this sort of thing from educators. There's a lot of talk (in Manitoba, at least) about combatting bullying, particularly online bullying. I hope that your students don't read your twitter feed because you do not set a good example.

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    1. Anna, I have never and will never "trash" you. Unless of course you consider me quoting you as trashing you, but that would be silly.

      I find it kind of weird for you to challenge me to a "teach off" and say, "I'm certain I could mop the floor with you," and then accuse me of online bullying.

      In fact, this is more than a little weird.

      As for Math PhDs, I believe they do have a place in curriculum development but they need to be kept in their place so they don't tell teachers how to teach. A math PhD is not a PhD in early childhood development and education.

      I'm happy to set emotion aside and just talk.

      Joe

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    2. You seem to think math professors are not good teachers. That offends me because I love teaching and I do my best to be a good teacher. I also love working with kids and spend many hours volunteering to help kids with math.

      I'm sorry. I went too far with that teach off comment. I let my temper get the better of me and you're right, there's some hypocrisy here on my part.

      As for your tweets, you quoted me out of context. You did not explain why I left that quote. Then a bunch of your buddies retweeted your quote. One of those buddies, by the way, is not a stranger to me. She is a consultant for a Manitoba school division. When I gave a presentation to teachers last fall, she sat through my presentation, took pictures, tweeted my quotes out of context and misrepresented most everything I said. She did not talk to me or introduce herself to me at any point. She simply went out of her way to discredit me on twitter. Can you imagine if a 13 year-old kid did that to another 13 year-old kid while she was giving a presentation? I don't think that adults, particularly teachers who are role models for children, should be doing this to other adults.

      I am glad to hear that you do think that math professors do have a place in curriculum development. I don't want to tell teachers how to teach but I do think it's important for children to learn certain concepts and those concepts should be listed as clear curriculum outcomes.

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    3. I'm happy to talk Joe.

      Can we agree on one thing? Curriculum is about content. It is not about pedagogy. Ideally the curriculum specifies expectations concerning by which grade-levels each individual learning outcome (content) should have been taught, covering all essential elements of content necessary for successful progression through the discipline.

      Period.

      Agreed?

      And ... assuming you're agreed, and you know that this is, and has always been our position ... why are you so concerned about us and others like us "being put in [their] place so [they] don't tell teachers how to teach."

      Just curious. Do you and Dave Martin have a "PhD in early childhood development and education"?

      I only ask because both of you
      http://www.joebower.org/p/presentation-topics.html
      http://www.realteachingmeansreallearning.blogspot.ca/p/topics-i-can-speak-at.html
      advertise your services as speakers on subjects in which you "tell teachers how to teach".

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  8. Hi Geoff,

    Actually, don't you think the worst option is someone who doesn't understand math and doesn't know how to teach?

    I don't think it's quite right that the concepts taught in all but the final few grades are generally understood by anyone who has graduated high school.

    Here's an example.

    Question from WNCP publisher:
    "N1 requires students to explain why a number cannot be divided by zero,
    but multiplication and division of integers is not covered at this grade.
    This outcome might be more easily addressed when looking at
    multiplication and division of integers."
    WNCP response (from those working on the most recent version of the WNCP curriculum):
    "...If we consider division to be an action (like a verb), then it is easy to
    demonstrate why division by zero cannot be done. If you have 12 cookies
    and some friends arrive at your house, you can share the cookies among
    your friends. If some friends come to visit and you have no (zero) cookies, you
    cannot share the cookies with your friends. If you have a jar full of
    cookies but no friends come over, you still cannot share cookies
    with your zero friends."

    I'm serious. That was the response. You can find this online. I'm sure you realize that this is a serious error.

    Here's another example from a teacher support document that can be found on the Manitoba Education website:

    "Place the decimal to make this a correct equation: 16.4 divided by 4.7 = 348936"

    Again, a serious error. I've seen many such examples and the Math Makes Sense series is full of such errors. How can kids be expected to understand concepts if textbooks and curriculum documents contain serious errors (and these are not typos - they're serious errors in understanding the concepts by the writers)?

    There is also the issue of continuum with curricula. Concepts that are taught in Grade 4,5,6 lead into concepts that are taught in high school, which lead into concepts that are taught in university. (Example: Long division to polynomial long division. Why can a rational number always be expressed as a terminating/repeating decimal? Factoring of whole numbers (and divisibility rules) lead into polynomial factoring, which we use all the time in our classes.)

    I want to be very clear. I would never suggest that math curricula should only be designed by math professors! However, I think it's a mistake to exclude math experts who use math in their careers and see the product of the K-12 math education system in university math classes.




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  9. Isn't the title "David Staples and The Wildrose..." ?? Anna can you please show me where your name is?

    I think Joe asked a great question, and I would like to know the answer as well "What is a teach off?". I assume you want some sort of competition to show you are a better teacher than Joe?

    Isn't this about educating students, so can you leave your ego at the door?

    Next you use examples from textbooks and teacher comments, it sounds more like you have a problem with publishers. I hope you are aware that teachers, in Alberta, use the resource they pick, and teach how they want. Anna, can you show me concrete evidence, from the actual Alberta math curriculum (not some document you will call the curriculum) in which you have a problem with?


    Lastly, I find it strange that Robert and Anna need to come and defend the people whom Joe really named. Isn't is weird how the people who critique Alberta's new math curriculum, and also live in Alberta, cannot defend their arguments?

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    1. Too bad you don't have the imagination to know what a "teach off" is, DM. I'd never heard the word before, but it's meaning to me was clear immediately when I read it. Never thought it needed to be questioned. Nor did Joe.

      Imagination, by the way, is a good teacher characteristic. I'd work on that if I were you.

      As for the "tell me where your name is?" remark ... geez I guess you came a bit late to the conversation. Better read before commenting further. I know. I've gotten caught by that too. Word to the wise.

      I've never known Mr Staples to need anyone to "come and defend" him. I often see him in his twitter feed talking to 5 or 6 of you guys all taking shots at him. I wonder if in a different life he played goal for the Canucks ... but I digress. I occasionally make a point catching up on him on the Twitterverse because I like a good discussion and he seems to know how to find them. But I've never known him to need my help.

      As for the opposition party folks, I doubt they need us to "defend" them any more than Staples, and that's not how we roll anyway. We are apolitical, but there is no avoiding political people in this advocacy, so we have a simple policy: we work with everyone. We're about the math education. Period.

      WISE Math is entirely non-partisan. Anna and I rarely talk politics, and what we have discussed reveals that we come from quite different places on the political spectrum. And there is a greater diversity still among some of our associates who work with us in our initiative.

      In Manitoba we have been privileged to work with good people of every political affilliation, and all three major political parties have paid attention to what we have to say, and made math experts welcome at the table. We work with anyone who will work with us.

      In Alberta, to the extend we do anything directly, we happen to currently work with the the official opposition -- because they are voicing the same concerns, and are evidently pleased to work with us. But I assure you if the Grits, NDP, Tories or Greens decided to take up this cause in good faith we would not hesitate to work with them ...

      ... Wild Roses could not hold us back.

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    2. Hi Dave,

      The teach off comment was in response to Joe's comments about math professors and teaching. You have also insulted me several times in your tweets over the past few weeks, even though I'm not part of that conversation and you know that. Next time you'd like to insult me, just email me. My email address is easily found online.

      You've missed the point with my examples. The first example cites a reply to a publisher question. That reply, which contains fundamental misunderstandings about division, was written by a WNCP curriculum writer. The other example I gave is from a Manitoba Education support document for teachers. It was also written by people who took part in the writing of the WNCP curriculum.

      You'd like a specific example in the WNCP curriculum? As you know, we have a lot of issues with the curriculum. Here's a specific example for you. Grade 5 outcome: addition and subtraction of decimals. You would think that fraction addition would be covered before this, wouldn't you, given that we're all about "understanding" now. When do we first see addition and subtraction of fractions listed in the WNCP curriculum? Grade 7. Who teaches addition and subtraction of decimals BEFORE fractions? Understanding of decimals is based on a solid understanding of fractions. You can't possibly explain decimal arithmetic well if you have not covered fraction arithmetic.

      David Staples most certainly doesn't need me to defend him and I have no affiliation with any political party. This is not about politics. We have an NDP government here in Manitoba and they actually worked with us to make some small curriculum changes. If Wild Rose wants to help the petitioners in Alberta, great.

      Delete
  10. Did I miss the link to the actual curriculum document which illustrates that problem??

    Also, for a man who hates discovery learning I am surprised to see that you want me to discover what a "teach off" is. Maybe it is a term that Manitoba is familiar with but I have to say, after asking many colleagues, including Joe, I cant find an answer. Can you please "direct instruct" me?

    Thanks

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    1. Why do you keep lying about our positions Dave? Where have I ever stated that I am against Discovery learning? I want discovery to be used appropriately. It is not a main course for mathematical instruction -- particularly in early years. It is a side dish. It should NOT be a replacement for instruction for the basics in those early years.

      Other than that you know very well that I not only understand the value of discovery through open-ended problem solving and project work -- I create such lessons myself. Some time ago you asked permission to use some of the projects I put together, and I was happy to encourage you to use them as you see fit.

      Play the clown about teaching if you like. Anna is rightly proud of her teaching and she is widely respected for it. I see nothing else to discuss here; the rest of us moved on a while ago.

      Delete
  11. I am going to relate math to swimming. It is not necessary for the teacher to know how to swim, they just need to know how to properly coach. With that being said, the teachers manuel needs to have the information on how to swim and steps that must be taken to get to the final result.

    As far as this debate goes, Anna Stokke and R. Craigen it appears you have won, the other side just name calls and has no answers. Thank you for your comments, but I think it is best if you don't waste your time on this thread anymore.

    As far as this article, it makes lots of good points about needing certification for teachers, but just because you know how to teach doesn't mean you know what needs to be taught. Being a good teacher doesn't mean you can write good curriculum, just like being a good lawyer doesn't mean you can write good laws. You need both sides represented in order to have the information that is needed, and have it in a way that works.

    At the end of the day if you have fully engaged students that are learning well, but you haven't included the information they need, you have done a disservice to the students.

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    1. "As far as this debate goes, Anna Stokke and R. Craigen it appears you have won, the other side just name calls and has no answers. Thank you for your comments, but I think it is best if you don't waste your time on this thread anymore."

      Yes, I agree. We have better things to spend our time on and I will be moving on now.

      Delete
  12. Very informative discussion. And I have to agree, Anna Stokke and R. Craigen have presented far more convincing arguments than the other side. To be fair, all participants on both sides have uttered ad hominems and unfairly questioned underlying motives, but one on each side (Anna, more so, and Joe somewhat) have expressed remorse for this. Joe has made some good points, but Anna and R. Craigen have countered those nicely, reducing most of their impact.

    I find Dave Martin to be a very negative presence on this thread, offering nothing of value, his contributions consisting almost wholly of ad hominems and motive-questioning (which have absolutely no place in any reasoned discussion, especially about such an important matter). It seems that he did not even read the whole thread before making his comments.

    I still have one question for R. Craigen: what is the "ONE factor universally identified by ...". My guess: basic algebra skills.

    Before reading this, I considered myself a neutral observer on this issue. Not anymore. Thank you all for the reasoned comments, if any, that you made.

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  13. Thanks. I was wondering where that retrograde anti-math movement was coming from.

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