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I have been trying since 1970 to get math teachers to align their
instruction with learning theory.  My success rate is probably as low as
theirs with developmental students.

Nevertheless, I continue to believe a necessary first step toward
improvement in math instruction is a de-emphasis of the teacher's role as an
information-giver and a new emphasis on class time devoted to information
processing. 

At one time most math teachers operated on John Dewey's hypothesis: students
learn to do by doing.  A teacher rarely spoke to the class for more than
five minutes at a time -- one concept or skill with an example.  Then the
class was given a task.  Cooperation was encouraged.  The teacher observed
how the students handled the activity.  This observation period was not to
provide individual help; it was to decide the content of the next 5-minute
presentation and an appropriate student activity.  Perhaps only three cycles
of presentation/activity were completed in a class period.  If an
out-of-class assignment was given it was based only upon the material
covered with time allowed for a good start on it.

Notice:   
    The teacher's primary role was to be reactive to student progress.
    The emphasis was on student learning rather than math content.
    An emphasis on student learning does not necessarily decrease
        the amount of math content covered.

During the past half century, teaching math has moved away from Dewey's
approach and toward lecturing (information-giving).  All information
processing was relegated to activities away from the classroom (and the
teacher).  That separation is a serious contradiction to learning theory.
Students who can't cope with the separation do not fare well under such
instruction. 

Bob   



  

> From: Kathryn VanWagoner <[log in to unmask]>
> Reply-To: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
> <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: Tue, 27 Jun 2006 11:18:57 -0600
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Math intervention(s)
> 
> Susan, Ted, et al:
> 
> There is a request for feedback imbedded in this lengthy post.
> 
> This whole issue of math success is complicated at best.  It truly is an
> individual problem -- in the sense that each individual has differing
> needs/issues.  That's what makes the solution so challenging.  The problem has
> to be addressed from many angles if it is to be resolved.  Unfortunately,
> there are weaknesses on both sides of the classroom.  There are students who
> work their tails off in an effort to succeed, but simply do not.  Sometimes it
> is because they have an unrealistically difficult instructor, sometimes it is
> because they don't have effective learning strategies, sometimes it is because
> their fear and anxiety annihilate their efforts to learn.  On the other hand,
> there are students who approach their education with a sense of entitlement,
> not willing (or perhaps not understanding the need) to exert the necessary
> effort to succeed.
> 
> These are just two scenarios in the wide range of individual needs, which is
> what makes finding a solution so difficult.  The solution needs to be
> addressed by a menu of strategies.  Structured Learning Assistance (SLA) is a
> strong menu item.  Efforts to build math appreciation are important, too.
> (Math Awareness Week, using The Futures Channel: Digital Video Library - or
> other real applications - in classrooms, math camps, etc).  Good advising is
> essential. (Are students choosing appropriate quantitative literacy courses
> for their majors?  Not everyone is on a calculus track.) Policies that prevent
> a student from digging a deeper hole are needed. (How many times do we let a
> student fail before we intervene?)
> 
> We have had a huge problem on our campus regarding math.  A few loud
> malcontents have stirred up an ugly PR problem.  The math departments have
> been under attack.  An entreprenurial organization puts flyers in every
> edition of the student paper advertising: "Skip all lower level pre-requisite
> courses.  Finish College Algebra in just six weeks."  (They've been so
> successful at our school they've expanded to two other schools in the state.)
> The student paper has perpetuated the negative attitudes with front page
> stories about "the math problem."
> 
> What is most frustrating is the perception that math is hard only at UVSC.
> Students say we are being unreasonable in our requirements. I would love to
> hear from others about the depth of the issues they are facing on their
> campuses regarding math success and what is being done to resolve them.
> 
> Another issue we face, that I'd like to hear from others on, is that of
> calculator use.  Our math department was so appalled by the lack of basic
> numeracy skills in the college algebra students that they banned the use of
> any calculators on tests (other than for things like logrithms, etc).  This
> has caused quite a stir, of course.  I'm curious if other schools have similar
> policies or have seen a similar decline in basic math skills of students.
> 
> We have created a math task force to thoroughly analyze "the math problem" and
> seek multiple solutions to it.  There is hope that next year will show marked
> improvement in this PR nightmare.
> 
> Thanks,
> Kathy
> 
> 
> 
> 
> Kathryn Van Wagoner
> Director, Math Advantage Programs
> Utah Valley State College
> 801-863-8411
> 
> ad-van-tage   n.  A factor conducive to success.
> 
>>>> [log in to unmask] 6/27/2006 10:23 AM >>>
> Hmmm.... you're right... I was doing exactly what I was accusing Ted of...
> being disdainful and contemptuous of somebody trying to figure out a solution.
> I confess there was a "well, how would *you* feel if you were treated that
> way?" rumbling in my gut... but even if reading Eats, Shoots, and LEaves had
> me primed for righteous spelling correction, p'raps your angle of correcting
> is the better one.  (I'm not entirely sure, though.)
> 
> Susan Jones
> Academic Development Specialist
> Academic Development Center
> Parkland College
> Champaign, IL  61821
> [log in to unmask]
> Webmastress,
> http://www.resourceroom.net
> 
>>>> [log in to unmask] 06/26/06 2:19 PM >>>
> Wow! Susan your response to Ted's post was scathing.
> 
> I am not Ted's apologist or defender. In fact, I agree with your comments.
> This is what I want to suggest:
> 
> If we desire to change the erroneous and detrimental perceptions and
> attitudes of some instructors and others who are responsible for helping
> developmental learners -- we should avoid engaging in fault finding, making
> condemning accusations, and asserting euphemistic put-downs. Those
> particular actions do not encourage the patience, empathy, compassion,
> understanding, tolerance, and faith that is needed to assist and support
> developmental learners.
> 
> I just wanted to encourage you to offer insight rather that incite.
> 
> Enjoy your day and do good work.
> 
> On 6/26/06, Susan Jones <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> 
>> <<Why then the low completion rate?  We could spend a whole day
>> comtemplating this question ( and perhaps we should) but basically the
>> success of each individual student is just that. It depends entirely on
>> their personal motivation and not upon our herculean interventions. You
>> cannot make a student learn if they do not wish to. You cannot threaten
>> them, cajole them, humor them, or go to their houses and turn off their
>> tv's. They must want to learn, and then we can help them.>>
>> 
>> That's a wonderful way to feel better and I'd agree if the word "entirely"
>> were left out.  In my experience it's more complicated than that.
>> 
>> Helping them is still a pretty major challenge. What is the success rate
>> for people who use the services you have available?  And do you see a
>> connection between these lower and lower level math courses and student
>> motivation?
>> 
>> I work with students who *are* motivated and their success rate is only
>> somewhat higher.
>> 
>> <<    And the saga continues two more times. We have added an arithmatic
>> course that we euphamistically call prealgebra and believe it or not we have
>> added a course before this one called fundamental math. >>
>> 
>> Are you basically trying to say here that  the school is stooping lower
>> and lower, but the students aren't reaching up to take the hand - and that
>> it simply must be their attitude that makes them so unskilled?
>> (Misspelling arithmetic and euphemistically adds a certain irony to the
>> paragraph.)
>> 
>> In my experience, one of the most common major frustrations for students -
>> and, very possibly, a contributing factor to that lousy success rate -  is
>> that the teachers really do find it hard to believe that they don't already
>> understand certain basic stuff.  It's more than the daily bruising of the
>> ego - the instruction is permeated with incomprehensible gaps.  No matter
>> how low you go, if the course is only euphemistically basic, it's not going
>> to reach the students, no matter how motivated they are.
>> 
>> I have often pondered why people seem so much more psychologically
>> vulnerable when it comes to mathematics.  Perhaps it's partly that constant
>> message that "I can't believe I have to *teach* you this," - and usually
>> it's not taught, it's simply mentioned, because the teacher doesn't *really*
>> believe the student doesn't know it, and so s/he gives it a cursory
>> explanation (perhaps dependent on other information the student doesn't
>> have) and then quickly moves onward and proceeds as if that explanation had
>> been internalized, digested, and applied to previous schema.  So, once
>> again, the student gets the message that s/he's an ignorant, uncivilized
>> outsider looking in, decides to go watch tv, and the teacher thinks "How
>> *did* you get to college? It can't be my job to make up for that... must be
>> your attitude..."
>> 
>> Susan Jones
>> Academic Development Specialist
>> Academic Development Center
>> Parkland College
>> Champaign, IL  61821
>> [log in to unmask]
>> Webmastress,
>> http://www.resourceroom.net
>> 
>> 
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