inaccuracies in curricular material - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 08-16-2011, 02:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you handle material that is out of date, inaccurate, vague or sloppy? 

 

Example - astronomy, one of kids' typically favourite subjects, is evolving so fast.  How many planets ?  How many dwarf planets?  Why even put such questions when the answers keep changing and even the definitions?  What is the point?  Why not stick to features of the planets, how they are formed, spin, length of day, etc.  But we will find some interesting workbook or online activity related to planets and dd is eager to do it but if they include a question like this then she rejects the entire book / website.  One book (Brain Quest) had a question ' name the two planets with rings'  - whereas Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all gas planets and therefore al have rings (she informed me).  She started writing a letter to the author, which thought was a good thing but then she did not finish the letter and lost interest in the book which actually has 13 chapters covering reading, writing, math, social, etc.  Not just astronomy!

 

We run into this quite a bit with reading comprehension worksheets too - dd typically finds something off about the way a question is worded. 

 

I could entirely skip all such worksheets but they are easy ways to produce written material for the county review.   And dd is not much into writing long answers to open-ended questions, so having her write her own reports would not be an option at least not at this point. 

 

 


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#2 of 10 Old 08-16-2011, 10:20 AM
 
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My kids love finding such things in the materials we use -- they're an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for being more clever and more knowledgeable and more up-to-date than the writers. They'll often write comments or corrections in their workbooks, or put sticky-notes in their textbooks or whatever. Sometimes they'll circle the errors with a red pen and write mocking comments, or draw a little eye-rolling smiley. My 8yo has a science workbook that is so riddled with errors that she's created an index inside the front cover where she notes all the errata.

 

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#3 of 10 Old 08-16-2011, 11:12 AM
 
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Originally Posted by rumi View Post

Example - astronomy, one of kids' typically favourite subjects, is evolving so fast.  How many planets ?  How many dwarf planets?  Why even put such questions when the answers keep changing and even the definitions?  What is the point?  Why not stick to features of the planets, how they are formed, spin, length of day, etc.  But we will find some interesting workbook or online activity related to planets and dd is eager to do it but if they include a question like this then she rejects the entire book / website.  One book (Brain Quest) had a question ' name the two planets with rings'  - whereas Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all gas planets and therefore al have rings (she informed me).  She started writing a letter to the author, which thought was a good thing but then she did not finish the letter and lost interest in the book which actually has 13 chapters covering reading, writing, math, social, etc.  Not just astronomy!

 

 

Warning:  (Brick and Mortar schooling) Planetary Scientist responding.

 

"Why not stick to features of the planets, how they are formed, spin, length of day, etc. "

 

Because (1) an endless listing of the features of planets is boring, and without context these facts fail to teach science, and (2) not even your examples are necessarily well known at this point.

 

Why is the number of "dwarf planets" changing?  Because of discovery.  People are discovering the complexities of our solar system, which, for the first time since the Greeks, mandated that scientists explicitly define what constitutes a planet.  What a great opportunity for discussion!  Why do we need definitions in science?  Why don't we know about all the things in the solar system?  Why are there so many planets out there in the cosmos, and why is it so hard to see them?  How do scientists use careful observations and the properties of gravity and general relativity to discover them?  Why is it that the discovery of other planets necessitates a reevaluation of how our own solar system might have formed?

 

Supplement your text with NYT Science section, Bad Astronomy, NASA, and www.skyandtelescope.com  to see how our understanding of the solar system is changing so fast.  Follow Opportunity around Endeavor Crater.  Watch the progress and look at pictures coming back from Cassini and Dawn. 

 

For misleading/wrong questions, just use it as an exercise for critical thinking and careful reading.  You could just cross out the word 'the' in your example on planets with rings, and you're left with a perfectly valid question.  DD once solved a math problem three times based on three possible interpretations of what an 'it' referred to.  It was an excellent exercise in that type of problem she was doing, and at the same time she learned to see the importance of clear writing. 
 

 

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#4 of 10 Old 08-17-2011, 12:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Points well taken and thanks for all the suggestions.   I looked at Bad Astronomy and 365 Days of Astronomy - very interesting,maybe in a year or two.  She's a bit young yet for those and NYT Science, but they are all fine ideas.  I am trying to use real-world and less internet at this point.  Though of course she reads books.  The workbooks come in mostly so that we have something to show the county reviewers.  

 

I am all for having discussions of the kind you mention, and she is (more than) willing to cross out questions that she finds below her expectations, but then she rejects the entire worksheet or in above example the entire book.  ANyway these are minor things, we can work around them or make up our own worksheets.   I was actually surprised at how much the Brain Quest book managed to satisfy our reviewer, since they sometimes have only  3-4 questions on a page (often fill-in-the-blank) what with all the bright color pictures, etc.   But it looks like what they do in school so that helped, I guess.

 

 


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#5 of 10 Old 08-17-2011, 12:06 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumi View Post I am trying to use real-world and less internet at this point.  Though of course she reads books.  The workbooks come in mostly so that we have something to show the county reviewers.  

 

 



Why is this? I loooove using an ipad to make lessons come alive. And with all the amazing space resources out there, animations, videos, press release, goggle maps of mars (and earth).

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#6 of 10 Old 08-17-2011, 03:14 PM
 
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OMG, yes, StarWalk for the iPad is marvellous!


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#7 of 10 Old 08-17-2011, 07:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

My kids love finding such things in the materials we use -- they're an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for being more clever and more knowledgeable and more up-to-date than the writers. They'll often write comments or corrections in their workbooks, or put sticky-notes in their textbooks or whatever. Sometimes they'll circle the errors with a red pen and write mocking comments, or draw a little eye-rolling smiley. My 8yo has a science workbook that is so riddled with errors that she's created an index inside the front cover where she notes all the errata.

 

Miranda


I love this Miranda.  After your 8 yo is done with the workbook, you should package the whole thing (notes, index, etc) and send it to the publisher.  Let them know that your 8 yo found some mistakes. :-)

 

Amy

 


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#8 of 10 Old 08-18-2011, 02:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Delicate Flower,  I believe it is important to experiment and explore in the 'real' world, using the five senses, getting feet wet / hands dirty /muscles flexed etc.  I try not to depend too much on books either - others' observations and explanations - and try to increase our chances of experiencing and encountering intriguing happenings first hand (as an aside, did you just see that?  three -ing words, one a verb, next an adj and last a noun, in a row!)   If anything we already read in print and online a lot and and I am not looking to expand our use of media at this point.  Recently we spent two days in a national park and that was amazing.  And just my luck, as I was feeling wistful about how we could do more of that I came across an article saying that the little ditch on the corner of the road can be an even more meaningful way to explore nature than a trip to a national park.  

 

(me thinks I digress too much ;-)


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#9 of 10 Old 08-19-2011, 09:27 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumi View Post

Delicate Flower,  I believe it is important to experiment and explore in the 'real' world, using the five senses, getting feet wet / hands dirty /muscles flexed etc.  I try not to depend too much on books either - others' observations and explanations - and try to increase our chances of experiencing and encountering intriguing happenings first hand (as an aside, did you just see that?  three -ing words, one a verb, next an adj and last a noun, in a row!)   If anything we already read in print and online a lot and and I am not looking to expand our use of media at this point.  Recently we spent two days in a national park and that was amazing.  And just my luck, as I was feeling wistful about how we could do more of that I came across an article saying that the little ditch on the corner of the road can be an even more meaningful way to explore nature than a trip to a national park.  

 

(me thinks I digress too much ;-)

Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

I agree with you about getting out into the real world. My kids and I take my telescope out into the backyard on clear nights.  We look at the cosmos and spend a lot of time pondering.  They understand the Earth's rotation at a fundamental level as a result.  They see that huge stars are tiny points of light, yet modest planets appear as a disk.  They can see that what appears to a single star with their eyes is actually a huge cloud.  But as a parent who works hard to make their science education an education of the scientific process as much as a listing of scientific facts, having tools at my disposal that help demonstrate the here and now of discovery are huge helps.  We generally go to books first, wandering through the library, asking for librarians for help, and reading what's been written in books.  Phases of the moon and Earth's rotation?  From a book and experienced first hand.  But when fascinated by some of these rapidly changing sciences, the web gives a fantastic way to integrate those rapid changes in science into the textbooks which go out of date so quickly.  When I come across articles that are above my kids' reading levels, then we sit down and go through them together, or I summarize it for them. 

 

Same goes for history and geography.  DS loves maps. He spends lots of time looking at maps, drawing treasure maps, wandering around with his compass.  However, our globe is out of date, which is something he discovered when comparing something in the paper to what he thought he'd learned from the globe.  This has led to using google maps for exploration, discussion of why boarders change between countries, yet the shape of the continents don't change (much, at least in the 20 years since my globe was made)....

 

 

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#10 of 10 Old 08-19-2011, 02:24 PM
 
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If it is inaccurate, vague or sloppy, DD might react in the same way that yours does. She's very picky, in general, about what she reads.

 

We talk about what goes into publishing a book, different roles that authors, designers editors, copy editors, and publishers play. Recently we read a really nice book on geography (beautifully structured and illustrated, and with the content that we both enjoyed), but full of spelling errors. We discussed how that could have happened, and why. (My guess that they tried to save money on hiring a copy editor.) It *is* difficult to 'trust' a book, when it is full of errors. But spelling errors in the book do not mean that the author isn't intelligent and has nothing of value to contribute.

 

Your example, though, relates to the ever changing nature of science. Poor Pluto being in, then out, is part of the scientific process. I think it is valuable to be exposed to these ideas--science isn't static. It evolves every day. There are plenty of cases when theories are debunked by the time a book appears in print. Learning science means learing how to use multiple sources of information and to pay attention to the publication dates.


My kids are 8, 5 and 2!
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