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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I've been on here talking about my 2nd grader and her math skills, and her school's woefully lame approach to math. I'm pretty much set at this point on testing her so she can do online math courses and just get around the school system for her... but I'd really like the school to change their math curriculum for everyone.

Right now they do very little hands on stuff, I know they did the counting cubes and that's about it. They are obsessed with memorizing math facts, as though being able to spit out numbers was the point of studying math! They do lots of worksheets. All of this drives me nuts as I quite like math.

They are an International Baccalaureate school, so are not allowed to split kids into groups for math. I think they are very slow, my second grader just started doing simple multiplication, they will do some very basic fractions this year as well, and very simple division.

I'd like to see a curriculum that uses a lot of manipulatives and fun activities to teach concepts rather than drilling facts into their heads. I would like these activities to allow for multiple skill/ talent levels, so that all the kids would be able to do something to the best of their abilities, whether higher or lower than average.

Does anyone know of such a curriculum so I can go to my kids' school with suggestions? I know a lot of parents there would like to see a stronger math program, and since it's a relatively small charter school, I think we have a chance at getting some change, but I need to bring in some specific examples of better curricula.

Thanks!
 

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You are very lucky! Most public schools have given up on teaching children their math facts and achieving mastery--instead, the curricula waste endless amounts of time on pointless coloring activities and dice-rolling games--and the children come out utterly unprepared to move into real mathematics in middle and high schools. And you should understand that this sentiment "I would like these activities to allow for multiple skill/ talent levels, so that all the kids would be able to do something to the best of their abilities, whether higher or lower than average." opens the door to ending ability-leveled work and holds bright kids back to the level of the lowest-achievers in the classroom. In fact, one of the main reasons that we homeschool is because our local school uses a time-wasting, mixed-ability grouping mess of a math curriculum. Also, getting to ANY multiplication, fractions or division in second grade is a fairly fast-moving curriculum; our local second-graders have just (in February) started two-digit subtraction, and they spend a lot of time telling time and counting coins as well.
 

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I taught second grade and we used Investigations. Tons of prep time for the teacher, but really open-ended, hands on type of approach to math. All the students really enjoyed it and could work at their own ability level. I thought it was especially good at allowing for high level understanding/completion as well as not totally frustrating lower levels of understanding.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Bird Girl View Post
You are very lucky! Most public schools have given up on teaching children their math facts and achieving mastery--instead, the curricula waste endless amounts of time on pointless coloring activities and dice-rolling games--and the children come out utterly unprepared to move into real mathematics in middle and high schools. And you should understand that this sentiment "I would like these activities to allow for multiple skill/ talent levels, so that all the kids would be able to do something to the best of their abilities, whether higher or lower than average." opens the door to ending ability-leveled work and holds bright kids back to the level of the lowest-achievers in the classroom. In fact, one of the main reasons that we homeschool is because our local school uses a time-wasting, mixed-ability grouping mess of a math curriculum. Also, getting to ANY multiplication, fractions or division in second grade is a fairly fast-moving curriculum; our local second-graders have just (in February) started two-digit subtraction, and they spend a lot of time telling time and counting coins as well.
My mom tells me about how opposed she was to the math curriculum when I was in 2nd/3rd grade. She talks about how they would set stop watches and tell us to recite multiplication tables and pressure us to do it as quickly as possible. That sounds kind of harsh but now I work with middle school kids who don't have their times tables memorized and still use their fingers to do multiplication. I wonder if the drilling and memorization was a good thing. It seems like there are so many fun, engaging ways of teaching math to elementary school kids now but are they really helping kids learn the specific quantifiable skills that they need in order to do middle school and high school level math?
 

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I can't recommend one, but stay away from Everyday Math.

At home I use Singapore with my kids, but I don't think it follows your desired criteria. However, since I am working one on one, I move at their pace to begin with.

Amy
 

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I was on the math text book committee for our school this year and was really overwhelmed with all that went into selecting a new math program.

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I'd like to see a curriculum that uses a lot of manipulatives and fun activities to teach concepts rather than drilling facts into their heads.
Saxon is like that in the early years, but the opposite in upper elementary. That's my school's old program, so I heard the teachers taught about the pros and cons. Younger grades liked it, grade 4 and up HATED it.

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I would like these activities to allow for multiple skill/ talent levels, so that all the kids would be able to do something to the best of their abilities, whether higher or lower than average.
that's a whole can worms! Mostly it comes from the teacher, though some program are easier for the teacher to do this with than others.

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Does anyone know of such a curriculum so I can go to my kids' school with suggestions?
you'd have to start with your state goals by grade, required testing, and any other standards they use. Then you'd have to figure out for each grade how the curriculum worked to meet those varies goals (making sure that the concepts that will be tested are covered before the test). Then you'd have to determine if they teachers wanted a spiral approach or a mastery approach, and then you could start comparing.

Then you could narrow it down to a few programs, get samples, and let the teachers for each grade review them.

Switching curriculum is mega expensive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Getting to any multiplication in second grade is good??? When I switched schools at the beginning of second grade all the kids knew their times tables up to 12, they could divide, they could add and subtract into the thousands. Even at my old school they had finished with telling time and counting money at the end of first grade. They didn't learn these things by just sitting around and doing timed tests and endless worksheets, either. They did really cool hands-on activities that demonstrated the concepts, how these operations actually worked.

And when I say that I want something that all ability levels can participate in, I mean that kids would be able to apply their knowledge to the activity, so that kids with better skills would take it to the next level on their own. That would make it precisely the opposite of all kids working at the level of the lowest performing kids. That is basically what we have right now, since there is no differentiation of curriculum for skill levels.

When I taught my kids multiplication they were in kindergarten and pre-k. I did it with legos, and they explored the concept of multiplication rather than memorizing facts. They have been great at multiplication ever since, no memorizing necessary. I wouldn't say that I even have all of the multiplication tables memorized- but I can rapidly calculate anything in my head using relationships between the numbers.

Bottom line: I'm a math person, I love math, I'm an engineering student and do higher level math every day, and I think learning math would be a lot more fun and a lot more meaningful if it was taught more conceptually, with more activities, less rote learning, fewer worksheets. Not to mention that all those memorized math facts won't help you when you get to calculus, or linear algebra, or physics. What will help is the ability to see relationships between quantities, patterns, how numbers fit together, what it all means.

I will look into Investigations and Singapore Math, thanks for the suggestions. I've seen Everyday Math before, and yes, that looks awful. Just the name basically excludes the possibility of seeing anything exciting or interesting about math!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by katroshka View Post
When I taught my kids multiplication they were in kindergarten and pre-k. I did it with legos, and they explored the concept of multiplication rather than memorizing facts. They have been great at multiplication ever since, no memorizing necessary
That doesn't mean that what you did would work for a typical child.

Teachers have to teach ALL the kids. They don't just get to pick out the really bright ones. Depending on how a child's brain works, they may or may not pick up multiplication tables from playing with multiplication.

It does sound like your school does a poor job, but I think that fixing it is a lot more complicated than you realize. A math program is only one component -- the teachers are really the more important part of the equation.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by katroshka View Post
So I've been on here talking about my 2nd grader and her math skills, and her school's woefully lame approach to math. I'm pretty much set at this point on testing her so she can do online math courses and just get around the school system for her... but I'd really like the school to change their math curriculum for everyone.

Right now they do very little hands on stuff, I know they did the counting cubes and that's about it. They are obsessed with memorizing math facts, as though being able to spit out numbers was the point of studying math! They do lots of worksheets. All of this drives me nuts as I quite like math.

They are an International Baccalaureate school, so are not allowed to split kids into groups for math. I think they are very slow, my second grader just started doing simple multiplication, they will do some very basic fractions this year as well, and very simple division.

I'd like to see a curriculum that uses a lot of manipulatives and fun activities to teach concepts rather than drilling facts into their heads. I would like these activities to allow for multiple skill/ talent levels, so that all the kids would be able to do something to the best of their abilities, whether higher or lower than average.

Does anyone know of such a curriculum so I can go to my kids' school with suggestions? I know a lot of parents there would like to see a stronger math program, and since it's a relatively small charter school, I think we have a chance at getting some change, but I need to bring in some specific examples of better curricula.

Thanks!
I am just curious, what do they memorize?
Try Singapore's math.
FYI. According to Singapore's mathematics syllabus "students must attain the conceptual understanding of mathematic concepts but they also must develop procedurial skills that are needed for problem sloving - numerical written and mental calculation, algebraic manipulation, data analysis, measurement, and use of mathematical tools" (American Educator, Winter 2009-2010). So you need both, the skills and understanding of the concepts. All too often, we see in schools the emphasis on the concepts but no attention is paid to the content itself. So if they are familiar with the numerical concept but are not able to do numerical written and mental claculation, what good does it do for them?
Rot memorization is not always such a bad thing especially when it comes to the math. Hell, I can recite multip. table at any given moment and I am forever grateful that I have it "ingrained" into my brain.
 

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I also like Singapore Math. It's not exactly hands on, but it does use a different visible approach and has a higher level thinking approach to everyday math.

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Hell, I can recite multip. table at any given moment and I am forever grateful that I have it "ingrained" into my brain.
I wish I did!


Our school starts teaching skip counting in K, its a great way to get ahead on mulitiplication/division and is a little more fun than flash cards.
 

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Well, I know I already mentioned Singapore, but would like to chime in and say that my first grader (not gifted) is working on the 1B level. She has no problem with it, there are great pictures to illustrate concepts and I do lots of hands on with her. But, we are currently doing early multiplication right now. It isn't times table, but more like "Sarah has 5 groups of 4 marbles, how many marbles does she have?". They then have the child use pictures (five circles with 4 marbles in each circle) to illustrate. They can then, literally count up the marbles, add 4+4+4+4+4, or if they are able, they can jump to 5x4=20. Various terminology is also given. There is also a section for early division.

Amy
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I will definitely look into Singapore, it sounds interesting.

Also, I wasn't advocating that children only do conceptual activities and leave out the computation and so on... I just think that worksheets and memorization shouldn't be the focus of the curriculum, which it currently is. Much of their math this year has consisted of one-minute tests of 30 addition or subtraction problems. BORING.

When I teach my kids math, we use manipulatives and paper and pencil at the same time, working out problems both ways so they can see exactly how the computational process works. And yeah, the way I teach my daughters (which is actually pretty different for each one) wouldn't work for everyone, and neither does the worksheet/ rote memorization way. That's why it seems to me that kids should be exposed to multiple ways to do math, and have open-ended activities so they can figure out their favorite way of doing things and be able to do more interesting things if they are able.

I guess what really bothers me about the way the math is being taught is that the whole attitude seems to be that math is just something that needs to be done, just memorize this stuff so that you can balance your checkbook quickly (not that that's a bad thing), it's just a necessary drudgery. That's not the way I look at math, it's not the way my kids look at it. We think math is really cool, it's interesting... Imagine if they taught reading the same way they teach math. How many words can you read in a minute? Read this same meaningless passage over and over again. Reading isn't taught like that, though. They may test like that, but it's taught with an attitude that it is something that will open your world up, that it can take you places, teach you all sorts of amazing things.... math should be taught the same way, because it can do all of those things. I want my kids to learn math like they could be mathematicians or physicists or engineers someday, not like they will forever groan anytime somebody brings up algorithms or integrals.
 

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I'm one of those people who has had the times tables burnt permanently into my head. I'm really good at the quick mental computations and estimations necessary for everyday life. But I admit that it's only been in my adult life, through hanging around with my more mathematical husband and other people, that I see math as an enticing challenge. When I was in school, I was very wary of math, quick to memorize methods, and very worried about looking dumb doing it. I was one of those students who would get really mad when other students or teachers would do math on the board slightly differently than the way I was taught ("You're confusing me! Put different shapes around the different terms!"). I really like this essay, "Lockhart's Lament," that advocates math education that shows math as a fun and beautiful thing.
http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_03_08.html
There should be time in math class to just play around with numbers, shapes, formulas. And students should be able to write proofs in any way that makes sense--not just using the rigid, unpleasant format and terminology advocated in geometry class. Oh, how I hated geometry.
But if I had to choose between conceptual understanding of math and ability to do calculations with a strong base of memorized information, I'd pick the latter. I just think there are a lot of kids who will never be mathematicians and deserve to have basic math skills, even if it has to be drilled into them to the exclusion of more interesting activities
 

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Well, I think your school is probably doing fine except whenever a child is bored, she should be accelerated. Or if she has finished with that year's learning goals, and you do not want her accelerated into the next year's curriculum, they should allow her to do enrichment activities if that's your choice. Or free-read. If your child knows her math facts she needs to be able to move on not be tortured. That holds for any academic work.

Doing multiplication in second grade is not necessarily "slow" btw. I learned multiplication tables in 3rd grade. We could not move on until we tested out of each table.

I also thought IB Primary Years *was* a curriculum. If they have high standards for competence, more power to them.

I quite like math too.
 
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