Georgia students say math is too easy. So, why don’t we do better?

There are two views of education in America. One is that we are raising standards — especially in math — beyond the reach of many students and losing them as a result. The second perspective is that most classes are a cakewalk, leaving kids bored and unchallenged.

A new analysis by the Center for American Progress supports the latter. The analysis was based on student questionnaires given to students taking a respected federal benchmark test called NAEP or the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The analysis provides state data, and Georgia exceeds the national average in students reporting math is too easy. In Georgia, 40 percent of fourth graders say math was easy, compared to 37 percent nationally. Yet, we have more students saying that they feel they are always learning in math class.

And while nationally 73 percent of 8th graders say they are not taught about engineering and technology, the rate is only 70 percent in Georgia.

Of course, the question becomes why  Georgia does not fare better on NAEP math, where, despite a rise in the 2011 results in fourth grade, we still trail the national average. Georgia’s average score in 2011 (238) was two points lower than that of the nation’s average score (240). In eighth grade, the average math score was 278, demonstrating no change from 2009. Georgia’s average score was five points lower than that of the nation’s average score (283)

Unfortunately, we exceed the national average by 1 percentage point in 8th graders reporting that they read fewer than five pages per day. The national average is 30 percent, and the Georgia average is 31.  On the other hand, that means that nearly seven out of 10 Georgia 8th graders report reading  five or more pages a day.

According to the report authors Ulrich Boser and Lindsay Rosenthal:

You might think that the nation’s teenagers are drowning in schoolwork. Images of sullen students buried in textbooks often grace the covers of popular parenting magazines, while well-heeled suburban teenagers often complain they have to work the hours of a corporate lawyer in order to finish their school projects and homework assignments.

But when we recently examined a federal survey of students in elementary and high schools around the country, we found the opposite: Many students are not being challenged in school.

Consider, for instance, that 37 percent of fourth-graders say that their math work is too easy. More than a third of high-school seniors report that they hardly ever write about what they read in class. In a competitive global economy where the mastery of science is increasingly crucial, 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they aren’t being taught engineering and technology, according to our analysis of a federal database.

Here is the official summary of the analysis:

Students don’t have access to key science and technology learning opportunities. For today’s students, being prepared for college and the modern workforce means having access to high-quality curriculum materials in critical subject areas like math and science. But our analysis found that most teenagers say their schools don’t provide important learning opportunities in science and technology. For instance, 72 percent of eighth-grade science students say they are not taught about engineering and technology.

Too many students don’t understand their teacher’s questions and report that they are not learning during class. Nationwide, less than two-thirds of middle school math students report that they feel like they are always or almost always learning in math class. Similarly, just under 50 percent of 12th-grade math students said they feel like they are always or almost always learning in their math class.

Students also often report difficulty understanding their teacher’s questions. Twenty-five percent of middle school math students report that they sometimes or hardly ever understand what their teacher asks.

Thirty-six percent of 12th-graders report they sometimes or hardly ever clearly understand what their math teacher asks. All students, regardless of their family background, should have access to a high-quality education. But our analysis of student feedback found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have the same access to robust learning opportunities.

Consider, for instance, that 74 percent of higher- income fourth-grade students report that they often or always understand what their science teacher is saying, compared with just 56 percent of lower-income fourth-grade students. Among middle school students, 80 percent of higher-income middle-school students report often or always understanding what teachers ask in math class. In contrast, just 70 percent of low-income students report often or always understanding their math teacher. Meanwhile, 66 percent of higher-income 12th-graders reported they often or always understand what their math teacher is saying, compared with 60 percent of low-income students.

There are also racial gaps in some areas. For instance, in the fourth-grade 73 percent of white students and 72 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students said that they clearly understand what their science teacher talks about. In contrast, only 56 percent of black; 54 percent of Hispanic; and 58 percent of Native American and Alaska Native students say they do. In middle school, 83 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students and 79 percent of white eighth-grade students report that they clearly understand what their math teacher is saying. But only 67 percent of black students; 70 percent of Hispanic students; 69 percent of Native American and Alaska Native students report understanding their teacher.

To be clear, there were not opportunity gaps in every area that we looked at. We examined disaggregated data for all of the relevant background questions and we reported the results only for questions in which there were significant gaps.

Our analysis leads us to the following recommendations:

  • Policymakers must continue to push for higher, more challenging standards. To ensure that all students are ready for the global economy, we need to expect more of our students and schools they attend. The Common Core standards are one way to help states and districts make progress on this issue, but far more needs to be done.
  • Students need more rigorous learning opportunities, and our nation needs to figure out ways to provide all students with the education that they deserve. Too many students report not being engaged in class. They don’t understand what their teachers are teaching them and they feel like they are not learning. Our nation can—and should—do more.
  • Researchers and educators should continue to develop student surveys. We hope this report launches additional research into the use of student surveys. Researchers such as Ronald Ferguson, senior lecturer in education and public policy and director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, have made significant advances which we describe below. But we need to know much more about these tools, and what they reveal about the student experience.

Over the past few years, many states have engaged in promising reforms that address the issues we raise in this report. But our findings suggest we need to do far more to improve the learning experience for all students. We hope that the interactive state-by-state maps available on our website—together with the findings and recommendations in the following pages—will inspire engagement with students’ perspectives in the search to find new and better ways to provide students with the knowledge and skills that they need to succeed.

Here is an excerpt from a USA Today story on the analysis: (This is only an excerpt. Please the read the entire story.)

Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the center who co-wrote the report, said the data challenge the “school-as-pressure-cooker” image found in recent movies such as Race to Nowhere. Although those kids certainly exist at one end of the academic spectrum, Boser said, “the broad swath of American students are not as engaged as much in their schoolwork.”

Robert Pondiscio of the Core Knowledge Foundation, a Virginia non-profit that pushes for more rigorous academics, says the pressure-cooker environment applies only to a “small, rarefied set” of high school students. The notion that “every American kid is going home with a backpack loaded with 70 pounds of books — that’s not happening.”

The data suggest that many kids simply aren’t pushed academically: Only one in five eighth-graders read more than 20 pages a day, either in school or for homework. Most report that they read far less.  “It’s fairly safe to say that potentially high-achieving kids are probably not as challenged as they could be or ought to be,” Boser said.

Gladis Kersaint, a math education professor at the University of South Florida and a board member of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said she’s not surprised by the findings. “I think we underestimate students,” she said.

Florida State University English education professor Shelbie Witte, a former classroom teacher, said standardized tests limit material teachers can cover. “The curriculum is just void of critical thinking, creative thinking,” she said. As a result, students are “probably bored, and when they’re bored, they think the classes are easy.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

69 comments Add your comment

Kathleen Carpenter

July 10th, 2012
10:22 am

Maureen, this is so spot-on. Thanks for posting! What’s sad is that people aren’t afraid to say they’re bad at math, and I’ve even seen some folks take pride in it!

Eyes Rolling

July 10th, 2012
10:24 am

I don’t know if this is still the case, but 30-odd years ago, my public school system had a policy of not teaching algebra any earlier than the 9th grade. This resulted in students having to slog through at least years (6th-8th) of “new math” garbage. We were promised by math teachers during those years that esoterica like non-base-10 math and set theory would be useful to us later in life “in higher math courses.”

This was revealed as completely bogus when I got to college majoring in engineering; what I really needed then was a better grounding in algebra and basic Calculus. Unfortunately, the school system’s goofy sequence let my high school off the hook when it came to teaching Calculus, meaning graduates were thrown to the mathematical wolves in their first year of college.

To this day I don’t know whether they did that because (A) they couldn’t find enough teachers qualified to teach algebra, trigonometry and Calculus, or (B) they had the teachers, but they were too lazy to bother. Given the incompetent education-major slugs I had to deal with in most of my grade school classes, I’m guessing option B was more likely….

Jimmy62

July 10th, 2012
10:38 am

Sounds like we spend far too much time catering to the lowest common denominator, and not enough time pushing the students who can handle it and could become very productive citizens if we make them actually learn something.

redweather

July 10th, 2012
10:46 am

Pushing students to excel isn’t as easy as one might think. So much depends on whether a teacher can get the students to “buy in” to excellence.

PMC

July 10th, 2012
11:05 am

There’s more of a chance of not challenging students because of NCLB.

We are far too worried about the bottom to pay attention to the top.

PMC

July 10th, 2012
11:08 am

Probably could benefit by starting algebraic concepts earlier so that there is more time to get to triganomics and calculus that might actually help engineering students in college.

That said, I had to relearn virtually everything from English to Math when I got to college. My grade school education was antiquated.

[...] 40% of Georgia 4th graders say math is easy. (AJC) [...]

Infinite

July 10th, 2012
11:28 am

Do not entrust the responsibility of educating your child entirely to the school system. I tell my children that the school and teachers supplement me, and not the other way around. We do daily lessons in various subjects at home, in addition to what is being done in school. If your child is not being challenged, it is your responsibility to challenge them, whether that means teaching them yourself or finding additional academic outlets for them. Schools should be doing more, but I won’t wait for the “research” to tell them to do so before I assume that responsibility myself.

a_mom

July 10th, 2012
11:47 am

I think PMC@11:05am nailed it on the head. We teach to the lowest denominator so no one (or as few as possible) will fail. The bright students aren’t challenged. I wish the teachers would separate the students according to ability in math, starting in the earliest grades. My oldest is entering 4th this year, so I don’t know at what age they start doing that. I know she & my youngest both were bored a lot in school because they understood math & reading better than most in the class. It’s very frustrating to me as a parent to know that their time is being wasted while the slower kids try to catch up. It kills me to think of the dumbing down that goes on, and not just in math.

I went to school in Florida in the 70’s and we had separate math classes starting in 3rd grade. I was so happy since math was my favorite subject. In junior high (7th-9th), I took Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, then Trigonometry & Calculus in 10th-11th. I sure hope my children will have the opportunity to do that here. Being a non-native of GA, I worry a lot when I see low SAT scores and national rankings for this state. I can’t base it on my own experience, so have to go by the statistics.

JD

July 10th, 2012
11:49 am

You did not provide the descriptive statistics for the survey — but I would guess that the percentage differences between GA and the National Average are well within one standard deviation — which means we cannot state with much confidence that Georgia is any more or less than the average… So, the outcomes suggest our methods are no better, no worse than others… — A better comparison would be Georgia versus other state (level of aggregation more appropriate).

GFY

July 10th, 2012
11:50 am

Eyes Rolling your expierence was very similar to my own…..I too think it was option B.

catlady

July 10th, 2012
12:02 pm

Don’t know where their data came from, but in my area math is a great weakness. Over 30% of our kids fail the math CRCT each year, and you know how little is expected to pass!

I also know folks want to say they are “bored” when what they mean is they don’t want to spend time on it.

Mr. Todd

July 10th, 2012
12:03 pm

I was substituting in Kathy the math teacher’s class and she left a pile of worksheets on fraction problems for them to do. When I looked at the first page they were supposed to do and at those million fraction problems I started getting woozy and pale.

I understand that a lot of people in the world think math is important.

When that little Debbie girl started in on how hard these fraction problems were over and over and over and over I felt a deep and instant kinship with her … until she started slapping the page on her desk over and over and over while she was saying real loud and whiney how hard it was over and over and over. Debbie also asked me real loud wasn’t the numerator supposed to be greater than the denominator or did she ask me over and over and over was the denominator supposed to be greater than the numerator and that’s when I started twitching and my body fluids started pouring out of all of my seven orifices like the Chattahoochee River and I became a moist and creamy blob of quivering, useless, steaming biomatter in the real teacher’s desk chair with two glazed-over eyeballs staring up at the ceiling and if there would have been a math poster on fractions stapled to the ceiling then that would have been an incredible comic and ironic touch but there wasn’t a math poster stapled to the ceiling above Kathy’s desk thank the Lord God almighty.

Gilligan finally said … I’ll help her.

I said thank you, Jesus. I mean Gilligan.

http://www.adixiediary.com

Mary Elizabeth

July 10th, 2012
12:11 pm

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I must restate what I have said many times in the past on this blog. Not all students need higher standards in math because some students have not yet mastered lower level standards. On the other hand, some students are bored in present math classes because they should be receiving higher level math instruction.

Each student should be assessed individually, and then instructionally addressed according to his or her precise instructional level of functioning. No sweeping generalities should be assumed for “all” or even for “most” students in math (or any other subject). Each student must be taught on the precise level in which he or she is functioning – at point in time – for maximum success to occur for individuals and for schools.

That being reiterated, I want to state, also, that if some students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are not understanding what their teachers are saying regarding instructional concepts, then some of these students could well be functioning on a frustration level, and not on an instructional level or an independent level in terms of their skill development, in that teacher’s classroom. If I had entered a Spanish IV class as a student, without first having mastered the prerequiste concepts within Spanish I, II, and III, I probably would not have understood what the Spanish IV teacher was attempting to communicate in Spanish IV.

Finally, to “flesh out” my thinking more fully, I heartily approve of the thoughts of Florida State University English education professor Shelbie Witte, who said in the last paragraph, above, that “standardized tests limit material teachers can cover. “The curriculum is just void of critical thinking, creative thinking,” she said. As a result, students are “probably bored, and when they’re bored, they think the classes are easy.”

Instruction must be two-fold: precise in instructional level placement as well as skill delivery for each student, and also encouraging of creative and critical thinking for every student.

http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/about-education-essay-1-mastery-learning/

carlosgvv

July 10th, 2012
12:13 pm

Most people do not have advanced math apptitude. Therefore, in order to get Georgia students to be able to pass, math must dumbed down.

It’s just more social engineering.

mountain man

July 10th, 2012
12:16 pm

“No sweeping generalities should be assumed for “all” or even for “most” students in math (or any other subject). ‘

I agree, 100%.. We also need to make the distinction between “minimum requirements” and “opportunities”. Why start “challenging” students to learn calculus in high school if there are graduates who can’t do fractions? Basic math should be a minimum requirement for a high school diploma, same as basic reading and writing, history, etc. And it should be enforced, i.e. NO ONE should graduate high school without a MASTERY of the basics (which they should have achieved in the 6th grade). Anything more is for the college-bound as part of their journey to bigger and better educational institutions.

sgamathteacher

July 10th, 2012
12:53 pm

Sometimes kids say things are easy or they think they did well on a test when they really didn’t understand the material. Put even MORE STUDENTS in a classroom and see how this concept multiplies.

another view

July 10th, 2012
12:54 pm

@Mr. Todd: LOLOL!!!

Mary Elizabeth

July 10th, 2012
12:55 pm

mountain man, 12:16 pm

“Why start ‘challenging’ students to learn calculus in high school if there are graduates who can’t do fractions?”
=======================================

Place those students in calculus who can accurately be placed on that level, and place those high school students who cannot do fractions (and there are those) in classes that teach mastery of fractions. Correctly placed, some students will advance in skills at a faster rate than others, and some of those who presently might be in the “fraction’s class,” might later take higher level math courses.

We must avoid rigidly assigning students, even in our minds, into permanent categories. The human being, and the human spirit, often defy limited categorizations assigned by others. The master teacher has an eye for both the “art” and the “science” of student academic development. The master teacher’s skill in the “art of teaching” will allow him, or her, to see a latent possibility, of more rapid advancement than the norm, in certain students.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

July 10th, 2012
1:34 pm

Maureen,

Good point.

If Math is so easy to our kids, why did the eighth graders in the largest public school system in east central Georgia “achieve” 33%-ile in Math on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills(ITBS) in its most recent administration in the district(2009)?

The district ceased administering the ITBS after 2009 for financial and public relations reasons. District personnel will admit to the former reason though the latter was the more compelling for them.

Old engineer - poor at multiplication

July 10th, 2012
1:38 pm

Math and arithmetic are two separate things, they often get confused. Someone can be a wiz at calculus and still add with their fingers.
Math is symbolic and includes logic, set theory (yes, new math), proofs, trig, algebra, calculus, and statistics. A good math background is required to function in engineering, physics, and other science-based disciplines. Folks who don’t “get” math won’t function as computer programmers or statisticians, and make poor engineers (assuming they can get through university).
Arithmetic is adding sums and memorizing times tables. Important, but not critical (we have calculators now). The fallacy is expecting someone who thrives a memorization (i.e., knows times tables at age of 8) to do well in higher math, and the reverse. Two contestants in yesterday’s Jeopardy show did not know that pi was an irrational number (one guessed it was an integer, one an imaginary number).
To do well at math, a student needs to work a lot of problems – over and over. Math can’t be “got” by listening to a lecture (or reading the text book). That’s why bright students fail, and “slower” students can do well- it takes time, effort, and motivation to succeed. And lots of homework, with repetition.

Devil's Advocate

July 10th, 2012
1:39 pm

The terms “easy”, “hard”, and “bored” are misused and abused when it comes to a child’s assessment of a task at hand. Unfortunately, overprotective parents have taken to using those terms as well when making the case that their children are being done wrong.

If 40% of polled students say that math is easy, that’s a minority. Also, why is math being “easy” a bad thing?

Assessing life based on “easy” and “hard” is immature. In the immortal words of Yoda, “do or do not, there is no try”. You’ll find many successful people who accomplished many tasks, some were probably easy to them while others were difficult but at the end of the day those tasks were completed enough to progress.

As far as boredom in the classroom goes, perhaps that’s a lack of purpose and focus. You see, if a student is focused on learning the material presented by the teacher in hopes of gaining knowledge to earn a high grade in the class to get into college, the military, or start a career right out of high school, then that student has a purpose and will not be bored. The student who just goes to school because it’s daycare will likely be bored regardless of the grade earned.

If a student is bored, how about interacting with the teacher and class by asking challenging questions about the subject matter or relating it to something real in the lives of the students? Oh yeah, that would require actually understanding the material and that’s something lazy students don’t want to do as it would interfere with socializing and discussing pop culture.

As far as not learning enough about science and engineering, how can the ignorant and naive tell someone they are not learning enough? They are students, we know they don’t know all there is to know about STEM fields but isn’t that why you study for years? Do these kids expect to finish high school and win the Nobel? What happened to going to college or the military to continue learning? Students need to remain focused on mastering fundamentals before they worry about dealing with more complex matters. Innovation and discovery requires the scientist to step out of the student mode and begin pushing the boundaries of what we know. Without fundamental understanding and mastery of related topics, this endeavor can be both dangerous and counterproductive.

I am really over this “fast food” mentality of people sticking their hand out wanting the prize.

Math teacher and Engineer

July 10th, 2012
2:07 pm

It is clear that the elementary school math and academics are not rigorous enough with high enough expectations. Too many of my 7th grade students cannot remember how to do fractions, much less even how to convert a fraction to a decimal. Ex: “What goes in to what?”
Problem areas: Absolutely not enough focus and drill on basics, too much focus on bottom 20% per NCLB (it does what it says and never has promoted excellence) and mandatory testing (multiple choice in math does not show evidence of learning), lack of required homework and note taking skill development throughout earlier years, cultural shift in students being easily bored because of too much interactive gaming vs reading, and too many additional requirements for teachers that reduces time for instructional planning and grading. (Read all that Gates and Duncan). And do you really think a 4th grader can accurately respond to survey questions if they say they can’t understand their teacher’s questions, are hardly reading on their own, or rarely writing analysis of their thoughts? We are raising a generation of children who have low communication skills.

Of course this data looks at what has been done but cannot address efforts in house for improvement. If the CCGPS are implemented as advertised it will work to address some of the concerns in math for rigor and critical thinking. Parents, administrators, and policy makers need to be prepared for the results in a couple of years and give it time to play out. However, GA students may do fine overall. They just need to learn how to learn. That’s what’s missing in elementary school and I should not be teaching it in 7th grade.

Math teacher and Engineer

July 10th, 2012
2:12 pm

@ Devil’s Advocate

Nice

Solutions

July 10th, 2012
2:12 pm

It is the former ChimpinChief Bush’s No Child Left Behind nonsense at fault, the classes are geared toward the lowest common denominator, with all rewards going toward helping the class dummy learn a little more, while the best and brightest are held hostage to the lowest common denominator. The decline in educational achievement has been at the high end of the spectrum, the lower end has held its own or improved a little. Think of it this way, interest earned on educating the lowest common denominator is 1%, interest earned in educating the top students is 20% or more. Spend the money on the smart kids, they will improve the world for all. The dummies will always be consumers of other people’s money.

Solutions

July 10th, 2012
2:16 pm

Do you want to talk about a real tragedy? This is a disaster for the whole world, a brain like this is one in a million: http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/tech-research-assistant-killed-1475441.html

another comment

July 10th, 2012
2:16 pm

It all depends upon the teacher your child gets each year as to weather or not Math will become easy for them. If they have bad teachers then it is the parents responsibility to either advocate for their child or to teach their child the basics.

My oldest daughter was lucky enough to start school under the Roy Barnes era when class sizes were 17 and 22 students. Then some foolish teachers were brainwashed that the Republican’s would do better for them. What have they gotten 35 students per class. My lord, they should have given on the tenure and kept the 17-22 students. Teachers still do not have much protection from rifts, but they now have double the class size, furlough days, no raises in 5 years, pay cuts, while Sonny got “Go Fish” for the Field trips that have been cut from the budget.

The bright young teachers my daughter had with 17 students of her peers are long gone. I took her out and put her in Catholic School where she received a great Math education from teachers who either had retired from the public school system and were willing to supplement their retirement with the $27K and the $1K or so Christmas and end of school bonus the parents cobbled together, or the idealistic just out of school new teachers. They also knew that if a student was a problem they would be removed, they would also have the support of parents. As parental volunteerism was 100% mandatory. You would not be offered a new contract for the next year without it.

My daughter graduated from 8th grade in the Catholic Schools. Unfortunately do to divorcing an abusive man to both my daughters and myself we did not have the $16K tution for High School and were not the desired minority for financial aid. Going to Math 1,2,3, 4 only in its second year of its gross fiasco, would have been a nightmare if my daughter did not have such a strong background.

My daughter was fortunate to get a strong no nonsence teacher her freshman year. Although she only had a B in class, she scored a 90 on the EOTC, while most of the state students failed this test. The pea brained Principal then tried to use budget shortfall rift to fire this well loved teacher with 25+ years of teach, in addition to 10 of others out of 17 at the school. He was shocked that this teacher and another were so well loved by the community and all that they one their hearings. The next week he refilled 8 or the 10 positions with his pets from his last school South Cobb.

My daughter unfortunately got one of these pets her sophmore year. She was in this class for 9 days. They had zero homework and zero tests, in Math II. Of course, it was easy, but were they learning anything. Then I was called and told, that because of scheduling conflicts my daughter need to be moved to another class. I also got another call, from the teacher, who suggest that since my daughter was a good student, I not let them put her the class they were proposing, but ask to put her in the Math 2 class of the same teacher Mr. M, that she had last year. So I did, since she liked the teacher. They did then honor my request. He was absolutely stunned that they had done no homework or tests in the first 9 days of a 4/4 class. He made my daughter make up all the work. She was not happy about this. especially, when interium grades had to go to cheerleading coach, and showed her still with 0 for missing work. She eventually got a high B in the class but got another 90 on the EOCT, while again more than 1/2 of all Georgia students are failing it.

First Semester, she transferred to Riverwood. At Riverwood the Math 3 teacher told me that my daughter was a Math genius. That she was one of her best students. My daughter told me that she was tutoring and helping kids who had previously been in some of the best Private Schools with their Math Homework at Lunch. We received a letter while at Riverwood that my daughter would be exempt from the Math Graduation test due to her scoring the two 90’s on the Math 1 and Math 2 EOCT’s in her Cobb .

My daughter decided to live with her father and return to the Cobb School after the Christmas. The Math 3 teacher, also thought she was a genius. She got and A and got a 92 on the EOTC. She was once again tutoring and teaching 1/2 the class the math. She said the students could not understand the Math from the teacher, but could understand it from her. The teacher was unnecessarly complicating it.

My daughter tells me all the time that she is greatful that she had Mr. M, for Math 1& 2, she would later have a B and learn, than have an A and not learn. She can not believe that the former Principal the current Principal at Westlake even dared to fire such a great Math teacher.

At mid year

Solutions

July 10th, 2012
2:19 pm

A million clowns like Dunlap could (and should) die, and it would make no difference to the world. But the life that he stole of Ashish Dembla makes the world a more impoverished place.

Solutions

July 10th, 2012
2:24 pm

another comment – Class sizes for my generation were 30 or more to 1, yet my generation has achieved far more than this coddled sissy boy generation you whine about, with class sizes of 17 to 1. There are twice as many teachers sucking tax dollars off the homeowners today as when I was in public schools, yet enrollments have not doubled! Class size reductions just make life easier for the teachers, the kids do not learn anymore in a class of 17 than they did in a class of 30.

guest

July 10th, 2012
2:24 pm

Of course the math is easy when you teach to the dumbest person in the room. What did you expect?

Mary Elizabeth

July 10th, 2012
2:28 pm

I thought that some readers may want to see an example of an Algebra I Math Skills Continuum in 7th and 8th grades, in one school district, from “e book browse.” See link below, and notice the need for the mastery of fractions, decimals, and percents, therein:

8th grade Math Skills Continuum july 3 pdf

Found at ebookbrowse.com

Mary Elizabeth

July 10th, 2012
2:31 pm

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

July 10th, 2012
3:11 pm

@Solutions “Class size reductions just make life easier for the teachers, the kids do not learn anymore in a class of 17 than they did in a class of 30.”

Hmmm. I am pretty sure my students do much better when there is actually enough room in the classroom for all of them to have a desk and sit down, and when I have enough materials in a set for all the students to be able to use them.

Booze Hound

July 10th, 2012
3:17 pm

Americans in general are stupid. Why throw-away all this money on “education”? Let’s put the dummies to work early doing something actually useful! Suggestions include shoveling manure, cutting grass, poisoning fire ants, or picking-up liquor bottles and beer cans.

A Teacher, 2

July 10th, 2012
3:20 pm

@Devil’s Advocate….Ditto. Well said and well thought out!

catlady

July 10th, 2012
3:55 pm

I would like to mention that for the two years I worked with adult literacy, 80%+ of the students tested into what we would now say is 3-4th grade math. Couldn’t do fractions at all.

Ashley

July 10th, 2012
4:19 pm

By the time I got to 7th grade I was so sick of fractions ,decimals and percentage. My math teacher gave a practice Algebra 1 test for fun, those who past with an 85 or better were given the greenlight to take Algebra 1 in the 8th grade. I loved applying myself and had to work at it, but 7th grade math was boring and just a rehash of everything I had learn from 4-6 grades. That was 41 years ago, progression would dictate that Alegbra 1 and Geometry be taught in 7th and 8th grades, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. If a 4th grader can do Algebra or higher math, let him/her because it only benefits said student.

Old teacher

July 10th, 2012
6:45 pm

No Child Left Behind = No Child Gets Ahead

Mdw

July 10th, 2012
6:47 pm

I never in my 13 years teaching math in grades 6 thru 10 have I heard from the students math is easy. We are so focused on learning more at lower levels, we have lost sight of what math should be. We are asking higher grades to do dumb questions like if Sally is 3 times older then George and Fred is 2 younger than Sally and Burt is 34 but twice the age of Fred in three years, what is the age of George. Really-why would we teach surface area of cylinder in 6th grade. No, my Friends, students say quite the opposite. And I am tired of hearing how 8th grade CRCT is easy. I am not allowed to look at it to say. Math 1 has been a joke. The time the students just grasp a concept we go to a total different concept and do not allow the students to practice until effeciency has been obtain. If we take a slower simplier pace through all grade levels, we can then have students actually learn and understand math concepts.

Mdw

July 10th, 2012
7:01 pm

Should be cylinders not cylinder and should be Fred is 2 times not Fred is 2. Typing from iPad-takes a little getting use to.

mountain man

July 10th, 2012
7:08 pm

“Arithmetic is adding sums and memorizing times tables. Important, but not critical (we have calculators now).”

That is what you get when the cash register loses its memory, and the kid behind the register can’t make change. I love it when you go through the drive-through and your bill is $3.05 and you give them a five dollar bill and a nickle and they can’t figure out how much change to give you.

mountain man

July 10th, 2012
7:10 pm

“I would like to mention that for the two years I worked with adult literacy, 80%+ of the students tested into what we would now say is 3-4th grade math. Couldn’t do fractions at all.”

So where are the students who said “Math is Easy”? Oh, I know, they were the bored half of the room while the teacher tried to bring the other half up to grade level (the half that was socially promoted).

mountain man

July 10th, 2012
7:12 pm

You are correct, Mary Elizabeth.

Bring back tracking.

John Konop

July 10th, 2012
8:45 pm

As I pointed out many times Cherokee county has a program that started kids on algebra 1 for advance math students, btw the program is nationally ranked. Kathy Cox attempted to end the program instead of expand it to other parts of the state. This is how I got involved with the failed math 123 debate with Kathy and company. Kathy was so far out of touch, she did not even want to give the kids credit in 7th grade for the class.

Tired of Teaching

July 10th, 2012
9:00 pm

A lot of students think they know something that they just don’t know. Therefore, they’ll say it’s easy or they’re bored…and in reality, they’re simply not focusing and learning the material. For example: adding and subtracting integers…it’s a simple concept. But you won’t believe how many students get through their middle school years not being able to do it correctly. Therefore, they can’t solve a majority of their algebra problems (which include integers) correctly because they refuse to put forth to learn to to the simple stuff. Math is legitimately easy for a few students. But with proper differentiation, everyone can be challenged.

Not surprised

July 10th, 2012
9:43 pm

This is my definition of bored. I was a teacher’s aide for this teacher who taught calculus for the selected few. The year was 1974. One student never paid attention to the class discussion. Most times he would be reading another book,but on occasions he would challenge the teacher, just for the hell of it. She seems confused and the student would go back reading his other book because he was bored.

Fastforward to today, that bored student is now a renowned physics professional at Princeton. :-)

Old School 36

July 10th, 2012
10:05 pm

Very few of the students in our 7th grade felt math was easy…a familiar complaint or comment was it was “so hard” or “I just don’t get it”…The course is pretty much algebra…most of these students were not ready and could have benefited from a more general math approach. I have learned that most people who are math people have a hard time understanding people who have difficulty with math. I think that is the same for those who read well vs. those who don’t. I had a student many years ago who was an outstanding math thinker in third grade…but when she came to middle school hated math because she felt she was not smart enough to understand…it was disheartening to me because she was a student I always remembered who had a gift…so something happened in those upper elementary grades which disheartened her. I believe the focus on standardized testing might be culprit.

Old School 36

July 10th, 2012
10:06 pm

oops! “the culprit”

John Konop

July 11th, 2012
7:32 am

Old School,

I Agree, the problem is to many in charge are looking for a silver bullet one size fit all solution. Education should be focused on the students aptitude, and as you know No Child Left Behind replaced aptitude with one size fit all.

Jerry Eads

July 11th, 2012
8:33 am

I’ve tried to write three posts to this and they were all simply too angry. John Konop, above, pretty much summed it up in a very few words, but we’ve actually been tearing ourselves down for almost 40 years; NCLA (No child left ahead) was just another (if even worse) iteration. Somehow we got suckered into the factory model full-blown, wherein the only thing we care about was whether kids passed some very minimal (if totally arbitrary and capricious – and meaningless) “standard.”

We’re still doing that, and STILL, rather than reporting correctly, the AJC headlines promise “SCORES have gone up” (or down), when the ONLY thing that’s happened is a few more or less extremely low-performing students have passed or been “helped” past some VERY LOW cut point (ONE score) on a low-bid minimum competency test.

What do I mean by “low”? Roughly the 10th percentile, which means in that particular case 90% of the kids SHOULD pass anyway. The so-called “high standards” crowed about by a previous superintendent raised the cut point by a few points, perhaps to the 12th percentile, the primary result being a few more kids graduated to welfare. (These points vary quite a bit from subject to subject and from grade to grade – I pick 10th percentile only as an exemplar.)

Of course we should do our absolute best to bring our lowest performing students as far as we can, but we continue to do it at the expense of at least 3/4 of our kids. I have serious doubts about the shift to the current fantasy, called “value-added,” that purports to show us progress for every student. This “movement” still depends on testing, which, perhaps because the technology is a bit mystical, people have been suckered into believing it is a reasonable measure of each student’s education. Sorry folks, the technology is still in the dark ages in terms of actually measuring the breadth of a good education. Do we learn SOMETHING? Yes. Do we learn what we need to know? Not even close.

If you want a good education for your kids, stop treating teachers like the dirt on the factory floor. When teaching becomes a valued profession (AND WE LET THEM TEACH), more of the best and brightest will choose it, and your kids will get the education we all deserve.