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[Xmca-l] Re: Fwd: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

One more thing of interest here is the respect given to teachers. In the
U.S. the approach that our culture seems to take toward teaching seems
something like "Shut up and teach!"
In Japan, it seems a bit more respectful.

Here is one very telling sentence from Green's fact-finding:
"There, as in Japan, teachers teach for 600 or fewer hours each school
year, leaving them ample time to prepare, revise and learn. By contrast,
American teachers spend nearly 1,100 hours with little feedback."

That's just stunning - almost twice as many hours of contact time. Is it
even possible to have a "reflective" teaching practice when keeping those
kinds of hours? (not to mention the grading, oh the grading!). I can
imagine it to be quite difficult to hone one's craft when one is as
overwhelmed as the average American teacher is.

Michael, speaking to your friend's experience, Green suggests that there is
a dramatic difference between elementary schooling which is more geared
towards meaning-full math and high school which is geared towards cramming
for the tests. That might address the issue I raised about how it works in
Japan. And this seems to link to ideologies of childhood in interesting
ways - I've noticed that it seems that childhood is accorded a certain
respect in Japan that it isn't in the U.S. But by the time they get to high
school, they are seen by dominant culture as ready to be treated like
adults. Anyone out there have insight into Japanese culture?


On Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 10:04 AM, Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu>

> Hi Greg and Larry,
> Funny about Japan.  Somebody I know (who is in the arts and not the social
> sciences) recently returned from studying in Japan.  When I asked him about
> the education system there and the way they learned (and granted he is not
> a math teacher) he was confused.  His views were not that different from
> the findings you mention of Mazur.  They do a lot of testing, and they pass
> the test, and then they don't care at all about the underlying ideas, don't
> carry any of it with them.  Their task was to pass the test to get into the
> right university, to get the right job, to get the right social position.
>  Can we say the same thing about the Harvard physics students - they aren't
> really learning physics, it is just part of their everyday tasks they do in
> order to get into Harvard, to get the right job, to get the right social
> position.  Once the take has ended there is no reason to carry it with
> them.  Then Larry what is the "teaching craft," is it teaching students how
> to get into Harvard, or how to get into the State school, or how to get out
> of high school, or how to get a higher test score so we can get a raise?
> It's interesting reading about Sylvia's work again after all these years I
> think that this isn't mathematics to the diary workers, it is just what
> they do, part of their relevant everyday activities (same thing for the
> Brazilian street children I guess and the waitresses that King Beach
> studies).  We are the ones to abstract these activities out and say they
> are mathematics and relate them to these completely artificial subject
> boundaries we create to organize traditional classrooms.  When you think
> about it in human history this is a relatively new thing.
> Michael
> ________________________________________
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu]
> on behalf of Greg Thompson [greg.a.thompson@gmail.com]
> Sent: Monday, July 28, 2014 11:46 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Fwd: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?
> Seems that there might be a deeper problem here: the need for schools to
> sort kids by testing them. If we see that as the primary function of
> schooling (which it arguably is in the U.S.), then the old way of teaching
> math works great. Only those most dedicated students who don't have to work
> jobs during high school (i.e. upper-class students) are going to have the
> time to spend doing this frighteningly rote work (and parents' pushing is
> important here too).
> And the old method of teaching also happens to be well suited to the most
> essential functionary of any sorting system: THE TEST. Those kids who
> willing to regularly flog themselves with insanely rote math and science
> problems will come out on top on these tests. I think Eric Mazur's
> experience demonstrates this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwslBPj8GgI).
> Mazur is a Physics teacher at Harvard who changed up his tests to evaluate
> students on elementary concepts like the force exerted on a car and a truck
> when they have a collision. He was shocked by what he found. His Harvard
> students who could solve incredibly complex physics problems (many of whom
> had aced their AP Physics exams in high school) were consistently getting
> these elementary physics problems wrong! These students had learned
> incredibly well how to solve recipe Physics but they had no idea about how
> the basic principles of Physics worked.
> One question I have is whether tests on a large scale will ever be able to
> capture the kinds of embodied knowledge that Scribner's dairy workers and
> the Brazilian peanut-selling youth have. It seems like this kind of
> embodied knowledge is what Green is suggesting is included in the Common
> Core. But I fail to see how this could ever be accomplished in a
> traditional classroom.
> And I don't think that this is just a problem of doing a better job of
> teaching teachers how to teach the "new" way. Dewey pointed us to this
> "new" way of doing math almost 100 years ago and yet, as Green notes, we
> keep coming back to the other way of doing things. The problem here seems
> to be with the broader context of American education - something that Green
> seems to miss entirely.
> What is needed is a deep consideration of what it is that American schools
> are doing; why they exist; whose interests they serve (and consequently who
> has the greatest impact on shaping policy and such). Seymour Sarason seems
> to me to be one of the best in this regard (Consider his book, The
> Predictable Failure of School Reform: Can We Change Course Before it is too
> Late?
> http://www.amazon.com/Predictable-Failure-Educational-Reform-Change/dp/1555426239/ref=la_B001H6P704_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406560135&sr=1-8
> - and note in searching for this URL, I tried the URL "seymoursarason.com"
> - suggested on the wikipedia page - and got an advertisement, entirely in
> Japanese, for how Japanese housewives can make money in the cell phone
> industry!).
> With these questions of the importance of cultural context in mind, I
> wonder: how does this real-world math work in Japan where, according to my
> stereotypes of Japan's educational system, sorting by testing is an
> essential feature of Japan's schooling system?
> Is this method of teaching perhaps not as common in Japan as Green
> suggests?
> Or, is the impulse for sorting by testing less pronounced in Japan than I
> assume?
> Or is it something different altogether?
> -greg
> On Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 1:55 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Mike, Andy,
> >
> > Yes, a great article.
> >   The insights that were generated by a person from Japan observing the
> > degree of *private* individual classroom teaching [with the
> > resulting isolation of teachers in America] in contrast to Japanese
> > teachers engaging in ongoing *lesson* dialogues.
> > The centrality of ongoing *lesson talk* as what is needed to sustain
> change
> > contrasts with the common practices of teachers in American schools left
> to
> > figure out best practice alone.
> >
> > How do we shift our practices in schools to encourage ongoing dialogical
> > *lesson talk* among teachers?
> > Larry
> >
> >
> > On Sun, Jul 27, 2014 at 9:44 PM, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > This story about the resistance to common core standards may be of
> > interest
> > > to several members of xmca.
> > > Note that Sylvia Scribner appears in the story (!).
> > > mike
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >      Why Do Americans Stink at Math?
> > > <
> > >
> >
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> > > By
> > >
> > > The Common Core should finally improve math education. The problem is
> > that
> > > no one has taught the teachers how to teach it.
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> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602