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



https://vimeo.com/groups/chat/videos/28693286


 Vera John-Steiner on Loving and Hating Mathematics

a
------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Andy Blunden*
http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/


Cathrene Connery wrote:
Good morning! Those of you involved in this discussion would be very interested in Vera John Steiner and Reuben Hersh's book called Loving and Hating Mathematics. The authors use Vygotskian theory as a lens for their insights into the cultural-historical and pedagogical aspects of appropriating mathematics as a semiotic tool kit as well as the perezhivaija of mathematicians as expert learner-thinkers who have shaped the discipline. It is also a rich, elegant, and provoking read. All the best,
Cathrene

Dr. Cathrene Connery
Associate Professor of Education
Ithaca College Department of Education
194B Phillips Hall Annex
953 Danby Road
Ithaca, New York 14850
Cconnery@ithaca.edu

On Aug 3, 2014, at 1:02 AM, "Greg Thompson" <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com> wrote:

Yes, Jessica, I second Robert's suggestion about writing something about
your "Dear Math" project!

The students' responses could be very useful for others to better
understand the kinds of experiences that your students are facing. Perhaps
there is a way of anonymizing the data and then presenting it in some way
so that their voices can be heard.

Wondering if maybe you could share with us some of the memories that they
write?

Steele's work points nicely to the problem but it doesn't tell us much
about the way cultural, historical, and interactional contexts contributed
to things being the way they are. I think that this is where a SCT/CHAT or
whatever-you-want-to-call-it approach can be very helpful in exploring the
"air" in which a "threat" comes into being for a certain group of people
(for those unfamiliar with Claude Steele's work, he refers to stereotype
threat as a "threat in the air" which detrimentally affects the academic
performance of stigmatized students. Here is a useful website about
stereotype threat: http://www.reducingstereotypethreat.org/definition.html)

Best,
-greg



On Sat, Aug 2, 2014 at 3:09 PM, Robert Lake <boblake@georgiasouthern.edu>
wrote:

Hi Jessica,
Thanks so much for chiming in here.
Have you written anything about the "Dear Math" project?
I am intrigued to see if there is any connection between the
kind of  reflective aspect that is perhaps drawn  out in the students
when they write in this genre, and increased engagement in subsequent
math content.
Robert


On Sat, Aug 2, 2014 at 12:51 PM, Kindred, Jessica Dr. <jkindred@cnr.edu>
wrote:

I want to pick up on the theme of the fear of math, mentioned several
times in this string, that is pervasive among the inner city African
American B.A. students I teach and advise. As an advisor and psychology
professor, I have found Claude Steele and his colleagues' work on
stereotype threat so relevant. I coach my students that it is not math
they
hate, but an experience they had in school that they associate with math.
They often recount traumatic moments, often early in highschool when they
learned that math was not for them. I tell them that math is just
learning,
and they have already demonstrated their ability to learn, both to
themselves and others. I tell them that America teaches most students to
believe that math is different and only for a few, mostly through
stereotypes about girls and math and about African Americans and school
in
general. It is the American way of keeping people 'in their place' since
the more math you take the more money you (can) make. It is amazing the
tears that arise just from the word math for some, and I tell them this
is
the pain of math being taken away from them, this is grief about past
experiences, not math itself. I remind them of the 1991 AAUW report that
showed that girls stop taking math in America when they have any choice
because they believe they are not good at math eveen though they do well
in
math. Finally I tell them to write their love letter to math which goes
like this: Dear Math, I think we were close to each other once and I hope
we can be again. Something came between us. ( I tell them to write their
memories here). I can't wait to get to know and love you again... they
feel
silly, but many write the letter and go on to learn, love, and pass math.
Jessie Kindred
________________________________________
From: xmca-l-bounces+jkindred=cnr.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu
[xmca-l-bounces+jkindred=cnr.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] on behalf of
Tvmathdude [tvmathdude@aol.com]
Sent: Friday, August 01, 2014 10:50 PM
To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Colleagues,


Some reactions to the discussion on mathematic learning and instruction
in
our schools:


1) Over the years, I have met a number of "former" teachers. When I asked
them "Why not still teaching?", the responses varied somewhat from "The
schools are a mess" to "I couldn't raise my kids and provide for my
family
on the salary".


2) Many of the truly knowledgable and talented in mathematics take
advantage of very good salaries and opportunities in the corporate area.


3)  I have been teaching mathematics at the freshman level for over 40
years and loving it. Somehow my parents did not teach me the glories of
being financially well off. Rather the simple joy of opening the eyes and
mind of the disenchanted.


4) So many of my students believe that they are incapable of success in
mathematics. My real joy is creating avenues of success as they develop
problem solving strategies in College Algebra and Intro to Statistics.


5) As many who teach these courses have found, our students are totally
ignorant of logic. I use the development of theorems and corollaries as a
tool for teaching the conditional statement and the standard syllogisms.


6) I have had to resort to the use of NLP techniques to redirect their
energies from fear and anxiety to social discourse and group learning of
the basics and the nuances of algebra.


7) Student comment after my Stat class:  "I have never worked so hard or
enjoyed a course as much as this stat class." Why? Because the students
spend much of class time DOING statistics AS A TEAM. That is applying the
proper strategies and techniques for gathering and analyzing data.


8) On the scary side, I have had students admit that they hope these are
the last mathematics classes that they have to take and that they are
preparing to teach in the elementary grades.


9) Personally, I see computer software as a deterrent to thought;
isolating the students from dialog. Our students listening skills are
also
lacking.


10) On top of all of this, students diets are destroying their brains at
the same time technology is replacing memory. And it is only going to get
worse. The saving grace for me is the students themselves. With few
exceptions (after a bit of brainwashing) all of the students make the
necessary effort to learn the content and become smarter at learning.


- Roger Breen



-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Wall <ewall@umich.edu>
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
Sent: Fri, Aug 1, 2014 11:57 am
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?


Greg and all

      I could have stayed in K-12 teaching and I miss it; however, I
decided
to, in a sense, multiply myself by returning to the university/college
because I
felt a lot of teachers actually cared, but, perhaps because of pessimism
(smile)
or just unaware of possibilities (there are a lot of the latter at this
workshop
I'm attending), had gotten in a sort of rut. So I really wonder if the
problems
people are seeing aren't, to a degree, more with myself and others in
teacher
training. I do know some of my students (college students) are sometimes
underwhelmed by us.

Ed

On Aug 1, 2014, at 11:16 AM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
wrote:

Lovely conversation about the possibilities of meaning-fully engaging
students-in-their-lives with math(s)-as-discourse. Seems like the same
could be said of science. Some of you may know Jay Lemke (who is
somewhere
on the list serve). I have often heard him speak of the playful,
creative,
storytelling practice that science is as well - and Jay got his PhD in
theoretical Physics.

Unfortunately, with my kids (oldest is 12.5 year old boy), this hasn't
been
the case. With the exception of one year when we were at an affluent
elementary school in San Diego where he had a particularly exceptional
teacher, most of what my kids have been getting in school is the bad
and
lifeless math and science education that sees those fields ONLY as a
set
of
skills to be mastered (i.e. Anna's "game to be played").

Thus far, I've been able to convince my son that this is a worthwhile
game
and that there will come a time when he will be able to play with the
discursive genres of math and science, but I don't know how much
longer I
can keep up that argument when it flies in the face of everything he is
learning in school. My son has some advantages b.c. as a boy, there are
certain expectations that he will do well in math and science (and I
have
done a fair bit of proleptically interpellating him as an engineer, but
that could easily have the opposite effect at any point in his
life...).
I
have also tried to provide examples of
science-as-story-telling-and-problem-solving as I did when we went on a
hike last weekend and I told him the story of the discovery of
pheromones
(Martha McClintock was a prof where I was in grad school so I knew her
personal story as well as her story of discovery and was able to tell
it
in
a compelling manner). But I do wonder if those few conversations, few
and
far between, are really going to amount to much compared to the day
after
day drilling of skills that he is getting in school. I hope so. And I
also
have three more girls coming up through the ranks in my household who
will
not have the advantage of being a gender that is socially recognized as
being "good at math and science" - hopefully I can learn something from
my
son's experiences. So I really hope so with them as well. But for now
I'm
very anxious...

-greg



On Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 5:57 AM, Bella Kotik-Friedgut <
bella.kotik@gmail.com>
wrote:

I want to retell a personal story of a student who shared it in my
M.A.
Vygotsky class at HU some years ago. (Today he has Ph.D in education).
He always was recognized as a talented writer and poet, receiving
different literary prizes as a teenager. But he had some problems with
math and somebody explained him that these talents do not go together,
that
his struggle with math is because of his literary talent. And in
addition
"You belong to the Moroccans and this is not a good sign for math
capacities"  So he received it verdict and graduated school without
matriculation exam in math, which is a serious obstacle for higher
education.
Being at the army service, he was lucky to meet a teacher who
explained
him
that who stopped him from studying math was just wrong: "A talented
person
is talented in all he does"  This became his new slogan and he studied
and
successfully made the matriculation test in math and made education
his
professional field.
So the social-cultural aspect here was working clearly.


Sincerely yours Bella Kotik-Friedgut


On Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 11:30 AM, Helen Grimmett <
helen.grimmett@monash.edu
wrote:

Thanks Anna, for both the reassurance and the citations.

I've just been having a conversation with my kids in the car on the
way
home from school about this idea that maths is a form of story
telling
and
they both looked at me as though I was crazy! Yet when I mentioned
the
idea
at lunch to my maths education colleagues they both adamantly agreed.
Clearly there is some secret here that mathematicians (and gifted
maths
educators) get that is not being passed on to the rest of us mere
mortals.
I'm not saying that my kids and I are not "good" at maths (we've
learnt
to
play the old maths game quite well, but just don't like playing it)
but
how
interesting to think that there is a whole different way of seeing
maths
that could have changed our perspective of the game completely.

Cheers,
Helen






Dr Helen Grimmett
Lecturer, Student Adviser,
Faculty of Education,
Room G64F, Building 902
Monash University, Berwick campus
Phone: 9904 7171

*New Book: *
The Practice of Teachers' Professional Development: A
Cultural-Historical
Approach
<

https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/professional-learning-1/the-practice-of-teachers-professional-development/
Helen Grimmett (2014) Sense Publishers



<

http://monash.edu.au/education/news/50-years/?utm_source=staff-email&utm_medium=email-signature&utm_campaign=50th
On 1 August 2014 17:03, anna sfard <sfard@netvision.net.il> wrote:

Hi Helen,



My daughter made a similar decision, once upon time. I already knew
then
that what she liked more than anything else was art, so I did not
try
to
dissuade her. And artist did she become. Or designer, to be precise.
And
see what happened: design does require some technical/
scientific/mathematical thinking (math was a condition when she
applied
to
the Academy of Art, but the amount she had done was deemed
sufficient,
considering her other strengths), and she was perfectly able to
master
whatever mathematics was necessary whenever this learning was for
some
"real" purpose.



This said, i understand your worry, and must admit it is justified.
There
is a game being played out there, and  either you play it or you may
lose.
I do hope, though, that your daughter will only gain: first, she
will
earn
a few less stressful, happier years in school, and then she may
find a
way
among the hurdles just as my daughter did. And if she faces the real
need
for math latter in life, I'm sure she will cope. It will be a whole
different story then (it will be a story to begin with)! In any
case,
I
think the gains of your daughter's decision overweight the potential
losses, with one of the latter being her poor first-person identity,
lack
of self-confidence, etc, etc.



And as to the refs you are asking for, the paper was originally
written
as
guest  editorial for a math ed journal edited by students in Univ of
Georgia, Athens:



Sfard, A. (2012). Why Mathematics? What Mathematics? - Guest
editorial.
*The
Mathematics Educator, 22*(1), 3-16.



Then it was republished as a chapter in a book (and what I've sent
are
the
proofs of the chapter):



Sfard, A. (2013). Why Mathematics? What Mathematics? In M. Pitici
(Ed.),
*The
best writings on mathematics* (pp. 130-142). Princeton, NJ ?:
Princeton
University ?Press



anna





*From:* Helen Grimmett [mailto:helen.grimmett@monash.edu]
*Sent:* Friday, August 01, 2014 5:56 AM
*To:* eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; sfard@netvision.net.il
*Subject:* Re: [Xmca-l] Re: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at
Math?

Thanks for sharing this editorial Anna. Can you please post the
citation
for it? I would like to share it with my maths colleagues, but it
also
provides interesting reassurance for me about letting my daughter
discontinue maths at the end of this year (Year 10). She is a very
high
achieving student but detests maths and science (she already dropped
science at the end of year 9 despite winning the Yr 9 Science prize
in
her
selective entry school) and has often said that she is only
interested
in
subjects that let her tell stories (she includes music as one of
these).

I must admit I've never thought of maths as a form of story telling
before
and I wonder if her schooling had taken this approach to maths
whether
it
would have managed to spark her interest and keep her engaged in the
subject. In her early secondary school years when science was
compulsory
she often mentioned that she thought it was possible that 'real'
science
would be quite interesting, but that 'school' science was
intolerable.
Her
stress levels about school have dropped considerably this year now
that
she
doesn't have to suffer through endless (and in her eyes pointless)
science
homework and assignments. I appreciate that dropping maths will lead
to
another huge reduction in any remaining school dissatisfaction and
give
her
more space to pursue the wide range of subjects that do fascinate
her,
yet
I still keep telling her I worry about her closing possible doors
for
avenues of study in the future.



Reading your editorial makes me realise that perhaps what I'm more
worried
about is that "unofficial argument" that maths is a selection tool.
In
all
honesty my concern is perhaps more with what it says to others when
she
says she dropped maths at Year 10, than with the doors it might
close
or
with what she will miss out on knowing by not continuing maths into
Year
11
and 12. Naming this unofficial argument makes the hollowness of it
very
transparent. I believe she is smart enough to have seen through this
argument (not just too naive to see it) and brave enough and gifted
enough
to challenge it. I owe it to her to be brave too.



It will indeed be a great day when school maths and science is
reimagined
in ways that do not do more harm than good for a huge number of
students.

My thanks again,

Helen



Dr Helen Grimmett
Lecturer, Student Adviser,

Faculty of Education,

Room G64F, Building 902
Monash University, Berwick campus
Phone: 9904 7171



*New Book: *

The Practice of Teachers' Professional Development: A
Cultural-Historical
Approach
<
https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/professional-learning-1/the-practice-of-teachers-professional-development/
Helen Grimmett (2014) Sense Publishers



[image: Image removed by sender.]
<
http://monash.edu.au/education/news/50-years/?utm_source=staff-email&utm_medium=email-signature&utm_campaign=50th


On 31 July 2014 23:47, anna sfard <sfard@netvision.net.il> wrote:

" Doesn't it make sense that somebody should stand up and ask "why
are
we
teaching mathematics?"


Already done, Michael - see the attached.

anna

PS. This is a fascinating conversation. I wish I could allow myself
to
participate properly.




-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+sfard=netvision.net.il@mailman.ucsd.edu
[mailto:xmca-l-bounces+sfard=netvision.net.il@mailman.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf
Of
Glassman, Michael

Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2014 4:25 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?


So here is my question.  We have gone through basically a century of
this.
We teach mathematics and some people get it - the people in my
experience
really love mathematics - but most people don't.  It's just
something
you
do
to get some place else (I am reminded of my attitude towards
statistics
courses in graduate school).  So we keep banging our head against
the
wall
again and again.  Doesn't it make sense that somebody should stand
up
and
ask "why are we teaching mathematics?"  - as a subject I mean, it is
still
an important field of study.  This is something we just made up
mostly
for
the sake of "efficiency" - although it is not very efficient.  But
there
is
nothing to suggest that this is a good idea, and there are a lot of
things
to suggest that maybe we're on the wrong track here as far as
education
in
concerned.  This was actually an argument about specific subjects in
the
20s
and 30s, but we have been so unsuccessful and been so frustrated its
pretty
amazing that it  hasn't come up again.  Why not let mathematics
emerge
in
the course of what we do?  Is the type of mathematics we learn in
the
classroom transferable anyway?



Maybe a bit heretical, but perhaps the idea should be raised every
once
in
a
while.



Michael

________________________________________

From:  <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>

xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu]
on
behalf
of Ed Wall [ewall@umich.edu]

Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2014 8:10 AM

To:  <mailto:lchcmike@gmail.com> lchcmike@gmail.com; eXtended Mind,
Culture,

Activity

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



Mike



      As I said I am not a blissful optimist.



      Liping Ma made the point some time ago that, in fact,
something
like
this would not be possible until a generation of students (perhaps
two)
had
been taught to reasonably (and what this means can be usefully
debated)
understand what was going on (by the way, being able to do it in a
rote
fashion indicates, at least, that one understands the procedure).
Parents
can help and hinder (most, if treated respectfully, want to help).

      Perhaps a story will indicate where I'm at. A number of years
ago,
I
was at a conference sitting next to a young graduate student with a
policy
background who was sort of interested in the mathematics mess.
Finally,
she
could stand no more and blurted out something like , "I can't
understand
why
you people are fussing about all this math teaching business, the
kids
in
the inner city schools will never appreciate it." I turned to her
and
said
sadly something like, "You are possibly right, but I can't act as
if I
believe so. Does that make sense?" She nodded yes.



     It is not just UCSD students who have problems with this. One
of
my
friends did something with fractions in his calculus class  at UM
(smile).
Part of the problem, I think, is that fractions in general have
little
practical meaning for many people (unlike the natural numbers); they
are,
in
a sense, somewhat of a historical artifact. It is moderately easy to
intervene on this at certain points in the school curriculum
although
asking
why is useful.



Ed


On Jul 30, 2014, at 10:01 PM, mike cole < <mailto:
lchcmike@gmail.com>
lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:



That all seems reasonable to me, Ed. But it strikes me as a real
problem when the average "top 12% of California high school
graduates"
cannot help a kid who has to figure out how to divide  one fraction
into another. Or if they help its because they "teach the rule" (as in, invert and multiply) but cannot explain why they do this. I think its a challenge to teachers and god bless those who can emulate your approach. But its a challenge to parents, even UCSD graduates aplenty, who cannot explain what they are doing in
understandable terms.

That good teachers can teach it, give the opportunity I believe.
That
this is, or is likely to become, the universally accepted norm for
everyone, I fear I doubt. But oh my goodness, how happy I would be
to
be
wrong!

mike
On Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 12:46 PM, Ed Wall < <mailto:
ewall@umich.edu>
ewall@umich.edu> wrote:

Katherine
I think yes to your next to last question. However, what sometimes concerns me (and we are perhaps back to optimism and pessimism) is that looking for a future which may or may not occur seems 'unfair' to the students of today. I'm for thoughtful baby steps (and babies do stumble) now on all fronts and, unlike
Carol, I
don't yet know the 'right' answer.

However, I would like to know (smile).
Ed On Jul 30, 2014, at 3:32 PM, Katherine Wester Neal <
<mailto:wester@uga.edu> wester@uga.edu> wrote:

I think we're all on to something here--just different parts of
the
same
thing. To put it all together, I'm thinking of a spiderweb. On
individual strands, our spiderweb includes:
1. The differences in contact time and the difficulty of
sustaining
meaningful (or really any kind of) change when one is teaching
1,100
hours.

2. The pressures of testing.
3. The cultural value of childhood, teaching in general,
elementary
teachers, and testing as an educational goal in the U.S.
4. Making changes in teachers' practices, the way schools work,
the
culture of testing, and how students' creative capacities are
developed.
5. Resistance from parents, teachers, and teacher educators to
new
ways
of learning/new ideas, which is often a result of deeply ingrained
prior experiences.
I probably didn't get everything that's been discussed, but these
are
all issues that should be examined in concert because they are all
connected as part of the same larger system. Although "system"
isn't
probably the word I should use with a Vygotskian framework (I'm
still
learning), I use to say that I'm not sure how an individual could
deal with one of these strands without affecting or needing to
work
with
the others.

Does it take the effort of a collective, working on multiple
strands
simultaneously, to make more than a dent? Or to borrow Ed's words,
how do we reshape the dent or make it bigger?
Katie
Katie Wester-Neal University of Georgia ________________________________________ From: <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu

< <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>

on behalf of Ed Wall < <mailto:ewall@umich.edu> ewall@umich.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 3:00 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans Stink at
Math?
Greg
I agree with much of what you write below. However, there may
be
a
disjunct between what you think is happening (and in many
instances
I
agree with you) and the shape of the denting I am speaking about.
I
begin my methods courses talking about the commitments I bring to
teaching (stressing they are mine and that teachers and
pre-service
teachers are welcome to push back)
1. I believe in promoting collective student and teacher
engagement
i(and I meant both!)
2. I believe in having students do substantial mathematical work
(and
that is where the constraints of the context can come into play -
don't necessarily read into this 'new math' or tedious
computations)
3. I believe in taking my students' thinking seriously (this
includes
(mis)understandings!!)
I have yet, by the way, to find an instance (and that includes
school
location and students, testing, whatever) where such commitments
are
impossible or, in a pragmatic sense, even moderately difficult
(most
often the difficulty is learning to value one's students which is
more of a choice although one needs to be aware of the
possibility).
I would very much appreciate your suggesting some instances where
such commitments were situationally impossible. My students and I (teachers and pre-service teachers) then spend a semester (and perhaps more) together - with feedback from classroom and field experiences - figuring out what kind of teaching (keeping in mind my commitments) can be
sustained
(and it will differ and they need to know this and accommodate to
this). I am not unusual (perhaps read 'rare' - smile). In fact I
have
a number of colleagues who are considerably more capable.
 Philip Jackson (or was it Dan Lortie) used to talk about the
apprenticeship of observation. People, he argued, learn to teach -
for the most part - by observing as students in regular classroom. That should give one pause for a variety of reasons. I have sat through numerous faculty meetings where students are mentioned in less than a respectful fashion (and have heard anecdotes where
that
carried into the college classroom). I have heard elementary
teachers
spoken of quite disparagingly by faculty in Arts & Sciences and,
while I agree their expertise is not always of the highest
'academic'
quality, it is not clear to me that, in their own field of study,
they are not more capable than their detractors. I have also seen
an
instructor continually stress 'nice' or 'comfortable' rather than
'challenging' or 'uncomfortable.'

  I admit my commitments have hooks in them; for instance, what
is
substantial mathematics (you need to know some mathematics to
figure
this out); what is collective teacher and student engagement (you
need to know some pedagogy to figure this out) and what does it
mean
to respect student thinking in view of the previous (you need to
know
some mathematics and some pedagogy to figure this out). However,
they
are a beginning and some of my students seem, in time, to grow
into
them
no matter the situation.

 Anyway, I can't say I'm blissfully optimistic, but I'm not
pessimistic either. I do know that culturally we often don't work
together; that we tend to get mired in the trivial; and we often 'demonize' the stranger. I hate to think that we will never choose otherwise. However, to choose otherwise seems very far from impossible in the formal schooling context.
Ed
On Jul 30, 2014, at 1:42 PM, Greg Thompson < <mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.com> greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
wrote:
Ed,
Thanks for this wonderfully thoughtful reply. Very helpful. As for the teaching practices part, I entirely agree about the
need
for thoughtful attention to teaching practices and agree that
great
things
can
be accomplished locally. My sense, though, is that it takes
great
effort to
sustain such smaller scale interventions (i.e. to make more
than a
dent).
With regard to teaching practices, I would think that the way to
approach a
thoughtful teaching practice would be to start with the real
constraints of
context that teachers will regularly face and then try and
figure
out
what
kinds of teaching can be sustained given those constraints.
That's where I'm most pessimistic. It is difficult for me to imagine developing responsible teaching practices that could be sustained on a larger scale given the cultural, institutional,
and
ideological context
of
schooling in the U.S. [and I might add that it seems like the
history of teaching practice in the U.S. is a history where the same good ideas
keep
popping up and then fading from sight almost as quickly as they
appeared].
But I'm certainly open to ideas/suggestions for thoughtful
pedagogical practices that are sustainable in the U.S. formal
schooling
context.

-greg
On Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 10:11 AM, Ed Wall < <mailto:
ewall@umich.edu
ewall@umich.edu> wrote:

Comments below
On Jul 30, 2014, at 11:33 AM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com wrote:
I was hoping that somebody might be able to comment on the
situation
of
schooling in Japan and whether or not these hypotheses about
the
Japanese
situation of schooling might bear out:
1. Teachers in Japan have time to develop their craft. 600
annual
hours
of
contact time for teachers in Japan vs. 1100 hours of contact
time
in
the
U.S.
Yes
2. There is an ideology of childhood in Japan that values
childhood
greatly
and treats them as qualitatively distinct beings from
adolescents
and adults, and thus suggests that they should be protected
from
the cruel
and
harsh practice of "testing". But this also means that
elementary
school
teachers are held in high regard.
Yes. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that this is why
elementary school teachers are held in high regard
I guess the first seems a bit more factual but the second is
more
of
an
hypothesis, but if they bear out as important factors for
enabling the
kind
of learning that Green describes, then it seems to me that
even
if
there
were to be a huge push for training teachers in the U.S.,
teachers
would
quickly revert to what we currently lament about teaching in
the
U.S.

not
because they are bad teachers or don't know how to teach in
the
more complex manner but rather simply because, with some rare
exceptions,
it
is
IMPOSSIBLE to teach in the more desirable manner given the
ridiculous amount of contact time and the fact that in the American ideology of childhood, the teaching of children is
not
valued particularly highly.

This doesn't follow. It is possible and it is possible in
highly
urban areas (and I amy misunderstand you use of the word
'rare').
That
doesn't
mean that it is necessarily valued or supported by the
powers-that-be.

There are a few more things to add to your facts: There is a
national curriculum in Japan and there is a reasonably
effective
mentoring
system
(largely teacher instigated). A 'fact' (and perhaps this is
anecdotal)
is
that when it was first realized that some interesting things
were
happening
in Japanese schools (e.g. lesson study), the collegiate
Japanese
community
was caught, to a large degree, unaware. 'Master' lesson are
published
by
teachers.
In light of this, it seems a Sisyphean feat to try to change
teachers'

teaching practices without changing the cultural context in
which
those
teachers work. And changing cultural contexts is perhaps even
more difficult still.
That was why I suggested a look at the Netherlands (which seem
to
do as well or better than the Japanese). Of course, some of
this
can still be explained because of cultural differences and how
teachers are viewed.

Maybe we should stop looking to teaching practices in formal
schooling in
the U.S. as a site of change?
Maybe better to look outside and beyond schools altogether?
Perhaps we should do as you suggest (and, to a limited extent
and
in a sense, something like this has been done). However, it
might
also be a
good
idea to look at teaching practices in a thoughtful way. I have
seen
very
little of this happening over the years. I was just talking to
a
colleague
today and, although we love our work in urban areas, we admit
to
making only a small dent. We also admit to being underwhelmed
by
views of education prevalent in many schools of education. It
is
getting
steadily
worse.
Too pessimistic?
-greg
Pessimism is fine, but simply pessimism can be self limiting;
however, that is an opinion and not a fact. Ed
On Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 6:02 AM, Ed Wall < <mailto:
ewall@umich.edu>
ewall@umich.edu> wrote:

Perhaps something of interest re this thread.
Ed Wall
<
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/opinion/joe-nocera-teaching-teachin
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/29/opinion/joe-nocera-teaching-teachin
g.html?_r=0
Some general comments (and I apologize for being so late to
the
conversation as I have been out of email contact)
Magdalen Lampert and Deborah Ball were both at Michigan
State
in the
late 80s. They both taught what might, in part, be an early
version
of
the
Common Core to their students. I also taught math methods
beginning
in
the
late 90s and also emphasized such an approach (I also did
similar as
a
K-12
math teacher before moving onto college teaching). There is
little
'new'
math in the Common Core - perhaps a bit of 'old' math.
However,
there
is a
very strong emphasis on kids making sense out of what they
are
doing
(I
apologize for being brief, but this is a moment between
meetings
at a conference devoted to such 'strange' notions as helping
kids making
sense).
There are problems with the Common Core as written down: it
is
being
forced down teachers' throats; it has been tied into high
stakes
testing
(which, by the way, occurs at places in a student's life in
Japan);
there
are some debatable differences in the age sequencing of
topics;
teachers to
be have often not been prepared for such teaching in their
college
courses;
and more.
Some of these problems may be ironed out with time; however,
the
training and culture of teaching (see Jackson and Lortie,
even
if
somewhat
dated) in the US is still a bit grim.
So a few summary points:
Teaching that is, more or less, in sync with the Common Core has
been practiced for years in the US. Teacher training that is
in
sync
with
the Common Core has been available for years in the US.
Lesson
study Japanese style may be more possible with an agreed upon
core
(although
one
might look to the Netherlands to see what works well for them
rather
than
Japan).
An interesting question for those of us who are involved in
teacher
training might be "Why do so many teachers find the Common
Core
Standards
so threatening - factoring out the forcing and testing)?"
What
(from
the
4th grade standards, for example):
. Use place value understanding and properties of
operations
to
perform multi-digit arithmetic.
. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
do some elementary teachers find difficult and threatening? Again apologies for being very, very short about a very
large
and
very
complex problem.
Ed
On Jul 28, 2014, at 2:25 PM, Katherine Wester Neal < <mailto:wester@uga.edu> wester@uga.edu>
wrote:
What an interesting article! I am thinking about the lack
of
focus
on
specific contexts in the article's discussion of teaching and
learning
to
teach as a practicing teacher. Is it possible to go about
such
change
(from
"old" math to new math or Common Core math) with little/no
consideration
for what kinds of teaching might work in a particular school
culture
or
the
social context of a given classroom? I think less of a
standardized approach (here, everyone do this) and more focus
on
what works
locally
(here are some ideas; now decide what might work for you)
might
help teachers learn to teach Common Core math in a way that
actually
works in
their particular context. To adapt phrase from Magdalene
Lampert, it
might
bring about more sustainable change as they are "re-learning
teaching"
in
their schools.
Because Common Core math is so different, perhaps this
re-learning
teaching requires a radical new approach instead of the same
old
professional development. Learning through the Japanese
jugyokenkyu
method
sounds like it might be very useful, but there doesn't seem
to
be a
push
for reforming how teachers learn once they are in the field.
(Except
that
if enough of their students fail the Common Core-aligned
tests,
they
will
eventually be out of a job.)
It seems nonsensical to implement incredibly high-stakes
tests
without
significant investment in re-learning teaching and with, as
far
as I
know,
no research on how to learn to teach Common Core as a
practicing
teacher.
I, too, wonder about how these issues are handled in Japan?
Katie
Katie Wester-Neal University of Georgia ________________________________________ From: <mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu <

<mailto:xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>
xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu>

on behalf of Huw Lloyd < <mailto:huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>
huw.softdesigns@gmail.com>

Sent: Monday, July 28, 2014 12:58 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Fwd: NYTimes.com: Why Do Americans
Stink
at
Math?
On 28 July 2014 16:46, Greg Thompson
< <mailto:greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
greg.a.thompson@gmail.com

wrote:
[...]
These students had learned
incredibly well how to solve recipe Physics but they had
no
idea
about
how
the basic principles of Physics worked.
Greg,
I would say the ethics of the situation go deeper than
simply
(un)learnt
capabilities, but rather to the development of the
student's
creative
capabilities (or, rather, the stunting of them).
Best, Huw
--
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Anthropology 883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower Brigham Young University Provo, UT 84602 <http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson>
http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson

--
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Anthropology 883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower Brigham Young University Provo, UT 84602 <http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson>
http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson







--
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson






--
Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson