Thursday, January 25, 2007

WASL Math review

OSPI will be having an outside review of the math WASL according to an article in the Seattle Times.

I am very happy for the Where's the Math group that has been very vocal about this issue. A lot of other people (myself included) have been asking for this to happen for years and I think this group made a concerted effort that has paid off (or it could just be those continuing lousy math scores). Whatever the reason, it is probably worth reviewing, by an independent reviewer(s), to see if it is problematic.

I have always felt that the math portion of the WASL was more about reading and writing than math which hurts kids who aren't great writers. I think if a student is able to show his/her work so that the grader can see how they got their answer it should be good enough. Some story problems, sure, but basing it on writing skills makes it automatically more difficult for student who aren't good writers and especially so for recent immigrants who might otherwise do okay.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've seen the information from the "Where's the Math" group and I am concerned. Their premise appears to be that there is only one way to learn math (the old algorithm way that most of us parents in the United States were taught). Note: I am clearly identifying that other countries of the world promote different algorithm models that are equally effective in reaching math equation results.

I'm a parent that received an accidental math degree as Math was always an easy A for me, but I acknowledge that math can be intimidating for many.

Please explain to me what is wrong with the menu of options for learning with the TERC and investigational math units? I believe it is an excellent model for finding a model of understanding to fit multiple learning styles. Once the students gets the concept then mastery can be attained through practice. Through mastery students may exchange different algorithm styles for efficiency.

What Carla Santorno has indicated is that worksheets for mastery (that parents can understand) need to be combined with the math units.

I have to add that I am a Kumon Math parent that has found a style that works for my children, but I see the value in promoting Math as a subject with multiple learning styles for mastery.

Charlie Mas said...

I, personally, don't care for the process in which students first get the concept and then attain mastery through practice.

I don't like it because I don't think that a lot of kids get the concept and I don't see adequate support to bringing them to it. I also don't like it because I have yet to see enough practice to attain mastery.

When I went to school, we were told the formula for the area of a circle and then we calculated the area of 50-150 circles or deduced the radius from the area. The teacher could then lead us to concepts about this - notice how the circle fits inside a square that can be made with side lengths that are two times the radius; so the area of the circle must be just under 4 times the radius squared. The students who got the concept, got it, but even those who didn't could still calculate the area of a circle. At least they had practical competence.

The investigation math that never overtly provides the algorithm, keeps those kids who don't get the concept from ever attaining practical competence.

I don't know if I could ever figure out the formula for the area of a circle for myself. I like playing with numbers and I'm a pretty good guesser, so maybe I could. But my daughter is a middle school student who is being asked to discover for herself the formulas for the surface area and volume of spheres. That's not only unreasonable, it is unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

To do well on the SAT's you have to have mastery and very fast computation skills; these skills are best mastered when you are young (my opinion). I did a lot of computations when I was little. I aced the SAT's and then the LSAT's when the time came for law school. In contrast, my little sister went to a fuzzy math experimental school. She still can't do basic computations; she tried to re-learn them with her kids but is really slow. Could it be the pathways that makes these fast computations possible close if not used by say ten?

I think mastery and speed take practice, just like reading 20 minutes a day, kids need to calculate at least a few minutes everyday in their primary years. In my kids Seattle classroom they do a little "investigate" math about once a week (this is a school with great test scores).

So I asked parents of the older kids what they do. They say they home school for math. So the good test scores in one of Seattle finest school are home-taught!!!

Now I have my two girls do 15 minute of math at home like all the other parents I know. How many of you are doing a little home-schooling in math?

At some point it matters what my kids SAT scores will be, but I could not care what their WASL scores are.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, did you mean a different article? This one is about reviewing the math standards (also a good thing!), not the WASL as such.

Incidentally, I think the writing requirement on the math WASL has eased substantially -- students can show their work in numbers or pictures, not necessarily everything in words. I think you can now get through an entire math WASL without once having to rely on the old stock verbiage like "I know that blah is blah because ..." that my kids were taught from first grade on.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

I have reviewed the math curricula and it is not going to help the kids learn to do math fast and well. The point is that now many parents feel they just have to teach good math at home. The District doesn't teach enough math for the kids to really have it down, like they will need to when taking their SATs.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Helen is right; I made some weird jump to the WASL (probably wishful thinking). Thanks for catching that one.

Anonymous said...

The point is that now many parents feel they just have to teach good math at home. The District doesn't teach enough math for the kids to really have it down, like they will need to when taking their SATs.

Which is why you have differences in attainment by income/race/neighborhood.
Parents who are able to coach at home/pay for outside tutoring, have kids who are more able to progress in math. Parents who aren't able to fill in the many gaps the classroom leaves, have kids who have gaping holes in knowledge which is more apparent in the higher grades.