Monday, January 27, 2014

Problems with PISA argument

First I don't believe we should put our faith in PISA scores due to the following:

Why my Child won't write optional Standardized Testing
As well as my other posts around why standardized testing is flawed.

However, lets for a moment assume that PISA scores are accurate.  We will also negate the fact that Alberta Class sizes have increased, ignore the fact that AISI funding is at 0, and lastly forget that our ESL population is at an all time high.

We shall enter the "Wonderland".

Well, first the argument is that we need to go "BACK TO BASICS" with elementary math classes.  Students should be "Drilled and killed" with mathematical facts and flashcards should be the norm.  Since elementary classrooms have removed these activities the PISA scores have dropped.

Well this is great, however this argument is FLAWED!

See the 2012 PISA test is completed by 15 year olds or Grade 10.  Which means in 2011 they were in Grade 9, 2010 they were in Grade 8..., 2003 in Grade 1.  The Alberta curriculum changed , and had the following implementation years...

Which means...drumroll...these students experienced elementary classrooms teaching the "old" math. Which is, of course, the exact math critics want to bring back.  These students are not the ones we should be looking at, but instead the next data set to come, as these students will be full time "new" math. (Keep in mind I don't think we should look at any PISA scores, but we are in Wonderland)

Next, someone might say that the PISA drop is due to poor retention levels.  As the new curriculum is not allowing students to retain mathematical information in the long term.  This poor retention level is causing the frustration when students try to complete higher level math.

Well..again this is flawed.

Most people have heard of PISA, but have you heard of PIAAC testing? See now this is an exam, also done on the international level, but tests 16-65 year olds.  Keep in mind, all these people experienced 100% "old" math.

Since we are assuming that Standardized test scores are accurate, lets take a look at how our country scored on this...

As you can clearly see Canada was under the OECD average in every age group in Numeracy levels.  Since all these participants took the "old" math, I guess retention was an issue then as well.

What does this mean?

I believe people are following the wonderful quote of Henry Ford
When I asked people what they wanted, they replied with faster horses

What we forget is that sometimes the "Better" system is one which we have never seen or done before, and this is another reason why I support the new math curriculum.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Math in a new setting

Recently I was on CBC supporting the new math curriculum, and was asked what does the "new" math look like?  Here is my interview:

Next, I wanted to show exactly what the new math looks likes:

To start here is an example of what I used to provide to students when I was teaching the "traditional" math class:

Very few students found this engaging, or even worth while to complete.  I would assess a page of homework a day and my class was focused around memorization, and repetition.  This year I had the chance to teach a new course to our school "ESL math".  (English as a second Language Math).  I had students with low English and low math skills to students with low English and high math skills.  Using the philosophy of the new math curriculum here are some things we did.

Instead of writing definitions of words, students had to create a picture that clearly shows you understand the word.  One of my students could recite every line to every "Lord of the Rings" movie, and here is what he did.

Next instead of working on worksheets around surface area and volume, I had students create an object and then calculate the amount of tin foil needed to cover the object.  Feedback was given in the form of how much tin foil they had left over, and needed.  One student, whom was quite tall, wanted to create an object illustrating it is cool to be tall.

Another task was to determine if "Oreos Double stuff" is truly double stuffed.  We figured it is 1.99 stuffed...and I will be writing to Oreos to change the box to "Oreos...ALMOST double stuffed"..haha

Lastly, even for the final exam, instead of a hand written piece students had to create and present their product which illustrates their learning.  Here is an example from another class (as I do this in all my classes)

What becomes of them?

Very simple-engaged critical thinkers.  I realized this when my class discovered that a spherical pop can would be the best can for a constant volume and minimal surface area.  A student of mine showed up the next day and asked "Is this what we were talking about?" and showed me this picture she took at the local grocery store

She had left my class and next day showed up wanting to learn more!  That is exactly why I support the new math!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why I do what I do

As another course is finished, I always ask for input from my largest stakeholders; My students.  I have removed all "unit exams" and replaced them with projects, and my final exam has now a 45 minute presentation component in which they have to demonstrate their learning of the course.

I have been asked, many times, what is your class average? How well are your diploma marks? As well as other grade-orientated questions.  I usually answer with "I don't know" as these are not the things I focus on.  Below is a picture of the questions I ask my students and their responses. (These are things I care about)

Please provide comments to Mr. Martin around his assessment strategies: (Here are some of the responses)

Mr. Martin's teaching methods are different than the majority of other teachers'. However, I personally believe his methods are an improvement upon the current, old-school teaching methods that are burnt into the minds of, what seems to be, every teacher ever. He provides help when needed and always knows what every individual needs help on. His strategic teaching allows students to get the not only quick feedback on the progress through the course, but also constructive criticism that allows for major improvement. I truly believe in Mr. Martin's way of teaching and would strongly suggest every teacher try. Maybe it won't work for all teachers and all subjects but it worked in this Math 31 class. I not only feel like I know the material taught, but also what the purpose of it and why it was taught. Mr. Martin, you are truly a genius in my books and I wish other teachers could see past the fact that your teaching methods are different and therefore wrong. Thank you for the time, effort, and belief you have put into your teaching.

I liked the way you have evaluated me. Projects and assignments have been tough but that is the way I feel I am learning. Goals and outcomes have been successfully taught through problems and projects. I like the way you mark, and also the fact that you never assigned homework. The time I didn't use to do math homework helped to catch up at other subjects.

If I was the teacher I would have done everything pretty much the exact same. However I would distribute the 45 minute presentation throughout the year because towards the end of the year is busy with other classes and diplomas so it is stressful to do all at once.

I really enjoyed being able to demonstrate my knowledge of concepts over the entire term. I make a lot of mistakes and learn the most by doing this. Mr. Martin's strategy allowed me to fully grasp the concept before I moved on and kind of allowed for a learn at your own pace type thing. I wish that my other classes were more like this because it would allow for me to learn the material more effectively

One other statistic which is not mentioned above is that before I changed the way I assess I would have up to 35% students dropping.  This year out of a class of 25 I only had 2 students drop.  This stat and the ones above are the reason I do what I do, not because of class averages.