"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Constructivist Math in Common Core Standards?

Here is a video illustrating constructivist math techniques in an elementary classroom:

According to truthinamericaneducation.com, Common Core standards promote "collaborative" learning in the classroom as they place emphasis on Standards for Mathematical Practice which supports a constructivist approach.  You can read the research of the standards at the link.  The teacher's role is relegated to that of a facilitator.  I asked a math teacher to review this video.  His comments:

I could probably argue both sides of this. The students in the video seem to have this system well practiced. This might not be a bad practice with some aspects of it changed or removed and that it is not used every time a paper is checked. Occasionally might not be too bad but on a regular basis I would be concerned about the amount of instructional time that would be lost.
 What is taking place calls for peer teaching.  I don't send my kid to school for her to have to teach other kids (although that too often happens).  I send her to school to be taught. Unfortunately, the school doesn't see it that way.
 Having to reach consensus on whether a math problem is correct?  What?  That is where I lost it.  As long as we reach agreement all is okay?  Answers to math problems are either right or they are wrong.  Determining that an answer is correct is not a consensus activity---it is a "prove it" activity. I guess if two kids reach consensus that 2 + 3 = 6 then it must be so because they are in agreement.
 While some of the kids were having some good math discussion, what are we teaching kids when we have them use consensus to determine right or wrong.  A larger concern is that kids will learn to use consensus to determine what is morally and ethically right or wrong----no matter what the issue as long as they are in agreement.

Punishment for lack of consensus?  Really now?  What is the larger lesson students might learn from this.  Is it more important to agree with each other than for one to stand by empirical evidence even when not able to convince his partner?  Do we not promote standing up for what is right?  Will students reach consensus simply to avoid punishment? 

Here's another video (entitled "A primer for parents") by Bruce Deitrick Price questioning constructivist theory and practice. It is a good study for non-educators and parents to understand why collaborative learning might not be in your child's best educational interest but a good idea for CCSS adherence:

It might be a good idea to write down some of the statements in this second video and take it to your child's teacher if he/she is supportive of using collaborative learning projects instead of encouraging independent study. Price writes in the description of the video:

Constructivism is the main gizmo inside of Reform Math. 

Are consortia set standards supporting constructivist techniques in the best interest of your child? 


1 comment:

  1. If I understand the first video correctly, the student who had the right answer and refused to change it to the wrong one is punished because of lack of consensus. In the theoretical world this would motivate the brighter student with the correct answer to hone his/her persuasive skills to achieve consensus. In reality, any student who is highly motivated by paying the fine is likely to work harder to convince others that he/she is correct, even if they have the wrong answer. The end result is students who learn to distrust those who work so hard for others to agree with them because they don't get the reward for the right answer. Even more likely, those who are bright but not very outgoing socially will simply go along to get along and will eventually see little value in having the right answer. I can understand some peer-to-peer teaching, but I just cannot see a positive impact of this penalty for lack of consensus.


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