"I'm not good at Math." Who said it, parent or child? Probably both.

CJ Westerberg, May 27, 2011 7:47 PM


"Many parents in the United States assume that (math ability)
is just some kind of aptitude -
some kids have it, some kids don't . . .

                              -  Daniel Koretz, professor of education at Harvard

Parents:  What Are Your Attitudes About Math?
2 Minute Video

Glad to discover that Daniel Koretz -  author of one of the most definitive books on testing in education, Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us - now has videos of his intensive research in easily digestible bits.  Here are a few killer quotes:

"In this country, It's considered perfectly acceptable
to be incompetent in Mathematics. 
In fact, certain people are, in fact,
 rather proud to be incompetent in Mathematics . . . "

Why do we encourage such low expectations in Math?  We know how our kids model us (parents).   Do we want to make our kids feel better, if WE think they're not "good"
at Math?  Do we want them to think we're okay, if we can't help them with homework?
Read on . . .

" . . .much of the variation in how well you do - how well a student  does in mathematics -  is a function of effort.

Many parents in the United States assume that (math ability)
is just some kind of aptitude -
some kids have it, some kids don't . . .

The result is most of our kids (in the U.S.) don't do really
well in Math . . .

Barring truly gifted (which is reportedly less than 5% of the population), or those with some
form of autism spectrum disorder (which may prove to be shockingly higher in the US than previously diagnosed), why do we (parents and teachers) peg kids so early in their education as to their Math abilities?

Are we eliminating effort from the mix? 

Have you ever heard a parent say, my Jon is good at Math, and my Samantha is creative, at the age of four and five?  Or, a teacher say, in front of a second grader, that your child is really good at spelling, and another child is really good at Math?

Sure, there is always a student or two who says:  

" I don't know what it is about me, but whatever number I hear,
 like a phone number or a something the teacher puts up on the board, I remember
it forever.  It is like, IN my BRAIN.  I can't get rid of it."

Okay, this is not what we are talking about.  So, why are we comparing all students to this

Are we not conflating "strengths and interests" with "ability" at a time when it is SO not age appropriate, or even compare when it is not.  What "loses" in this early scenario of strengths and abilities is EFFORT.  You either got it, or you don't, so don't bother.

Second grade is not 7th grade.  High school is NONE of these, with our Math curriculum
without relevance to the majority of our students on many levels.          
"I think, part of the problem, those parental attitudes.  . . ."

Have to agree that parental attitudes toward Math are "part" of the problem, yet depending on who is reading this (as The Daily Riff is read by non-educator parents, and vice-versa),  there are huge issues (curriculum, relevance, teacher training and development, etc.) related to Math.  I truly believe if we set the foundation for our students from grades 1-6 in Math, we'd be in a different place of excellence right now.  Singapore Math is notable.  The Daily Riff has a series on Singapore Math, plus related stories on teacher development in Singapore and Japan, related to Singapore Math.* 

Okay, back to the Koretz quotes.  "Press BY parents ON students" for "what really matters," may be misconstrued as another Tiger Mom "do as I say" tactic, or may just be a poor choice of
clips and context?  What does "what really matters? mean, anyway?  Not sure, here, but judging from his other work doesn't sound consistent.

Loving, caring parenting doesn't mean having to dumb it down, nor do having high expectations (and the work that goes with it), require drill sargeant tactics and being on everyone else's time-table as far as child development in learning, either.

Let us know your comments about pegging kids early, tracking, age developmental
assessment, Math, and the full boat.

Note:  Singapore Math publishers are not paid sponsor/advertisers, nor is The Daily Riff "sponsored" to support any agendas or initiatives, by think tanks, corporate interests, advocacy groups, or philanthropists.  We admire initiatives by some, and have concerns about others, which is not the point of the post, so onward  . . .

They are featured on BigThink, which is recommended, if you've missed - the site, videos, and Koretz's book, the latter previously featured by The Daily Riff.        

Bold marks are ours.   Below are some killer quotes. 
What do you think?

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
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