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*“There are many such examples of excellence across Australian schools. But there are not enough. While individual schools might shine, the results of international tests, released earlier this week, suggest our education system as a whole is stagnating. For the first time, Australia failed to exceed the OECD average in maths, and the nation’s results in reading and science have declined since Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) testing began in the early 2000s.”* More **here**.

Meanwhile, SINGAPORE students do well in maths because they have very ENTHUSIASTIC teachers. If you want to see how Singapore and other countries promote maths in the classroom go to **Maths News: Around the World **from International Congress of Mathematical Education 2016.

I wrote the following post in 2014 and here we are, 5 years later, back where we started.

In the 1980’s American restaurant chain A&W was going to kick Mcdonald’s marketing butt. How? Instead of a quarter pounder burger they brought out and promoted a third pounder!!!! The promo failed. Why? Americans didn’t get fractions. More frightening, in Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times ( 23 JUL 2014), was the US study that found 17 percent of medication errors were caused by maths mistakes made by doctors or pharmacists.

Meanwhile, students in Australia, the USA, and the UK are dropping out of maths like flies.

**Something is seriously wrong with the way we teach maths.**

…………………………………………………………………………………..

Politicians around the world use education to win votes. We will raise numeracy standards they promise. Of course, this may not help your child, just the state averages.

Nevertheless, Back to Basics concepts are constantly pushed in the UK, the USA, and Australia by politicians.

In 2009 Obama backed “common standards” and “common core” curriculum in maths supported by $USA 4 Billion in grants. (Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014).

.

.

Later this year a new ‘**Back to Basics’** Curriculum will be rolled out in the UK with an emphasis on times tables and mental maths. (Schools must go back to basics to raise maths standards, Graeme Paton, The Telegraph, UK, 18 FEB 2014)

.

Australia has introduced a National Curriculum and National Testing (NAPLAN) in numeracy and literacy in recent years. The current government just put up $22 million to back **Direct Instruction** in Indigenous Schools across Qld, NT and WA (Noel Pearson’s learning engine, Jamie Walker, The Australian, 5 JUL 2014) **Direct Instruction** is a commercial product involving very rigid and proscriptive Back to Basics curriculum and testing program from National Institute of Direct Instruction based in Eugene, Oregon.

Teachers use strict guidelines and must keep within the program. Eg:

Maybe. It depends on what you are measuring. Students can improve some maths skills. The worksheets are very clear and that is to be applauded. And so, in time, standards may rise on paper.

But there are still two huge problems.

…………………………………………………………………………….

Firstly, there is the McMath Element. Do you want Pythagoras with that quarter pounder? Repetitive, pre-packaged, parrot-style learning is easily forgotten. According to Professor Roediger professor of psychology at Washington Uni ‘effortful, varied practice builds mastery’. (How tests make us smarter, New York Times, 18 Jul 2014).

Secondly, rigid drilling is boring. Students grind through the exercise after exercise being constantly reminded that maths is dry, dull and boring on a coma-inducing scale. Students will, as is the current trend, drop maths as soon as they can.

**…………………………………………………………………………. **

** **

According to Peter Sullivan, Professor of Mathematics Edu at Monash University students drop maths because it is:

But it is not just students who find maths boring. Teachers who are forced to adopt rigid, repetitive and monotonous prepackaged courses also become disillusioned.

I’m sitting in a Grade 3 classroom in a remote Indigenous School on Elcho Island off the coast of NT. (Last week I ran some fun/creative workshops for staff.) The young enthusiastic teacher (with the help of two indigenous interpreters) was teaching the students to count to 10 and write the numbers from 1 – 10.

Students arrive at school speaking only the local Indigenous language. They must acquire literacy skills in their own language before they are taught English in Grade 4. There is a good deal of catching up to be achieved in numeracy skills. Many Indigenous languages only name the numbers 1, 2, 3 and many. The teachers on the island are familiar with the difficulties facing their students and work hard with empathy and enthusiasm to overcome multiple disadvantages of their students.

Teachers on the island have developed extraordinary resources and create programs to engage their students in learning maths. Imposing a rigid curriculum regime like Direct Instruction on Elcho Island schools will further disadvantage the students and also demoralize the dedicated staff.

Here are two teaching methods that are not only flexible and fun, but they have also been proven to work in the classroom.

Kathy Walker is an Australian educator, author and early years curriculum expert. Her books include What’s the Hurry? and Play Matters. The Walker Learning Approach, which is used in many schools around Australia including Elcho Island, is an evidence-based strategy that encourages play-based discovery and learning as well as explicit instruction in numeracy and literature (K – Year 8). More here.

…………………………………………………………….

Magdalene Lampert, until recently professor of education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and author of “Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching, has replaced ‘answer-getting’ with ‘sense-making’.(Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014)

She advocates incorporating communication in maths as ‘being able to explain your thinking so that someone else grasps your ideas’ improves your understanding ( as any teacher knows from their own experiences in front of the classroom.)

…………………………………………………………………………….

Yeah! MATHS: Guaranteed to be boring one day and scary the next but always a complete waste of time – there’s a product that’s not going to sell.

Let teachers teach. This should be a campaign slogan to put maths teaching back into the hands of the people, who know what is going on in the classroom. Imposing rigid regimes on teachers is counter productive as the teachers become as bored, as angry and as disenfranchised as their students. I mean ‘why bother?’ We need teachers with passion, enthusiasm and creativity to teach maths, not Mathsbots pre-programmed by politicans to win votes.

Politicians do not teach your children. Teachers do. If politicians and the bureaucracy make teachers lives miserable, this misery will be passed onto their students … Your children. There must be checks and balances – and cliches, I guess – but it is the teacher who passes on their love or hatred of maths to your children. If the community gives teachers the chance to teach maths creatively and with humour, they will take up the challenge and your child will benefit.

I was taught by a young and enthusiastic Maths teacher at a small rural hgh school in the sixties. That’s almost 50 years ago – OMG! Don’t do the maths. His name was Barry Underhill.

In every volcano disaster movie from **Volcano** (1997) with Tommy Lee Jones to **Dante’s Peak** (1997) with Pierce Brosnan someone somewhere tries to out run a lava flow.

Is this possible? (See movie cliché busted by maths here.)

Now a lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is threatening tiny town of Pahoa, Hawaii again. (below).

You will find excellent information about the Kilauea and other volcanoes at the

US Geological Survey here.

As the temperature of lava exceeds 1000^{0} C there are very few ways to stop lava. According to the Taylor Kate Brown SMH (10 SEPT 2014) options include:

Bombing

Blasting (it with cold water)

Barricading it

Or adding concrete.

Lava from Kilauea travels 17 yards per hour so the lava velocity is:

V_{L} = 17 yds/hour = 15.5 metres /hour

(See Vox.com)

The above algorithms are called pseudocode because you do not type a letter to a computer to tell it what to do. You have to write code to instruct it.

But computer code, as my little sailor friend would say, uses a shipload of maths.

I am going to give you instructions by writing a letter to you because that is your CODE that you understand.

You are going to calculate the The Flesch–Kincaid reading score for The Hunger Games and a Harry Potter TEXT.

Don’t run screaming out the door. This is not too complicated.

The Flesch–Kincaid reading score or, quaintly, the F–K formula (Oops! Only one – )tells you the grade reading level of a text.

**F-K formula**

We will use a basic version and a calculator:

You will need:

Word Count =

Sentence Count =

Syllable count =

The Flesch Reading Ease score is interpreted as follows:

More info here.

** READABILITY is important for Newspapers, books and websites**

Text to be read by the general public should aim for a grade level of around 60 – 69 or Grade 8.

YA authors use the F-K formula to see if the text of their novel has the appropriate reading age.

YOU CAN TEST YOUR OWN WRITING! What reading age is your writing?

………………………………………………

** Are your FINANCIAL and LEGAL CONTRACTS READABLE?**

You may be able to SUE your BANK!!!!!!!!!

Contracts, by law in the US, should be written to a reading score of Grade 8. According to a recent article in the Telegraph, UK:

*Insurance and banking customers who have been mis-sold financial products are more likely to be awarded compensation if they use a scientific test to prove policy documents were too difficult to read.*

* The “Flesch Kincaid” reading score is well established in the US, where most states require insurers’ policy documents to be written at no higher than a ninth-grade level (14–15 years of age) of reading difficulty.*

…………………………………………………………………

**Hunger Games And Harry Potter TEXT Readability**

**Readability Calculations: Method 1**

YOU ARE THE COMPUTER.

You will do All calculations.

**Readability Calculations: Method 2**

You are the algorithm. You will cut and paste text into programs that auto-count words and syllables, collect this and other data from your computer and do the calculations using a calculator or online Web 2 calculator.

**Readability Calculations: Method 3:**

Cut and paste text directly into a Readability Calculator to get score.

Here are some interesting Readability Scores:

In every volcano disaster movie from **Volcano** (1997) with Tommy Lee Jones to **Dante’s Peak** (1997) with Pierce Brosnan someone somewhere tries to out run a lava flow.

Is this possible? (See movie cliché busted by maths here.)

Now a lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is threatening tiny town of Pahoa, Hawaii. (below).

You will find excellent information about the Kilauea and other volcanoes at the

US Geological Survey here.

As the temperature of lava exceeds 1000^{0} C there are very few ways to stop lava. According to the Taylor Kate Brown SMH (10 SEPT 2014) options include:

Bombing

Blasting (it with cold water)

Barricading it

Or adding concrete.

Lava from Kilauea travels 17 yards per hour so the lava velocity is:

V_{L} = 17 yds/hour = 15.5 metres /hour

(See Vox.com)

**Does this risk-averse teaching not only make maths boring, but encourage MATHS PHOBIA in children?**

**Pam Kent, President of the South Australian Primary Principals Association (SAPPA) writes that ‘risk-averseness looms large’ in teaching today, yet ‘current research strongly supports the notion of risk taking for effective learning’.**

**This research includes work by Ellen Sandseter, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Queen Maud Uni College, Norway.**

**Sandseter claims that children are born to take risks and this is how they learn to deal with such things as fear of heights. (See: Can playgrounds be to safe? John, Tierney, New York Times, 18 JUL 2011) If children do not tackle a fear of heights, say, they can develop a phobia.**

**To tackle Maths Phobia Mathspig has written a list of**

**Take No 21. Kids get this. As you get further and further away from the candle the sphere gets bigger so the brightness decreases. They don’t have to do the maths. But tell them ‘This is university maths, but very interesting’.**

**As for No 37: How do you break your teeth playing pool? Well, if you leave your hand on the pool table or lean on the cushion the ball can cannon off the opposite cushion and run back up your arm and smash your teeth. (Ref. Mathspig’s brother)**

** **……………………………………………………

In the 1980’s American restaurant chain A&W were going to kick Mcdonald’s marketing butt. How? Instead of a quarter pounder burger they brought out and promoted a third pounder!!!! The promo failed. Why? Americans didn’t get fractions. More frightening, in Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times ( 23 JUL 2014) was the US study that found 17 percent of medication errors were caused by maths mistakes made by doctors or pharmacists.

Meanwhile students in Australia, USA and the UK are dropping out of maths like flies.

**Something is seriously wrong with the way we teach maths.**

…………………………………………………………………………………..

Politicians around the world use education to win votes. We will raise numeracy standards they promise. Of course, this may not help your child, just the state averages.

Nevertheless, Back to Basics concepts are being pushed in the UK, USA and Australia by politicians.

In 2009 Obama backed “common standards” and “common core” curriculum in maths supported by $USA 4 Billion in grants. (Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014).

.

.

Later this year a new ‘**Back to Basics’** Curriculum will be rolled out in the UK with an emphasis on times tables and mental maths. (Schools must go back to basics to raise maths standards, Graeme Paton, The Telegraph, UK, 18 FEB 2014)

.

Australia has introduced a National Curriculum and National Testing (NAPLAN) in numeracy and literacy in recent years. The current government just put up $22 million to back **Direct Instruction** in Indigenous Schools across Qld, NT and WA (Noel Pearson’s learning engine, Jamie Walker, The Australia, 5 JUL 2014) **Direct Instruction** is a commercial product involving very rigid and proscriptive Back to Basics curriculum and testing program from National Institute of Direct Instruction based in Eugene, Oregon.

Teachers use strict guidelines and must keep within the program. Eg:

Maybe. It depends on what you are measuring. Students can improve some maths skills. The work sheets are very clear and that is to be applauded. And so, in time, standards may rise on paper.

But there are still two huge problems.

…………………………………………………………………………….

Firstly, there is the McMath Element. Do you want Pythagoras with that quarter pounder? Repetitive, pre-packaged, parrot-style learning is easily forgotten. According to Professor Roediger professor of psychology at Washington Uni ‘effortful, varied practice builds mastery’. (How tests make us smarter, New York Times, 18 Jul 2014).

Secondly, rigid drilling is boring. Students grind through the exercise after exercise being constantly reminded that maths is dry, dull and boring on a coma-inducing scale. Students will, as is the current trend, drop maths as soon as they can.

**…………………………………………………………………………. **

** **

According to Peter Sullivan, Professor of Mathematics Edu at Monash University students drop maths because it is:

But it is not just students who find maths boring. Teachers who are forced to adopt rigid, repetitive and monotonous prepackaged courses also become disillusioned.

I’m sitting in a Grade 3 classroom in a remote Indigenous School on Elcho Island off the coast of NT. (Last week I ran some fun/creative workshops for staff.) The young enthusiastic teacher (with the help of two indigenous interpreters) was teaching the students to count to 10 and write the numbers from 1 – 10.

Students arrive at school speaking only the local Indigenous language. They must acquire literacy skills in their own language before they are taught English in Grade 4. There is a good deal of catching up to be achieved in numeracy skills. Many Indigenous languages only name the numbers 1, 2, 3 and many. The teachers on the island are familiar with the difficulties facing their students and work hard with empathy and enthusiasm to overcome multiple disadvantages of their students.

Teachers on the island have developed extraordinary resources and creative programs to engage their students in learning maths. Imposing a rigid curriculum regeme like Direct Instruction on Elcho Island schools will further disadvantage the students and also demoralize the dedicated staff.

Here are two teaching methods that are not only flexible and fun, they have been proven to work in the classroom.

Kathy Walker is an Australian educator, author and early years curriculum expert. Her books include What’s the Hurry? and Play Matters. The Walker Learning Approach, which is used in many schools around Australia including Elcho Island, is an evidence-based strategy that encourages play-based discovery and learning as well as explicit instruction in numeracy and literature (K – Year 8). More here.

…………………………………………………………….

Magdalene Lampert, until recently professor of education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and author of “Teaching Problems and the Problems of Teaching , has replaced ‘answer-getting’ with ‘sense-making’.(Why do Americans stink at maths?, Elizabeth Green, The New York Times, 23 JUL 2014)

She advocates incorporating communication in maths as ‘being able to explain your thinking so that someone else grasps your ideas’ improves your undestanding ( as any teacher knows from their own experiences in front of the classroom.)

…………………………………………………………………………….

Yeah! MATHS: Guaranteed to be boring one day and scary the next but always a complete waste of time – there’s a product that’s not going to sell.

Let teachers teach. This should be a campaign slogan to put maths teaching back into the hands of the people, who know what is going on in the classroom. Imposing rigid regimes on teachers is counter productive as the teachers become as bored, as angry and as disenfranchised as their students. I mean ‘why bother?’ We need teachers with passion, enthusiasm and creativity to teach maths, not Mathsbots pre-programmed by politicans to win votes.

Politicians do not teach your children. Teachers do. If politicians and the bureaucracy make teachers lives miserable, this misery will be passed onto their students … Your children. There must be checks and balances – and cliches, I guess – but it is the teacher who passes on their love or hatred of maths to your children. If the community gives teachers the chance to teach maths creatively and with humour, they will take up the challenge and your child will benefit.

I was taught by a young and enthusiastic Maths teacher at a small rural hgh school in the sixties. That’s almost 50 years ago – OMG! Don’t do the maths. His name was Barry Underhill.