Friday, May 17, 2013

Rethinking Rethinking Elementary School Math

I recently took to task the NCTM president, Linda Gojak, for what I interpreted as a call for ability grouping students in elementary schools. After several emails with Ms Gojak and after rereading the editorial I have to admit that I completely misinterpreted her argument. I did what is frequently all too easy to do when one is worried about a trend, I went too far with my inferences.

The focus of the "Summing Up" editorial was the need    
to have young children taught by those who love math, understand the math pedagogical content knowledge, and so can differentiate it more effectively to include all students of diverse abilities in the same class. A teacher's ability to differentiate instruction to include the diverse range of learners in a typical elementary school classroom is dependent upon the extent to which she/he understands the math and the way the children she/he is teaching learn math. If specialist teachers moved from classroom to classroom this could probably be accomplished and, at the same time, avoid the attendant danger of children being grouped by ability. Good specialist teachers working together could still integrate the disciplines through integrated thematic units.

But, and this is a big but, are we ready for this dramatic institutional and cultural change? Is there research suggesting that elementary school children can work with four or five regular classroom teachers on a daily basis in addition to the art, music and PE teachers they already see on a weekly basis? 

The top school bus by the way, represents odd numbers while the lower one is a model for even numbers.

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