Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter Math Thread

Those readers who know me personally will attest I'm fairly math obsessed.   Last year I opened a math thread in the fall: http://discussapp.blogspot.com/2015/10/fall-math-thread.html.  This year I've been busy but my focus has turned back again this month.  To start off, here's a grab bag of topics:


  • Proof School: http://www.proofschool.org/#we-love-math.  This is the holy grail for me. I really we wish we had something like this in Seattle (preferably public of course.) In general, I think we underachieve for our given talent pool vs. other local public school systems.
  • As far as I can tell the math pathways remain unchanged this year (in particular for rising sixth graders.)

Articles

"As sure as one plus one equals two, it happens year after year. Kids who have been bringing home A’s in chemistry and acing AP Calculus arrive at college with visions of STEM careers dancing in their heads. Then they hit an invisible, but very painful, wall."
So how's Math going for your students this year?




38 comments :

Anonymous said...

What IS the pathway for rising 6th graders, exactly? Coming from Cascadia specifically. Do teachers make recommendations for students outside automatic placement in Math 8, and if so, based on what? Is the placement different between HIMS and JAMS?

Rising 6

Anonymous said...

I have the same question. Child will be at Washington as sixth grader next year. What has been the experience of parents with Math 8 vs. Algebra 1 in 6th grade?

Interested

HCCrent said...


Ditto that i would love to know where the policy stands. I believe that it is repeating last year's policy but have no idea for rising wms 6th grader.

Anonymous said...

Here's the current math pathway. This page links to a couple of PDFs that explain in more detail. http://seattleschools.org/cms/one.aspx?portalId=627&pageId=16558

Anonymous said...

Seattle Times has a student editorial by Carter McCleary which expresses concern about having to use a 1994 Calculus text. The reader comments suggest perhaps that's a good thing, and newer math texts could be a step back.

Ted Nutting (former Ballard Calculus teacher?) says, "The 1994 textbook we used was a heck of a lot better than the newer one the Seattle district has been using for the last 7 years or so. I just didn't use the newer one." Another comment suggests, "Check out what's working. Franklin and Ballard get great results. Garfield: not so much."

Anonymous said...

More about Ted Nutting: http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/the-no-1-math-teacher/

When looking at high schools, how do you find out what texts are being used?

Michael Rice said...

If you ask a math teacher at the schools you are looking at, I am sure they will tell you what books are being used.

Anonymous said...

For the parents at JAMS or other middle schools, I have a couple questions. It seems relatively simple for parents to opt their kids up to Algebra for 6th grade, and I hear from many families that this is their plan. Are the majority of kids successful? Do kids get moved in and out of classes during the first month of school if they are succeeding or struggling? To the best of anyone's knowledge, how does a 6th grade algebra course compare to the classes taught to 7th or 8th graders in both speed and content?

There does seem to be a trend of wanting to accelerate more, and hearing so many other families planning to put their kids in algebra, makes us consider it as well, however, I am unclear how the teachers can predict who is ready and who is not based on 5th grade content and testing. Also, if parents can override a teacher recommendation and opt up a year, does that affect the ability of other kids to move quickly through material that is needed to prepare them for geometry and beyond?

New JAMS family

Anonymous said...

I have a 7th grader who did algebra with just 6th graders, and now is in a class with 8th graders to do geometry. She was able to be successful, and is able to be successful now. I can't say about beyond, but she is really enjoying geometry and doing well, straight A's all around, seems to understand when we talk about it. She does a lot of outside work, though, math competitions, khan academy most days in the summer and on breaks, if she is interested or something did not quite click. I think there would be some significant gaps if she did not.

Some kids did drop the first month of algebra. I don't know if it was by their choice or with counseling from the teacher. I hope the school does a lot of counseling if it's true more people are considering it- the class went about as slow as it possibly could to still cover everything on time. If you are considering it, since you already know your kid likes math and gets all the prealgebra stuff, I would most concern yourself with your child's executive function (they need to do the homework every day, keep it in their notebook, be on top of themselves), and whether they actually know the difference between familiarity and mastery. My child's year there was a little time lost on knowledge gaps at the start, but a lot of time lost on kids claiming to be bored by too easy work asking really basic questions that showed a lack of understanding. It is hard to teach kids who don't know they don't know!

That year there were test score requirements to get in, though. I could see eliminating that changing it for better or worse. Curious to know if this year is going differently.

To be honest I think the families who chose not to do it have the easier path; those kids are clearly just as smart, and now their high school math pathway isn't messed up, and they won't have to worry immaturity will have kept their kid from absorbing important concepts, or the load on top of adjusting to middle school will be a killer. Their electives aren't as limited. High school math teachers do frown upon kids taking alg 2 in middle school, so that will be an uphill battle. But my kid does so much extra outside, and really loves math. So we did it, and she is happy for now. Obviously I see why it is appealing! Good luck; I spent a lot of time worrying over it, too.

NJP

Anonymous said...

My impression is that in the CCSS, Math 8 overlaps with Math 7 and Algebra, and can be skipped by kids with strong math skills. This is why JAMS provides the path of Math 7 direct to Algebra the following year to incoming sixth graders who went to non HCC elementary.

Anonymous said...

It's more that Math 8 is preferable to skip rather than Math 7, if you have to pick one. It does overlap, but they'd need to do significant algebraic concept work to go into Algebra from Math 7. Math 7 at the middle school level generally spends less time on arithmetic than at the elementary level and so has more time for algebraic concepts.

Teacher

Anonymous said...

Does the Math 7 text matter? Not sure what is used at JAMS but at Cascadia it is Glencoe.

Anonymous said...

JAMS asked that those kids that skipped in to Algebra in 6th review the 8th grade math from Kahn academy, My son did that and has sailed along with no issues so far. I would probably only do it for kids who really enjoy and quickly grasp math concepts.

Richard said...

We have been quite unhappy with Glencoe for 4th and 5th grade. It doesn't mesh well with the Singapore approach used at earlier levels, and don't think it is structured for mastery. It flits superficially from topic to topic without building solid foundations, and it doesn't require or encourage mathematical thinking (it is too interested in algorithmic solution finding). We have a kid who "hates arithmetic but loves mathematics," as she says, but we're not sure if Glencoe really cuts it as preparation for middle school.

-Richard

Anonymous said...

Fairmount Park is using Envision for grades 1-5 math and 25% of students are failing (requiring interventions). They switch to Math in Focus for 6th and 7th grade with no background in Singapore methods.

Anonymous said...

Are Cascadia, Fairmount Park, and TM all using different combinations of math materials?

Benjamin Leis said...

Yes the elementary schools are using different curricula. My impression is that Cascadia also has an equally high rate of interventions as Fairmount Park and its using Math in Focus + Glencoe.

Anonymous said...

In the not too distant past, 1st graders did not jump straight to 3rd grade math, as I understand is happening now. First graders started by covering 1st/2nd grade math. They compressed the curriculum so by 5th grade they were doing some 7th grade math and they finished the 7th grade curriculum in 6th grade, along with covering 8th grade material, leading to Algebra 1 in 7th. If there is a high rate of interventions, I wonder how much of it has to do with gaps created by jumping too far ahead in 1st grade. Do teachers do a skill review at the start of each school year so new students have a chance to fill any gaps? A high rate of interventions is a sign something needs fixing.

Anonymous said...

My kid is doing 6th grade math at Fairmount Park with Math in Focus. It really is the Wild West in Seattle math education.
West

Anonymous said...

A large part of our families decision to move to HCC early was because it seemed more feasible to cover 1st and 2nd grade math at home than any other 2 years. SPS isn't known for being strong in those number-fluency-and-memorization years anyway. And we could see the writing on the wall for Spectrum which would have been a more gradual ramp up.
West

Anonymous said...

Oh I'm wrong. It's Envision 6th!
West

tdub said...

My son joined HCC as a 2nd grader this year at FPE. His teacher did a skill review at the beginning of the year, she has been very patient and checks in with him one-on-one regularly, and often gives him extra time to complete his end-of-chapter assessments as he has ramped up to where he's supposed to be. However, it has been an excruciating, uphill battle as he had to leapfrog over three-digit number subtraction and multiplication, and his Envision 4th grade book started the year learning mental math strategies that he and I didn't initially understand (and that has become a running joke between my husband and me).

We were told to have him do Dreambox to fill the gaps, which is a program he enjoys playing, but I sometimes wish there was a little more human intervention at school in identifying his gaps and helping him work through them because when he and I work on 3rd grade math things he skipped and then go on to his 4th grade math lesson, we both end up pretty crabby by dinnertime.

I like the way the Envision lessons build on each other and the way the lessons get you thinking about how to solve the problem, but verdict is still out as to whether it's better, the same, or worse than Math in Focus for my son.

Anonymous said...

My HCC 7th grader at Washington Middle School was just randomly (no advance notice to us, her, or any reason provided) switched from one Algebra I class to a different Algebra I class with a different teacher for semester 2. Has this happened to anyone else? Only two children in her class were moved. Neither teacher has any idea why she was moved. Nothing else in her schedule changed, and the classes are the same period. The new class is bigger than the old class, so it wasn't to balance class size. Are they allowed to do this? Why would they do this?

-- Parent of WMS 7th grader

Anonymous said...

Might just be a random mistake. Has your daughter gone to the counseling office and asked to be switched back to her Semester 1 teacher?

Anonymous said...

Yes, she filled out the form to request a transfer back to her old class and turned it in to her counselor yesterday, no response yet. I also emailed the principal as well and haven't heard back yet to my specific emailed question. All we have is the generic welcome to semester 2 email from the principal to all families that says: "Other classes may also change as we balance and reconstitute classes to maximize learning. Students will be able to see their counselor immediately if they are missing a class. Otherwise, no changes are made the first week, and then only if space allows and all teachers agree. Counselors have spent many, many hours on these schedules. If your student expresses angst about a schedule change, listen and remind them that changes have positives. For some it means moving from a class of 30 to a class of 23, and that's good."

-- Parent of WMS 7th grader

Benjamin Leis said...

I added an interesting article link to the top on the subject of why STEM majors defect in college.

Confused said...


Can anyone share details on the HCC math pathway at JAMS? We were on the school tour last night but never made it to the math room.

Under what circumstances can HCC kids enroll in algebra in sixth grade?

Anonymous said...

My kid was placed into Algebra 1 in 6th under the recommendation of her teacher at Cascadia and test scores. The teacher told us in the fall that some of the kids in each class would be doing 7th and 8th grade math during 5th grade. Now, she's in a mixed classroom with 6th and 7th graders and doing well. They can retake any test to improve their grade. My kid is naturally strong at math but has zero interest in additional math activities like Kahn or competitions. No extra work in summers. I do worry about burnout in high school or college.

Plus minus to algebra 1 in 6th

Confused said...

Another question: What are parents' reasons for pursuing algebra in sixth grade instead of Math 8?

Is it because of a need for more advanced math for very mathy kids?

Or is there a flaw in the curriculum that slows down all the HCC kids? I'm surprised that calculus is not being taught in tenth grade, for instance. Twelfth grade calculus seems to be a staple at most schools, so I'd expect HCC kids would study calculus in tenth grade if they are truly working two years ahead.

Anonymous said...

Math 8 and Algebra 1 have a good deal of overlap. If a student is ready for Algebra 1, and wanting to leap ahead, then Algebra 1 is the next logical class. If SPS offered a truly rigorous Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 sequence (with more comprehensive texts than the Discovering series) I wonder if fewer students would consider further acceleration. Once accelerated, it is hard to slow down, and you don't know if high school will offer enough classes. The high school sequence would be Precalculus, AP Calc AB, AP Calc BC, AP Stats. A number of students are taking Calculus in 10th, or even in 9th. The IB math pathway actually offers enough math for a student taking Calculus in 9th. 12th grade Calculus is a 1-yr ahead pathway (Algebra in 8th, then Geometry, Precalculus), so Calculus in 10th is a 3-yr ahead pathway.

Benjamin Leis said...

Any high school that teaches Calculus (which is still not the case in the majority of schools) has to offer some form of acceleration or doubling up of math classes.

The standard sequence is

9th alg 1
10th geometry
11th alg 2
12th precalc or stats

So 12th grade calculus usually represents accelerating alg to 8th grade. The normal HCC trajectory is 7th Algebra which allows Calculus in 11th.

In other words, 10th grade calculus represents a 2 year acceleration of an already accelerated time line.

http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/articles/calculus-trap is a good read on the subject.

Anonymous said...

@ Confused, why do you say calculus isn't offered in 10th? Math isn't part of HCC after elementary grades, it's just by ability/placement/prerequisites. HCC 6th graders come from a variety of backgrounds--some come from HCC elementary and may be 2 yrs ahead, some come from a school that had Spectrum or ALOs that were a year ahead, some come from schools that offered no acceleration at all, and some come from homeschooling or tutoring situations that may place them three or more years ahead. It's a mixed bag, so the "two years ahead" belief doesn't really apply. (It's also no longer a part of the district's description of HCC. HCC elementary may work 2 yrs ahead, but that's not necessarily the case in middle school. HCC students are slowly decelerated such that they start high school in fairly similar position and classes to many non-HCC students.)

As to reasons for pursuing Algebra 1 in 6th grade, yes, it would be for strong math students who had already covered most of the material up to that point, either in school or out. I'm not sure I understand what you might be getting at re: other reasons to pursue such acceleration.

unclear

Confused said...

Hi, Unclear.

Other reasons for jumping ahead on the track could include, perhaps, the possibility of missing out on some math opportunities later in high school because of a later start in algebra.

I'm trying to figure out the right path and asking questions about why people are choosing what they choose for their kids.

If one follows the basic path laid out at this point for Cascadia kids, i.e. Math 8 in 6th grade, then calculus would not be offered in 10th grade. They would take calculus in 11th grade.

Anonymous said...

@ Confused, you mean missing out on the opportunity to take two full years of AP Calculus and a year of AP Stats? I don't know that accelerating a 6th grader who isn't passionate about math in order to keep open the option of taking three years of AP math in high school makes a lot of sense. If, as they grow up, they are determined to move faster, there are always other options for acceleration (e.g., summer programs).

The basic path you laid out for HCC elementary kids positions them to take two years of calculus in high school if they want, or a year of calculus and a year of stats. That's plenty enough for most kids--even HC kids--unless they really love math.

I don't think the "right path" is based on what they can or can't take later, but rather what seems the best fit for the student now. Accelerating students more than they are ready for can actually have the reverse effect, creating knowledge gaps that lead them to dislike math later on because they don't feel good at it.

Actually, if you're really concerned about providing the best math foundation for high school and college success, my primary recommendation would be to homeschool math or provide plenty of supplementary instruction along the way. The SPS math curriculum is very weak, and while your student may sail through middle and high school with straight As in math, there's a good chance they won't have a deep understanding of the topics. If your student were to take the "basic" Cascadia path but do a lot of math learning on the side, they'd likely be way better off.

Confused said...

@Unclear, I wasn't sure what the future possibilities were for high school math and what the right path was for my child, hence the questions. Not everyone who comes to this page has memorized every angle of the Seattle high school math curriculum.

Confused said...

@Unclear, I also thought that perhaps the early push ahead to algebra was coming from a perceived flaw in the HCC curriculum. Other school districts sometimes slow down gifted math offerings in high school with an unnecessary review class for a year -- and leave kids languishing with repeat material, even when the kids are ready for more. I wanted to make sure that was not the situation here.

Anonymous said...

@ Confused, I'm still not sure I understand your concern about jumping ahead now to avoid being slowed down later, but maybe it will help to explain that we don't have a special gifted math track in high school, if that was what you were thinking. Nor do we have a different HCC math curriculum--HCC students take the same math classes as most everyone else, just often on an accelerated schedule compared to what's typical (with the degree of acceleration dependent on individual students, regardless of HC status). While there are flaws in the curriculum, that's not an HCC-specific issue.

Our district DOES tend to slow down gifted offerings in high school, but that's more true in humanities than math. As I understand it, math is one of the few areas in which students can access more advanced classes when ready for more, since the progression is pretty standard. That doesn't mean the classes themselves are geared toward HC students, though--so they may move at a slower pace than HC students would like, and/or they may not go into sufficient depth. That's why I suggested looking into other options or supplementation if acquiring a strong math foundation is important to you or your child. Getting A's on SPS math classes isn't always a great indicator of math learning. I know of several students who have taken different online programs after doing well in the SPS version of a class only to find that they learned so much more in the "review" class. There are some great math teachers out there in SPS, to be sure, but overall, math does not seem to be a strength.

unclear

Anonymous said...

If one follows the basic path laid out at this point for Cascadia kids, i.e. Math 8 in 6th grade, then calculus would not be offered in 10th grade. They would take calculus in 11th grade.

It is not that calculus is not offered in 10th grade. Math is distinct from highly capable after elementary. There is not a perceived flaw in the HCC math curriculum because there is no HCC math curriculum. Cascadia does not default to or guarantee the most advanced math available in high school. Students in the Cascadia cohort may be synchronized leaving elementary, but you should enroll your child in the next course in sequence based on the placement guidelines for aptitude/prerequisites. Some students are appropriately placed in algebra, some in Math 8 and some in neither.