Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

11/2/2004

Lest I ever consider teaching elementary school math in Georgia

File under: Sound And Fury, Those Who Can't, Queen of Sciences. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 3:49 pm.

…and lest I ever make the mistake of thinking that standardization is necessary compatible with high standards:

I’m writing an introductory math text for - swear to God - an Indian company that’s outsourcing work to me, howdoyoulikethemapples. In searching for some inspiration for applications of fractions, I ran across this teacher guide. Quoth the introduction:

The lesson is created for day 145 of the 180 day sequence.

No, really. Don’t go off on any pertinent tangents, teacher; you may fall behind schedule, and your students will never have a chance to

…review the concepts presented in the unit by creating a “how-to” booklet. Students will create an entry for each concept presented. Finally, in the next lesson in the sequence entitled Fractions, Decimals, & Percents Unit Review, Day 2, students will randomly choose one of their entries to share with the class.

This is a grade 8 curriculum, by the way. Math teachers: ever wonder why your students regard math as a series of disjoint facts and tedious procedures, devoid of imagination? I don’t anymore, but if you did, it might have something to do with the fact that eighth grade teachers in Georgia must

[e]xplain to students that to review the concepts in this unit, each student will need to create a how-to manual. Each of the ten concepts addressed in step one will need to be addressed in the manual. The manual should consist of a cover page, table of contents, and 10 chapters or entries. The manual should also be bound together in some way such as stapled, connected with yarn, or in a report cover of some kind. Encourage students to be as creative as possible.

Emphasis mine. Eighth grade is old enough to be tackling logic puzzles and word problems, but whoeever conceived this bastard curriculum apparently couldn’t think of any way to do mathematics in a creative way, hence the yarn. By the way, teachers are told to spend five minutes in the middle of class explaining the format of the how-to manual - this after the ten minute brainstorming session, but before the thirty-five minute period where the children make their books explaining fractions creatively with glue and yarn. Yes, that’s the whole fifty-minute class period. For the benefit of those teachers thinking, “Well, that’s a good start, but what I really want is to be micromanaged,” Step 3 is fleshed out in detail:

Allow time for students to complete the assignment. Monitor students while they are working and assist any students experiencing difficulty.

This guards against the possibility of the teacher choosing instead to release a box of firecrackers into the centre of the room and then tell the kids to go play.

At the bottom of the webpage is a series of links about how to modify this sorry-ass curriculum to better accommodate students with various special needs. There’s less objectionable stuff there, but the guidelines for accommodating gifted students are curiously vague, considering the source. “Encourage creative thinking and expression by allowing students to choose how to approach a problem or assignment.” What on earth does that mean in this case - allow them to pick which colour of yarn they want to use for the how-to book, hmm?