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Straight Up, Between The Lines


I would go further and say that: The standards change little if they do not result in the creation of high-quality curricula, textbooks, instruction, assessments, and, above all, the preparation and continuing professional development of content knowledge of teachers. [The Common Core Math standards for Grades 1-8 are higher than the current Math standards required by licensing exams for teachers in many states.] I would be happier if the Call had not mentioned Finland and just said: In nations with core curriculum standards, such as Singapore, and South Korea, this systemic approach — coupled with equitable resources and strong teacher training — has resulted in both very high average achievement and a diminishing gap between high- and low-achieving students. An answer to the question: What is wrong with Finland? may be found in: “LONG TERM [BAD] EFFECTS IN LEARNING MATHEMATICS IN FINLAND --CURRICULUM CHANGES AND CALCULATORS” This article notes that the number of Grade 9 Finns, who could calculate the product: (1/6) x (1/2) dropped in half from 56% in 1981 to 28% in 2003. (Not that barely half of Grade 9 students being able to multiply fraction was something to brag about.) (I suspect that this is not what Hess had in mind.)

Impracticality of part of Recommendations #4 of “Call for Common Content”. Recommendations #4 includes: “If the curriculum guide calls for the structure and movement of the solar system to be learned in the fourth grade, ... But some teachers may choose to have students spend a week building scale models of the solar system” Suggestion. It would be good to replace the last part with: But some teachers may choose to have students spend an hour building -- models of the solar system as an art project. Big problem: Scale models of our solar system are not practical! (I do favor students drawing scale models when practical and when pedagogically useful.) Suppose the class tries to represent Mercury by a small pinhead, with a scaled diameter of 1 mm. The diameter of Mercury is about 3000 miles; so the scale is 1mm for each 3000 miles. The distance from Neptune to the Sun is about 2800 million miles. Then the scaled distance from Neptune to the Sun will be [(2800 million miles)/ 3000 miles] mm, which is a little less than 1000m = 1 Km. So diameter of Neptune’s orbit would be scaled at almost 2 Km, which is more than a mile across. Spending a full week on the model would be an inefficient use of class time, with much busy work. Building a model of the solar system does not require analytical reasoning. Good science lessons include analytical reasoning. “Trivial pursuit” science lessons avoid analytical reasoning. So building a model of the solar system is “Trivial pursuit” science or an art project.

"the entire country isn’t even the size of Montana." ...and the entire state of New York isn't even half of the size of Finland. For the record, the population of Montana is 1.0 million and that of Finland is 5.4 million. The area of Montana is about 15 % larger.


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