According to a 2011 research study, “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America
,” children ages 5-8 spend an average of two hours per day watching television, DVDs, or videos. This number rises dramatically for tweens and teens, up to four or five hours per day, according to a 2010 study, “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds
.” Excessive television consumption has parents and educators concerned about how TV can displace valuable educational activities. Since children and teenagers are spending so much time in front of the television, how can we capitalize on the lure of television to promote learning?
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, provides reviews of various educational television programs for children and teenagers on their website. The ratings and reviews are informed by child development guidelines and include categories such as Educational Value, Positive Messages, and Positive Role Models. Though educational television programs that specifically highlight mathematics are few and far between, I managed to find a few top rated shows that teach and encourage math skills:
- Get the Math: a PBS series that promotes the usefulness of math in a variety of careers (ages 8 and up).
- Secret Millionaires Club: an animated show that introduces children to basic financial concepts (ages 7 and up).
- Biz Kid$: a PBS program that promotes math concepts through true stories about young entrepreneurs (ages 7 and up).
Know of any other educational shows that promote math concepts? Please let us know!
Guest Blog Authors:
Malbert Smith III, Ph.D., MetaMetrics President and Co-founder
Jason Turner, MetaMetrics Director of Professional Development
U.S. students are consistently outperformed in mathematics by their international peers. While 2011 NAEP results show a modest increase in mathematics performance, only about one-third of our eighth-grade students achieved the proficiency level. The truth is that many U.S. students graduate unprepared for the challenges they will likely face in college and careers, and this trend will continue to negatively impact our students’ and our nation’s ability to compete globally.
The Common Core State Standards, which nearly all states have adopted, provides policy makers, educators and parents with a road map for preparing students for postsecondary mathematics demands. But, as districts and schools begin to implement the Standards, they must also have access to the curriculum resources to make this aggressive drive toward real-world readiness a reality for all students. The Quantile® Framework for Mathematics—and the many free tools that support its implementation—is a unique resource for providing the targeted instruction that both striving and struggling students need as they ready themselves for the demands of their academic and professional pursuits.
Read MetaMetrics' complete brief: HTML | PDF
As a continuation of my exploration of professional development materials, here is a report released by the NCTM in November that provides professional development recommendations specific to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSSM-PD). The recommendations help school leaders and professional development providers identify the best practices for teachers and how best to implement them.
Additionally, a report entitled Gearing up for the Common Core State Standards, written last year by a group of math educators and experts, lists five initial content domains for professional development focus: (1) counting, cardinality, and numbers and operations in base ten (grades K-2); (2) operations and algebraic thinking (grades K-5); (3) number and operations-fractions (grades 3-5); (4) ratios and proportions (grade 6-7); and (5) geometry (grade 8).
Much of the focus on the NCTM report surrounds the Standards for Mathematical Practice laid out in the CCSSM. These standards provide a framework for how math can be taught most effectively. The other recommendations adapt existing professional development practices to the CCSSM and facilitate communication between teachers and education leaders.
The five content domains identified in the Gearing Up report are useful in distinguishing the areas in each grade that will require the most training. While the CCSSM are intended to streamline math curricula, the overhaul will require teachers to update their syllabus and their teaching techniques. Some of the content domains have changed more dramatically in their treatment at various grade levels than others, and these deserve the most immediate attention. Focusing on these domains is the best way to implement the NCTM’s first recommendation: Emphasize the Substance of CCSSM-PD. The Gearing Up document provides the rationale behind each of the choices of domain. It includes the standards themselves as well as critical areas of focus for each target domain at various grade levels.
How are your schools preparing for the Common Core? Have you found any useful resources that you would recommend?
There are distinctive differences between the cognitive structures for understanding math and those for learning to read. These differences have implications for intervention with struggling math students.
Both literacy and math use symbols – letters and numbers – that children must learn and make sense of in order for them to understand the more complex topics in reading and numeracy. In many ways, these symbols are similar. Both are part of a finite set (26 letters, 10 digits), both are used in conjunction with other symbols (punctuation in reading, operational and relational symbols in math), and both have names that have nothing to do with the symbol’s actual meaning or value. Most importantly, both are building blocks that students learn at the beginning of their education in reading and math.
It’s important for students to understand the distinctions between the contextual usage of numbers and letters in order for them to develop strong number sense. One of the most important big ideas in number is that numbers can be composed and decomposed. A single letter cannot be broken apart – it’s the most basic component of literacy. A number, on the other hand, can infinitely be broken apart into smaller numbers. This is connected to students’ understanding that numbers represent quantity. Understanding that 5 means ● ● ● ● ● will lead to the understanding that 5 is the same as 2 ● ● and 3 ● ● ● put together.
Unlike numbers, stand-alone letters do not hold any meaning. Only when put together do they begin to have purpose. From letters we build words, from words we form sentences, sentences strung together create paragraphs, and so on. On the other hand, when numbers are put together we are always left with another number.
Finally, the many contexts in which we use numbers makes learning mathematics very complex. When we combine letters, we create words. This concept is definitive – the purpose of letters is to create words (and sentences, and paragraphs). Numbers take on many different meanings. Take the number 7. Alone, it represents the quantity 7, ● ● ● ● ● ● ●. In the number 75, however, the 7 takes on a completely different meaning, 70. The same is true for the 7 in the fraction 1/7 and in the equation 7x + 3 = 31.
It is important to make the differences between literacy and numeracy clear, particularly for students who struggle with math. Understanding the distinct qualities of number will help them unlock the structure of math and make sense of more complex topics.
Many math educators are turning to free online games to supplement their curriculum and engage all types of math students. Experts agree that many of these games have notable benefits, such as increasing curiosity and motivation, reducing math anxiety, differentiating learning, and building strategy and reasoning skills.
However, we know that many digital games, though engaging, often lack educational benefits and can waste precious classroom time. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) recognizes this problem and provides a list of questions to help educators evaluate these online games. Here are a few of them:
- Is there variety in the math tasks?
- Is there embedded scaffolding?
- Is the competition positive and non-threatening?
- Are there suggestions to integrate the game into the classroom?
- Was the math situated in a meaningful context?
In addition to a comprehensive list of evaluation questions, NCTM also provides a list of vetted online math games for elementary, middle school, and high school classroom use. However, educators should be wary that some of these online games, because they are free, contain advertising that can be disruptive to the learning process.
When I applied to college, I had never heard of Facebook, and I associated the term “social-networking” with lame mixers and “get-to-know-you” events that required attendees to adorn their shirts with a white name badge. I created a Facebook profile when I arrived at college as a freshman in 2004. By the time I graduated in 2008, I had 700+ Facebook friends, I was tagged in 600+ pictures, and much of my social life was wrapped up in online social networking. The career center at my college advised us seniors to delete our pictures posted on Facebook and to block our profiles from public consumption. Apparently employers were using Facebook and other social networking sites to vet applicants.
Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 survey of college admissions officers illustrates that it is not just post-college youth that need to worry about the potential impact of Facebook and the Internet on their future. Rather, college admissions officers are increasingly checking high school applicants’ social networking profiles and searching them on Google—about 25% of admissions officers reported checking a profile at least once and about 20% reported Googling an applicant. Of the college admissions officers who used these online tools to vet applicants, about 12% said that what they found negatively affected the applicant’s chance of admission. Some of the offenses included photos depicting underage drinking and other illegal activities, vulgar speech, and plagiarism.
According to a 2011 Pew Internet study, 80% of online teens now use social networking sites, which means that 8 in 10 online teens must consider how their online behavior may impact their future. As teens spend more time on the Internet, we have a responsibility to educate children and teens in Internet safety, which includes issues of cyberbullying, online solicitation, and protecting one’s privacy. Schools use computers – including online and networked applications – as never before for instruction and research. Managing personal information in an online world is a critical concern for students, teachers, and families.
A new study in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society
strengthens evidence that gender gaps in math ability do not exist. The study concludes instead that gender gaps in mathematics performance reflect unequal opportunity for girls and boys. Interestingly, these findings dispel hypotheses that boys have a greater variability in ability than girls, resulting in higher attainment for top performers. On average, girls perform at least as well as boys on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). And in countries where there are observable disparities, these differences are mostly attributable to socio-cultural factors, especially gender stratification.
The authors used the results from 4th and 8th grade students on the 2003 and 2007 TIMSS as well as the scores of 4th grade students on the 2003 PISA. They analyzed a variety of factors that have been suggested as potential reasons for the traditional male-dominance of math. Some, including single-sex schooling, national income, and greater variability in male intellectual ability do not appear to impact math outcomes by gender.
The authors did observe, though, that women who are well-educated and have a high income are much more likely to ensure that their children reach a similarly high level of educational attainment. Thus, greater gender equity in the workforce correlates with higher math performance among both male and female students. Creating equitable employment opportunities and compensation promotes the development of higher math achievers. Fortunately, the United States has made strides toward eliminating gender stratification. For example, girls now perform equally with boys in math, even in high school, having closed the significant gap that existed in the 1970s. As we continue to expand opportunities for women in math and science, we will likely see even greater improvements in math performance across both genders.