By Bill Jackson, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Bill Jackson was a Paterson, New Jersey math teacher and a district-wide math teacher trainer in Scarsdale, New York. He also provides consulting and teacher training on Singapore or Japanese approaches to mathematics teaching and professional development, and regularly speaks at national and international mathematics conferences.
Singapore math is getting a lot of attention as more and more schools in the United States are using Singapore-based methods and materials to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics. Many parents and teachers are wondering if a change is really necessary. The answer is yes.
I’ve seen firsthand the difference the Singapore math approach can make. I began using Primary Mathematics textbooks from Singapore’s Marshall Cavendish Education in 2000 when I was a classroom teacher. I have used Singapore math with both low-income inner-city students and affluent suburban students, and found that, when taught in the right way, it makes learning mathematics fun and engaging, allows students to understand mathematics deeply, and helps them become proficient at solving very complex math problems.
So what exactly is different about Singapore math? Singapore mathematics lessons begin by engaging students in hands-on learning experiences followed by pictorial representations, which help them form a mental image of mathematical concepts. This is followed by an abstract stage, where they solve problems using numbers and symbols. This approach makes the learning of mathematics fun and meaningful, and helps students develop positive attitudes about math.
Typical U.S. math textbooks are thick and heavy and they cover many topics superficially and usually in an incoherent way. In contrast, Singapore textbooks focus on fewer topics, taught in-depth for mastery, carefully building mathematical understanding in a systematic way.
By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) - During the average school day, teachers are with children as many waking hours as parents are. But many educators believe there’s a short in the communication lines between themselves and parents. When asked what they’d want parents to know about education, not all of the teachers we spoke to wished to be named - but they did share many common concerns from the classroom.
1. We're on the same team
First and foremost, teachers want students to thrive in the classroom, and they could use your help.
Jennifer Bell, a 7th grade social studies teacher in Tennessee, suggests that parents do all they can to ensure that students are doing their homework, exercising, eating well and sleeping. Whether students come to class tired or ready to learn can hinge on parents’ involvement. “We need their support,” she says. “We can’t do this on our own.”
In the words of an elementary school teacher from Georgia, “We are professionals. Teaching children is our area of expertise. Your child benefits more when you support me.”
And while educators expect students to make mistakes, Mississippi teacher Beth Wilbanks Smith asks parents to help them learn from those mistakes. “They will grow to be productive citizens if we all work as a unified force,” she writes.
by Donna Krache, CNN
(CNN) Education, like any other profession, has a language all its own. We’ve compiled a short list of some of the words and phrases you are likely to come across this academic year. It’s by no means all-inclusive, and some of these terms are not new, but it gives you a sense of some of education’s priorities as we start a new school year.
Common Core State Standards, or CCSS or Common Core – a set of educational expectations, or benchmarks that was created by state leaders in education and government. According to the Common Core website: “These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs.” Most students will begin testing based on the Common Core Standards starting in 2014, but some districts are already beginning to assess students based on the new benchmarks. Opponents of the Common Core say this initiative is the first step toward a “nationalized curriculum” and national standardized testing. So far the standards have been adopted by 45 states and three U.S. territories. You can see if your state has adopted the standards here.
Flipped classes – Remember the struggles with geometry homework and that lost feeling when no one was around to help? What if students could learn the lesson at home, then do their “homework” in class with the help of their teacher? That’s the idea behind flipped classes, not a new concept but one that is gaining popularity. The practice caught on in part because of the success of websites like Khan Academy, which was started by former hedge fund manager Sal Khan, who devised a way to tutor his cousin remotely in math. Students learn the processes after school, watching videos or online explanations that they can pause and replay. When they come to school, students then demonstrate their understanding of the material by doing their homework under the watchful eye of their teacher. Some schools have reported higher attendance rates and test scores as a result of flipping. But some say the practice doesn’t work for all subjects and that student accessibility to technology at home should be considered before instruction is built on flipping.
Gamification – is “the use of game-like thinking and elements in places that aren’t traditionally games,” according to GamifyingEducation.org. For example, teachers might incorporate online badges or leader boards into lessons to motivate students or use gaming techniques and applications to engage students in learning content. Proponents of gamification argue that it’s unrealistic to expect the video game generation to sit quietly in class and absorb information; the old “chalk and talk” method doesn’t work for these students. One way to engage students and help them learn, say gamification advocates, is to deliver the content in a game format. But there are questions about gamification: Is it a student achievement game-changer (no pun intended) or does it undermine intrinsic motivation?
CNN’s Schools of Thought blog is a place for parents, educators and students to learn about and discuss what's happening in education. We're curious about what's happening before kindergarten, through college and beyond. Have a story to tell? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org