Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Better Way to Teach Math? (Feel like I've read a couple sales pitches, now where's the meat?)

A Better Way to Teach Math - NYTimes.com:

“Almost every kid — and I mean virtually every kid — can learn math at a very high level, to the point where they could do university level math courses,” explains John Mighton, the founder of Jump Math, a nonprofit organization whose curriculum is in use in classrooms serving 65,000 children from grades one through eight, and by 20,000 children at home. “If you ask why that’s not happening, it’s because very early in school many kids get the idea that they’re not in the smart group, especially in math. We kind of force a choice on them: to decide that either they’re dumb or math is dumb.”

The article is thin on details, but more is promised in future installments. The key to the JUMP method seems to be  teaching the kids to be confident about their abitlity to solve the problem. Sounds "too easy," but how many kids check out on math too soon precisely because they encountered difficulty and didn't get assurance needed that they could work through the problem? The Globe and Mail has a similar article from early last year that makes me hope the follow up here gives us more to go on, because the potential seems huge here:

Even deeper, for children, math looms large; there’s something about doing well in math that makes kids feel they are smart in everything. In that sense, math can be a powerful tool to promote social justice. “When you have all the kids in a class succeeding in a subject, you see that they’re competing against the problem, not one another,” says Mighton. “It’s like they’re climbing a mountain together. You see a very healthy kind of competition. And it makes kids more generous to one another. Math can save us.”
I just want to see that there've been consistent, repeated results.  Would also like to know what information is available about how kids who've done well in elementary math with this program have progressed. Do they continue to achieve at high levels through high school?
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