Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Math Standards Today

Today an old time teacher, one that I "had respected"told us that he doesn't bother teaching the trigonometric functions of the special angles. That is of the 30, 60 and 45 degree angles. He said there is no reason for the kids to know the exact values as they can figure out all multiple choice questions using a calculator, working backwards from the choices, if necessary. All us old timers just stared at him in disbelief.

I always knew that this new curriculums and the NCLB dummied down the courses. I knew that some of the younger teachers skipped this stuff because they did not know any better. I never expected someone who is teaching almost thirty years to dummy down his lessons also. This guy has a reputation of being a great teacher. The kids like him. He gets them to pass, but does he really teach them any math? A few years ago, some kids went from the strictest teacher in the building to this guy's class. Their grades went from 80 to 95 yet they told me they preferred the strict teacher because he was teaching them math.

Many of the math B kids in my school are very bright and go on to take honor pre-calculus and advanced placement calculus BC. Originally I could not understand how they could know so little trig coming into the class. They fought me when I refused to let them use calculators on exams and forced them to figure out these basic trig values.

Every day I grow more and more weary. My teaching days are coming to an end soon and it is things like this that are pushing me to go sooner. I fear for the future of our students. We are sending them to college without the tools they need to succeed. It is hard to hold the kids you are teaching to standards when so many others in the same building are not doing the same.


17 (really 15) more years said...

I wanted to post about exactly this on my blog, but since the test is still technically secure, I am waiting til the end of the week. You would have been appalled if you saw the 8th grade state math exam. Granted, my kids are probably on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of the typical NYC 8th grader. In yesterday's 50 minute section, the majority of them were done in 15 minutes, and all were done in 25 (that included checking their work). In the second section (40 minutes), they were all done in 10 minutes. The questions were insanely easy, and I'm shocked at how basic 8th grade math standards are. One problem was a simple calculating percent discount. And they had the use of a calculator for it! Today was slightly more difficult- but not much (one of the kids had time for a lengthy nap after checking her test for the second time).

To her credit, our math teacher teaches much harder material than what was on the exam. What did bother me was how "happy" she was at the "easy" test. When we dumb down the tests and water down the standards, why is this cause for celebration?

Anonymous said...

She may have been happy because of the pressure the test reflects on her teaching rather than students real abilities. But that is not her fault, it's the new system. However, given time she will realize that her efforts were not rewarded properly, and the test was not a fair assessment of the grade-level work.


jose said...

Yeah, I'm annoyed whenever I see a really easy exam. I'm even more annoyed when my kids still don't pass the test even after they dumb it down. I mean, it's really hard to FAIL the test, and when they do, it makes me sick. If a teacher teaches the bare minimum of the NYS math standards pre-March, then the kid should get a 2.

Anyways, valid point. I think about all these new teachers (::ahem::) who want to just use a calculator for everything when the most powerful calculator they have is right in their head. Ugh.

Pissed Off said...

This guy is not a new teacher. He should know better. Those of us who know him think he is just lazy and taking the easy way out. I could almost forgive him if he was new.

jd2718 said...

How do you handle calculators at your college gig?

(And I could never let go of 0/30/45/60/90)


Pissed Off said...

college is a little trickier--some of them haven't bought calculators.

I try to mix the problems and give them things that cannot be done on calculator. For example, when we did transformations on graphs, I drew a graph that had no set equation and then had them do the transformation. If I asked them to transform y =(x - 2)^2 after doing y = x^2, they would just have used calcuator.

IMC Guy said...

While I certainly understand your concerns, this does sound like an issue the administration needs to be handling. You can only control what you are doing, which sounds like is the right thing.

Lsquared said...

I'm glad the test is easy (most tests are made to discriminate the better students from the less good students, and so you want problems about half of the students will get wrong, but competency tests should be straightforward questions about core material). On the other hand, as a college math teacher, I am continually frustrated with the kids who don't know stuff (especially trigonometry) that they need for calculus (including, at least here, the trig functions for pi/6, pi/4, pi/3)

Chaz said...

It doesn't matter if the kids don't learn, it will always be the teacher's fault. Never the student, never the parent, and certainly never the administrator. It is always thew teacher's fault...according to the DOE and their suck-up newspapers.

Anonymous said...

*pffftt* Calculators.

I FORBID my students from using them - and I'm only in my third year of teaching. Absolutely verboten. (Except for fingers. I let 'em use their fingers... with some of them, I ENCOURAGE the use of their fingers.)

And I had a HS teacher who did the same thing for me with Trig. I still don't know how I passed Calc the next year...

When I decided to go back and get my teaching credential (Math Single Subject FTW!), I made sure I took a ton of math classes first, ESPECIALLY trig. I was shocked at how unbelievably easy it was!

I now use Trig as a reward for my 7th graders... if we get through the day's lesson quickly, and every can do the comprehension check correctly (whiteboards :), Then I'll teach them a bit of trig. (What they don't know is that after state testing, we'll be doing trig and geometry for real. They're going to blow a gasket with delight!)

- Elaine C.