Improving elementary math education

I posted this on an old blog post (http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2009/12/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-education-reform-by-rona-wilensky/#comment-11864), but wanted to think about it more, so I thought I might post it here:

I am a little late here – 3 years. However…

I have long thought a reorganization of current resources may solve many of the problems with math education in the early years. Most of us will probably agree that if children do not learn math early, they are most likely not going to excel at math later; in reality, these kids will often struggle just to meet basic levels for testing these days.

Here is a possible plan:
Instead of having 5 teachers on a grade-level be the “know-it-all” for all subjects, which it may be being suggested they are not, perhaps you could have three generalists, one math specialist, and one math/science specialist. In the beginning, these teachers would simply be chosen from those available. As time goes on, however, administrators could hire specifically to fill the math specialist position for each grade level. A massive reorganization would be required, but it makes more sense to me.

This is just the beginning of the idea, but I thought I would throw it out there. This requires no additional money, training, etc., simply a reallocation of the available resources.

Feel free to respond.
Brett Bothwell

[If you respond to a blog post three years late, would anybody read it?]

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2 thoughts on “Improving elementary math education

  1. Wendy Tahill

    [I think if you are passionate about what you are blogging about then it really wouldn’t matter when you replied unless it is no longer relevant.]

    I think that is a more feasible plan to reallocate your resources, however, there is a reason many teachers are self-contained. There are probably many reasons. But the one that comes to mind is the now-everyone-will-know-that-I-suck one. Do you force this on campuses or do you make it optional?

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    1. brettrubicristian Post author

      Interesting comment, Wendy!

      I think this reorganization should be forced. If it is determined to be successful and appropriate, it would be wrong not to force it.

      Suppose we have 36 grade-level teachers on a K-5 campus, which allows for six teachers of each grade level. I am asking that 6 out of 36 could be considered math specialists and serve their entire grade level for math instruction. Of course, the three generalists I mentioned would be expected to assist in the math, but much more cursorily than currently. The 6 math/science specialist teachers would service all students in that grade level for additional math support and an lareger influence of science. The generalists would mainly focus on ELA, with infusions of math science, and social studies. Generalists would be able to better concentrate on their ELA instruction with some cross-curricular planning. Math and math/science specialists ought to also be able to improve their skills as an educator with less content to focus on.

      If, as you stated, the teachers isolate themselves to hide their poor ability to educate, the narrowing of the demands on their knowledge base ought to help improve their performance. If you were trying to suggest that we would not be able to find 6 math and 6 math/science specialists that are capable of improving math instruction in the building because the knowledge of elementary education teachers is so poor, then you are highlighting the need for this shift all the more. If there are not 6 in 36 teachers capable of better understanding and relating mathematics to the students, woe is that campus and woe are those students and woe is education. All 36 are supposed to be able to do it now, and do it well.

      Brett

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