Monday, October 17, 2005

Kirkland Jr High PTSA WASL and Math

Some observations from the Kirkland Jr High School PTSA meeting: (Lake Washington / Kirkland)

KJH wants WASL scores from the high school broken down by feeder jr high schools. The principal mentioned that WASL scores were disappointing (I think it was lowest of the district jr high schools). The PTSA state convention puts #3 and #4 top items as "alternatives to the WASL test", evidently they still don't have the guts to challenge the beast outright, and "improving math and science education" which unfortunately sounds like they've bought into the fuzzy math and science teaching crowd.

A math teacher didn't give a formal presentation on the new "discovery based" math, however, I looked over the new Algebra books my kids are getting at 7th and 8th grade, it introduces matrix muliplication, and later uses matrices to solve linear equations, something I didn't even do much of in college. For the normal 7th grade track, they are using the 2nd version of Connected Mathematics. It seemed to be a minor improvement over the series we got in 6th grade that had infinite nonsensical homework, and spendng 4 times as many pages to make sure that the one standard method was NOT covered or explained to do averages, or adding or multiplying fractions. I was surprised to find solving for a linear equation, which used to be the culmination of an entire algebra course, covered in all of 2 pages. Just add, subtract, factor or divide both sides, yeah, right. Solving quadratic equations was similarly covered in just two pages.

Compare that to MY 7th grade math worksheet, which was a 8.5 x 11 sheet of 1 digit by 1 digit multiplications, which I completed about 85%, and got 1 or 2 wrong. I wonder how many of these kids who are expected to solve quadratic equations with 2 pages of instruction know how to add fractions with uncommon denominators, or divide a 5 digit by a 3 digit decimal number.

Some parents commented that their students were having big problems with Math Analysis in high school after going through integrated math in middle school. My peek at McDougall Littell was that this curriculum aimed at high school, but offered at middle school level crammed a shot gun ful of college level material concepts all over the place, while providing no instruction in basic arithmetic, nor the old fashioned baby-step per week build up of algebra. I couldn't even FIND how to solve a simple equation like 2 x + 8 = 15 among all the instruction in graphing, statistics, and problem solving.

I don't know if moving from integrated back to to Algebra is better or worse, but so far not too many complaints from my kids and I haven't had to do their homework left.

Parents in LWSD are still pretty much clueless as to the harm of fuzzy new-new math.

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