Ten ways to improve U.S. ability in Math

U.S. woefully poor in Math

1-3. Students must be held accountable for disruptive behavior and disciplined immediately with detention and suspension. When students are disruptive, no-one in the class learns anything. If this one thing were upheld, U.S. math scores would be GREATLY improved.

4. Transfer teachers who are not competent in Math to another subject. Require that all Math teachers have an undergraduate degree in Math.

5. It is not necessary to pay Math teachers more than other teachers. What IS necessary, is to have the workday end by 3 PM sharp every day without fail, and to not require Math teachers to do anything unrelated to teaching Math (lunchroom duty, proctoring, detention monitor, calling parents of unruly students, etc.) You could pay a math major a ton of money, but if their job is not fulfilling and their lives are not manageable, many will leave.

6. Stop requiring Math teachers to have a Master’s degree in Education. It is not that useful and keeps competent people from entering the field, since math majors have many other more lucrative options that do not require an advanced degree. Of course, training in lesson planning and curriculum should be offered.

7. Technology in the math classroom is generally unnecessary unless students are being tested specifically on technology. The high school curriculum is not rocket science. It’s more important for students to understand math concepts and to apply them, than to learn how to use a computer program. Certainly technology can aid in learning, but it should be viewed as an extra, not a requirement.

8. Understand that “teaching to the test” is not all bad. Ideally, students should get 4 days a week of straight curriculum, and 1 day a week of Math games or projects for exploration.

Anybody have ideas for numbers 9 and 10?

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17 Responses to “Ten ways to improve U.S. ability in Math”

  1. sphyrnatude Says:

    You missed one of the most important: accountability – for both students and teachers.

    When a student ahs not mastered the curriculum for their grade level, amke them repeat it. An 8th grader that has never learned multipliction has no chance of succeeding in algebra. If multiplication is part of the 4th grade curriculum, that student needs to stay in the 4th grade until (s)he has mastered multiplication. Period.

    A teacher that has a history of failing to teach the curriculum should be fired. Instead of letting the teacher undergo “remediation” while still teaching (and, by the way, still screwing students over) fire the teacher. Once the teacher has mastered the skills needed to teach, an internship to prove mastery should be allowed. If the teacher can demonstrate mastery of the skills, then they can enter the pool of qualified teachers just like any other qualified teacher.

    Other than government employees, teachers are about the only job in America where performance simply does not matter. Its time to fix that.

  2. that sounds good Sphyr (as long as the “incompetent” teacher has been permitted to apply rules #1-3 above and isn’t being evaluated by an incompetent principal 🙂

  3. sphyrnatude Says:

    yeah, well, that is one of the problems: who determines what competent is? for the teachers, a simple measure would be to keep records of how many of that teachers kids actually master the curriculum (in other words pass to the next grade). Of course, that would mean annual skills testing.

    Of course, the next logical step would be to compile those results and evaluate the school (and school district) itself, and shut down the schools that can’t deliver…

  4. sphyrnatude Says:

    Oh yeah, and as far as rules 1-3 go, it is a teachers job t be able to deal with disruptuive students (like it or not). Of course, there needs to be an escalation proceedure so that truly disruptive students are removed from teh classroom )and potentialy the school). However, this one needs careful monitoring – if it is not watched carefully, and student that is not performing will end up getting tagged as “disruptive”, and all we’ve done is given the incompentent teacher a way to hide their incompetancy….

  5. I disagree that it is a teacher’s job to deal with disruptive students. It is a math teacher’s job to teach Math. They should not be high-paid babysitters (which is their function right now).

    I do agree that we have to be careful not to allow struggling students to get tagged as “disruptive”. Webcams in the classroom perhaps?

  6. sphyrnatude Says:

    It definitely is a teachers job to deal with a disruptive student. But only up to a certain point. Students will always speak out of turn, occasionally get out line, and every student has an occasional bad day. Dealing with these day to hassles is part of teaching.

    Of course, there also needs to be an effective escalation path for a student that is habitually problematic…..

  7. yes, in America it definitely is a teacher’s responsibility to deal with disruptive students. That’s why Math scores in America are so low. If a teacher has a class of 35 kids and he needs to spend 3 minutes disciplining 3 different kids, that’s 9 minutes of classtime in which the rest of the kids are learning exactly nothing. Kids who are having a “bad day” should be removed quickly from the classroom. Math teachers should not be wasting time on discipline, they should be teaching mathematics. If a kid is having a “bad day”, they can be babysat by an aide or college intern. You don’t need to pay someone with a math degree to babysit; able babysitters come much cheaper.

  8. sphyrnatude Says:

    first of all, I wuld say that this issue is not restricted to math teachers, it is an issue that all teachers ahve to deal with.
    Second (and this is unfortunate) the reality is that a teacher isn’t that much more expensive than a day care worker. In many states they both require the same level of education, degree and comparable certification.
    also, if a teacher needs three minutes to deal with a student, the student should not be in the classroom. A good teacher should be able to pull as tudent back in line with a word or two, or even a decent look. Of course, if the student has reache the point where (s)he needs to be removed from the class, the teacher has either allowed a situation to get out of hand (to be fair, in most schools today, there really isn’t anything the teaher CAN do), or the student truly does not belong in the class. Ever.
    Of course, it will take 3-5 minutes of class time to get the problems student packed, up, and out, do even if you could simply kick the kid out of class, with three students, you’d still belosing a lot of teaching time.

    The real underlying problem is that the students know that there is nothing the teacher can do. Discipline is nonexistant, and the students know it. repurcussions for misbehavior are trivial (at best), and the students know that they are in charge. Without a complete overhaul of hte way we as teachers and parents think of our schools, the reality is that public schools ARE day care….

  9. Sphyr – I think you hit the nail on the head — we (teachers, students, parents, administrators, and especially voters) do need to completely rethink our current school system. If they can do it in Finland and South Korea (referring to chart above), I KNOW we can do it in the greatest country in the world.

    I don’t think we need certified day-care workers to monitor detention, fill out forms, call parents, escort students to detention centers, administer disciplinary escalations, meet with deans, etc. I think any college kid or retiree could handle that.

    I don’t know about other subjects, but I know that most people who majored in Math are keen to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject with young people. However, they have zero interest in discipline or
    bureaucracy. That’s why so many competent math teachers leave education and we are left with situations like people who majored in phys ed teaching math. I would wager that in Finland, Math teachers spend most of their time and energy on lesson planning and actual teaching. While here in the U.S., a good part of their day is often spent on unrelated activities.

  10. sphyrnatude Says:

    You’ve got that right – it isn’t just math teachers that punt the public schools becuase of the wasted time and effort. I’ve found it much more rewarding to teach in private schools and provide private tutoring (I teach sciences, technology, and math). I gave up on public schools a long time ago. In 3 months of once-a-week one on one sessions, I can cover our entire High school science curriculum. And the kids I tutor actually understand the sciences, and can relate the commonalities between biology, chemistry and physics. When I dealt with the public schools, I’d spend a year coering maybe a weeks worth of material, and the kids were never given the chance to aplpy what they learned in one science to another, so they though that they were completely different and unrelated subjects….

  11. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  12. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

  13. One afternoon, I was in the backyard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when I walked into the house, he followed me, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour.
    This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar: “Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap. ”
    The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: “He lives in a home with ten children – he’s trying to catch up on his sleep.”

    I cried from laughter
    Sorry, if not left a message on Rules.

  14. “4. Transfer teachers who are not competent in Math to another subject. Require that all Math teachers have an undergraduate degree in Math.”

    The preparation of a teacher is certainly necessary in this aspect, but
    neither can entirely blame them. Often teachers take responsibilities that they are not , just because there are no resources to to hire another who really has the preparation on it and this indicates a reform of the spendig public. I mean, more money for education.

  15. mathteacher Says:

    Some of these ideas are excellent. I went from the computer industry into teaching math in urban schools. I was only welcomed into a school when they needed to raise their math HSPA scores. Once I got a failing school out of trouble, it was, ‘nice knowing you, but we got a friend who needs your job.’

    Most of my friends who went into teaching from their engineering jobs were run out of teaching by stupid principals who create job havens for their buddies, and incompetent math teachers afraid smarter teachers will expose their stupidity over time. Valid fear. So true.

    In urban schools, the greatest failures in education, many of the principals are former gym teachers. They’re clannish, mindless, loud, and feel uncomfortable with smart people period. The mission in urban schools isn’t to have someone smart running the school, but someone who knows disciple. As if minority children are animals.

    Newark has a billion dollar budget and can’t graduate half of their students. Of those that do graduate, the upper half functions at an eight grade level. And they’re crying for more money? They’re idiots. If you’re have a billion dollars you already have enough money. They better find another excuse for failure.

    The most dangerous social problem I see from all these school failures and minority drop out rates in urban schools is the return of racism.

    I’m not racist in the slightest. My wife isn’t white. But I’m no fool.

    People are beginning to notice most of the failing schools in America, Canada, and the third world are populated with black children, and, the highest achieving seem to have many blondes.

    This pattern is dangerous. If it continues, if additional money fails, if different teaching approaches continue to fail, if its one excuse after another, generation after generation of minority drop outs then most people will exhaust their patience, and conclude, black children fail compared to Finnish children because they really are less intelligent.

    Then what?

    Where are the educational leaders with solutions to these impending problem?

    Why aren’t there any geniuses in educational leadership?

    Or is the old saying true, ‘Those that can, do, those that can’t, teach.’

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