Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Teaching Complex Math to Young Children

Take a look at this clip of the possible as demonstrated by Fear No Number Math and then read this blog entry.

Much of my time as a retired person is spent finding what works in getting African American childrne educated and excellent. I love applying influence, changing negative language and practices into ones that inspire and elevate.   I am much too young to be frail and too old to be foolish. I leverage this gift of time, and good health and well being to snatch away from those who do not have a kernel of interest in seeing African American children and their brown and poor peer groups educated for equity and excellence.

So I research, and I write and today this is what I researched and what inspires my writing.

What is sophisticated about Elementary Math?

This is a not so easy article to read unless you are a mathematician, curriculum specialist, educator, or someone who has not convinced themselves that learning the difficult is undesirable. I am going to digress as I sometimes do. When my husband was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma, I was counseled by the wife of the late John Stanford. He was Seattle School Superintendent who had recently died of cancer. She told me I had to be the advocate, I had to learn difficult terminology, that I was to keep a journal and write down everything; the names of tests, the ingredients of the chemotherapy, the names of the many prescriptions.  She assured me that if the doctors could learn all of this so could I. It would keep me feeling in control.  It did and it did. And for us the outcome of my husbands illness was that the cancer went away and never came back.

But what I learned is that I could learn difficult things under difficult and stressful circumstances. African American children are intellectually ill, some are choking, others are comatose and on academic life support. When that happens you have to bring in a specialist, and parents have to learn difficult things. Failed education outcomes for African American children is an epidemic as dangerous and critical the public health as any flu or communicative disease. There are many specialists that are about the business of inoculating our children with complex solutions and parents are learning how to coach them through their therapies and how to discuss the situation with teachers, and most importantly how to keep them on good academic footing once they turn that corner and are able to stand up and be healthy.

Fear No Number Math is not like the snake oil that is being sold in the same abundance as any product on a late night infomercial.  And unfortunately, these gimmicks are being bought up with money that is go be used to elevate learning for African American children and other children who are now and for a very long time been underserved by public education.  I am in awe at the nonsensical solutions that abound for educating our children.  We need to do the difficult research and reading Professor Hung Hsi Wu is worth reading. Take your time, by the time you are through, you might be willing to help us get the children healed and up and working on a beneficial, and rigorous education pathway.

Another work that inspires greatness:

The book Radical Equations chronicles the work of Robert Moses the founder of the Algebra Project for African American brown and poor students.  This a review by Dr. Neal Kobitz, a UW Professor.  Early in his review he highlights this message by Moses:

"In today’s world, economic access and full citizenship depend crucially on math and science literacy. I believe that the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout this country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered black voters in Mississippi was in 1961...[M]ath literacy—and algebra in particular—is the key to the future of disenfranchised communities. (p. 5)"

There are many elements of Mose's Algebra Project that is part of  Fear No Number Math which was created by Norman Alston a professional mathematician and gifted teacher.  Parents for Student Success has a close alignment in that we have helped to shape his thinking about the role that parents must play if his teaching is to be sustained.

Moses likewise saw parent and community involvement as important to his Algebra Project, and Kobitz highlights this;

"Moses comments that “the only ones who can really demand the kind of education they need and the kind of changes needed to get it are the students, their parents, and their community, which largely remains silent on issues like this” (p. 151). Thus, it is the job of a math literacy campaigner to organize these groups. And it is precisely in the South, where Moses and David Dennis had had the most experience tapping into the rich community structures, that the Algebra Project has had the most sustained impact."

We know this from 30 years of experience advocating for parents of children that those who overtook public education have catapulted to the bottom of the public education heap. A heap of expensive application of what does not work in the diverse society that the United States has become.

We figured out many things along the way to today. Yet, with all of what we know with all of our brilliance we act as if we do not know the answer to educating African American children. Well move over quacks, we are seeking and finding specialists who will do the radical surgeries and remove the disease of low self esteem, lack of purpose, and low expectations.

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