Thursday, May 25, 2006

 

Selected Highlights and Lowlights of the Panel’s First Meeting

Chairman Faulkner set a very positive and realistic tone in his opening remarks regarding the Panel’s charge reminding the panel that is should:

Vice Chair Benbow was the first to raise the critical issue of identifying two parallel, but different, paths: the need to raise literacy levels of all and the need to raise the top and produce more STEM professionals. She laid down an important marker by noting that they are not the same.

The highlight of the morning session was clearly Department of Education Deputy Secretary Ray Simon’s “Dept. of Education Overview.” Simon’s 15 minute presentation was a thoroughly engaging, articulate and foresighted presentation framed by the transition from his trusty slide rule to his pocket calculator. His message to the panel was that we “can’t afford to send young people on with slide rule skills into a world of calculator and computer requirements.” He lamented that today’s students cannot be “cool” with a calculator the way he was with his slide rule, and that for too many students, being cool and being good in math continue to be mutually exclusive. This led him to urge the committee to explore ways to inculcate a culture where math is valued and where kids ask to do SuDoKu at night as readily as they ask for a book.

But the fun began during the give and take that followed Russ Whitehurst and Dan Berch’s parsing of the president’s charge to the panel. This is where questions and comments revealed insights, styles and personal agendas. For example:

By the end of the day, four key themes had emerged that the Panel will apparently need to grapple with and that panel members appear to have significant interest in:

There is no question that the panel’s work is going to be fascinating. This watcher, despite his initial concerns with the overall make-up of the panel, left the first meeting surprisingly optimistic that reason and good will prevail and that the panel will be able to come together to truly strengthen the U.S. school mathematics enterprise.


Comments:
Well, Panelwatcher, it sounds like this is going to be some show. I guess there are a few folks with some sense and some integrity, but what are the odds that they'll be able to carry the day against folks like Schmid, Williams, Stotsky, etc.?
 
Thank you for the description of the meeting.
What is the schedule for the panel's
upcoming meetings? Do they have work
groups, and how do those groups function?
Do they have hearings?
How does the panel receive input?
 
A thought...
In my observations, children, from early on, seem to have much less difficulty in 'extending' patterns than recognition of patterns and 'rules'. This may be because the latter is on a higher rung of taxonomy but I believe it is also significantly impacted by the mental math and arithmetic proficiency needed to 'see' the pattern. Thus, as usual, these are not black-and-white issues. The 2 camps of math education are really 2 interdependent sides of the same structure. If only we could focus on examples of actual questions that students need to be able to tackle. There is far less politics in asking students to explain the 'rule of formation' of the sequence: 1,1,2,1,2,3,1,3,4,1,2,4,5,1,5,6,1,2,3,6,...
 
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