Tuesday, January 4, 2011

No Shortcuts to Long-Term Achievement in Math

No Shortcuts to Long-Term Achievement in Math  Recently, I read with great interest an article in the Washington Post stating that Montgomery County Public Schools are going “back to basics” in math. They have discovered that the practice of “accelerating” students in large numbers through the math curriculum is resulting in students who enter high school math classes unprepared.  The report stated that “educators will back off in the hope that more time and depth with the basics will yield payoffs in high school and beyond.” The newspaper article also stated that these changes in MCPS are a response to the national Common Core Standards that are being adopted across the country. “Those standards attempt to simplify math education and add greater rigor and depth to classes.”

At Seneca, we have always felt that helping students gain a depth of knowledge is more beneficial than skimming the surface in an attempt to ‘cover’ content. Our math curriculum, Everyday Math, provides students with relevant activities to fully understand and apply concepts in a variety of contexts. It is also a “spiraling” curriculum which means math topics are re-visited throughout the year and across the grades in order to reinforce and deepen understanding.  While we facilitate “acceleration,” and move students forward in grade levels  when it is truly warranted, we only do this when efforts toward differentiation and providing extension within the current  grade level are exhausted.

The International Baccalaureate program, which is based on researched best practices in education, also promotes in-depth understanding as opposed to only surface knowledge. That is why we have fewer units of study throughout the year and spend more time examining connections between concepts. Interestingly, the Post article also stated that “Montgomery County is overhauling its elementary school curriculum to better tie together reading, math, science and other subjects.” That is exactly what Seneca Academy has been doing for years, and what we have re-affirmed with the implementation of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program!

I am delighted by these reports from MCPS. It demonstrates to me that county education officials are paying attention to research (both internally and externally) in “best practices” in education. For me, best practices are not merely those that seem like a good idea, or make the most adults happy. Best practices are those that have measurable, positive outcomes for students. Slowing down math instruction, allowing students to explore, analyze and apply math concepts in meaningful and relevant ways, and ensuring a complete understanding of concepts before advancement has been shown to have lasting effects on students’ long-term achievement in math.  Overall, the article’s accolades for MCPS’s revised focus reminded me of all the reasons I am proud of the direction in which Seneca has been moving for years

Learn more about Seneca Academy at www.SenecaAcademy.org

Seneca Academy
15601 Germantown Road
Darnestown, Maryland 20874
Phone: (301) 869-3728
Fax: (301) 869-3348

1 comment:

  1. The Stanford Achievement Test scores posted by Seneca Academy students through the years certainly more than validates the wisdom of such programs as The University of Chicago's "Everyday Math". The school has long recognized the importance of meeting the individual needs and skills of all the students. Keep up the outstanding work done with student learners!