Tag Archives: homework

Why I Despair So About The Schools Around Here.

by Anura Guruge


This was an actual sheet from Grade 5 ‘Science’ that
Teischan (10) brought home from Alton Central School (ACS),
Alton, New Hampshire this week.

I normally don’t say anything about ‘slip-ups’ other than maybe draw
Teischan’s attention to it … and say “this is not exactly right”.

But, this was BEYOND the pale.


teischanlbs10232016

Click to ENLARGE and hopefully stare at in HORROR.


There are so many things wrong with this at SO many levels.

First and foremost, EVERY SINGLE answer written down by my Teischan is wrong!

Yes, every SINGLE answer is WRONG.

And she gets a “SMILEY” face?

I wanted to cry.

No comments? No corrections?

That is what got my goat. EVERY SINGLE answer is wrong!


No it is NOT her multiplication.

She only got ONE of those wrong and it is so blatant that a semi-proficient 4th grader would see it.

So now we have ALL the ANSWERS are wrong PLUS one multiplication is wrong.


There is an asterisk (*) next to ‘Pluto‘. Can you see that?

What does that asterisk (*) pertain to?

The title says “What is your weight on each planet?

Well, ‘Pluto’ is NOT a planet though ACS has historically had issues coming to terms with that. See this … IF you are interest. But, I am willing to concede that that is probably what the asterisk (*) was meant to be.

But the second line says “Outer Space”. “Outer Space” is NOT a planet! There is NO asterisk (*) against it.


Yes, one of my many faults is that I am a terrible pedant. I put a lot of stock in accuracy.

I am sure that I have read that you should never give kids printed statements that are factually incorrect …

But that is minor in the scheme of this.

Yes, this upset me.

Yes, of course, I am fully aware that to err is human and erring is something that I do daily. But, I expect a little diligence from my teachers.

NO, I rarely criticize teachers. This is probably the first time in 5 years! Yes, I cut school administrators no slack, BUT I try not to criticize teachers.

But, this incident aggrieves me on another front. This science teacher is one of a triumvirate that unilaterally decided that ACS Grade 5 should not have ANY math or science homework. Just 4 days ago, I told them, to their face, that MAYBE they decided on that because that meant less things for them to MARK.

Well, I guess ‘MARKING’ is not their strong suit. I guess I should just SMILE. Draw a BIG SMILEY face.

And for the record. I teach. I have taught. My mother was a teacher. My father was a teacher. Two of my aunties were teachers. Our name, ‘Guruge’, literally means: ‘from the house of the teacher’. So I kind of know a little about this and definitely have skin in the game.


Let me again STRESS.

I would NOT have said ANYTHING about this sheet if there were ONLY three or four things wrong on it.

But when there are fourteen (14) mistakes on it I feel the need to vent.

P.S., Teischan has NO IDEA what ‘lb’ stands for!


Related posts:
++++ Search ‘ACS’ for many other posts
>>>>


by Anura Guruge

Can YOU Subtract ’12’ From ‘9’ Using ‘Number Bonds’?

  Dec2013x125

..
..by Anura Guruge


Related posts:
>> PI day — Mar. 7, 2013.
>>
The Math Museum In
>> New York City 
Mar. 4, 2013.


If so, as the incomparable Kipling said: “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”.

I guess unlike me, an old man pushing 60, who learned his 3 Rs in the 1950s (in a third world country), you must know all about ‘Number Bonds‘. Just this year, looking at Teischan’s homework I became vaguely aware that they were doing this stuff called ‘number bonds’. Initially all I had seen was the two dangling ball efforts to deconstruct an integer and I had no problems with that since I do think that kids should appreciate how a number comes to be what it is. Now to be fair, ‘number bonds’ is part of the new, ‘new math‘ – the so called ‘Singapore Math‘ (and in case you don’t know, ‘Singapore‘ is a tiny Asian country, really best known for its infamous capture by the damn Japs during WW II, when it, like my home country was a British colony). Singapore Math is being taught all over the place, not just in Alton.

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.

Then yesterday Deanna showed me this homework that Teischan was struggling with. It took my breath away. I never realized that they were going to use the two dangling balls to do arithmetic operations. So, have a look at this.

They had done the top 2 in class, on the blackboard. She had supposedly transcribed the method and answer from the board onto her sheet. Number 2 was wrong and we asume she copied it wrong.

Though I had never seen subtraction done this way, I could work out how they got ’14’ for #1 and the (correct answer) ’12’ for #2.

Then I noticed that we had a problem! Number 3 and 4 (’17.’ & ’18’ on the sheet) were very different to the other three, and the two they had done in class. Can you spot the difference? Yes, the ‘ones’ number of the second operand is BIGGER than that of the first operand. To use the same technique as for one & two, you would have to use a NEGATIVE NUMBER, in this case ‘-4′ which when added to the ’10’ will give you the right answer ‘6’! But even I, with my high expectations of kids, do not really expect 6 and 7 year olds to be that conversant with negative numbers. IF you don’t use negative numbers, then you have to use a DIFFERENT technique to handle numbers 3 & 4!

I had no idea what that different technique would be. So I did what I always do when I am stuck. I Googled. I found this excellent video tutorial, with exactly the right example, at ‘onlinemathlearning.com‘. Here it is. You have to watch it.

Click to access page. It is the 1st video of the three.

Click to access page. It is the 1st video of the three.

Notice the BIG ‘No!’. I was mortified.

There is an exception to the method. This is for 6 and 7 year olds.

I have two issues with using this strange, two dangling ball approach for teaching kids subtraction.

1/ This method does NOT ELIMINATE the need to do subtraction! Ah? Kids still have to do subtraction with this approach. So what is the gain. I would be all in favor if this method eliminated the need to subtract and said kids could do subtraction by just adding numbers. Now that isn’t as crazy as it may sound to the uninitiated. Logarithms. Now that is real math. We (as kids who didn’t have calculators) used logarithms because ‘logs’ allowed you to do complex multiplication and division using just addition and subtraction. That is neat and useful. You eliminate a complicated process with an easier, better mastered technique. Not so with the two dangling balls. You still have to do the damn operation — in this case subtraction. Plus, how do they teach subtraction. They count the difference between the two numbers. If so, why bother with the two dangling balls. Just count the difference to begin with!

Click to access article.

Click to access article.

2/ Having an exception to deal with a common occurrence is beyond unacceptable. The abiding, (to some of us sensually stimulating) beauty of maths is its predictability, its uniformity. You can’t have a so called ‘easy method’ that has exceptions to deal with common occurrences. This is plain crazy.

Yes, I am the first to admit that I am an old fashioned and stuck in my ways. But, I see no problems with the way we learned our arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry. We had no electronic calculators or even mechanical ones. We learned things by rote and repetition, over and over and over again.

This was the dedication in one of my recent books.

Click to ENLARGE.

Click to ENLARGE.



P.S.: I collect old logarithmic/trigonometric tables (i.e., the  so called ‘log’ books) and old slide rulers. Send me pictures and quote me a price. Yes, every once in awhile, late at night, when I feel that I am due a treat, and have a few dollars stashed away, I log onto eBay and see what they have. Got a real beauty of a slide rule, cheap, very cheap, a couple of months ago — making use of the eBay, ‘make an offer’ feature. 

Alton Central School (ACS) Administration Should Do A Bit More Homework

My wife was involved in this Facebook dialogue on the ACS Facebook page earlier this week. Her question was based on this little snippet that appeared in the local Baysider Newspaper last Thursday, February 23, 2012.

Click image to access the Baysider online ... it is on page 12.

Homework has been an issue at ACS and we were delighted to see that the Administration was at long last is trying to implement a policy. See related posts: homeschooling decision and ‘questionable’ (I am trying to be polite) homework.

I was immediately struck that something, crucial, seemed to be missing. Every time I read it there was something palpably jarring. Then I realized what it was: there was no ‘time period’ specified for the ’10 minutes per grade’! Was its ‘per night’, ‘per 5-day week’, ‘per 7-day week’ etc. Don’t tell me that it was obvious. Definitely not obvious to us for one very simple reason. We had a 5th grader at ACS, who had been there for 4 years.

5th grade = 50 minutes.

4th grade = 40 minutes.

We can’t remember her ever having 40 minutes of homework a day last year — in 4th grade. 40 minutes a week was more like it.

Definitely NEVER even close to 50 minutes of homework a night in 5th grade. Lucky if she got 10 minutes. 5th grade science and math were particularly bad. No homework — the teachers are off the hook for having to mark anything (let alone having to justify the ‘applicability’ of the homework).

So here is the Facebook dialogue. It is kind of funny in a sad way. Well, given their recent lack of diligence (and again I will be polite and not mention the very public faux pas though I think there is a post about it on this blog) you would think they would have read, re-read and then asked a few others to read their homework policy before presenting it ‘half cock’. But, that is just my opinion.

Click to ENLARGE.