California Mathematics Framework: The Teacher

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In preparation for the second draft of the California Mathematics Framework, I thought it would be helpful to review Chapter 5 Data Science, Transitional Kindergarten through Grade Five. This chapter contains a recommendation to include data science as a primary component of the mathematics curriculum. It also identifies the role of the teacher in implementing this curriculum. This post will focus on the teacher. A separate post will consider the data science curriculum.

Let’s start with the quote that really grabbed my attention. It can be found on lines 454 – 460.

In the classroom the teacher can guide the discussions and help students develop important understandings. However, it is important to recognize that teachers do not have to be an expert in the topic of the data visualization—instead teachers can guide and encourage curiosity and question asking. One way to support thinking and speaking like a mathematician is to incorporate writing activities or math journals, which allow students to process learning and continue questioning.”

Really? The teacher does not have to have content knowledge of the material they’re “teaching”. In fact, the teacher doesn’t really need to teach: “teachers can guide and encourage curiosity and question asking”. Let me place this description in perspective.

During my time teaching mathematics at the community college, administrators introduced the notion of “the guide on the side” to replace “the sage on the stage”. If you’re not familiar with this idea, consider the 1993 paper by Alison King, From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side.

Among the recommendations for improving college instruction, Ms. King includes a learning activity, think-pair-share. The purpose of this activity is to get students to think about a question from the lecture and then discuss their thoughts with fellow students. Students will also construct tables and graphs representing information given.

The example offered by Ms. King is an accounting lecture, a college course with students who have graduated high school. It is not a TK – 5 class with young students who need focused instruction on mathematics content. The fact that the TK – 5 teacher is not required to be “an expert in the topic of data visualization” means the students need to develop their knowledge independently.

Since the quote came from Data Talks K – 12, I’ll be generous and assume it doesn’t refer to TK – 5 students. (The fact that not all (actually most) college students are not ready for this level of independent work indicates that students in grades 6 – 12 probably won’t learn much either.)

In the section K – 5 (lines 508 – 858), the teacher is expected to focus on one activity: create a sense of wonder by asking open-ended questions. There is clearly no interest in presenting the mathematics as a topic of wonder and discovery for knowledge and skills development.

The entire section presents the teacher as a guide to creating a world of wonder where mathematics might be discovered. There is no indication that students are presented specific examples of data analyses which create a picture of the data analysis process from initial inquiry (questions to be answered using data analysis) through analysis and summary for communicating the results of the analysis.

What percentage of class time is spent on wondering and what percentage is spent on mastering mathematics? Truthfully, teachers helping students master mathematics doesn’t seem to factor into this chapter.  

Consider the following paragraph from the K – 5 section

All work with data should begin with noticing and wondering: “I notice that…” or “I wonder what…” or “I wonder how many….” To prompt wonder, teachers can ask: “What do you notice or wonder about here [in this context], that we could (count/measure/keep track of) to figure out or explore further?” To establish effective routines, and to support language development in “I wonder” activities, it can be effective to provide these examples as sentence starters. [lines 543 – 548]

This is not mathematics; it is behavioral training for developing social awareness observation skills. That is

Teachers can use local data sets that give students opportunities to ask questions that are meaningful to them, that can help their local community, or school, allowing students to experience using mathematics to be an engaged citizen. Statistics and data science is about studying situations—asking questions such as: Who collected the data? How was it collected? What is the unit of analysis? Teachers can ask students to turn and talk to their partners and groups about these questions. [lines 171 – 177]

In fact

A weekly whole-class “I wonder” routine—in which students propose questions to investigate by collecting data—would build a powerful practice of observing the world with a data lens, contributing to students’ development of modeling with mathematics (SMP.4). [lines 551-555]

The fact that the state of California would consider endorsing this type of classroom environment for young children is as criminal as CPC’s control of classroom propaganda in China. Since the California Central Committee for Propaganda (the CCCP at the California Department of Education) continues to undermine quality education through its public education sector, de-fund California public education. If that doesn’t work, home-school America’s youth in California. Provide education that builds healthy human beings in body, mind and spirit.

And never forget the words of Edward R. Murrow from his address at the Radio-Television News Directors Association Convention in 1958

It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television in this generous and capacious land.

Ditto from Joe Allen with respect to education in general and mathematics education in particular.

“Good night and good luck.” (Edward R. Murrow)

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