Five Good Books on Teaching Math

The Liberal Arts Tradition by Jain and Clark The first book on this list might not obviously be about teaching math, but in fact the authors teach advanced math at a small, private, Christian classical school in Florida. They have some of the best writing I’ve ever seen about the importance of mathematics in classical education. Today the desire among math educators to cultivate “number sense” reflects this ancient desire to have deep reasoning in arithmetic. –Clark and Jain Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger III Another book that isn’t obviously about mathematics, yet contains wonderful information about to structure your child’s math education. Make It Stick is a fantastic book just to learn how to learn better, but the idea of interleaved and varied practice is especially foreign to most US math curricula. In math education, massing is embedded in the textbook: each chapter is dedicated to a particular kind of problem, which you

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A Day in the Life 2019

What does a Friday look like at our house? My mother was up earliest, at 5:45 am. She puttered a bit, saw my husband off to work, and then watched some Australian soap opera on Netflix before taking the children while I worked. G had scheduled a sleepover on Friday night with a friend, so she woke up early to pack and get all her work done before we left the house. Early for G is before seven. She typically gets herself up, dressed, fed, and chills out by herself for an hour or two in the early morning quiet after her father leaves for work while her sister is still asleep. Apparently she started with her pre-algebra first, since it was the toughest. 95% on that exam! She lucked out of assignments in her online classes, so she zoomed through her vocab quiz, Latin review, history video and written summary, literature read-aloud (she reads to my mother), and science

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A Day In the Life

This is an old entry, from when I had a demanding toddler. 7:30 Will the baby go back to sleep? She’s quiet.. 7:54 No. 8:06 Morning ablutions with a fussy toddler on my hip. Meanwhile, elder DD has gone into the living room to watch YouTube. 8:10 Checking email while snagging breakfast. One important student email I need to respond to is flagged for later. I grab 2 breakfast burritos out of the freezer and jam them in the microwave. Husband can drive through McD’s tomorrow because I’m almost out of this batch of breakfast burritos—mental note to make another batch this weekend. With the toddler still on my hip, I grab a soda off the back porch. It’s too warm to keep storing my soda on the back porch—mental note to bring it in. Sometime when the toddler isn’t screaming at me to come back inside. Her separation anxiety is fierce. Meanwhile, the older is still watching YouTube. I

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Reading Reconsidered In the Homeschool—Chapter 2

This chapter is about Common Core style Close Reading, which isn’t something taught in either Well-Trained Mind style classical education, or Charlotte Mason style classical education. This kind of literature analysis on steroids is quite possibly my least favorite activity on Earth, behind washing dishes. Close Reading is the methodical breaking down of the language and structure of a complex passage to establish and analyze its meaning. Teaching students to do it requires layered reading and asked sequenced, text-dependent questions; and it should end whenever possible with mastery expressed through writing. Reading Reconsidered I think this chapter is worthwhile because this style of close reading is tested on major assessments, like the SAT. For example, when I reviewed a Pennsylvanian 4th grade summative assessment, and answered the Close Reading sample questions, I got them wrong because I used my background knowledge, instead of an incorrect answer that corresponded with questionable inferences from the text. Assessments based on this style of

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Reading Reconsidered In the Homeschool—Chapter 1

This chapter is about text selection, something near and dear to the homeschool community. The authors begin with “The Decline of the Canon.” First, let me say that as a fan of Susan Wise Bauer’s work, I subscribe to her idea that no list of the Great Books is canonical. I also am sympathetic to the idea that there are lesser-known works by authors who were not in positions of power that have been overlooked as possible candidates for inclusion. After positing that there are “universal and fungible [reading] skills, applicable and applied to almost any text,” Lemov nods to the idea that “reading … depends heavily on knowledge.” So far, so good. Perfectly compatible with Bauer’s idea that: a classical education follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of those facts and images, and finally equipped to express conclusions reading has two parts: ongoing

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Reading Reconsidered in the Homeschool — Intro

Reading Reconsidered is not aimed at homeschoolers, but I think it contains some useful information that classical homeschoolers might want to consider. First, an introduction to who and what this book is about. Reading Reconsidered’s subtitle is “A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction.” Those of you who wince at the word “rigorous” might remember the Common Core wars and make no mistake, Lemov is all in on the Common Core. In fact, Lemov got his Edu-Professional-Consultant start under the NCLB regime, called in to turn around schools unable to meet the NCLB standardized testing requirements. In response to the unpredictable quality of the average classroom teacher, he made a virtue of Taylorization in the classroom, complete with video monitoring. While it’s true that factories are more efficient since Taylor and his stopwatch, applying those values to the classroom understandably had serious push back, including accusations of racist practices. Lemov went on to lead the Uncommon Schools charter network in

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I think my homeschooled child might be gifted. Now what?

One common misconception is that gifted kids don’t need extra care, because they’re gifted. Obviously they’re more capable, right? Well, yes and no. There are ups and downs to giftedness, and some of those downs can be quite marked. Having a gifted child is not all sunshine and roses. For example, gifted children are often asynchronous: they can intellectually understand something that they’re not emotionally able to handle, like a disaster on the evening news. One preschool child I knew had a full-scale meltdown and nightmares for months after she realized that the dinosaurs had been wiped out, because she was afraid that it could happen to humans. Asynchrony works in other ways too–a gifted child might be hugely passionate about an intellectual pursuit that other children their age are uninterested in, like special relativity. Other children would want to play tag, but they want to play up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top quark. Plus, other children aren’t going

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Why Classical Education? (redux)

One of the most common questions I get from parents thinking about classical home education is “Why this? Why classical education versus what my children are already doing? How can you possibly do it, when you haven’t done it yourself?” Last part first. I read books.  No, seriously, I read widely and deeply. For example, when I assigned my eldest child The Odyssey, I read Wilson’s translation. I also read about education and classical education. Finally ready for a deeper dive, I read Norms & Nobility last winter. Wisdom Reading comprehension is essentially a background knowledge test Classical education (AKA, a knowledge-rich curriculum) offers the most background knowledge. It’s the reason why studies show that the only curriculum shown to make a difference in test scores, all other variables held constant, is that at private order religious schools (not Catholic parish schools). Religious order schools offer a classical education, right down to classics departments that teach Latin and Greek. Classical education

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A utilitarian view of classical education

Classical education is distinctive in part because it has a prescribed path of study. Different classical educators have different paths, but I plan our program of instruction using the scope and sequence of the curricula mapped in the  Well-Trained Mind.  This systematic approach is anathema to many public schoolers using weak standards, eclectic homeschoolers who just study whatever the parent deems important, and unschooling types who feel that dictating an area of study is doing violence upon their child, but I disagree for several reasons. Unknown Unknowns There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. — Donald Rumsfeld I believe that there are “unknown unknowns,” and that children, with their limited experience in the world naturally have a significantly higher number of unknown unknowns.

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