|Posted: 8/6/2017 | Updated: 10/30/2017 | Sign Up|
Math education in the 21st century has visibly evolved. As a math teacher I was very active in the implementation of new math standards in the New York City public school system for 20 years. I attended various math workshops offered by the Department of Education of NYC all of which were affiliated with various New York City colleges. As a retired, “veteran” of the NYC DOE I am very proud of these accomplishments.
For the past several years, and since retiring, I teach several after school math programs, in School-Plus and the International Chess Academy. I am using Singapore math books, common core edition as my main curriculum guide.
The shift today is evident: some of the concepts that were previously taught in 7-9 grades are now offered in 4th - 6th grades math books. In addition, there is a great academic language component that is added to the standard math curriculum. In other words, a student’s academic math language proficiency has to be at a certain level in order for him/her to be promoted to the next grade level.
Moreover, a student needs to develop a specific tool box of independent mathematical thinking skills for each grade. However, children who come to us are from various backgrounds: private, public, home day schools and even popular Kumon and Mathnasium afterschool programs, are not all adequately prepared for this level of math. The reason may be each of these institutions deals with the shift mentioned above differently.
Let us assume, that a child is gifted and I believe that he/she acquired the multi-level body of math knowledge offered in various math programs faster than his/her peers. Would I promote this child to the next grade level in my program as some of the math programs mentioned above as well as NJ public schools math track systems do? My answer is “NO”.
My main argument against this initiative is: “Who is teaching in these programs and tracks”? The answer is for you parents to find out. My observations conclude that not all children at this very important mental development stage in their lives should be thrown in these so called “advanced settings/ programs”. According to most child psychologists abstract thinking only begins to develop between 7 to 11 years of age. Moreover, during this crucial stage of mental development children need to be guided by teachers who are certified in special education(as I am) and not some advanced college students, or even experienced high school math teachers who have never worked with kids this age.
My other argument is for the alternative route: I would rather introduce the advanced math child to a variety of math challenges appropriate to his/her age. All these challenges are listed on the ICA website under Math Olympiad “List of suggested books” as well as other sources of Olympiad math competitions available in books and online. This route will help the child to continue moving forward but at his own individual pace. Moreover, it is going to play a dual positive effect in the child's mental development. On the one hand, it will help a child to be a better academic math language reader and, on the other, it will teach him/her how to think mathematically about various everyday life events.
I am grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with ICA parents and I am looking forward to further discussion on this topic.
Zoya Koza/retired NYC junior high school math and sp. ed. teacher presently teaching Primary and Middle school math at School-plus and ICA.
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