“white paper” by Dreambox’s Tim Hudson

Posted on June 26, 2015


It’s June 26 2015 and there are rainbows everywhere.   Well, not outside —  there’s no sun at all and we’ve had probably an inch of rain (but I got in 33 miles first!  128 to go for 1000 in the month… )   WordPress has imposed one on top of the screen…

And I could watch the service for Reverend Pinckney as it happened, and read the responses of my twitter friends, and grin wryly at ABC’s tweet that Obama “named” all of those gunned down there last Wednesday. He named each and every one as having found “that grace,” and he talked a fair amount about grace.   ABC clearly isn’t ready to put that word in a tweet.

and it’s Friday and I have it off — but Tim Hudson has tweeted about a “white paper” (does it officially mean “description of a product with a few mentions of related research?”)   about how important it is to get students ready for learning algebra early.

Ironically, it’s the embodiment of exactly the kind of “educational work” that its text says we do entirely too much of. It’s a reasonably well organized re-assemblage of known stuff… sorta like a “five paragraph essay” about how we need to be more creative in our essay assignments.   Guess what?   Reorganizing ideas is a pretty effective building block for doing more creative things with the ideas.

And I *love* the comparison of “write the slope intercept equation of a line with a slope of 3 and an intercept of 4” with writing a President’s name whose surname is Washington, and (oh, there should be a term for “first name” that doesnt’ give it away) first name is George.   Yes, too many math questions are essentially “do you know this language ritual?”

I bristle when he states that gee, by college it’s “too late.”   I fully understand that we need to do better younger, but Dreambox is *not* going to fix the problem this year, and too many people already believe in their heart of hearts that “these people really don’t belong in college.”   It also is in simple, direct opposition to that lovely “growth mindset” that the paper includes.  You can conveniently espouse growth mindset to “encourage” students — but unless you actually change your expectations and even change how you teach things,  then it’s not an intimate marriage.   Dreambox has some really neat tools for changing how we teach things — so why phrase it as “now or never”?

He’s also in tune with Jo Boaler with that idea that “confusion is good!”   — also failing to address the fact  that well, actually, confusion can be bad.   Frustration can be bad. Students need  *repeated* experiences where they can see a connection between confusion and comprehension.  I think lots of the Dreambox materials could be awesome and excellent tools for doing exactly that — but they don’t have to be.  The whole “confusion is a good thing!” can easily evolve into a trope when half a class is wallowing in utter frustration.   How to make the connection between confusion and comprehension doesn’t get mentioned — not one word. If that doesn’t happen, it more deeply  reinforces the mindset of that student who thinks that the teacher’s just being nice when they say “of course you can do it!” — all in the name of changing that mindset. I wish that this little collection of ideas had included Marilyn Burns’ “reasoning inventory” ideas and her interviews to unearth  misconceptions.

I also hope the Dreambox concept “big idea” list includes that even before “x” is “the unknown,”  x *could* stand for *any* number.   “X + X = 2X”   is always going to be true.   So many students haven’t developed that concept; it’s just a rule.

… and, I’d better stop being distracted by Dreambox (we’re not their market) and get to that “learning HTML5” thing 🙂

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