Showing posts from March, 2007

Maths education: Are we on the cusp of a counter reformation?

It seems that direct instruction is gaining in popularity these days. Many people are getting disenchanted with reform Maths. The following links have caught my attention this week:
New call to teach basicsMath education: a university viewThe first is an article reporting on the work of Dr Ken Rowe of the Australian Council for Educational Research. Dr Rowe worked with primary school teachers, encouraging them to use direct instruction. He reports positive results that surprised him and the teachers alike. The second is a video presentation by Dr Cliff Mass of the University of Washington. He argues that a noticeable drop in the mathematical ability of freshmen coincided with the introduction of "reform math".

At teachers' college, most of my lecturers were wedded to the ideals of reform mathematics. They often told us that traditional maths did not make sense. It taught algorithms and methods in a disconnected way. Students could not see the connection between concepts a…

Three podcasts on, what I have learned

This is what I have done:
Created mp3 files on topics related to the IT curriculum;Included musical interludes - radio program style;Increased the length of the casts from 11 to 20 minutes;Varied the bit rate from 128 Kpbs mono down to 56 Kpbs mono;Prepared ideas in the form of bullet points and kept my speech unscripted.
This is what I have learned:
Keep the file size small - a 56 Kbps mono-channel is sufficient;Use podcasts to introduce a topic, not for revision;Keep it short - no longer than 10 minutes;No need for so many musical breaks. If the cast is short, then just use music to tell the students that I am moving to another section;Ask the students to answer questions or write an entry on an online forum.Continue to speak in a conversational tone but stick to the planned examples.
If you have examples of your own, then please share them in the comments.

The national curriculum is a certainty

In a previous post, I reviewed the debate about the proposal for a national curriculum. Now it looks like it is a certainty. Kevin Rudd, the leader of the Labor opposition, would introduce a Prep - Year 12 national curriculum in Maths, English, the Sciences and Australian history. John Howard, the leader of the ruling Coalition (Liberal + National parties), wants a national curriculum in these subjects, but only at high school level.

As I noted earlier, I do not mind the idea at all. Any difference in the needs of students is unlikely to be a function of the state in which they live. However, the debate seems more political than educational and we may end up with a politically compromised system. How this will compare to what we currently have can only be determined once we see the new syllabi.

It is interesting that Victoria has rejected the Liberals' proposal for a national curriculum, saying that "one size will not fit all". When federal Labor surprised everyone by pr…

2007 election - the clever need not apply!

Last weekend, the Saturday Age carried an interesting op-ed under the title "Get smart, get beaten". The opinion piece articulated what many people have been saying: "the opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, will never be Prime Minister, he speaks too well!" My entry is not an endorsement of either John Howard or Kevin Rudd. It is a critique of this kind of thinking.

According to Jason Koutsoukis, the author of the article, Kevin Rudd is on the examination table. The government is trying to find the best way to attack him. He further suggests that the Prime Minister has begun playing the "he's too smug" card. "The trick for Rudd then, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat with a pointy-headed reputation, will be to disguise how smart he is and to prove he has the common touch.

This is not surprising at all to me. Colleagues of mine who are life-long Labor voters have been telling me that Kevin Rudd could not be Prime Minister. I said that it was good to h…