Tuesday, January 19, 2010

JUMP Math Scores Again

We posted before about John Mighton and his JUMP Math program, back in 2007.

It's not a program we're currently using, although I was very impressed with the downloadable Fractions unit that we tried out at that time. It seemed like a great way to teach kids whose math anxiety makes them shut down before they've even really looked at the problems. They're sure that they won't be able to do whatever it is, but then you show them that, on the first page of a lesson, all they have to do is identify which subtraction problems would need regrouping. Oh--okay. I can do that. Then you build up, step by step. Ponytails also used some JUMP materials last year (when she was at public school) and liked them.

The Globe and Mail ran a good article this past weekend about JUMP. The contrast between a public school teacher's idea of a good problem and the JUMP approach is almost scary:
"[The] curriculum co-ordinator....says research shows that the best way to help kids understand a concept is to come up with a rich, conceptual problem that everyone in the class can help solve.

"Last year, for example, she visited the class of a primary-school teacher who had noticed that all the kids were wearing odd socks. The teacher came up with the concept of a sock factory, and the kids all brought in socks. Each child was given a different number of socks and their task, as a group, was to find a strategy that would combine them."
Teachers get rewarded for coming up with that stuff. It's like that teacher's magazine example Mary Pride used in Schoolproof about suggesting that the teacher find a great big pair of shoes (colourful if possible) and having the children measure feet to see who might fit them, write stories about the shoes, and so on. As Mary pointed out, what the children learned from that experience was probably not worth the trouble of finding the big shoes.

But you know what? I don't even understand that task, as it's described there. Much less what it has to do with primary-school math. Or why all the kids were wearing odd socks--is that a fashion thing, or is that neighbourhood so impoverished that we had better start paying as much attention to underclothed schoolchildren as we do to their math learning?

Contrast that with one of John Mighton's classes:
"Every hand in the class shoots up. The number 121,252 is not divisible by nine, one student tells him, and the remainder will be four.

"'You are brilliant,' he tells them. 'You are all brilliant.'"
Mama Squirrel's take: I would rather be brilliant in John Mighton's class than fool around with strategies of socks.

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