Tag Archives: girls

Reporting to parents, continued

A while back, I wrote about information that Dreambox and XtraMath send to parents about their child’s progress. Now I’d like to share some more actual feedback, but with a different contrast, brought to my attention by an alert reader.

I will keep the source anonymous by request.

Consider these two year-end summaries, both for the same child. One is by the child’s regular classroom teacher, and the other is by the child’s math teacher. This is a school where children are shuffled for math instruction.


Literacy

[Child] has worked hard in third grade to increase her literacy skills in becoming a life-long reader and writer. She’s a mindful reader when choosing books of personal interest and challenge level. She reads with superb confidence and stamina. As a reader and writer of nonfiction, [Child] researched an animal of interest and published a book that demonstrated expertise of the topic. She crafted nonfiction text features that reflected her individual voice. She read and analyzed poetry—then applied the tools of a poet to craft individual poems. Wow! You’re an amazing reader and writer! Way to go, [Child]!

Math

[Child] has made progress in math this year. She should work on learning her basic subtraction and multiplication facts over the summer. I have enjoyed having her as a student! Have a wonderful summer, [Child]!


I understand that these are different teachers, and I understand that [Child] probably spent quite a few more hours with the literacy/home teacher than the math teacher. But I don’t think those are the major things at play here.

The difference in the richness of the description of [Child]’s current literacy and growth from the description of [Child]’s mathematical knowledge and growth reflects the ways we view these two subjects in American schooling.

Throughout my own children’s elementary schooling, I have seen deep and rich attention paid to their learning to read and write, and surface, fact-based attention paid to their learning math.

Literacy is about power and beauty and self-actualization. Math is about memorization and speed. These are the ways we represent these subjects to parents, teachers, and children.

Asking questions. Making choices.

I have had the opportunity to work this year with the wonderful staff at Laura Jeffrey Academy, a girl-focused charter school in Saint Paul, MN.

I’m still undecided on the larger questions surrounding charter schools and their relationships to public schools and public K-12 funding, so I am in no way interested in picking up that thread of discussion here.

Instead, I want to reflect on my experiences in this setting-an urban, girl-focused, open-admission middle school.

This week, I spent my first full day at the school with school in session. I had worked with the math teachers over the summer, but students are really an abstraction when we’re talking about teaching in the summertime.

As I observed a couple of classes in the morning, I was reminded of some age-old questions in mathematics teaching and learning. In particular…

Do girls like math?

This question (and its bastardized forms, Are girls allergic to algebra? Are girls too sexy for math? etc.) almost seems worth debating in the real mixed-gender world.

But spend a few hours in a Laura Jeffrey math class and it becomes obvious that these are ridiculous questions not worth wasting time with.

When you get rid of the boys, you still have just as much variation in attitudes, interests, predispositions, etc. with respect to math (and pretty much everything else) that you would in your standard mixed-gender classroom.

Of course, right?

But it is so easy to put students into categories and make blanket claims about all students in each category. Get rid of one of the two categories, though? Now we realize what a crappy way this was to categorize kids in the first place-especially if we’re trying to understand their interests, motivations and goals.

Thanks Laura Jeffrey staff and students for the reality check.

It was a pleasure and I look forward to our future work together.