Discussions of how to move forward in Math: Thing 3 Mentorship Programs

While reading an article on CUNY's SEEK program (here), I was reminded about several discussions I have had recently about math and education and what is needed for low-income children to succeed.  First, The Math Club's Jefrey Blake worked with students from a soccer program that he realized weren't doing well in math. He found as have many others that students seemed to need a mentor more than a math tutor. Students were absolutely capable of learning math with some guidance. Similarly, Future Leaders of Jamaica includes not just financial aid, but mentorship as part of their scholarship program.

Why is mentorship important? Imagine a child with a parent who prioritizes education. Ben Carson's mother was not educated, but made sure that he put his academic work in. If students get financial aid, but make poor decisions that get them off-track, mentors can work with them to make better decisions playing the cards they are dealt. Not all parents are able to do this.

One issue in trying to introduce mentorship programs will be that not enough adults volunteer for such programs. Rather than throw their hands in the air, many schools are using other students who have high achievement to reach other students. Even at the elementary or primary school levels with children below age 11, there are programs that successfully improve academic outcomes by using peer-tutoring and mentorship.

In addition to helping students who are not doing well academically, volunteer academic tutoring and group work has been shown to improve the academic performance of the volunteers and high performing students as well as those being helped. This is a WIN-WIN. Let's utilize all our resources to move forward in Math!

Dr. Linda Bailey-McWeeney is the Executive Director of Reggae Math Foundation, an economist, and an educator. She is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Economics at College of Staten Island, City University of New York and has been an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, City University of New York, Yeshiva University, and Wagner College. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.

Discussions of how to move forward in math: Thing 2

"You have to start with Professional Development". That is a quote from a former Jamaican math teacher. In my discussions with anyone interested in speaking about math education, it is always shocking to me that the there are so many people who say things like "I know a teacher in Clarendon. All her students do well" or "There was this one teacher I had. When I had that teacher, I understood math. When I didn't have that teacher, I didn't understand math." Similarly, "students previously thought to be dunce" excelled after using this method.

How, for example, was Richard James able to get a Wayne Wright, a student with repeated math failures, to obtain a pass? (click here for that Gleaner story).

There are strategies and tactics being used with students who have not performed well in the past. These strategies are succeeding and we need to support the sharing of these activities. One way to help us share the work of successful programs through professional development of teachers in Jamaica is to contribute through our Donate page as we work to share what works. If you already shop at amazon.com, please consider switching to https://smile.amazon.com/ch/81-3445051 and Amazon will contribute part of qualifying purchase prices to Reggae Math Foundation AT NO COST TO YOU! You can register at any time and amazon.com will remind you to switch to smile.amazon.com when you are ready to make a purchase.

Dr. Linda Bailey-McWeeney is the Executive Director of Reggae Math Foundation, an economist, and an educator. She is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Economics at College of Staten Island, City University of New York and has been an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, City University of New York, Yeshiva University, and Wagner College. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.

Discussions about how to move forward with math: Thing 1

Since 2015, I've been having discussions with anyone interested in math education. There are many people in education who believe that anyone can learn math deeply and well, if they are taught or guided in a particular way. Since most people are not excelling in math, the question is how do we,  who are interested in elevating math learning and appreciation, work together to reach those students who are currently not being reached.  From these discussions since 2015, I wanted to share a few things that have come out in a series of posts.

Thing 1:

While there are many wonderful hardworking teachers in the school system who go above and beyond, too many students enter high schools without the proper foundation. It is, therefore, imperative that the high school teachers are trained to address this deficit among older children, if we are to properly educate those entering the labor force and post-high school educational institutions. Focusing on high-quality early childhood and primary education as the Jamaican government and private sector is currently doing is an essential component of a long-run efficient solution. There are students who enter high school unable to add and subtract. Since addition and subtraction is a foundation upon which the rest of math is built, without it, there is a superficiality of learning that occurs. Teachers are being asked to cover more advanced topics when all the students in the room do not have the proper foundation.  Let's build a system to support students in learning the foundations of math if they don't have it. 

Dr. Linda Bailey-McWeeney is the Executive Director of Reggae Math Foundation, an economist, and an educator. She has been an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, City University of New York and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Economics at College of Staten Island, City University of New York, Yeshiva University, and Wagner College. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.

Thank you!

Reggae Math Foundation would like to thank all those who supported our Summer 2017campaign, whether by donating or sharing the story.

We have been happily filming Mr. Kippy Chin's classes on imaginary numbers.

Details about imaginary numbers can be found here at Math is Fun.

We look forward to sharing these classes with people who did not realize there was such a thing.

 

 

Building Blocks

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to delve into the world of elementary mathematics, working along with a team of K-12 mathematics education researchers.  As a part of a professional development activity, an elementary teacher taught us (a group of adult 2nd graders) how to add: 257+138.

We were asked to represent the problem with base 10 blocks, an easy enough task for adult 2nd graders such as ourselves.  What became immediately obvious to me, amazingly so in fact, was the strength behind the use of base 10 blocks in helping students make sense of the mathematical task!

Margaret_7_14_17_1.jpg

Easily and almost intuitively, 257 is transformed into 2 hundreds, 5 tens and 7 ones, and 138 into 1 hundred, 3 tens and 8 ones, which makes 3 hundreds, 8 tens and 15 ones. With a little extra thought, 15 ones can be regrouped into one 10 and 5 ones, making 3 hundreds, 9 tens and 5 ones or 395 in total.

Of course, an algorithm (a procedure or set of rules) may be developed later for efficiency, but it may initially look a little more like this, to resemble natural mental mathematics.

What a dramatic difference in learning for children when understanding is built using tools that support true learning, in classrooms where sense-making is the goal rather than memorization.    
I confess ignorance.  But I hope that this is a technique being used in Jamaican primary classrooms, as children learn two and three digit addition and other mathematics concepts, so that they are actively enjoying and making sense of mathematics, and not merely juggling numbers within meaningless algorithms.    

Margaret Campbell is an Advisory Board member of Reggae Math Foundation, the Principal of St. George's College, an all-boys' high school in Jamaica, Hubert Humphrey Fellow (Fulbright Fellowship), and a member of the National Mathematics Advisory Committee, Jamaica.

Why education is a priority NOW!

Margaret Campbell, Principal of St. George's College and Reggae Math Foundation Advisory Board Member, and I were recently on the #JadeRadioNetwork Radio Show discussing issues related to math education in Jamaica.  Mathematics is the foundation for many other careers and without math, the gate to those careers and often high incomes are closed.  This is important because the economy of Jamaica and other countries will need those careers. If Jamaicans do not learn math properly and accurately, they will not be able to build bridges and roads, etc. and will have to hire people at a premium from overseas, probably going further into debt as we will lack the income to pay for our desire for decent infrastructure. What types of jobs will the majority of Jamaicans be able to perform and what will be the implication for our tax base and the services that the government can provide without going further into debt.

In 10 years, the standard of living of most Jamaicans will be directly related to our investment in EDUCATION of youth NOW. Whether we are struggling to fund education, decent health care for everyone, fix roads, give compensation to farmers after flood rains, fund athletes for a variety of sports without doing crowdfunding, and more in the future, will depend on what we do NOW. Everyone with any capacity to assist children learning to read, write, and do math, needs to step forward. Stepping up in 5 or 10 years will be too late for the world we need to be prepared for within the next 5 to 10 years.

There are opportunities now in technological/virtual services that do not require persons to be in the same country as the customer. Some of these services are being learned very rapidly by interested high school students in the U.S. With similar technology access and a solid foundation in education, our very own high school students can be trained to take advantage and earn an income. This opportunity means that if we invest in the education of our people, we will have prepared ourselves to participate in an economy that can take us places we never imagined including having higher incomes for the average Jamaican and more taxes to create a Jamaica that everyone wants to live in.

This opportunity to lift ourselves out of poverty in a short period of time hasn't been around since the 60s and if we wait to invest in education, while the rest of the world is enjoying great health care, luxurious standards of living, great infrastructure, low crime rates, we will be as we were, wondering why the government doesn't fix the roads, why employees cannot do basic things, and why the service in the fast food restaurant is so lax.

Dr. Linda Bailey-McWeeney is the Executive Director of Reggae Math Foundation, an economist, and an educator. She has been an Assistant Professor at Baruch College, City University of New York and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Economics at College of Staten Island, City University of New York, Yeshiva University, and Wagner College. She has a Ph.D. in Economics from Michigan State University.