Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A REALLY Mad Minute.....

But first.....
Carnival of Education
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When my grade level team gets together to plan for instruction, discuss common assessment results and intervention strategies (Professional Learning Community schtuff!), we’ve been known to get off task now and then. One such dalliance last week resulted in a frank, frustration-based discussion: how and why do teaching strategies common to the first grade classroom get blacklisted?

Is it new research that sparks a strategies’ downfall? If so, why don’t teachers get information on it? Is it that our curriculum leaders find new, more exciting ideas? Do strategies simply go out of vogue, seem out-dated, maybe less pc?

We got to this discussion because in meetings with upper level grade teachers, it became clear that our students’ basic math facts skills are weak. The idea about conducting daily Mad Minute timed practice tests came up as one intervention strategy. One of the veteran teachers remembered several years back teachers were told not to time kids; timing caused a stir among parents and therefore, some school leaders. So no more Mad Minute.

We want to try this strategy again. But should we? It’s not in this team’s nature to rock the boat, but we really want to do all we can to change the status quo.

The real question is this: Will the Mad Minute strategy work? I remember that critics say that concentrating on memorizing math facts rather than building math reasoning skills is just bad teaching. But there has to be more. Our county curriculum leaders just haven’t provided the information we teacher’s really need to make a sound decision.

Especially with the new focus on Professional Learning Communities and teachers’ call to “shake things up”, we need full disclosure of how and why we are asked to teach the way we do… and the ways we DON’T.


Edgehopper said...

"I remember that critics say that concentrating on memorizing math facts rather than building math reasoning skills is just bad teaching. But there has to be more."

Grr...I'm so sick of that complaint! I'm a Mechanical Engineering student, possibly going to teach next year. That complaint comes from educationists who see that mathematicians and higher-level math isn't focused on basic facts, so they assume that the reasoning is important and kids don't need to learn basic facts.

The problem is that you need that basic arithmetic as a stepping stone to understanding higher level concepts, and also for use in science.

It's pretty simple: If you can't add/multiply/subtract 1 digit numbers, then you can't learn to add/multiply/subtract 2 digit numbers. And then you can't learn the algorithms you use in arithmetic. And then you can't learn algebra, because you don't understand the examples (If you don't know that 13 * 15 = 195, then you can't solve 13X = 195.) And every higher level math subject requires that basic algebra I material.

So use the Mad Minute strategy. Conceptual math knowledge in 1st grade consists of knowing what addition is, which can be done in less than a week. Knowing arithmetic will be a lot more useful down the road.

Mrs. Ris said...

Thanks for your advise, brian. When I queried a higher up about the issue, the answer focused again on not stressing the kids out by timing them. Ha!
Based on the data, we need to strike a better balance and concentrate a bit more on basic skills... and so we will!

Polski3 said...

Look at the origin of these "new" strategies for us teachers. Most originate from the deskbound edubureaucrats that inhabit state and county offices of education, university researchers and others that usually do not deal with real kids. These new strategies and dictates are simply to validate their existance. What are they going to be doing otherwise? Many times, the concept is something that was around a few years back and they just make up some new jargon for it. Its "make work" for them. Empty out those offices of education and there might not be a shortage of teachers. And, are they not the "experts"? Let them come into real schools and show us how these work so well for real kids!

I advise use what works, unless you are specifically instructed by your school boss to do otherwise.


Darren Kuropatwa said...

I've posted my comments to "A REALLY Mad Minute....." on my blog here.

Don't give up the Mad Minute. It's more than a good intervention strategy; it's good teaching. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I am a parent concerned about the mad minute. my second grader can add quite well using other strategies aside from speed. I have taught her to add the numbers to ten and then add what is left over this becomes very beneficial especially when you move on to two-digit numbers and when you need to borrow in subtraction. My daughter is not a speed demon and it is discouraging her because she can not move on to the next level until she achieves a 90%. I am very good at math and I have timed myself and I can do 30 in about 30-40 seconds and I have been doing math for 30 years! I feel that it is important to be accurate than quick. For example they get plenty of time to do their spelling words because accuracy counts not speed!

Anonymous said...

Could it be that the practice of MMM is helpful and that the timing would not be the focus, especially in the beginning.