Today I’m Torn

What She Wore: Two-tone orange stripe polo with three-quarter-length sleeves; denim a-line skirt, orange strappy shoes with a a kitten heel.

Being any kind of teacher comes with it’s fair share of issues.  Today, I came head-to-head with a few of them.  We had some consultants come and talk with the math department today.  Consultants are these gurus who have TONS of experience and usually they test-drive ideas and techniques in classrooms around the country.  My school is directly linked with a particular group of consultants and I LOVE when they come.  Makes my entire day.  But there are these issues that crop up when a bunch of passionate people get together.
 
  1. What do you do about calculators?  Previously, Mr. K and I have been stictly anti-calculator.  Our kids struggle with all the basic functions: addition, multiplication, division, and subtraction.  We think they need to learn to do it.  We give them calculators if the math is complex, but they’re not available all the time.  The consultant and one of the other math teacher advocated for more calculator use.  Their rationale?  Kids aren’t being tested on the the four basic functions in middle school–they need to do more.  No point teaching them things they won’t be tested on.  Second, not letting kids use calculators means that they aren’t used to using one.  This can slow them down when they get to those big tests.  What’s a girl to do?  Give them the calculators or not? 
  2. What’s more important, math or reading?  Both are basic skills.  Our school is focusing on literacy this year.  Unfortunately, that means that math is sort of getting the back burner this year.  If we tutor kids in math, it’s usually because we’re pulling them out of silent reading time.  Is one more valuable than the other?  It seems like the answer is no, but we still have to choose. 

Remember when all the answers were easy?

KM

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About takedeux

In one summer I had a baby who was hospitalized for five weeks, quit my job, and moved back to my hometown. This blog is about starting over.
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28 Responses to Today I’m Torn

  1. Stacy says:

    So this is the reason that the new checker at the local grocery can\’t figure out my change.  They don\’t give checkers and service workers calculators at their job, so no I don\’t think they should be given calculators for basic math.  Face it, probably 40-50% of the students in each class will go on to some type of job where money is involved and they will need to be able to add, subtract, make change, and yes even multiply and divide.  Even if it is working at the Pizza shop through HS, or working in a factory taking inventory.  They all require basic math skills without a calculator.  Boy this one gets my dander up.  Don\’t even get me started on the reading thing.  Both of my boys are required to read a book each 9 weeks and do a book report.  YEAH for our District on that.  Even though the book report is a simple form they have to fill out, at least the kids have to read.
    -S.

  2. Jaysey says:

    What\’s more important?  Neither…and the fact that you have to choose sucks…what happened to doing it all? 😉  I know, I know…

  3. Sheryl-Ann says:

    It sucks big time that you all have to choose between Math and English.  That is crazy!  No wonder the American school system is not ranked very high in the world – why should you have to choose between these two very important subject areas? Wow, I\’m in shock.
    About the calculators, I don\’t think they should be allowed to use them in middle school. They need to learn the basic functions or else they will inevitably have problems later.  After they have conquered the basic functions, then maybe in the later years of high school, they could be allowed to use them. I may be wrong, but that\’s how I have analyzed it.  Hope your week is going well.

  4. Jaysey says:

    Made perfect sense to me! 😉

  5. Nooner™ says:

    Ya know .. a month or more back you talked about Hub and what he thought you either should talk about here .. or did. I forget the post exactly. I just remember it was about Hub and his saying something about readers wanting to hear about your teaching. Anyway, I just want to point out how I enjoy the school/teaching posts, yet I miss a bit of the varied posts you had a few months ago. You are totally versatile. Quite a great writer.
    Oh, math is more important. Reading comes to everyone eventually — math doesn\’t. Math is part of everything in adult careers and day-to-day life.
    ~Nooner~

  6. CJ says:

    Seems you took the cold medicine after posting this entry because this is a great subject to debate!  I\’ve seen the result of such a choice with my oldest son.  Amazingly he made it completely through school without being able to write in cursive.  It embarasses him to this day.  However, he did quite well at math.  What a sacrifice.

  7. Unknown says:

    I think that they need to be able to do the math without a calculator first….I was at mcdonalds the other day and the register was down..and they could not figure out how much change to give…I thinks these kids depended on the calculator way to much.  math versus english..do kids not read at home anymore? Don\’t we have time to teach both? Should they be able to read but not give change? I think there should be an even balance between both you can\’t say that one is more important than the other!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I think reading is far more important right now than math. If we can get these kids reading then it open up so many more doors.

  9. David says:

    This is one of those things that makes me want to just scream, because from my (extremely novice) point-of-view, the answers seem so clear-cut…No to calculators, and math is NOT less important than reading (and neither is it more important).  Both are vital life-stills.
     
    They aren\’t being tested on basic math skills?  No, they aren\’t.  Because, I believe, presumably, THEY ALREADY KNOW basic math skills.  And if they do (as they should), they shouldn\’t NEED a calculator to do basic math skills, to pass a test.
     
    Reading?  I\’ve never understood why reading was so hard…it\’s a basic function we learn in grade school.  And yet the amount of grown adults who can\’t spell (a direct result of lack of reading, if you ask me…it\’s not because they didn\’t learn words, it\’s because they\’ve never been exposed to them peripherally through reading) is shocking to me.  I know young men and women with four year college degrees who can\’t spell the word "congratulations" without putting a "d" in it.
     
    I work for a high-tech company that employs a very high-tech staff, mostly PhDs in Chemisty, Physics and Biology.  And the vast majority of them came to work for us from a foreign country.  In our own little neck of the woos, I have in front of me an example of how our education system (not the teachers and instructors, who are following the marching orders of their school districts) and our parents are failing our future, and their own as a byproduct.
     
    It bothers me immensely that we have to tri-age basic education.
     
    -David  //BootJockey

  10. David says:

    PS…I think we\’ve probably all had the experience of having something in a store ring up to, say, $11.78, and you give a cashier $12.03, and the cashier can\’t even figure out you gave them the three pennies so you\’d get a quarter back instead of two dimes and two pennies…I can\’t tell you how many times I\’ve gotten that blank "uuuuuuh…now what???" stare…and it just ticks me off…what has our education system come to?
     
    I suppose in the days when it seems most people use debit cards, it\’s no wonder they can\’t make change at McDonald\’s.
     
    -David  //BootJockey

  11. Unknown says:

    As a teen I would\’ve died with out reading…and not just reading, but with imagination!!! I can see everything when I\’m reading in my minds eye. Even in blogland…today. I hope teachers are teaching that!
     
    Math on the other hand I was never very good at…BUT I had the rational mind and could figure out things…if this is this then I can do this to get this…perhaps that is the slant I see that is important in math. Why not use the calculators every other week? A little compromise can go a long way. Besides I remember having silly fun in one class with them…like making words out of numbers 07734=hello upside down…what about playing math games on them? Like this: http://www.auburn.wednet.edu/everydaymath/gamesK3/brkncalculator.htm I wonder if they would like that.
    We loved math games and now they have stuff like sodoku!!!
     
    Any hooo that\’s my thoughts…lol
    hugs,
    Mercy

  12. Sarah says:

    It is really really sad that you, as an educator, have to choose what is the most important to teach students. Students should be exposed to everything they need and if they have problems with one thing or the other, they should be able to get the extra help they need.
     
    Basic math is something everyone should know. My grandfather only went to school through 8th grade and you could tell him two numbers and he would tell you what they added up to or what the diference was in a matter of seconds. He was very number-minded, and I think that makes a difference with kids, too.

  13. Alicia says:

    I know you\’re talking high school…but for math in college, I HAD to have a scientific calculator.  I think they can be a useful tool as long as you don\’t overuse them.  I hope that\’s not an oxymoron…
     
    HUGS!!  🙂

  14. Tracy says:

    Hmm, ya those are tough questions.  SO hard to try to figure out which is more important to teach a kid.  On the calculators, that\’s funny because A makes fun of me all the time – I\’m an accountant but I can\’t add in my head for anything, he\’s does construction and can do it all in his head.  I\’m like but I use a calculator and/or computer, and besides I do a whole lot more than sit around adding and subtracting all day 🙂  Anyways your rationale does make sense — they need to at least know how to do the basics before they are allowed to use a calculator, but ya tough decision if they need to get used to it for when the tougher stuff comes along.  Being the great teacher you are, I am sure you will figure out the perfect solution 🙂

  15. Andrea says:

    Your positions SUCKS!  Pull them out of sports or computer class.  Because if they can\’t read, and understand what they read, and can\’t do basic math.  Then passing the dang test and using a computer is of NO use.  Not in the real world.  I am trying to teach adults this stuff.  I get so mad at the school administration.  Teachers are working so hard only to have the idiots in charge (not all of them are idiots but enough) pull away their power.  Yet they get the blame.  I would not wear your shoes!  Really I mean that in all ways.  They would kill me…. 

  16. Unknown says:

    When I read the part where you said the "big wigs" think they shouldn\’t be spending time on the very basics since the kids aren\’t being tested on that anyway, I cringed.  Isn\’t the whole point of an education to aid you in functioning in the real world?  Regardless of whether or not you get tested on it in school?  I mean, how will they ever figure out how much to pay for something that\’s 40% off if they don\’t know the basics?  I know that sounds silly, but you get my point. 
     
    And I have to admit, I am not good at math.  I\’m fine with the basics, but anything beyond is tricky for me.  Like algebra for example??  Ummm….once I get past 2a + 2b = 10 I\’m a goner. 
     
    Kudos to you for not wanting to give these kids calculators to rely on for just the basics!  I really think they need to be able to figure that out on their own. 
     
    As far as math vs. reading….they\’re both equally important.  Why do schools have to focus on one or the other?  They\’re both equally important. 
     
    I went to public school for my whole school career, but I have to say the whole system is SO messed up!!
     
    Hope you\’re having a good day!  God bless : )

  17. Nadine says:

     I say no to calulators….They need to know how to do the problem on paper. Other wise you have a generation of kids that rely on the PC or whatever to make change and to tell them answer. NO Calulators until High School and only for certain classes.
     I would have to say that in the real world both are important…math and reading. But reading is the most important thing….If they can grasp reading math is easier. The whole idea of word problems is to make you think and how well you grasp the concept of how long it takes two trains to traveling the same speed in opposite directions…blah blah blah….then the math skills come into play. Algebra really has no practically application in real life…it is just to make you think.
     And a skill that I think is lost is writing out the numbers…..we have a generation of kids that use a bank card and have no clue how to write a check!! They can\’t spell out the number… and man brings me a check for $550 and it is written Five Hundred and Fifty dollars….think about that!!
     Basic skills are needed!!

  18. Nora says:

    One I don\’t understand why one needs to be more important than the other, they are both vital skills.
    Two, if they have to learn to do as much math without calculators it is better in the long run. The goal for using them is so they can test better, and that I hate.  While testing is important, and someone like me can do great I know plenty of smart competant people who aren\’t good testers.  Uggh, this problem is complex,  you teachers make us think too much!! ; ) 

  19. Cheryl says:

    In my book reding is more important and 12 gets to use a calculator because she has thebasics down.  9 has a few more years before she gets to use one.

  20. Becca says:

    If you can\’t read, how can you do math? But I think if you can master the basics of math then have the calculator. I use the one on my laptop every day so I see it as a function of daily life not a crutch.
     
    Becca

  21. Josh says:

    1 – I think for basic functions, say no to calculators. Being able to work simple math out in your head is a good foundation for developing other math skills, including those that require a calculator.
    2 – Have them read books about math.

  22. tassietoo says:

    Yeah…I agree with most everyone here…IT\’S ALL IMPORTANT!!  Reading feeds the imagination, and some math NEEDS to be done without a calculator.  I\’m not as eloquent as many who have posted here, but I two kids in the public school system.  I am constantly amazed and let down by what they are NOT learning.  I worry for their future…

  23. David says:

    Just popped in to say "HI!" myself!
     
    -David  //BootJockey

  24. WINDOW LIVE says:

    I think that this is the reason kids are getting dumber.  I paid for tutors out of pocket because the school was doing a bad job of teaching basics.  You absolutely HAVE TO KNOW basic math skills in order to get to the next level in problem solving test or no test.  Reading…well I certainly think that is a necessity especially when adult iliteracy is at an all time high.  I feel for you.

  25. Randy says:

    WOW!  You have a great space here! I love to read your blogs!  Just passing thru blog hopping!  I do that in my spare time (lol.. if I have any to spare), but really I love your space,a nd saved it to favorites, and hope to coime back again sometime.. You so rock in MSN SPACES!
    Hugs to ya,
    Randy
    (I hug everybody, so no offensne)

  26. Carol says:

    I was a math dork in high school.  I took as many math classes as I could and aced all of them.  Having confessed that, I think math is important because it\’s logical.  Math teaches kids problem solving skills where they have to follow logical steps.  It also helps teach abstract thinking.  BTW–I vote no on calculators.
     
    Reading lets us get into the fuzzy areas of illogic and emotion.  It helps us understand those really thorny parts of life that logic can\’t fathom.  My vote is that reading is more important.  The most important thing in life is learning how to handle conflict and how to get along with each other.  Math can\’t teach that. 

  27. Unknown says:

    kids need to have math drilled into them.  They must have the basic skills to add.  Even if they become a blue collar carpenter and need to add inches together….they\’re not going to be able to pull out a calculator…plus it teaches the thought process.  Oi vey!  Do the math, as they say

  28. Jerry says:

    I remember calculators too big to take to school. Do the children blame the calculator when they get the wrong answer? How do they learn the math concepts and rely on a calculator? I remember a math teacher in high school who would come across the hall to our class and ask our teacher how to solve a problem. Mr. Allred always had the answer. He was more than a teacher. I contracted hepatitis during my senior year in high school and was out of school for a couple months. Instead of just sending homework to me with one of my friends, he came to visit and ask how I was doing. The local radio station has a program to honor outstanding teachers but Mr. Allred died years back and I can\’t nominate him now. If my spelling gets bad it is because of the tears in my eyes. You are a member of a noble profession; I salute you. Please forgive the students like me who never take the time to say thanks until it is too late.

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