Tag Archives: digital learning

National Museum of Mathematics

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer

At Curriki, we believe that math does not have to be boring. One institution that shares this belief and brings it to life is the National Museum of Mathematics (a.k.a. MoMath) in Manhattan, New York City. It is the only museum in the U.S. devoted purely to math.

Science News said the museum is “the antidote to math phobia”. MoMath stresses interactive exhibits so that one can gain an understanding of math concepts by doing and exploring.

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According to the MoMath website: 

The National Museum of Mathematics strives to enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics. Its dynamic exhibits and programs will stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics. The Museum’s activities will lead a broad and diverse audience to understand the evolving, creative, human, and aesthetic nature of mathematics. 

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The museum was established at the end of 2012 to promote the understanding and importance of mathematics, and to present math concepts in a fun and engaging way. A particular focus is placed on kids in the middle grades (4th grade through 8th grade) but there are attractions for kids of all ages and adults as well.

In addition, there are a large number of lecture videos on various math topics available at the MoMath web site and on YouTube as well, go to http://momath.org/gallery/ to access these.

The museum’s approach is compatible with the principles behind project-based learning. Curriki has developed two mathematics courses built around the project-based learning methodology. These are for Algebra and Geometry and can be accessed here:

Algebra course = http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_kathyduhl/Algebra1

Geometry course = http://www.curriki.org/welcome/resources-curricula/curriki-geometry-course/

If you live in or happen to visit New York City, we encourage you to take your class or your own children to visit the National Museum of Mathematics. You’ll probably have fun too!

References:

www.momath.org

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/national-museum-mathematics-antidote-math

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/roots-of-unity/2014/05/23/moma-to-momath-mathematical-art-new-york-city/

Coding

janetpintoBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer

 

 

Programming, or coding, or writing code, is an important and well-paid skill today. There is a shortage of good programmers. But most students approach computers or mobile devices as consumers. They use computers or devices to play games, or as social media platforms. And they also use computers to search for information, as part of the learning process, which is all to the good. In some cases they are users of interactive games that promote learning.

But all of these use cases are students being consumers of code, and not creators of, producers of, code. Photo by popofatticus via Flickr Creative CommonsProducing is harder than consuming – coding is more difficult than using an app. Yet our modern economy is increasingly reliant on coding and computer science technology more generally.

This blog on the topic at the New York Times is actually entitled “When Kids Would Rather Play Computer Games Than Code Them”. Here’s another article from the New York Times on the topic of learning to code.

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These articles note that coding instruction is trending. In the U.S. there are over 20,000 teachers involved in teaching how to code, according to code.org. The organization states: “Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.”  And they believe all kids can learn to code. Code.org helps train high school teachers to instruct coding. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) have contributed $10 million to Code.org in support of their mission.

Public school systems in Chicago and New York City are building the capability to offer more coding instruction to their student populations. Chicago is looking to make the ability to code a graduation requirement within the next 5 years.

The challenge is getting students over the initial learning hump and frustration around creating code that doesn’t work the first time it’s used. Coding requires persistence, and the ability to think logically. One must eliminate every mistake found in the first version of the code, through testing, modification and iteration. Persistence and logical thinking are great skills and attitudes for students to learn and are important life skills more broadly than just around coding.

Scratch is a simple programming language freely available from M.I.T. The site provides small code blocks that can be tied together to help create stories, games and animation. It is designed for children from age 8 and up, and is used in more than 150 different countries.

And here’s a unit on Curriki for game design in a science classroom, using the Scratch language. Check it out!

 

PBL and Robotics

By Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Project-based learning (PBL) is becoming increasingly well-regarded and important in education. We learn more by doing, by active engagement, than we do through passive memorization. Engagement reinforces learning and long-term memory acquisition. PBL can provide, according to Wikipedia, “greater depth of understanding of concepts, [a] broader knowledge base, improved communication and interpersonal/social skills, enhanced leadership skills, increased creativity, and improved writing skills.” 

Here are two related video resources on Curriki. The first is a four minute overview of PBL and its benefits. And the second is a particular PBL activity for mathematics.

In the real world, whether someone works in private industry or in a government organization, the work often revolves around projects of one sort or another. So PBL is a great way to introduce students to skills they will need in the future. These include:

  • Recruiting team members
  • Teamwork
  • Finding sources for advice
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Decision making
  • Planning
  • Breaking down problems into component tasks
  • Sequencing tasks
  • Researching required information and alternatives
  • Trying, failing, and trying again (persistence!)
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Measuring success
  • Iterating to reach desired quality
  • Presentation of results

One great area to look at for PBL is Robotics. Here’s an article from Science Friday that talks about the benefits high school students experienced working on a robotics challenge, including the teamwork they developed and the friendships that ensued.

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Photo courtesy of The Bot Side

And here is a resource for a high school level robotics project on Curriki. The project involves building a robotic machine to sort M&Ms, Jelly Beans, or Lego Bricks by color. This is a fun, two to three week project that involves engineering, physics, science, math, writing, and programming. Students will acquire a solid grasp of the programming language RobotC. You need familiarity with solving problems with robotic devices designed and built from Lego kits. The resource includes a video providing inspiration and a glimpse at other students’ solutions to the color sorting problem.

There are many resources on Curriki that could be part of PBL activities. We encourage you to search on www.curriki.org/welcome with “PBL” and “project-based learning”.

Technology Helping To Personalize Student Learning Experiences

SU13StudentsReportCoverBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Students learn in many different ways, whether they’re a visual learner preferring pictures and shapes, or an auditory learner preferring sounds and rhythms. Oftentimes, we use a mix of learning styles and techniques to process information.

Unfortunately, traditional textbooks simply can’t meet students’ diverse learning styles, since every student has unique interests, attention spans, and needs. So how do we ensure the success of every student? The key to a personalized learning experience is technology.

A recent study from Speak Up published this month explored how K-12 students are using digital tools and resources to enhance their schoolwork activities.

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Infographic- The New Digital Learning Playbook: Mobile Learning

Key findings from this year’s report entitled The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations include:

  • Girls outpace boys in use of many digital tools for learning, particularly the socially based tools like texting and collaborating online.
  • 29 percent of high school boys say that they are very interested in a job or career in a STEM field, but only 19 percent of girls say the same.
  • Students continue to report less regular interaction with traditional social networking sites like Facebook, while 44 percent of students in grades 6-12 report using social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Nearly one-third of high school students reported using Twitter.
  • One-quarter of students in grades 3-5 and nearly one-third of students in grades 6-12 say that they are using a mobile device provided by their school to support schoolwork.
  • In four years, the percent of middle school students taking tests online increased from 32 percent to 47 percent.
  • High school students reported a mean average of 14 hours per week using technology for writing.
  • Only one-third of middle school students say that for schoolwork reading, they prefer to read digital materials rather than printed materials; more than half, however, say online textbooks would be an essential component of their “ultimate school.”
  • Digital equity, including to student access to the Internet outside of school, is a growing concern among district technology leaders with 46 percent saying it is one of the most challenging issues they face today (compared to just 19 percent in 2010).

With the right access to different kinds of educational resources that fit different learning styles, we can allow children to learn at their own pace using various learning methods that meet their individual needs. We have an opportunity to customize education for students everywhere and to provide the education they need to shape their futures.

Homework Horror?

janetpic_preferred_croppedBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

Is the homework burden in American schools becoming heavier? Articles in the past 3 years in Atlantic magazine and The New York Times and a CNN story as well have raised this specter. But these stories, while accurate in their own particulars, look to be anecdotal and not statistically representative of the broad population of K-12 students. And this is not the first time such concerns have been raised – the debate has continued for at least the past 100 years.

The CNN story drew from a study which was biased by design. It used a small sample of upper middle class and highly competitive high schools in California, over half of which were private schools. In fact the name of the study was “Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools”!

A further source of bias is that not all students in the chosen schools responded. The ones who did may have been in more of a mood to complain, or even brag about, their heavy homework loads. These are some of the most academically gifted students, who are striving to enter some of the most elite universities in the country and the world.

In Cupertino, California, where Curriki’s offices and Apple’s headquarters are located, many of the students have parents who are top engineers in Silicon Valley. These engineers were chosen from the best and brightest from China, India, the U.S. and the rest of the world. And such parents tend to push their children toward academic achievement. The Cupertino school district has a high school which was recently ranked #109 in the U.S., out of over 21,000 public high schools.

There have been a number of studies of homework, and they indicate on average that most students have less than an hour of homework, even in their senior year of high school. Trends in homework over the past three decades have been reported in the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The assessment is part of the 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education from the Brookings Institution. See the table below, taken from the report, and which summarizes findings from a period of almost 3 decades beginning in 1984. Consistent with other studies, the latest NAEP report indicates that, on average, most students have less than an hour of homework, even in their senior year of high school. According to these results, only one such student in 8 has more than 2 hours of homework. At age 9, only one student in 20 has more than 2 hours of homework.

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Here is a description of the 10 minute per grade-level guideline, from the Wikipedia article on homework:

“A review by researchers at Duke University of more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 showed that, within limits, there is a positive interaction between the amount of homework which is done and student achievement. The research synthesis also indicated that too much homework could be counterproductive. The research supports the ’10-minute rule’, the widely accepted practice of assigning 10 minutes of homework per day per grade-level. For example, under this system, 1st graders would receive 10 minutes of homework per night, while 5th graders would get 50 minutes’ worth, 9th graders 90 minutes of homework, etc.”

So, in fact, the level of homework by grade level has been relatively stable for the past 3 decades. It will be interesting to see if major trends such as digital learning, flipping the classroom, and Common Core have any effect on the average amount of homework that students are assigned, or actually do.

Curriki is here to help with homework! Here you can find a long list of helpful resources for students that have to do homework, whether it’s a little or a lot!

References:

http://educationnext.org/homework-horror-stories/

http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2014/03/18-homework-loveless

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00220973.2012.745469 – “Nonacademic Effects of Homework in Privileged, High-Performing High Schools”

 

New SATs – Leveling the Playing Field

janetpic_preferredBy Janet Pinto, Chief Academic Officer, Curriki

The College Board has announced major changes to the SAT format (sometimes called SATs, and officially the SAT Reasoning test) beginning in 2016. The test is very widely used in college admissions in the U.S. Many have argued that the results of the test are given too high a weight in admissions. Research indicates that high school grades are much better correlated with college performance than SAT scores. But the SAT is here to stay, and will remain of major importance in determining where high school graduates can attend college or university. The new set of tests will revert to a maximum score of 1600 based on the combination of the math and the English reading/writing sections. The essay portion of the exams will remain, but become optional, while also more rigorous.

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Much of the motivation toward redefining the test is in an attempt to level the playing field and deliver opportunity for students coming from various economic and cultural backgrounds. See the College Board web site for their thoughts around this issue. There is an excellent article from the NY Times discussing the story of how the new version of the SAT came to be.

In addition to the issue of how much to weight the SAT and its competitor, the ACT, are given in admissions, there have long been concerns that the affluent have a double advantage in taking either of these tests. First, they are generally attending better schools than less privileged students, and have been exposed to more difficult concepts in math and more difficult vocabulary. And second, a whole SAT preparation industry has been around for decades – almost since the first SAT was introduced in 1926 – to help students improve their scores on the exams.

Many students attend training sessions for several weeks in the hopes of gaining an edge by increasing their scores by 20 or even 50 points per section. Some firms in the test preparation industry offer money back guarantees of improving scores by 50 points per section, although research indicates that the average gain from such preparation is a total of 30 points across the current 3 sections of the SAT. Still, even a modest improvement can be the difference between getting in to that higher ranked school or not. The courses easily run several hundreds of dollars, and the parents of students from lower economic strata generally cannot afford to send their children to these SAT preparation sessions.

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In order to help level the playing field, the College Board and the Salman Khan Foundation have announced an initiative to make freely available SAT preparation materials and videos via the Web. Here’s a brief video including an interview with Salman Khan.

Curriki applauds this initiative from these two organizations. We would also like to let you know that there are a number of SAT-related resources on Curriki. Just go to our site and search for “SAT” and you will find resources such as:

1. Vocabulary resource – http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_trish1/SATpreparationshelpfulforenglish

2. Vocabulary and SAT prep – http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_Group_NassauBOCESCurriculumAreaProjectsCAP/Gr10-12VocabularyandSATPrep

3. Word Dynamo – http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_jennifermorgan/SATStudyGuidesWordDynamo