Independent Common Core Math Curriculum Reviews

EdReports.org graphic

Click on thumbnail to go to site

I’m pleased to report that an independent non-profit organization, EdReports.org, is reviewing new Common Core math curricula. I sometimes get asked about my opinion about the different options, but it’s hard to respond when there are so many new materials that I haven’t seen, and I am only one person. While the reviews don’t address every curriculum, they do address many of the available Common Core options. If your district is considering adopting a curriculum, please consider the detailed reports here.

They also have a graphic that shows the alignment in a visual format. Click the thumbnail to view it.

To toot my own horn a bit, Eureka Math (also available on engageny.org), of which I was on the second and fifth grade writing teams, is getting the highest praise of any of the curricula reviewed so far here, especially at the elementary level. I am no longer connected with the company, or any curriculum company, for that matter, so you can believe me when I say that I joined the teams because of the quality of their approach, pedagogy, and curriculum team excellence. While there are still kinks to work out, I think the curriculum is top quality.

In case you are interested in professional development, I do offer that to schools and other groups. Please feel free to contact me to inquire.

New Eureka Math Books Available

Common Core Mathematics
Yesterday, an exciting package came in the mail: the first two published modules of the Common Core math curriculum for Grade 2, complete with my name on the inside! Even though it was only listed for Grade 2 (I’m writing on the Grade 5 team too), it was nice to see my name on another publication.

While all of the modules can be downloaded and printed for free from EngageNY, it may save money and time for schools to buy the printed books. Print editions are available from Great Minds, or you can order individual books for homeschooling, enrichment, or preview from Amazon.

creditsI’m proud to be part of writing such a strong curriculum with powerful roots in Singapore Math approaches!

Have questions about the curriculum? Leave them below in the comments, and I’ll answer them as well as I can, and if I don’t know, I’ll do my best to find out the answers!

Musical Proofreading: A Different Approach to Teaching Punctuation


Share

This post was originally published on the Patch on August 5, 2011.

music

I was recently working with a young student who had a hard time figuring out when to add commas or periods in his writing. I had given him a worksheet made from a paragraph I wrote and from which I removed proper capitalization and end punctuation. All he had to do was rewrite the paragraph with correct periods and capitals.

Even though this sounds simple, he had a hard time determining where a period should go. Instead, he sometimes added a comma instead or skipped a period entirely.

After trying several approaches to help him, a new thought occurred to me. “Listen to the music of the words,” I said. I compared punctuation to rests in musical notation, with which he has some experience. “Commas are like short rests, and periods are like long rests.”

I then hummed the paragraph without the words for him once, and then again while pointing to the words I was humming so he could follow along. He said it was almost like he could hear me saying the sentences. I said, “Yes, the music and rhythm of language help give it meaning.” To show some contrast, I read the same paragraph in an absolute monotone with no pauses for punctuation whatsoever. “Much more boring, isn’t it?” I said, and he agreed.

With this new tool under his belt, my student was able to successfully detect when to add periods in the rest of the paragraph. He continues to use this tool months later.

I have taught this method to other struggling students, and it’s helped them, too. A search for similar methods didn’t turn up anything online, so I wonder if this is a new idea. I hope this way to use “musical intelligence” adds another useful tool to other writing teachers’ tool kits!

Which Singapore Math series should I use?


Share

Singapore Math is a rising trend in math education in schools and with homeschoolers, for the simple reason that it works. As an experienced Singapore Math teacher and trainer, I often get the question, “Which Singapore Math series should I use?” This question is posed by both teachers and homeschooling parents, and as more series enter the market, the choice becomes more challenging. In this article, I will present the pros and cons of each current series as I see them. Please feel free to contribute your views in the comments below.

Singapore Math, US Edition, published by Marshall-Cavendish:

This edition has been around the longest in the US. The main difference from the curriculum Singapore was using until recently is that this edition includes some additional problems using US measurements (feet, miles, pounds, etc.). This is the series that Singaporean students used when they scored highest on the TIMSS (international) test.
Pros:

  • Short, focused textbooks and workbooks.
  • Clear graphics.
  • Emphasis on mental math.
  • Clear sequence from one book to the next.
  • Follows the best of the Singaporean teaching model.
  • Fits the Common Core State Standards well (see this article).
  • Decent Homeschooling Guide, from what I hear.

Cons:

  • The measurement units don’t follow the Singaporean teaching model; that is, they don’t thoroughly teach one type of measurement before moving on to the next, rather mixing US and metric together. This can cause confusion in students.
  • For American teachers, teacher’s manual may be inadequate without further training.
  • Doesn’t come with assessments; I used the Practices and Reviews in the textbook for this.
  • Needs supplementation with math facts practice.
  • Children going from this edition to public school may be missing some subjects, but stronger in others.
  • Must be ordered online; shipping is high.


Overall
: This is my preferred series despite its shortcomings, which can be easily overcome with a little knowhow and creativity.
Buy here: SingaporeMath.com, Inc.

Singapore Math, Standards Edition, published by Marshall-Cavendish:

This edition was created to meet the California learning standards. It is more colorful than the US Edition and covers slightly different topics each year. A comparison chart showing the scope and sequence of the two is available here. This series has been approved by the California State Board of Education.
Pros:

  • Designed like the US Edition, with most of the same pros.
  • Thorough Teacher’s Guide.
  • Comes with Assessments.
  • Decent Homeschooling Guide, from what I hear.

Cons:

  • One of the strengths of the Singapore Math curriculum is its focus on mastery of fewer subjects per year. This edition repeats the mistake of many US-designed curricula by putting in too many subjects per year so there is less time for each.
  • Must be ordered online; shipping is high.


Overall: Recommended if the child is in California or the state has similar standards to meet.
Buy here: SingaporeMath.com, Inc.

Math in Focus
, distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

This series is new to the US market, and Houghton Mifflin has Americanized it, with the typical large-sized teacher guides, a variety of student books, and manipulatives, packaged in typical school bundles. I have seen the company at trade shows and looked at the materials there, and have requested samples, but none have been forthcoming, so I have not been able to test them out until now. I just discovered the online sampling website they provide, but it’s slow, and I can’t try it out with my students. So while I have been able to see the series to some extent, this review is less in depth than others.

Pros:

  • Easiest for US public school teachers to adapt to, with explicit guides and scripts.
  • Flows better to the middle school/high school Singapore curricula.
  • Wide variety of differentiation options.

Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • Scores in Singapore went down after they implemented this program.
  • Less emphasis on mental math.
  • Books are larger with more complicated/busier graphics, potentially distracting from the learning process. I like the drawings, but combining them with photos can be confusing.

Overall: Recommended for teachers who don’t have prior experience using Singapore Math. For those who do, I need more experience with this program to recommend it or not, but I would stick with the US Edition for now. Homeschooling parents are better off with one of the series from singaporemath.com.
Buy here: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Singapore Math Practice
, published by Frank Schaffer Publications:

This series appeared in bookstores a year or two ago, and I made a beeline to it with interest. I put it down almost immediately, though. It appears to capitalize on the popularity of Singapore Math without a thorough understanding of its best principles and practices.
Pros:

  • Readily available in bookstores
  • May provide extra practice in addition to using one of the other series, but use with caution.

Cons:

  • Promotes the use of calculators too early, a big no-no in my book.
  • Problems have mistakes and are not well designed.

Buy here: Amazon.com or in bookstores like Barnes & Noble

New Patch Blogger


Share

As of today, I am live as a blogger on the local Patch, an online newspaper! Read my first entry concerning an educational green building possibility here: http://peekskill.patch.com/blog_posts/verplanck-enhancement-plan-and-education .