## Author Archives: Monica Yuskaitis

## Wait! Don’t Take Out Music too!

Many years ago before common core came onto the scene I made sure that the arts were included in my 5th grade class. We did art projects on Friday, sang on Wednesday, and had extra curricular activities such as musical plays, band, and a school wide chorus. I honestly believe the kids were happier, had higher self-esteem, and loved coming to school. Then when common core hit everything changed. We were told to always have the common core up on the board that we were currently teaching in case district personal did a walk through, which they did at least once a week or more. They never even gave us one standard that had anything to do with the arts or music. So guess what happened to the curriculum. You guessed. The regular teachers had to drop doing anything that had to do with the arts. What a shame!!! Even if we wanted to do things in the arts. We never had time any more because we had to get ready for the **tests**. Yet there are many studies out there that indicate how music increases many attributes and knowledge that kids need to succeed in school. Students who study music at home such as a musical instrument do better in math, especially fractions. Here is one study of the effect of piano education on the attention skills of 7-12 year old children. They found the piano students out performed other students in reading and in their attention span in general. Let’s never give up on the arts. We need to speak up and make sure they are never totally dropped. Try to picture our society with no cultural arts. What is left? Not much.

Huseynova, Elnara; Egilmez, Hatice Onuray; Engur, Doruk, “Effect of Piano Education on the Attention Skills of 7-12 Year Old Children”, Educational Research and Reviews, v 14 n10 p. 327-339, May 2019

## Complete Fraction Bundle for You!

A number of my customers have been asking me for this for some time. So here it is! All of my fraction powerpoint lessons for 5th grade (20 of them on 1118 slides). Your students will know their fractions well after completing this series. It is available for one half off for the first 48 hours. Grab it while you can at this price. Click on the picture to go to my store.

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## New Products that Use Effective Math Research

## Direct Instruction of Mathematics Vs. Computer Based Mathematics Instruction

If I were to ask you which teaching strategy works better for mathematics in the classroom, direct instruction (teaching), or computer base instruction what would you say? That is such an important question today because school districts are dumping millions of dollars into computer based instruction in mathematics and other areas of the curriculum. So I decided to do a little research of my own on ERIC. To my surprise the first article I read was about a study done in a middle school in Minnesota. They were using ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces), a technology-based mathematics curriculum and was piloted in the 2012-2013 school year. Two groups were compared: regular classrooms where direct instruction was the mode of delivery of the math lessons, and classrooms where the delivery of math instruction was through the computer based ALEKS program. The comparison of test scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA-III) was made at the end of the year and an additional district developed test based on mathematical concepts. Surprisingly, the findings showed grades six and eight student achievement was significantly higher from the direct instruction group when comparing test results on the district developed concept tests. On the other hand, seventh grade students in the direct instruction group achievement was significantly higher on the official MCA-III. So it turned out to be a mixed bag.

So I went to another study “Unpacking TPACK in Mathematics Education Research: A Systematic Review of Meta-Analyses” published in 2016 by Jamaal Young. He examined 65 initial studies that compared computer based technology in mathematics education. He narrowed it down to 13 that met the criteria he needed to do the study and found that of the mean effect size (growth) in mathematical achievement was from small to medium.

So in summary, computer based technology is definitely having a positive effect in mathematics instruction, but the significance is not huge at this point. We need to consider that there are many programs out there at this point and some are better than others. If we want to see these programs improve, we would be wise to give feedback to the companies that make them and suggest improvements as we see them. We also learned that direct instruction is still very powerful in teaching mathematic concepts and we should not altogether abandon that approach. Personally, I see the need for both. Some concepts will be better taught and reviewed with computers, and other topics with direct instruction. You be the judge!

If you would like to see math lessons built on the 13 principles of effective math research click here: Effective Math Lessons Store

Sources:

Mertes, Emily Sue, “A Mathematics Education Comparative Analysis of ALEKS Technology and Direct Classroom Instruction”, ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Bethel University

Young, Jamaal Rashad, “Unpacking TPACK in Mathematics Education Research: A Systematic Review of Meta-Analyses”, International Journal of Educational Methodology, v2 n1 p19-29 2016

## Do You Ever Wonder How Your Math Series Compares?

Do you ever wonder how the math text you are using measures up to other publications on the market? Well, there is research available for some of these math series. Granted publications change as new adoptions come up, yet it is interesting to see who of the publishers are in the lead.

A study was conducted over a 3 year period involving 1,309 1st graders in 39 elementary schools, the four-state study is considered the largest experiment to test some of the nation’s most widely used commercial math programs. It was commissioned by the Institute of Education Sciences, the primary research arm for the U.S. Department of Education.

To determine how much math the students learned, the researchers used a nationally normed exam that was developed for the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.

The results of the study were published in 2009. Two programs for teaching mathematics in the early grades—Math Expressions and Saxon Math—emerge as winners. At the end of 1st grade, investigators found, children in classes using the Saxon and Math Expressions curricula scored 9 percentile points to 12 percentile points higher on those tests than their counterparts in other classrooms. That is quite a significant gap above the other contenders.

So how were the top two different than those that were lagging behind?

The Saxon curriculum, published by Harcourt, is a more traditional, scripted program in which teachers offer explicit instruction on effective mathematics procedures. The Houghton Mifflin Co.’s Math Expressions curriculum, in comparison, integrates a more emphasis on student reasoning with direct teaching that is aimed at moving students to more-advanced mathematical strategies. The Investigations program was considered the most student-centered of the four curricula, while Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics is a basic-skills curriculum that combines teacher-led instruction with a variety of different materials and teaching strategies.

So what can we learn from this? Direct Instruction (Teaching) is still a very important tool in teaching mathematics. Hands-on can certainly enhance students’ understanding of the concepts, but it is time to end the debate whether hands-on is better than direct instruction or visa versa. We should use both. Second, when it is time to adopt a new series, how about suggesting that the committee look at the research before making the final decision.

If you would like to see in-depth direct instruction math powerpoint presentations that highly involve the students, click on the Products menu tab at the top of this article.

To see a more in-depth article about this study click on the picture above.

Source: Viadero, Debra, “Study Gives Edge to 2 Math Programs” __Educational Weekly__, Vol. 28, Issue 23, Pages 1, 13, __Published in Print: March 4, 2009__

## Common Core Math – Working or Broken?

In 2007 the Federal government appointed a group of educational professors, researchers and stakeholders (school administrators, parents, and teachers) to study and advise on ways to foster greater knowledge of an improved performance in mathematics among American students. This group reviewed 16,000 research publications, listened to 110 public testimonies, reviewed 160 organizations’ written commentaries, and 743 teacher surveys. There were 3 main findings that came out of the this study:

- The K-8 math curriculum should be streamlined to emphasize the most critical topics in early grades.
- Rigorous research on how children learn should drive math instruction, emphasize conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic recall of facts.
- High quality instruction uses both student centered and teacher centered strategies.

This was basically the birth of our Common Core math curriculum today. My question to you as teachers is are all three of these guiding principles being followed in your math Common Core curriculum? As an outsider looking in #1 has definitely happened as I see many topics being skipped or moved up to the next couple of grade levels. On #2 I see great emphasis on conceptual understanding, but almost to the point of sacrificing procedural fluency and automatic recall of facts. Just remember the latter two are just as important as conceptual understanding. On #3 I see much more student centered activities today, but some teachers have gone overboard in eliminating direct instruction (teacher teaching in front of the classroom accompanied with good “checking for understanding”) altogether.

One last point that really bothered me about this study is what the guidelines left out. There isn’t a word in there about problem solving. What is the purpose of even doing math if we are not using it to solve problems. Maybe they just figured that was a “given”.

My point here is to be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Make sure as you teach mathematics you keep in mind the huge body of research that has already been proven that works well in helping students to learn mathematics, and that all three of these guiding principles are included in your instruction. And oh yes, don’t forget to include some problem solving.

Source: Brown, Carolyn, “A Road Map for Mathematics Achievement for All Students Findings from the National Mathematics Panel” __Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement__ Published 2009

## Meta-Findings from the Best Evidence Encyclopedia

**Robert E. Slavin**

**One of the Authors of “Effective Educational Program: Meta-Findings from the Best Evidence Encyclopedia”**

The Best Evidence Encyclopedia is a free website created by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education (CDDRE) under funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. It is intended to give educators and researchers fair and useful information about the strength of the evidence supporting a variety of programs available for students in grades K-12.

The Best Evidence Encyclopedia provides summaries of scientific reviews produced by many authors and organizations, as well as links to the full texts of each review. The summaries are written by CDDRE staff members and sent to review authors for confirmation.

The Best Evidence Encyclopedia covers reading and math reviews and allows the opportunity to describe both substantive and methodological patterns across a broad set of studies involving elementary and secondary grades. In an article entitled, “Effective Educational Program: Meta-Findings from the Best Evidence Encyclopedia” by Robert E. Slavin and Cynthia Lake the following conclusions were drawn as to the most often identified best practices in the classroom that affect student achievement. Here is what they listed:

- Strategies likely to improve student learning are those that improve the quality of instruction.
- Increased student active participation.
- Helping students to learn metacognitive skills.
- Improved management and motivation approaches.
- Comprehensive programs such as Classwide Peer Tutoring and Missouri Mathematics Program.
- Extensive professional development.

To visit the Best Evidence Encyclopedia website click on the picture below:

## What Research Says About Teaching Math Vocabulary

**The Research**

Teaching the math vocabulary is a must according to numerous research studies if you want your students to excel in mathematics. Unfortunately, few school teachers use effective vocabulary instruction in their math lessons. “Students may excel in computation but their ability to apply their skills will suffer if they do not understand the math vocabulary used in instructions and story problems” (Brun, Faye; Diaz, Joan M.; Dykes, Valerie J.2015).

Another study recommends that students learn best when the definitions of words are appropriate to the age level. “Teachers should provide student friendly explanations of the word rather than dictionary definitions.” (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan 2002)

Research also supports that the vocabulary that they will need as the concept is being taught needs to be understood before the teacher gets to that point. “Pre-teaching vocabulary in the mathematics classroom removes cognitive barriers that prevent children from grasping new content. When taught only at point-of-use, vocabulary words are often lost or misunderstood (Chad, David)

**Recommended Practices**

So here are some recommendations of how this should be done to reach the most effective way of learning the math vocabulary:

1. Pre-teach mathematics vocabulary.

2. Model vocabulary when teaching new concepts.

3. Use appropriate labels clearly and consistently.

4. Integrate vocabulary knowledge in assessments.