Thursday, March 10, 2011

10 MAR 11: From a Different Angle

Plenty of studies indicate U.S. schoolchildren lag behind students in other countries -- and have for several decades. Yet before be wring our hands about this, remember something. Young U.S. minds have given us some of the greatest ideas of the last 20 years. Like Google. Like the iPhone. Like "Real Housewives of Atlanta."

The Georgia Board of Education is at a crossroads, when it comes to improving mathematics scores. Should it stick to traditional methods, or press forward with a more modern approach? You know - modern story problems which say, "John has three Android phones. If a hacker takes one down...."

Superintendent Susan Andrews told GPB News Wednesday most Muscogee County high school math teachers want to return to a more traditional approach. Andrews called it a "discreet" approach - which apparently leaves the less discreet high school stuff for dance teams and "Glee" wanna-bes.

What's the difference all about? Seven years ago the Georgia Board of Education required public high schools to combine algebra, geometry and trigonometry in a single one-year class. I wouldn't be surprised if some students referred to it as "P-90-degree-X."

But some parents say the "math combo deal" has led to teenagers failing final exams for math competency. And some teachers apparently have complained they didn't receive enough training in the concept -- as if they simply couldn't talk a little faster in each section.

Maybe the three-in-one combination was designed to keep high school students from becoming uninterested in math. We don't want teenagers to become.... well, you know.... bored of education.

Then again, the Georgia Board of Education could have marketed this concept better. In an era when attention deficit disorder is a problem, schools could have promoted it as a "faster A.D.D."

Because of the criticism, the state school board could vote next Monday to allow schools the option of returning to separate algebra, geometry and trigonometry classes. But I can hear the complaints from civil rights groups now - saying Republicans are moving Georgia away from school "integration" again.

The math courses were separate during my high school years. In fact, I had two years of algebra in junior high school before taking a year of high school geometry. The high school math teacher impressed the guys most - because he had a second job as a bartender and drove a Cadillac. [True!]

(That geometry teacher gave us memorable advice about abbreviating sections of shapes. You could write "ASA" for angle-side-angle - but you should never write the shorthand for angle-side-side.)

From what I read online Wednesday night, it appears the return to traditional math will stop at separating those three courses. Georgia will NOT go all the way back to the stone age - by barring students from bringing pocket calculators into school buildings.

I heard a church pastor say recently it's easier than ever for students to cheat on exams of all sorts. All they have to do is write the key information into a Blackberry or iPhone. This is why more teenagers need to go to church -- because they might learn a secret to higher test scores.

Let's take our own version of a "final exam" to Wednesday's other news:

+ A strong storm dropped around 1.5 inches of rain on Columbus, leading to flash flooding at predictable places. Fifth Avenue in the downtown area floods so often, Gateway Mitsubishi ought to make "flood damage sales" an annual event.

+ The threat of rain moved my exercise time to Peachtree Mall. As I walked (two laps in 22:26.09), I passed what looked like a hastily-arranged fashion show near Macy*s - and as two youngsters were introduced to the audience, the younger one declared: "I want my mother." How many exasperated Miss Georgia contestants have done the same thing backstage?

+ WTVM reported a late-night fire erupted at the McDonald's restaurant in Ladonia. That restaurant doubles as a convenience store - so I hope this isn't a case of someone getting upset with two sources of different kinds of gas.

+ Columbus Police admitted to WRBL several people have filed complaints about officers "texting and driving." So? If they have hand-eye coordination steady enough to pass tests at the police firing range, driving with nine fingers ought to be a breeze.

+ The University of Alabama had its version of "Pro Day" for football scouts. But receiver Julio Jones showed up in crutches and didn't take part in drills, because he injured his foot at the February "combine" in Indianapolis. I really don't think N.F.L. teams would want Jones to drop-kick field goals, after catching passes.

+ Instant Message to GPB, where this all began: Aha! I wondered why Big Bird and Elmo never had "tea parties" on Sesame Street. Now we may have the answer....

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