Monday, June 4, 2007

Today’s 4th Grade Everyday Mathematics “chapter review”

This final unit (Chapter 12) has the students learning about rates: dollars per hour, miles per hour, and calories per serving, for example. Understanding them will certainly be of value as consumers. Sounds practical, and in theory I have no argument with that.

Having said that, the questions on the review (and this week’s homework) point out yet another thing that drives me crazy (in a bad way) about EM:

1) The correct answer requires a written explanation of at least a couple of sentences when a simple numerical equation could have clearly demonstrated understanding or lack thereof. Half the problems on this chapter review ended with “explain,” “explain your strategy,” “explain your answer.”
2) Some of the “word problems” (generous description) require multiplication using decimals. This isn’t a problem per se and especially important when we’re talking about money, right? However, in fourth grade Everyday Mathematics, students are only taught to multiply decimals using a calculator. In fact, a quick search of the index of the Student Reference Book (4th Grade) would provide you with three entries (p. 37, 161, 180) and every single one involves using a calculator to multiply decimals. Don’t even bother looking up division of decimals because it’s not even in the index at all. Yes, really!
3) Some of the questions are so subjective that the possibility of answers is not limited to one that would teach the lesson of rates, but could be virtually unlimited if you take into account the author’s explanation. In the “Family Letter” they state “Other factors to consider include quality, the need for the product, and perhaps, the product’s effect on the environment.”

Here’s one example from this study guide:

5. Use the sign below to solve the problems. Explain how you found your answers.
60 cents each
6 for $3.40
$6.80 for a dozen

b. Pretend that your mother sent you to buy 11 doughnuts. If you had enough money, would you buy a dozen doughnuts instead? Explain.

I’m guessing here, but since we’re supposed to be talking about rates, and the student is supposed to understand unit price and be a wise consumer doing comparison shopping, the objective is supposed to be to choose the lowest price per unit-- the "best buy".

It seems to me that they never asked which is the best buy. Or did I miss something? Fuzzy, fuzzy, fuzzy!

Indulge me for a moment, but...

  • What if I always listen to my mother? Shouldn’t I buy only eleven even if I am going to save a few coins by buying the extra doughnut?
  • What if we only need 11 doughnuts and mommy doesn’t want to be tempted by the 12th one because she’s on a diet?
  • What if they only have 11 doughnuts in the flavor that I want to buy. If I buy that 12th doughnut, no one is going to eat it and I will have wasted my money.
  • What if Mom said I could keep the change and I’m saving up for something really cool? (Remember she’s only expecting eleven doughnuts).

I think you get my drift…

Are any of these answers acceptable? If they were, did it really teach me about rates as a mathematical concept? If they are not, then what is the point of asking such an "open ended" question?

I guess this is one of those "consumer" questions that's supposed to make me a better shopper. (From the "Family Letter": "Is an item on sale necessarily a better buy than a similar product that is not on sale?" Well that depends....

Oh boy, am I glad this is the last chapter. Can’t take much more of this fuzzy logic. I need a break (so do my kids!)


DeeHodson said...

Hi! I am really enjoying your blog and was wondering where in CT you live? I live in Monroe

DeeHodson said...

I am really enjoying your blog- I linked to it from the Ridgewood math forum and also from KTM II
I also live in CT (Monroe. I was wondering what town you live in?

concernedCTparent said...