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What to teach? So many options

Alrite, so we are going to help students learn, practice and understand Math and English as it should be. Pay equal focus on both Math and English and not be biased towards Math. Have everything in a gaming environment to engage them. Got it.  Now what.

Well, I had sleepless nights the past few weeks figuring out what should be the benchmark to teach Math and English. 50 states – 50 different curriculums – 50 ways of teaching. What is the best way to teach? What should be PracTutor’s curriculum? It definitely cannot be the 51st way of teaching or 51st different curriculum because if we do so considering that we are the champions and everyone should follow our curriculum just like others – in this battle the students eventually lose. They would feel disconnected and lost of what may be taught in the school and what they learn from us.

Then I came across something what is called as Common Core Standards – a very simple mission to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them – across the US. And how many states adopted it – 45 states and 3 territories. Wow. That’s a game changer right there. Imagine a country having same format and same structure to follow to teach all its children. And what standards does Common Core cater to – Math and English. There could not be a better match.

http://www.corestandards.org/in-the-states

So I started digging in more from there and started going to all individual state’s education board sites – CA, NY, TX, IN, KY, MA – almost all of them. Yes, most of them had adopted the standards and wanted to transition in 2-3 years time. But there was a twist. There is always a twist. Some of these bigger states had changed certain standards or added more as per their views. Hmm. So I started listing down the changes, the actual standards and comparing them with these variations. I did this for all the major states. The only real changes were seen in the states of CA and NY. Now, Why doesn’t that amaze me.

Texas was the major state that hadn’t adopted Core Standards (only 1 of the 5 states who didn’t adopt core standards for whatever reasons) so I had to go in great detail and compare Texas education and Common core standards. Although there wasn’t a huge difference Texas did have Statistics and Probability introduced earlier than Core Standards but everything else more or less was the same.

I must pause here and tell how impressive core standards are. They have very neatly divided each grade into topics that need to be taught, what college readiness skills are to be taught and what sub-topics to be taught in those topics and its details. Very logically laid out as it should be and the best part – they are all created by the educators from schools across the country. The teachers who actually teach in the classroom and know what the students need. English standard had defined the books to refer and the classroom lessons as well. Impressive and an excellent starting point for us.

So coming back to other states – CA, NY and TX were the only states who had major variations from the core standards. We just added those variations to our curriculum to give students the opportunity to see what is different that is taught in CA, NY and TX.

So now we have the curriculum to start from. NC state board gave unpacking tools to even understand those standards in greater depth. A very effective document.

http://www.ncpublicschools.org/acre/standards/common-core-tools/

So we put in a team of teachers in Math and ELA from elementary, middle and high school and started putting the content and other pieces together. How to get unlimited questions in Math and ELA with increasing level of difficulty so that the student always has a different question which challenges him was a software challenge to be solved another day. But as of now I could sleep for the next 6 hours since we had the right curriculum to follow.

    Hardik Parikh is the Co-founder of PracTutor. PracTutor is a personalized fun way to master Common Core Math and English. All kids – whether they need intervention, accelerated learning or career and college readiness – can achieve their goals within PracTutor.
    • Kieran Mathieson

      Nice post. You did a lot of work on your CC comparisons!

      IMHO, CC is not a good standard, because it impedes the ultimate goal: maximizing learning across US students. Two aspects to this:

      1. For me, the most valuable part of learning is building skills, like writing, and computational thinking. Learning skills requires practice and formative feedback. That practice/feedback cycle isn’t in CC, AFAIK (though I’m not as familiar with them as you). Worse, CC is so large that there is no time to cover all of the concepts in it, and still have time for practice and feedback. The result: shallow learning, when we need the opposite.

      You might say to yourself, “Self, CC isn’t about implementation!” Agreed, and that’s a problem. IMHO, if implementing a standard requires poor practices, then the standard is poor.

      2. “Maximizing learning” means getting the most out of each student. There is much variation across students, as you know. One student’s best is less than another’s. Having one-size-fits-all is not a Good Thing.

      IMHO, we should pay attention to how educational standards are developed. We should ask, “What are the attributes of a good standard?” One suggestion: “Implementing the standards should lead to good learning outcomes.” IMHO, CC fails that test.

      Of course, I may be wrong. Maybe there are CC implementations that maximize learning across US students. But my guess is that most CC implementations will get in the way of that goal.

      Kieran

    • Hardik

      Thank you for your comments. The main idea of the blog was to highlight the key facets through which learning can be maximized while teaching maths and English for children. Although there are some practical problems with the implementation of Common Core Standards once these problems have been sorted out it will result in enhanced learning experience for the students.

      Additionally it is quite difficult to define a perfect educational standard as it is based on perception and changes with person to person. But the basic goal is to provide quality education in a fun-based environment to the children; after evaluating their strong and weak points and working on them.