A Museum for Math…Finally!

In Curriculum Matters, Education Week’s blog, Erik Robelen writes about a new math museum that will “strive to ‘reveal the wonders’ of math.” 

The Museum of Mathematicsstrives to enhance public understanding of mathematics” states the MoMath website. “Its dynamic exhibits and programs will stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics. The museum’s activities will lead a broad and diverse audience to understand the evolving, creative, human, and aesthetic nature of mathematics.”

MoMath will not open until 2012, however activities such as letting visitors ride tricycles with square wheels along a track with curving terrain are being tested with MathMidway, a traveling exhibit currently at the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX until May 16, 2011. The exhibit will return to New York City for the World Science Festival Street Fair on June 5, 2011. It will then make an extended stay at New Jersey’s Liberty Science Center from October 7, 2011 through January 22, 2012.

The museum’s founder, Glen Whitney makes the point that the joy of discovering math has been lost to the “tyranny of the curriculum and the almost treadmill of standardized testing.” He goes on to say that there is beauty in the subject. “Math is evolving. It’s an act of human endeavor.”

Here at MetaMetrics, we couldn’t be more excited about the museum.  This will be the only math museum in the United States and hopes to make the point that mathematics illuminates the patterns that abound in our world. We’ve worked hard to show that mathematics is not only necessary, but that it can be fun and accessible for all learners. 

That’s why in 2004 we developed The Quantile® Framework for Mathematics. This practical metric allows educators to measure both student mathematical achievement and the difficulty of math skills and concepts.  The use of the Framework is complemented by a number of mathematics utilities that assist educators and parents by allowing students to access differentiated math resources.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take a look.

Double Jeopardy Report: The Importance of Bending the Reading Growth Trajectory

Thanks to Education Week for pointing to a soon to be released study:” Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation”.  The study presents a startling finding: students who are unable to read on grade level by third grade are four times less likely to graduate by age 19:

…Add poverty to the mix, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peer.

“Third grade is a kind of pivot point,” said Donald J. Hernandez, the study’s author and a sociology professor at Hunter College, at the City University of New York. “We teach reading for the first three grades and then after that children are not so much learning to read but using their reading skills to learn other topics. In that sense if you haven’t succeeded by 3rd grade it’s more difficult to [remediate] than it would have been if you started before then.”

This study points to the importance of early intervention and targted reading as a way to influence a student’s reading growth rate.  Dr. Malbert Smith’s recent policy brief, ‘Bending the Reading Growth Trajectory: Instructional Strategies to Promote Skills and Close the Readiness Gap’  is directly relevant here and provides a blueprint for the sort of instructional strategies that serve to help students remain on track for college and career readiness.

Specifically, Dr. Smith advocates adopting early intervention strategies for young and struggling readers.  In addition to these strategies, he aruges for increasing the velocity of growing readers through the use of deliberate and targeted practice.  Smith also advocates an earlier introduction to more complex texts:

Reading growth can also be addressed by exposing students to more complex text—especially in the middle and high school years—so that they have increased opportunities to stretch their skills. Unfortunately, as Appendix A of the Common Core Standards laments, “K-12 texts have actually trended downward in difficulty” and have become “less demanding” over the past fifty years (Chall, Conrad, & Harris, 1977; Hayes, Wolfer, & Wolfe, 1996). Intended to remove barriers to content with more accessible texts, this trend has had the unintended effect of hampering students’ ability to tackle more challenging texts as they progress toward graduation. It should be noted that exposing secondary students to more demanding text no longer has to result in discomfort, strain or frustration. With measurement tools like Lexile® measures that help students determine their “just-right” reading range to enhance reading growth and lead to readiness, students can challenge themselves with success and a resulting sense of accomplishment.

For more concrete strategies on ways to ensure that students are reading on grade level, be sure to check out the whole thing.  As the recent Double Jeopardy report makes clear, improving the reading ability of young students is vital to ensuring the success of these students beyond high school.

Coming Soon: E-books Available Through Your Local Library

If you own a Kindle you may soon be able to check out e-books through your local library:

Amazon is preparing a new service called Kindle Lending Library that will allow users of its popular e-reader to check out Amazonian ebooks from 11,000 neighborhood and educational libraries.

“We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Amazon Kindle headman Jay Marine when announcing the service, which is scheduled to launch later this year, and which will be available to all generations of Kindles, plus other platforms running Amazon’s Kindle software.

That’s good news for Kindle owners.  Kindles, in addition to other e-readers, have become more popular with young readers.  By partnering with public libraries, Amazon is providing young readers with easy access to thousands of titles.  Students will be able to read more without having to pay for titles of their choice.

Just imagine: students may soon be able to create individualized reading lists through our own Find a Book tool and then check out the e-book versions, downloading them directly onto their Kindle.

Kudos to Amazon for partnering with public libraries to get more books into the hands of readers everywhere.

Florida’s ‘Teacher Talk’

Teacher Talk’s April episode takes a look at various summer reading programs, including “Find A Book” Florida and also offers an interview with our own Malbert Smith.  In the interview Dr. Smith covers a wide variety of topics, including how parents and educators  access to the Lexile measure, how to manage multiple measures, how Lexile measures can be used in and outside of the classroom, and how to use “Find A Book” without having a Lexile measure.  He also talks about the many resources available to both teachers and parents.

 Teacher Talk is hosted by The Florida Department of Education and was designed to communicate with Florida teachers about innovative approaches to education. Through this venue, they make numerous resources available to help with the day-to-day challenges of teaching. “Teacher Talk” airs monthly on the Florida Knowledge Network, the JustforTeachers website, iTunesU and the Florida Education Channel on Dish Network. Episodes air the second Tuesday of every month and re-run as time slots are available.

Be sure to take a look.

Planning Math Lessons with the Quantile Teacher Assistant

Scholastic’s Math Hub has posted a thorough entry on our own Quantile Teacher Assistant (QTA) utility.  QTA allows math educators to differentiate math instruction by quickly identifying prerequisite skills for each state mathematics standard.  Furthermore, once identified, QTA helps math educators locate free resources that have been calibrated to that particular skill level – allowing a targeted match between a math skill or concept and the ability level of the math student.

If you haven’t used the Quantile Teacher Assistant yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Policy Brief: Bending the Reading Growth Trajectory

Written by our own Dr. Malbert Smith, our second policy brief was released Thursday.

As I’ve mentioned before, MetaMetrics is focused on improving education for learners of all ages, and we will be releasing policy briefs that cover research on a variety of educational issues, such as closing the achievement gap, next-generation assessments, and college- and career-readiness. The policy briefs will explore potential ways to address these critical issues by focusing on education as the foundation of student success and the stepping stone to social and economic growth in our country.

The second brief is titled “Bending the Reading Growth Trajectory: Instructional Strategies to Promote Reading Skills and Close the Readiness Gap.” An executive summary is below and the entire brief is available in both HTML and PDF formats:

The January 26 edition of Education Week summarizes the postsecondary readiness gap in unequivocal terms: “High school completion does not equal college readiness.” This reality is the foundation of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts which are designed to prepare students “to read and comprehend independently and proficiently the kinds of complex texts commonly found in college and careers.” But what exactly does this mean for educators, and how can they help prepare students for the reading demands of their academic and professional pursuits? Research has validated some instructional strategies—such as exposing middle and high school students to more complex text, using benchmark assessments to supplement year-end tests, and mitigating summer loss—all of which can address the velocity and deceleration of reading growth in order to enhance comprehension skills and support students on higher learning trajectories. As idealized growth trajectories are adopted in response to Common Core—and states continue to collect more and better longitudinal data—we will be even better positioned to think strategically about how we can modify instruction to support students as they progress toward college- and career-readiness.

Want to subscribe to our policy briefs? Visit www.Lexile.com and click on Register in the top right corner. Be sure to check the box next to News Releases!

Lexile Measures Added to Saddleback’s Hi-Lo Books

Saddleback Educational Publishing has joined the growing list of publishers who offer Lexile measures for their books. By adding Lexile measures to their award-winning hi-lo titles, Saddleback is helping students at lower readiness levels enjoy reading by targeting their interests and school assignments to books at the right level.

According to Tim McHugh, Saddleback’s vice president of sales and marketing, “We strive to provide educators with the finest quality curriculum materials. The addition of Lexile measures to our hi-lo books offers educators valuable information for matching students with resources that will best support positive reading experiences and the development of important comprehension skills.”

Saddleback publishes some of the most popular hi-lo books for struggling readers, including the “21st Century Life Skills” and “Urban Underground” series. Those titles that have been assigned Lexile measures are now available in the free “Find a Book” search utility, which allows readers of all ages to build custom book lists based on their interests and ability level.

Conceptua Fractions Adds Quantile Measures

Conceptua Math CEO Arjan Khalsa said it best: “Fractions are tough to teach and equally difficult for students to learn.” The good news is that his organization has responded by providing educators with a valuable resource to help struggling students. Conceptua Math has added Quantile® measures to its innovative Conceptua™ Fractions program, allowing teachers to accurately match students with instructional activities at their readiness level.

Conceptua Fractions comprises more than 400 practice activities spanning grades 2-7. Each activity has a Quantile measure that describes its difficulty level. Educators can compare this Quantile measure with a student’s Quantile measure to determine if the activity meets his or her learning needs, or if the student needs to review some other prerequisite skills or concepts first. Students are likely to have the most success solving problems within a recommended Quantile range of 50Q above and below their Quantile measure.

Click here for more information on Conceptua Fractions, like how it uses visual models, sequenced activities and verbalized feedback to challenge students based on their own learning styles and to keep them engaged throughout the instructional process. The program also offers integrated assessments that allow educators to diagnose student misconceptions, choose remediations and monitor progress as students advance through the core curriculum. Quantile measures for both the complete Conceptua Fractions curriculum and free tools are available too.

Finding the Silver Lining Among the Cuts: Personalized Learning Platforms

As state departments around the country attempt to find solutions to substantial budget cuts, one reoccurring proposal has been to increase the use of technology in the classroom.  As Sharon Otterman of the NY Times reports, New York City’s schools are planning to increase technology spending.    As Otterman explains, “the surge is part of an effort to move toward more online learning and computer-based standardized tests.”   With many states facing severe budget cuts the possibility of adding more teachers appears dim; and many states are finding that moving toward technology based personalized learning systems is an increasingly attractive option. 

We’ve written before on the advances in computer based personalized learning platforms and the support they provide educators.  As the number of enrolled students continues to climb – while the number of additional teachers declines  – personalized learning platforms offer a unique advantage.  Personalized learning platforms facilitate instruction without adding to many educators’ already heavy work load.  Utilities, like our own Oasis, allow students to engage in targeted, self-directed practice and even monitor their own growth through real-time assessments.  Plus, web-based utilities offer the promise of individualization – students are targeted at their own ability level.  In addition to true individualization, web tools offer the advantage of consistent availability.  Utilization is not tied to a particular classroom or the availability of a teacher.  Instead, students may access the tools at a time and location of their choosing.   As technology proliferates in classrooms across the nation, we look forward to seeing the various ways in which instructional tools will supplement the work of classroom educators and augment instructional time for all students.

Dispelling a Few More Misconceptions

In an interview in the most recent edition of Knowledge Quest, our own Malbert Smith tackles the concern that the adoption of the Lexile Framework will require libraries to reorganize their entire library by Lexile levels:

CAH: Some school librarians have been asked to abandon the standard organization of their school libraries in favor or arrangement by Lexile levels.  What are your thoughts about schools that use Lexile levels to rearrange and organize the school library collection?

MS: We do not find it necessary to reorganize a library by Lexile range or level.  Today,  a number of computer catalog providers offer Lexile measures to help guide students to the right reading materials – without actually having to rearrange those materials by Lexile level….What’s important is that the librarian is part of this process.  Items are cataloged in the automated system, and the librarian becomes a source for ordering and organizing the leveled materials.  It may be added work, but librarians can demonstrate that they are providing leveled resources and, at the same time, protect the main library collection from being rearranged.

And in the same interview. Dr. Smith tackles one of the most common misconceptions on the Lexile Framework:

CAH:What do you think about students having free choice in selecting their reading materials?  Should they always remain in their Lexile range?

MS: A student should be able to choose what he or she wants to read, regardless of whether that book or article is in his or her recommended Lexile range.  The Lexile range (100L below and 50L above a student’s Lexile measure) should be considered as a guide to help students select books that offer an appropriate level of challenge for their reading abilities.  In no way should a Lexile measure or a Lexile range be used to dictate what a student can and cannot read.  Students certainly can read books that are above or below their Lexile range.  However, books that are below a student’s Lexile range may offer little challenge in terms of new vocabulary and advanced grammar.  Likewise, books that are above the student’s Lexile range may be to challenging and discourage the student from reading. (emphasis added)

The idea that Lexile measures narrowly constrain readers to a limited range of books is a concern that we hear quite a bit.  But as Smith indicated above, the Lexile measure is intended as a guide, as a starting point for determining if a text is at the appropriate difficulty level for a student.  After all, students selecting books at too low a level are unlikely to be challenged or grow as readers.  On the other hand, students selecting books far too complex for their ability are likely to experience frustration and may even come to associate reading with frustration.  

For a closer look at how Lexile measures do NOT limit a reader’s choice, be sure to check out our latest video.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.