Strands of Standards is an Anti-Pattern

Tom Hoffman, The Teaching Tom Tom, Feb 03, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Although Liping Ma's article is a critique of the reorganization of mathematics instruction, it offers lessons applicable to the redefinition of learning into the acquisition of competencies in general. Tom Hoffman summarizes it nicely: "Ma's argument is that American elementary school mathematics was profoundly but nearly imperceptibly transformed by the switch from what she calls a 'core-subject model' to a 'strand' model. The difference to Ma is that a 'core-subject' ' a collection of skills or a self-contained subject with principles similar to those of the discipline of mathematics." Now a strand isn't the same as a competency, but the problem is the same. "Once you see an academic subject as a bags of stuff, you're not going to be able to resist trying to solve every problem by changing around the stuff in the bags, and there is a very strong tendency to do that willy-nilly." Or as I would say it: you've taken one problem - teaching the nature and theory of mathematics - and replaced it with ten problems - teaching the nature and theory of each of the strands.

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