Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, October 17, 2011

Doing it by the numbers

Welcome to the ExcelMathMike blog, where I write about using elementary math in daily life. My "real job" is managing the elementary school math curriculum we publish, which is called (surprise!) Excel Math. I comment on the omnipresence of numbers and math concepts around us.

This post is slightly different today, as I describe the numbers involved in my job, not my real life.  I got a letter from a visitor to our Excel Math website. She posed a fascinating and very reasonable question:

QUESTION: I used Excel Math 10 years ago and it had 175 lessons per year. We are looking at Excel Math again, and wondered - what was cut out to bring it down to 155 lessons?

Sheesh. You have to remember that to a teacher, Cutting Stuff Out is not always a good thing. Especially when it comes to books.

Could this be a "when did you stop beating your wife?" sort of question?

I wasn't sure, but reasoning that the facts (numbers) were my best defense, I responded like this:

ANSWER: You are getting a similar amount of material, assembled in a different way:

  • All of the Excel Math grades have 155 lessons for 31 weeks of instruction
  • We don't provide homework on Fridays, so we created longer, in-depth lessons on Fridays, occupying the Homework space
  • Grades 2-6 have 30 tests which formerly appeared on the back of Lesson Sheets but they are now on their own pages
  • On the back of 24 tests are "Create A Problems"  which assess students' higher-level thinking and reasoning skills; they delve into concepts not easily managed in regular lessons
  • We provide 12-24 activities or exercises, introducing kids to measuring, reasoning, graphing, research projects, and so on.
ANSWER: We've added handy features, such as:
  • Glossaries of Math Terms cross-referenced to the lessons in which a word is introduced
  • Test Question Concept Tables indicate on which lesson we taught a concept, so you can support students who didn't master that part of the curriculum content
  • Projectable Lessons so you can put a lesson up on a screen while you present it to the class
ANSWER: There are other changes:
  • We simplified some of the layout of the pages
  • We put the answers in different type fonts, so they are easier for the teacher to read
  • We "show the work" so teachers can instruct without having to do calculations themselves
  • We gave the students a bit more room to write their answers
  • We reduced the amount of space used for practicing basic math facts
  • We reduced the number of problems teachers were expected to read aloud to the class
  • We put in all the modern quarters, nickels, other coins and paper currency
  • We tightened up the writing in the Lesson Plans and instructional material
  • We improved our description of and teaching of probability
  • We adjusted our subject matter content to meet state standards
  • We adjusted our "social content" and "political correctness"
ANSWER: I counted on our master spreadsheet for the last grade we updated:
  • we removed 44 lessons, all repeats on previously-taught subjects
  • we added 21 lessons, mostly new topics and/or repeats on other difficult subjects
  • we added 36 bonus exercises and activities
  • we provided about 7500 total problems (in Lessons, Guided Practice, Homework and Tests)
Click to enlarge

"And so Your Honor, I think the numbers will show that I never actually started beating my wife..."