# Can YOU do this Naplan Maths Problem?

Well, teachers, parents, educators . . . can YOU solve this one?

It caused a stir in the newspapers this week. And it’s a NAPLAN maths problem, so it MUST be easy!

MUSTN’T IT?

Here goes . . .

A mop-and-bucket set costs \$1.10. The mop costs \$1 more than the bucket. How much does this bucket cost?

a) 5 cents

b) 10 cents

c) \$1

There! Simple, isn’t it?

Or is it?

According to the newspaper article, just around a quarter of the 12,000 people who tried to solve this problem got the correct answer.

That means that around 75% got it wrong! And, just a reminder, this question was on the NAPLAN test for primary-aged students.

And, as the article says, “The same question was put to a bunch of Harvard, MIT, and Princeton students and more than 50% got it wrong.”

So, if we’ve REALLY puzzled you, and you want THE correct answer (don’t be fooled, now, will you??), then you can email us at info@EdShop.net.au and we’ll send you a reply and an explanation.

We are specialists in worded maths problems for middle- and upper-primary school students, and this question even made US think a little more than usual!

But, you think you’re right, don’t you?

Well, don’t you?

Our advice . . . DON’T BE SO SURE!!

The Education Shop — Specialising in Fresh, Topical AUSSIE Maths Worded Problem Worksheets. Visit us at http://www.EdShop.net.au to check out our valuable maths stuff for students, teachers, schools and parents!

# No, Sir! It’s NOT the Teacher’s Fault!

Who to blame?

Declining standards in primary school achievement levels Maths, in English, in Spelling, in Grammar, in Punctuation, in . . .  well, you name it!

The research is in.

And, it seems, Australian students are struggling to achieve what students in other countries are achieving.

Why?

Well, maybe . . . just MAYBE . . . the “Educational Authorities” are asking far too much of teachers, while simultaneously ignoring the need of teachers for structured, sensible, PRACTICAL curricula that can actually BE implemented in classrooms around this wonderful nation.

Some of us are providing worthwhile materials that HELP students to develop the skills needed in these areas.

Others just TALK about it. And talk is cheap.

We need curriculum support materials that genuinely help teachers to help their students, without demanding time-consuming preparation.

We need Educational Leadership to actually DELIVER THE GOODS. Not theorise about it, leaving teachers to “close the gaps.”

Our Worksheets are a great example of stuff that actually WORKS in the classroom.

To the benefit of all — students, teachers and schools. Thousands are now using them. To great effect.

Give them a go!

# Technology in the classroom: Does it REALLY help, or hinder?

We’re in a bind in education.

We seem to have classrooms increasingly being filled with technological wonders.

And that’s good!

But we also seem to have classrooms in which the students are megabytes ahead of the teachers who are trying to teach them in the area of technology.

Not good enough!

Teachers need the training, the professional development, that will AT THE VERY LEAST give them a fighting chance of understanding what their students are doing on their laptops and tablets (the electronic ones, I mean!).

The old saying that a tradesman is only as good as his tools is only partly true when translated to the classroom situation. We seem to have developed a scenario in which the tools are pretty-well available, but the expertise to manage them and use them to maximum effect in a positive way has eluded us.

Perhaps it’s time for industry to step in and become an active partner in our education system by offering to train our valuable classroom teachers in the technology of today.

After all, it’s the students of TODAY that will be the business professionals of TOMORROW.

# Average in Maths Can Be Goodo

Well, well, well.

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

This Letter to the Editor in Melbourne’s Age Newspaper (6/1/15) shows how statistics — even as they relate to the heady world of schools and educators and education — can be misused — even abused!

And if our students aren’t being taught how to use maths correctly by our “educational leaders”, politicians, Principals, etc., and how to interpret data in a sensible, thoughtful, wise way, (being always aware, of course, of the many ways available to ‘skew the data’), then heaven help our generations of tomorrow, mathematically speaking!

My thanks go to Mary O’Callaghan, of Ashburton, for this thoughtful and perceptive view of the way in which stats are being abused by many in our school communities.

What a tragedy!

Here’s the letter:

“Don’t be sucked in

The billboards appeared at most elite  schools the day after the VCE (Year 12) results came out. Writ large are percentages of ATAR scores and individual subject scores. The statistics are a marketing tool that would shame any respectable maths department.

We aren’t told how many were streamed out or shipped in with scholarships. Was extra support given to the high performers?  And what is the  message the billboards are giving? Are schools claiming full credit for the results? Enticing gullible parents  with “we can do this for your child. Just pay us a small fortune”?  Do the parents believe it?

Average is good.  After all, it is what most of us are.  Let us celebrate excellence in effort, not just results.  Parents, ask your school to show how it can benefit your child, your average performer.  Ask it to demonstrate how it values excellent effort and citizenship.  Maximise your hard-earned dollars for your child’s benefit, not the school’s academic profile.

In their marketing war, schools appear to be marginalising the students and parents who are responsible for their very existence, the majority.  If this is not the case then let us hear it loud and clear.  Let the billboards proclaim the school’s value-base in educating our precious children.

Mary O’Callaghan, Ashburton”

# Teachers, Petrol and Maths

Petrol prices go up. We whinge and moan.

Petrol prices go down (as at present!). We whinge and moan.

What gives?

Sure, the petrol price fluctuations occur for different reasons.

Cause and effect, maybe. Or supply and demand, maybe. Or greed, maybe.

But the price? Well, how do we decide whether it’s justified, or not?

Should we rush to the media, savaging the petroleum industry for its price rises as each long weekend approaches?

Or should we rush to the media, having been made suddenly aware that the world’s petroleum industry is falling through the floor, as may very well the world’s economy?

How do we respond and decide whether there’s real trouble afoot?

Maths, maths, maths.

Not just doing sums, but actually understanding that the sums are put together from some sort of understanding of the context in which figures can be interpreted.

And that takes teaching. That takes training. That takes “maths comprehension”.

That takes Education, with a capital E. And it takes genuine LEARNING.

Teachers have a huge job. Maybe a little less “how to wipe your nose”, and a little more gutsy maths interpretation stuff would be a great thing.

Does today’s school curriculum deliver on those grounds? At your school? In your country?

Well? What’s your take on it all?

# Christmas for Teachers — What NOT to give, and What TO give!

Teachers don’t need a huge, long novel, for starters. Concentration levels of teachers at this time of year are shot!
And, among the list of stuff that teachers accept with a smile, but privately “lose” very quickly, are the following, according to our not-so-detailed research:
scented candles
hand-made jewellery constructed enthusiastically by children
garden gnomes
coffee mugs

BUT, to close, what’s the one TRUE gift for which a teacher longs?

The gift that keeps on giving?

The gift that somehow makes it all worthwhile?

Yes, it’s that hand-written card, usually written by a parent, expressing their genuine gratitude for all your efforts with their child.

No amount of money can buy that!

So, at this time of year, look at the cards you received.

And be willing to accept the compliments that have come your way.

You deserve them!

# Revealed at Last . . . Money matters more than good teachers!

Yes, this morning’s Age contains the proof of a long-suspected malaise.

Our Premier yesterday announced the upgrading in various ways of three schools in suburban Melbourne, at a total cost of more than \$10 million. Nice work if you can get it!

Juxtapose that story against a “Letter to the Editor” in that very same paper. It tells the very sad story of a young teacher who graduated in 2013. Not just your average graduate teacher. Rather, one who received “eight high distinctions, and exemplary comments from her teaching rounds”. Yet, this young teacher has received not even a single interview for a teaching position at any school whatsoever. And a similar situation pertains for many of her teacher graduate peers. This is tragic.

But, back to the top. Yes, the millions of dollars spent on the three schools in question will, doubtless, result in spick and span shining premises and equipment. And won’t those electronic interactive whiteboards and state-of-the-art data projectors look impressive!

But, will any of the teaching staff be able to actually USE them? Will anyone know how to wire them up, or to track down the technical problems causing them to “freeze” during a presentation?

Could it be that there would be considerable merit in spending money on PEOPLE rather than THINGS? People — teachers — young teachers — enthusiastic about their chosen profession, eager to make a positive contribution to students who would relish such support.

As we’ve said before, it’s not more money that’s needed. It’s the way the present bucket-full of funding is being spent that’s the problem.

And it’s not too late to do something about it.

Is it? Do you agree?

# Are our students REALLY that bad?

In his regular (excellent) column in The Age on Saturday, 19th April, veteran advertising guru Harold Mitchell made the following incisive comments:

“Australian high school students are now up to three years behind Asian students in maths, despite increased funding.

“25 per cent of year 9 students cannot read well enough for further learning.

“25 per cent of young people have mental health issues.

“Unemployment for young people is 21 per cent in some areas.

“(Australia) can’t win with figures like that.”

Money, it seems, is not the answer. There has been heaps of money thrown into the education pot over decades. But for what?

Harold Mitchell makes the point that “David Gonski had all the answers in his Gonski report on education …, but we’re not paying attention to him.”

Whether or not you agree with Gonski and his recommendations, there’s one thing we can ALL agree on, and that’s the importance of learning the basics, the fundamentals. Doing so makes progress — personal and national — possible. Without those fundamentals, we’ve had it!

In the same week, an article in the Herald Sun under the heading “Teacher Training the Top Priority” had the following intro paras . . . “Aspiring teachers face beefed-up training to raise the performance of Australian schoolchildren. Explicit training in the teaching of literacy and numeracy has been flagged for consideration.”

Has it REALLY come to this? Do we, ‘The Lucky Country’, have to eat humble pie, and actually ADMIT that our educational standards aren’t what they should be? I think so!

It’s hard to believe that a country with so much going for it, so many very clever and influential professionals working in the education space, simply aren’t “delivering the goods”.

Well, perhaps that’s unfair. Gonski certainly made a valuable contribution. But it seems that politicians have stepped in.

Now we have an enquiry or two. Doubtless that will set us back yet again.

And yet — teachers everywhere know what needs to be done. They’re just not allowed to do it!

When I was at school (in the late 1940s, no less), we chanted tables every morning for10 minutes. 10 minutes. Every morning, no less. AND we had to learn spelling words, and grammar. AND we had our Grade 5 Reader, packed full with worthwhile literature, classics. No full-colour, highly-attractive illustrations for us — just boring print. AND we had mental arithmetic. And we had to learn to calculate in pounds, shillings and pence — none of that decimal currency convenience for us!. But most of us — the vast majority — learnt to read, write and calculate quickly and accurately.

What’s gone wrong?

Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Or is it?

We’re all part of the problem. And we CAN be part of the solution.

Those of us who are teachers are in a prime position to influence those decision-makers to start making RIGHT decisions for a change.

Decisions that will HELP TEACHERS TEACH.

Decisions that will have a positive effect of lifting educational standards in this country, not in 10 years, not in 5 years, but within a year or two.

It’s becoming increasingly urgent.

To ignore the signs is to ignore the potentially horrific consequences.

Let’s do it! Now!