# MPS flunks math

Unfortunately, this news does not surprise anyone.

The sample of fourth grade students in Milwaukee who scored at or above what NAEP considers “proficient” in math was 15% this year, far less than the 29% of students in the nation’s large cities (with a population of at least 250,000) who met or exceeded math proficiency on the test.

At the same grade level, 59% of Milwaukee students scored at or above what NAEP considers “basic” in math proficiency. In the nation’s large cities, 72% of students scored at or above basic on the math assessment.

In eighth grade math, the MPS students whose scores were included in the Trial Urban District Assessment faced even more challenges.

Out of the 18 districts that participated in the urban district assessment, Milwaukee had the second-highest percentage of eighth grade students scoring “below basic” in math proficiency: 63%. Only Detroit had more students scoring below basic in math: 77%.

The percentage of eighth grade students in Milwaukee who performed at or above the NAEP “proficient” level was a mere 7% in 2009, compared with 24% of students in large cities who scored at or above proficient on the math assessment.

MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos said in an interview that there is some “good news” but also some “really bad news” for Milwaukee in the urban district assessment results.

In case you’re wondering if you’re smarter than a fifth grader, the answer is “yes” if the fifth grader is from MPS. The test scores show that many of the eigth graders are not proficient enough at math to understand the newspaper article describing how MPS is failing them.

The good news is that MPS students can beat the kids from Detroit. Let’s go overturn a few cars and burn them to celebrate.

Perhaps the tests just weren’t socially relevant enough for the kids to understand the questions. I bet MPS kids could understand this question:

“If Johnny has six free condoms from the school nurse, and the school nurse is only supposed to hand out two condoms per lecture, how many times did Johnny make his 14-year-old girlfriend sit through a lecture from the school nurse?”

Unfortunately, the math scores show that MPS students are unlikely to understand such things as “condom failure rates.” Maybe the next time the little kiddies wander into the school nurse looking for condoms, the nurse could prescribe a cold shower and give them some math homework instead.

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National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids.

Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out.

The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting.

Project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun. They have a reason to learn the math they may have ignored in the standard lecture format of a class room.

Alan Cook

info@thenumberyard.com

http://www.thenumberyard.com

“The missing element is reality….. we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting. Project-oriented math engages kids. It is fun.”

Hey, Dick and Jane “How does 1 boy + 1 girl = 3???