## Building a Bridge

I am tired of teachers playing the blame game. I admit that I have done this in the past. I am ashamed that I did and I am trying to reform. If you teach math, you are familiar with the blame game. For example, I teach Algebra II and some of my students can not solve a two step equation if their life depended on it. I’m sure the Algebra I teacher is to blame. If the student would have had me for Algebra I they would be master equation solvers. NOT TRUE!

I know the Algebra I teachers personally and I know that they cover their standards in a relevant and rigorous manner. So what’s the problem. I’m not sure, but I can tell you after having my own child, I think I might be the problem (as a parent). My son enters the 4th grade in three weeks and he does not know his multiplication facts. I know his 3rd grade teacher taught them and I know he took timed tests but asking him 4 x 8 yields the same response as “What is the air speed of an African Swallow?” I even did flash cards during the school year! The solution is for me as a mom to sit down with him this summer and reteach him the math facts. We will play multiplication games and every car trip will involve multiplication drill. We have a daily math fact taped on his wall. Most students don’t have the curse benefit of having a math teacher for a mom.

I met with the math department chair for our feeder middle school and it was amazing. Guess what, they are teaching the standards. They are covering the material in a relevant and rigorous manner. So what’s the problem? The elementary school teachers? I think not. We need to stop playing the blame game and start with the students at the level they arrive to us. I can’t solve the student readiness problem, but I can build a bridge. I felt that my meeting today did that. A bridge has been built between our high school math department and the middle school. The 9th grade teacher who has a 25% failure rate can no longer blame the middle school teachers just as the 6th grade teacher can’t blame the elementary teachers.

I do have one suggestion for solving this problem: SBG. It changed my classroom. I went from a 25% failure rate to 4%.

I’m with you, you can’t blame previous teachers for a student’s lack of skill or knowledge. Nor can you blame the student, or the teacher. At least, you can’t blame any one person (or group) solely. I think the blame lies a little bit in each one. And, perhaps, the blame lies in each student’s natural tendencies.

I’ve got a whole essay of thought on this matter, and I also agree that SBG looks like a bit chunk of the solution. (My nerdy muscles being flexed here). I’m wondering “why”, why does SBG make such a big difference? Is it the perspective SBG gives to the teachers? to the students? Is it the basic assumptions SBG makes?

Good thoughts, good questions. Thanks!

Thanks for this post. I wouldn’t really blame you though either. I’d primarily say it’s a systems problem both in how math classes are sequenced/segregated and how schools are setup to move kids based on time vs. learning. There are some interesting attempts to fix this, like in Chugach or Adams50 but I can’t pretend to have a good answer for that.

BTW, us middle school teachers appreciate not being blamed by a high school teacher. And yes, we’re also guilty of blaming the elems too.