Posts Tagged ‘Parental Accountability’

College students do not know . . . fractions?

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

                                                                                                                                                                                                     So I was shocked to hear from a friend that college students in the math class her son teaches at the University of Washington do not know  . . .   fractions

Without these how could a student score high enough on the SAT math exam to get into the university?  How could an eighteen or nineteen year old not know how to convert 2/3 to a decimal?   How could these kids who probably had some part-time job be so innumerate?  Would parents not be aware and sit their teen-ager down and teach him or her basic  math skills necessary for survival? 

Parents see the C’s, D’s and F’s in math on elementary, middle and high school report cards.  Your child is failing math?  It is your responsibility is to sit down and teach your son or daughter basic math skills.  Without these, your child is doomed to struggle in school.

You can’t be a responsible, functioning adult without basic math skills. Math skills are a requisite for any number of rewarding careers.  You can’t be an architect, engineer or a financial whiz without knowing how to compute fractions, decimals and percentages.  You can’t manage a household budget or do smart comparision shopping without basic math skills.  You can’t be a good parent without these.

Parents,  invest in your child’s early years.  A third grader who knows his/her times tables and knows how to read (and hopefully enjoys reading because YOU love to read) will most likely graduate from high school.  Competent third graders become competent high school students.   Parents, it is up to you to instill a love of learning and ensure your child’s success in school.  A parent is a child’s first and primary teacher.

Image borrowed from

Does Your Attitude Towards Math Influence Your Child?

Friday, July 16th, 2010




At book fairs, some parents tell me they weren’t particularly good at math.  Some will go even further and say they hated math. Some go even further than that and say, “My daughter’s a dummie in math like me.”  What’s shocking to me is they tell me this with their child standing at their side.  STOP and think what this message conveys to your child:


·     Mom/dad wasn’t good in math so maybe I won’t be either.

·     Mom/dad wasn’t good in math and doesn’t expect me to be good in math either.

·     I’ll show up mom/dad by if I do well in math.  They won’t like it if I’m smarter.


If you say YOU hate math, be aware you are shaping your child’s attitude toward math, particularly if you’re a mom speaking to a daughter.  Your daughter loves you and seeks to be just like you.  She may pick up the false message math isn’t for girls.  Now most moms would never say, “I hate reading.  I hate books. I haven’t read a book since high school.”  Yet somehow it’s okay for parents to disparage their math skills. 


If YOU say your child is a dummie in math like you, you are setting your child up for failure.  Your child may choose not to disappoint you.  Like mother, like daughter?  Like father, like son?


My recommendation:  do not to share your negative math experience with your children but encourage them.  If you feel you must share this experience, frame it this way:


·      I had trouble with math but you won’t because you have a parent who really cares about your success in math and will help you.

·      Your teacher also cares about your success in math and will help you. 

·      You have resources I didn’t have such as fun workbooks, video tutorials, multiplication CDs and math video games.


My point is:  your negative experience should not influence your child.  Although you had a negative experience, you expect your child to have a positive experience.  You expect your child to succeed in math.  Your child will fulfill these expectations.  There are few parents who do not have the basic skills to make sure their third grader succeeds in math.   Do not project your negative experience onto your child but rather give him or her the extra help and reassurance your child needs to succeed. 


                      Image by Robert Hunt/

Education Secretary Urges California Reform Public Schools

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

This morning’s OC Register reports:  “Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged California officials to use the current economic crisis as an opportunity to reform the state’s ailing public schools.”   Duncan is worried California’s staggering budget deficit will affect the public school system which once led the nation but now ranks low in academic performance.   The Register quotes Duncan:  “Honestly, I think California has lost its way, and I think the long-term consequences of that are very troubling.”

What are these “troubling long-term consequences”?

California has a high school dropout rate of 30% which in fact may be substantially higher as reporting norms are not standard and there is pressure to under-report this number.  Also how do you define “dropout”?  Is a student who drops out but receives a GED a dropout? Federal regulations will require states implement standard norms by 2010. 

If roughly one third of our high school students drop out, California has approximately 1.2 million young people destined for nothing more than minimum-wage jobs.  These young people will occupy the bottom rung of our economy, representing $42 billion dollars of lost wages over their lifetimes.   Add to this figure, the $11 billion they will receive in welfare.  Not surprisingly, they are also more likely to have children while young and be  unwed, further perpetuating the cyle of poverty.

Starting adulthood as a high school dropout is a tremendous handicap.  78% of our prisoners are dropouts.   It is cheaper to educate than incarcerate.

Of the 70% of our high school students who do graduate, 84% are Asian, 78% are white, 60% are Hispanic and 57% are African-American.  Hispanic and African-American students are more likely to be attending inner-city schools. This graduation/achievement gap for Hispanics and African-Americans is troubling.  As Bill Gates says,  the U.S. has “one of the highest high school dropout rates in the industrialized world.  If we keep the system as it is, millions of children will never get a chance to fulfill their promise because of their zip code, their skin color or their parents’ income.  That is offensive to our values.”

How do we reverse these trends?  

Secretary of Education Duncan urges education officials to compete for more than $10 billion in the $787 billion federal stimulus package set aside for innovation in education, stating the  administration will invest in school districts and non-profit groups “willing to challenge the status quo.”

How do we challenge the status quo?

If we challenge the status quo by ensuring competency at the third grade level (all students know how to read, can add and subtract and have mastered the times tables, the building block of mathematics), we are likely to have competent high school students.  Parents and teachers have great influence on a third grader.  By high school, it may be too late. 

Schools, teachers and parents must focus on ensuring math and reading competency for third graders.  We need smaller classes,  remedial tutoring for non-native speakers and those who have fallen behind.  We also need public service announcements urging PARENTS to supplement their child’s education by reading to them and by tutoring them in basic math.  These are life skills.  Without them, a child’s future is severely compromised.

No more business as usual. Parents must see to it their children attend school, get enough sleep, turn off the television and do their homework.  We can blame schools for failing our children but we must also look to the parents and their responsibility particularly in their child’s early years.  Some children begin failing the system in the first grade!  These first years are critical.  We need intervention early on.  A penny on the dollar spent here will return enormous benefits.

Parents must challenge the status quo.

Parents must examine their attitudes toward education and their belief that their child’s education rests solely with the schools. One way to reduce the gap between white and Asian students and their Hispanic and African-American counterparts is for minority parents to encourage the study of mathematics.  High-paying jobs such as engineering require a knowledge of algebra.  Fewer than half of Hispanic and African-American students take math beyond Algebra II compared to 69% of Asians and 54% of white students.  In addition, only 33% of students from disadvantaged families take math beyond Algebra II compared with 72% of students from affluent families. Do the math.  Considering this statistic alone, children of affluent families are twice as likely to have higher paying careers.  Algebra  is now mandated for all 8th graders in California.  If we do not ensure students have basic math skills to to pass algebra, the unintended consequence will be even more high school dropouts, particularly among our minority students. 

My conclusion: we need innovation in education that challenges the status quo.  We need to challenge bureaucratic inertia in our schools.  We need funds to improve schools by reducing class size and attracting and retaining great teachers by offering competitive salaries.  We also need parental accountability, especially in the child’s elementary school years.  A parent is the child’s first and primary teacher.  All learning starts at home.

Be careful what you teach.  If you believe education holds the key to your child’s future, your child will more likely believe this as well.  Believe in your child’s potential and work hard with your child to ensure that he or she fulfills it.  We can save the world, one child at a time.