Emphasizing Concepts vs. Procedures in Math: Student Achievement and Social Justice
Over the past few decades, teachers in the United States have faced increasing pressure to boost American students’ mathematics achievement. Comparisons with other countries have revealed that American students lag behind in math achievement, especially when compared to student performance in Japan and Singapore. Thus, American education leaders and policymakers have prioritized mathematics achievement in part to secure America as a globally competitive and innovative nation (Yu 82).
In their paper, “Teacher support, instructional practices, student motivation, and mathematics achievement in high school,” authors Rongrong Yu and Kusum Singh explain that for the past 20 years, mathematics educators and administrators have been engaged in “mathematics wars,” heated debates that have pitted those who favor procedural teaching against those who favor conceptual teaching (81).
Previous studies have shown that students in high-achieving countries like Japan and Singapore “spend more time on inventing, analyzing, and proving, with less time on routine procedures, but U.S. students spend almost all their time on routine procedures” (83).
Supporting Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
The middle school years are notorious for student behavior challenges and bullying. Even emotionally strong students may find the social world of middle school difficult to manage. It is no surprise then that the middle school years are particularly difficult for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. In their article, “An Examination of School Climate, Victimization, and Mental Health Problems Among Middle School Students Self-Identifying With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders,” authors Tamika La Salle et al. explain that students with disabilities have statistically evident negative experiences in middle school. They constitute 12% of public-school students but are suspended at twice the rate of students without Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). They are also the victims of bullying more often than students without disabilities: “more than half of SWD [students with disabilities] experience peer victimization, in comparison with approximately 32% of students without disabilities” (383).
When it comes to speaking in front of the class, some students shine and others find the experience dreadful. For authors Craig O. Stewart et al., the level of comfort that students have with public speaking is not simply a matter of preparation and student demeanor. Rather it is largely a matter of whether students perceive public speaking as a skill that can be developed or a “gift” that students either have or don’t have.
They’re Being Bullied. But Are They Telling You About It?
Look out at the students in your classroom. Do you know for certain which students are being bullied? Having to deal with bullying is an unfortunate reality for many students. Today, students not only have to face the possibility of being bullied in person (traditional bullying), but also being bullied online (cyberbullying). Yet, authors Ylva Bjereld et al. note that parents and teachers are significant counter-forces to bullying. Not only do teachers and parents help victims cope with bullying, but they can help prevent future incidents and end current behaviors as well (347). Indeed, Bjereld et al. explain that when children communicate their experiences as victims of bullying to adults, especially parents, they are better able to manage the bullying and have fewer negative mental health effects, such as depression (347).
Building Peer Support and Friendships for Autistic Students in General Education Classes
Over the past 15 years, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have spent increasing amounts of time in general education classrooms. Authors Erik W. Carter et al. explain that between 2001-2012, students with ASD “who spent more than 40% of their school day in general education classrooms increased from 39.6% to 57.6%” (207). Although ASD students are exposed to general ed content alongside their school peers, the general ed environment is socially challenging. Previous studies have documented that students with ASD “have few peer interactions in general education classrooms, spend limited time in close proximity to classmates, and infrequently participate in collaborative work with peers” (207). This relative isolation can be attributed to both the students’ social challenges, as well as instructional formats that limit the number of opportunities ASD students (and students in general) have to interact with peers (208).