How to make your kid hate math, writing and PE all at the same time
As more and more states fall prey to the veiled bribery of Race To The Top (RTTT), the required implementation of teacher-evaluation-based-on-student-test-scores is already displaying the dangerous symptoms the critics of corporate reform have been warning about. According to a maddening article in the New York Times yesterday—yet another that wastes no time in blaming teachers for the achievement gap (and please, someone needs to smack some sense into Nicholas Kristof)—revision of curriculum is frantic in at least a dozen states.
The Times quickly pointed my attention to the effort taking place at Bearden High School in Knoxville, Tenn., where “physical education teachers are scrambling to incorporate math and writing into activities, since 50 percent of their evaluations will be based on standardized tests, not basketball victories.”
As someone with a degree in Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, I balked at this development. Of course I had to Tweet about about it, and the absurdity kept me up much of the night, an insomnia further fueled by some of the interesting responses to my 140-character scoff. Among them, some ideas to incorporate math:
How many feet are in 2 football fields? Inches? Centimeters? A basketball court? Tennis court? Perimeter of each?
How long does it take to run around the perimeter of a football field if running
How many basketballs would it take, if placed side by side, to fill a basketball court? Tennis balls on tennis court?
Measure each other, then:how high must you jump to touch rim? How high *can* you jump? What’s difference?
some crosscurric is good. Don’t spend all pe time on math but 5-10 min out of an hour not bad idea
This is to say nothing of the writing which should also be incorporated. Perhaps an essay about whether a tennis ball makes any noise when it bounces if nobody is around to see it bounce? Ah, but that is getting into philosophy and there’s no time for that!
One of the more sun-shiney responders (who offered several of the above suggestions) offered this as well:
Racers have to figure out minutes/mile (pace) while training,pace changes on type of run.
To specific and serious athletes, yes, important to success. But to the average kid in PE class? Hmmmm. I asked him if he had any ideas for third grade MathPE problems. His response?
Sure. How many jumping jacks do they do in a minute if they do one every 2 seconds while warming up?
Critical to success, indeed!
The way I see it, that last problem—or “word sentence,” as Pearson would like us all to know it—is a math problem for a math class. Albeit, one for a creative math teacher whose kids might get up out of their seats to test whether it really does take one minute to do 30 jumping jacks (more if you’re overweight like more than 1/3 of American kids, less if you’re wealthy and your parents can afford after school tennis lessons. Oooh! Do I sense a follow-up math problem to the original problem?). Of course, a third grade teacher might risk being written up for having her students deviate from the all-important worksheet. No jumping jacks in class! Stay in your seats with eyes on the board and quiet hands!
Look, my 6-year old has PE one time each week for a total of 30 minutes. That is one time, for 30 minutes, including the to-and-from-the-classroom time. Every Tuesday at 2:15-ish—after a day of sitting at her desk, then on the carpet, then at her desk, then on the carpet, then back at the desk, then back to the carpet doing math and literacy, math and literacy, math and literacy (not to mention the pathetic district-designed art “class” taught every 6-ish weeks); and after one 15-minute recess at 11:15 ish, and a 30 minute combined lunch and recess, during which my baby usually has to choose between eating or play, since there isn’t enough time for her to do both—she lines up with the other 23 children in her class (slated to be 31 next year) and heads out to PE where she has a smidgen of time to get her pent up ya-yas out. That is her time to exercise her body, the time when running is actually permitted on the playground (for reals).
Where—I respectfully ask certain excessively-upbeat and positive people who think the incorporation of math and writing into PE is an awesome idea—she should do additional math and literacy? Moreover, why? And who does that serve?
We have a very big problem with childhood obesity in this country. And when a child participates in any form of exercise only once a week like many American school children, it can be very hard and not terrifically enjoyable; it can be interpreted as punishment, and is sometimes used as such. Toss in some extra math problems (“gym teacher recently spread playing cards around and had students run to find three that added to 14″) and once more, we are setting our kids up for failure. With rare exposure to (fun) exercise, children tend to develop negative attitudes toward fitness, pervasive and difficult-to-change negative attitudes that have direct impact on their current and future health, both physically and emotionally.
Cross-curriculum teaching can be a good thing. Teaching the whole child is a good thing. But this isn’t about cross-curriculum teaching. And we are a long-ass way away from teaching the whole child, moving ever further from such an ideal. None of this is even about what is best for kids, and advocates of math and writing in PE need to stop pretending that it is.
Like most of what is happening in education right now, this is about power, politics, and money. The kids are simply the collateral damage.