Are You Smarter than a 5th Grade Textbook?


Image by JodiWilcome via Flickr

People who write textbooks seem to specialize in complicating simple things.

Tonight, I spent an hour helping my 5th grader with her math problems.   While she worked on those nasty 3-digit multiplication problems, I browsed through her textbook,  growing more annoyed by the minute.   Now, math is not really my thing.  But language is.  And the overblown, unnecessary language of the textbook world drives me crazy.

OK,  imagine that I’m 10 years old.  I am working hard to  understand the process of long division, multi-step multiplication, and those dreaded word problems.  I look to the book for help.  It tells me, first, that I need to understand the problem.  Uh, hello, that’s the whole point — I don’t understand it.

Then it says I have to analyze the data.  Which part is the data?  What does analyzing it  involve?

Next I plan the strategy.   What do you mean, strategy?

After I muddle through my strategy, voila, I solve the problem.  Because the first 3 steps helped me do that.

And after all that hard work, I evaluate the result. I’m 10.  I don’t know exactly what evaluate means, and I’m not sure that I actually have a  result  anyway.

By now, I have forgotten why I’m thinking about this  in the first place.  And I feel like maybe I accidentally dropped in on my vocabulary class.

So what’s the problem here?    Why do we care more about objectives and standards vocabulary than about communicating a real skill?

Then again, I guess it’s really important for kids to understand educational jargon.  We do want them to pass those end of grade tests, after all.


2 thoughts on “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grade Textbook?

  1. Impressive article! Yes, the EOG tests that are not nationally normed are quite important to real life skills aren’t they…

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