Just Do The Math!
Ellen Bialo, President and CEO of Interactive Educational Systems Design (IESD), on the state-of-play of math education—it’s not as dire as people may think.
Don’t call it learning loss. Let’s say learning recovery. That sentiment is just one of the many provocative insights Ellen brings forth in this recent conversation (9:13 min) regarding her most current work after joining MIND Research Institute’s board of directors in March. As President and CEO of IESD, she devotes much of her time to the management, implementation, and analysis of education market research. In her career, she has also served the education publishing community as chair of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) Education Section board of directors, an advisor to the National Science Foundation, and a member of the School Tech Exposition & Conference advisory board. Her thoughts are important fodder for anyone looking at the future of software-based curricula. Have a listen.
A few highlights to wet your whistle:
On how COVID may have affected math instruction:
“I don't know that the content of math education has changed because of remote learning, but certainly, approaches have changed and I think one of the things that MIND does works in that environment. They have a product called ST Math, which stands for spatial-temporal, in reference to an ability for kids to conceptualize three-dimensional relationships of objects in space. They then have to mentally manipulate those objects as they go through a bunch of transformations. These games are pretty remarkable to me. And I'm not saying that just because I'm on the Board.”
On how visual math learning can improve the digital equity issue:
“There are online tutoring operations but they cost money. And the people, the kids who are most affected? Their parents can't afford to do it. One of the things about a visual approach to math is that it doesn't involve language. So when you talk about equity and you talk about English Language Learners (ELL), for example, regardless of what somebody's language proficiency level is, if they have the ability to work with math on the visual level they don't need language. So that's not going to hold them back.”
On the idea of math learning loss:
“As I said there is learning loss, but I'm convinced that kids were still learning while they were out of school and rather than thinking of it as a loss— I hate that word—I think about learning recovery and different kids will have to recover in different ways. I think providing parents with tools to help their kids is going to be key. And I see a number of companies not only thinking about that but have already developed tools because there's no way the schools are going to be able to do it all on their own.”
And finally, the big picture:
“Math should be seen as much of a core skill as literacy. As we learn to read, we need to learn to do math and get rid of that old idea of ‘Well, you know, my mother wasn't good at math, so I'm not good at it either.’ It's not something that's genetic. It's something that everybody can succeed at. And I just want to see people go into it with a much more positive attitude.”