Thinking Citizen Blog — Friday is Education and Education Policy Day
Today’s Topic — Bob Moses (1935- 2021) — The Five Step Method
Thank you to Vali Tamm for bringing the work of Bob Moses to my attention. Moses was both a civil rights leader and a math education crusader. “I believe that the absence of math literacy in urban and rural communities throughout this country is an issue as urgent as the lack of registered Black voters in Mississippi was in 1961,” he wrote in 2001 in his book “Radical Equations.” Unfortunately, I do not think that the situation has improved much in the 20 years since. What is to be done? Is Khan Academy key? Or the best-of-breed charter schools like KIPP, Achievement First, and Success Academy? What are the principal obstacles in the way? Today, a few notes on Bob Moses and his Five Step Method. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
FROM HARLEM TO HARVARD TO MISSISSIPPI TO THE ALGEBRA PROJECT
1. Raised in a public housing project in Harlem, he attended Stuyvesant High School, an elite NYC public school specializing in math and science. He majored in philosophy and French at Hamilton College and earned a masters degree in philosophy from Harvard in 1957 and then taught math at Horace Mann School, a private school in the Bronx.
2. A 1960s civil rights leader he co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (along with Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker) in 1964. “Arrested and jailed many times, Mr. Moses developed a reputation for extraordinary calm in the face of horrific violence.” (NYT obit, second link below). Drafted in 1966, he left the country and spent a decade in Tanzania until President Carter offered amnesty for draft resisters. (see first link below)
3. Appalled at the low quality of the math instruction received by his daughter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he began teaching math there and in 1982 received a MacArthur grant to develop the Algebra Project to improve the quality of algebra teaching across the country. The initiative is now focused on the south and “reaches approximately 10,000 students and approximately 300 teachers in 28 locations in 10 states.” (third link below)
THE FIVE STEP PROGRAM — Steps 1 to 3
1. Physical event — “Student participate in a common physical activity and build an objective-related event.” Example: measuring a wingspan.
2. Pictorial representation — “Students draw a picture or express the experience based on step one.”
3. “People Talk” — “Students discuss and write down what happened during Step 1 in their own words, including everyday and native languages.”
THE FIVE STEP PROGRAM — Steps 4 and 5
4. “Feature talk” — “students discuss and write about the experience in formal (academic) language or mathematical language.”
5. “Symbolic representation” — “students build and use symbols to express what they found from the experience in the previous steps.”
To me the essence of the five step approach is the idea of attacking math simultaneously from tactile, visual, and verbal as well as numerical angles. Two thumbs up!
A LINK TO THE LAST THREE YEARS OF POSTS ORGANIZED BY THEME:
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to education or education policy. Or the coolest thought however half-baked you had. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to education or education policy that the rest of us may have missed. Or just some random education-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something that is dear to your heart.