Monday, June 18, 2007

Large Classes

I was talking with my "math specialist" friend the other day, and she mentioned that she went to the NCSM meeting in Atlanta and heard something interesting. One gentleman was doing preliminary work on class size and found that some higher performing schools had up to 40 students per math class. Can you imagine? And, they seemed to do better by whatever scale they measured these things by.

His theory was that with 40 students in a class, the teacher does not have the time/resources to help each kid individually, so the kids are forced to fend for themselves and help each other out, and the process of this involves them talking math to each other and forming their own knowledge and this in turn makes them retain things better.

Either that, or maybe it's a sink or swim situation. Maybe the kids that are discipline problems or such somehow are weeded out. I don't know. But the talking it out theory gives me something to think about even though I don't have THAT many students in class.


  1. I've felt the same way about days when I have to miss a day of class for a workshop or other absence. When the kids have to fend for themselves, sometimes they come out of it better than if I were there. Obviously, the material has to be so that it isn't really difficult or something completely new to them, but it works in the same way.

    But there are still the kids that struggle, and our average class sizes of 37 at my school do the kids no favors other than to save their parents $$$ in taxes.

  2. Anonymous10:54 AM

    Holy Cow. I shudder to think of having 37 or so students in class. I guess one year I did have 38, but that was once in one class in 4 years.

    But, you're right, I have to think of more structured ways to get the students to talk out the math instead of me just jumping in and helping them. But I vacillate between "ignoring" their "but you're the teacher, you're supposed to help us" comments and doling out help.

    Ms. Cookie