Fuzzy math and grading on effort

Michelle Malkin:

Quoted material removed. You may read the original at the link above.
Actually we did discover that with my oldest grandson, when we put him in a private school at the start of his fourth grade year. He had never been required to learn the multiplication tables. What that means is that students who stay in the public schools are going to be behind in a critical area of knowledge needed to to future math work. Perhaps they can get by if they have a calculator handy, but will they know enough to recognize an input error?

Alina Tugend, writing in the NY Times, discusses whether it is more important to be right or to have to struggle to achieve results.


“Studies with children and adults show that a large percentage cannot tolerate mistakes or setbacks,” she said. In particular, those who believe that intelligence is fixed and cannot change tend to avoid taking chances that may lead to errors.

Often parents and teachers unwittingly encourage this mind-set by praising children for being smart rather than for trying hard or struggling with the process.

For example, in a study that Professor Dweck and her researchers did with 400 fifth graders, half were randomly praised as being “really smart” for doing well on a test; the others were praised for their effort.

Then they were given two tasks to choose from: an easy one that they would learn little from but do well, or a more challenging one that might be more interesting but induce more mistakes.

The majority of those praised for being smart chose the simple task, while 90 percent of those commended for trying hard selected the more difficult one.

The difference was surprising, Professor Dweck said, especially because it came from one sentence of praise.

They were then given another test, above their grade level, on which many performed poorly. Afterward, they were asked to write anonymously about their experience to another school and report their scores. Thirty-seven percent of those who were told they were smart lied about their scores, while only 13 percent of the other group did.

“One thing I’ve learned is that kids are exquisitely attuned to the real message, and the real message is, ‘Be smart,’” Professor Dweck said. “It’s not, ‘We love it when you struggle, or when you learn and make mistakes.’”


The real problem with the effort approach comes down to results eventually. If you were going into brain surgery, would you want a doctor who would be perfect or one who tried hard? If you have a lawyer handling your case, do you want one who is quick on his feet and knows teh subject, or one that just works hard. In the latter case, you want both. that is the difference between law and medicine. Medicine deals with finite diseases and procedures, while the law deals with persuasion and findings of facts. Sometimes all the acts are not obvious. But the pest law professors still do not give points for effort, if you don't know the law. Encouraging effort without requiring the correct answer is worse for the child than making him think it is important to be smart. The key is to develop both a knowledge an efforts based approach.

BTW, when I told my four and half year old grand daughter she was smart she responded "I know it." At least we do not have to worry about her self esteem.


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