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Issue 8 , November 2011

All Children Counting

Staying in school and learning math and science are fundamental steps toward excelling in life. Math and science help children use logic and become independent thinkers. Children who learn to think for themselves can solve real-world problems. They will be mentally fit for tomorrow’s world. Yet, the results of the 2009 test of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that Latin American students are running behind their peers in the most developed countries in both math and science. Things are improving, but not fast enough. If the growth rates of the past decade are maintained, it will take Latin America 21 years to achieve the OECD’s average PISA score in math, and 42 years in science.

To mark the World Science Day 2011, the Bank invites educators and policy makers throughout the region to join in promoting inquiry-based approaches for math and science that focus on conceptual understanding rather than rote memorization, on hands-on experiments rather than copying problems from the backboard, and on independent thinking rather than repetition of procedures. In this newsletter we present evidence-based numeracy approaches piloted by education ministries in several countries with support from the IDB.

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Can four-year-olds do algebra, arithmetic, and geometry?

That four- and five-year-olds can learn algebra, arithmetic and geometry may seem hard to believe. But a groundbreaking project that we are implementing in the Paraguayan province of Cordillera with the Japanese and Paraguayan governments, may clear up your doubts. With “Tikichuela, mathematics in my school!” about 4,000 school children in Cordillera are learning the pre-math skills using objects of different shapes and colors to understand, even without knowing yet, how algebra, arithmetic and geometry work. They use, for instance, sticks to figure out that the number six is two times longer than the number three. Eventually, they will learn that in arithmetic this is expressed as 3x2=6.

Thanks to Tikichuela, preschool children also develop long-term attitudes towards math and get an early training that will be essential for their success in school.

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Peruvian teachers do away with the memorization of science theory

An innovative science and environment pilot coaches Peruvian children to develop skills in solving scientific problems through challenges that capture their interest and stimulate their imagination.

Results from the first year of the pilot, which we implemented in partnership with Peru’s Ministry of Education and LEGO Education, already reflected on children’s test scores. In the module on the physical world, for example, we saw an almost 8% increase in test scores of third graders who benefitted from the new teaching approach compared with those who were taught using the traditional approach.

Learn more about the program in our Photo Journal.

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Educating Human Beings in the 21st Century

Our brains evolved in the African savannah while outdoors, moving in small groups, learning skills through play and mentorship. Today students are indoors, sitting still in large groups, and acquire knowledge through drudgery and repetition. Isn’t it time to adapt our classes so they look more like the African savannah and less like a factory?

Professor Michael Geisen, awarded as National Teacher of the Year in 2008 in the United States, collaborated with us by writing a provocative article that urges educators to bring creativity into the classroom and change their educational approach. Why should teachers do this? To make the most of their student’s different capabilities and explore other facets of their intelligence, so they will be prepared for the 21st century.

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Can children play their way through math?

What if children’s natural proclivity to play is not a distraction but an ally in math learning? That is the idea behind Mathematics for All (MAT), an innovative model for teaching math that uses games to help kids develop their mathematical skills.

In partnership with Argentina’s Ministry of Education, we tried the model out with approximately 9,000 fourth-grade students in more than 300 schools in the provinces of Tucumán and Buenos Aires.

The results were very promising, especially among students with the lowest initial test scores. Now, with our help, the country is bringing the program to a national scale.

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What is actually going on inside Latin American Math classrooms?

Do teachers in higher performing countries teach Math differently from those in lower performing countries? To explore this question, we went inside Math classrooms in three countries, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic and the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, and filmed the sixth-grade samples from a regional comparative test called SERCE, from UNESCO.

To produce quantitative indicators on teaching practices we used a methodology that successfully had explained test score differences between Japan, the United States and Germany, complementing it with graphic maps of pedagogical flows. Based on initial and partial results from our analysis, this note highlights some of the Math teaching practices that appear to be most effective.

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Briefly Noted Series


Inside the Math Classroom: What Makes a Teacher Effective?

by Emma Näslund-Hadley

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Less Talk, More Play: Bolstering Math Learning in Argentina

by Emma Näslund-Hadley

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-Games, a learning mechanism for children (in Spanish). El Tiempo, October 19, 2011.

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- IDB includes more than 100 public schools in Lima to LEGO-BID pilot (in Spanish). UGE Perú, September 19, 2011.

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Share your comments and suggestions at education@iadb.org

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank, its Board of Directors, or the countries they represent. // The unauthorized commercial use of Bank documents is prohibited and may be punishable under the Bank’s policies and/or applicable laws. // Copyright © 2015 Inter-American Development Bank. All rights reserved; may be freely reproduced for any non-commercial purpose.