One of the common complaints I hear is that of "not being able to fire bad teachers." It comes only slightly more often than "Teachers make too much money" and "Why are there so many bad teachers?" What we have here is a difficulty of evaluating teachers by administration, but I figure it's more than that.

It's that evaluation is a bitch, and it's not just teachers. It's everyone and everywhere.

When you complain that teachers make too much money, you are subconsciously saying that it's too much money for someone that bad, meshing the top-of-the-scale salary with the bottom-of-the-scale ability and assuming that it's the same person (it rarely is).

The anti-collective bargaining group wants to be able to pay the superstars at a superstar rate and pay the slugs with a pink slip.

The problem is, of course, figuring out who is who.

Years ago, I had a terrible dentist. He drilled holes everywhere and messed up my teeth pretty badly. There was no way to find out if he was bad or not before I sat in the chair. My current dentist insists that the teeth that are deteriorating under the old dental work would have done so anyway but it's stunning how well the tooth right next to it is doing under his work. Thankfully I have dental insurance and I'm getting a lot of this work done.

You will never hear a dentist talk ill of another - it's always your fault for not brushing or flossing enough.

Mrs. C. had an even worse dentist experience and has had to undergo a great deal of expensive repair. Lawsuits finally brought the guy out of his office but it turned out that the dental review board didn't dare state publicly that they thought he wasn't up to snuff. They didn't want "to turn on one of their own."

I've finally found a decent mechanic, no thanks to any review board or any kind of Craigslist or Angie's-list or State Cert Panel. Certifications line the walls of every shop in town, but mostly they suck.

When we look around, we find that every job is filled with average workers. Some are good and some are terrible but most are just okay. Teachers are no different.

A local first responder just got his fifth DUI.

Contractors are legendary for their variability and lets not make any cracks about plumbers. ;-)

The writers for the paper are so-so and don't always compare favorably with the students who write for the high-school section.

Politicians? We won't go there.

Doctors? Lawyers? Used Car Salesmen?

How do we judge thee? Let me count the ways.

Teachers judge teachers very differently than admins do. Parents use a different yardstick and the taxpayer with no kids and an attitude about taxes and education still another.

## Sunday, January 29, 2017

### Algebra in The RealWorld

Dan Meyer poses Three Questions about a problem from his professional development:

"Two, is the solution realistic? Would a real person solve the problem using a system of two equations?

"Three, in what ways does this problem help our students become better problem solvers?"

I think he's right, in many ways. The problem he's discussing is contrived and convoluted at best. It does have that "algebra-book word problem from hell" feel about it, but word problems in math textbooks are a funny thing. They have to straddle the line between being realistic and being useful in a classroom for teaching. When constructing a word problem or using one, you need to keep this line in mind. If the word problem doesn't fit your topic, you should change it.

I take a slight issue with the questions, though, in that I don't want to always be asking for a real-world solution that a real-world person would find for a real-world problem.

First, define a "real person". Do I pick me or a mathphobe? If you purposefully want a problem that takes creativity to solve, then separate it from the track you're in. Call it the Puzzle of the Week.

This particular problem doesn't have enough information to come to a single solution anyway - how about adding in the cost per mile of van and car, as well as an additional payment for driver responsibility. Are we trying to minimize cost or make sure all chaperones drive? Do we have a reason to not use the vans unless necessary?

A youth group with 26 members is going to the beach. There will also be 5 chaperones that will each drive a van or a car. Each van seats 7 persons, including the driver. Each car seats 5 persons, including the driver. How many vans and cars will be needed?"One, is the problem realistic? Would a real person need to solve this problem?

"Two, is the solution realistic? Would a real person solve the problem using a system of two equations?

"Three, in what ways does this problem help our students become better problem solvers?"

I think he's right, in many ways. The problem he's discussing is contrived and convoluted at best. It does have that "algebra-book word problem from hell" feel about it, but word problems in math textbooks are a funny thing. They have to straddle the line between being realistic and being useful in a classroom for teaching. When constructing a word problem or using one, you need to keep this line in mind. If the word problem doesn't fit your topic, you should change it.

I take a slight issue with the questions, though, in that I don't want to always be asking for a real-world solution that a real-world person would find for a real-world problem.

First, define a "real person". Do I pick me or a mathphobe? If you purposefully want a problem that takes creativity to solve, then separate it from the track you're in. Call it the Puzzle of the Week.

This particular problem doesn't have enough information to come to a single solution anyway - how about adding in the cost per mile of van and car, as well as an additional payment for driver responsibility. Are we trying to minimize cost or make sure all chaperones drive? Do we have a reason to not use the vans unless necessary?

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