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In New York City, Math is Hard

Test your skills with this word problem:

A comprehensive high school in New York City has an enrollment of 900 9th graders. The NYC Department of Education decides to close the school and replace it with 5 new small schools, each of which will enroll 108 9th graders. How many 9th graders are left over?

Extra credit, Part I: Imagine that the NYC Dept of Ed closes 2 comprehensive schools in one year with enrollments identical to those above. Now how many 9th graders are left over?

Extra credit, Part II: Where will the displaced kids go to school?

If you've got your noggin on, you know that the answer is 360 kids, and that if we close two schools, we now have 720 displaced kids who need a place to go to 9th grade. This is, in part, the subject of Sam Freedman's NYT column yesterday. His column provides a hint on Extra Credit, Part II:

More broadly, the problem is the outcome of Department of Education decisions to open scores of small, niched schools in the area, close large ones perceived as academic failures and leave the excess students to land in traditional schools like Richmond Hill that, while relatively successful academically, were often overcrowded to begin with. In this version of education reform, it is never hard to tell the winners from the losers.

I know what you're thinking - doesn't anyone have a calculator? The NYC Department of Ed seems to have forgotten that matter is neither created nor destroyed in a chemical reaction - and the kids don't disappear, either.

Update: For more on high school reorganization hiccups, see the Gotham Gazette's Wonkster and this article in the Village Voice.

Calculator? Clearly you're putting too much emphasis on algorithms, EW. In New York City, we prefer to arrive at our own understanding, and solve problems in authentic contexts. So where you see “students” those of us who are trained and experienced educators see “manipulatives.” We’re naturally more concerned with the learning process and the individual learner arriving at a personal understanding of division (so much more important than a “correct answer”!) It’s perfectly understandable, therefore, that one could divide 900 by five and arrive at 108. How wonderful that the learner in this case arrived at an understanding that to “divide” means to “break into smaller groups”!

Now we merely need to encourage the learner to arrive at an understanding of “remainders.”

Sounds like you are still stuck in the old "reality-based paradigm."

But here's the thing I don't understand about reformers who leave a greater and greater critical mass of high challenge kids as they "cream" the most motivated.

Don't they realize that you must place your hand on the radio and proclaim, "I believe!"?


In the case of Columbus in the Bronx, they downsized the school, but did not close it. Four mini-schools, one left over no-longer-large school.

But, here's where the calculator is useless: all of the special ed and esl kids? In the big school. 50%?

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Jonathan: In the case of Columbus in the Bronx, they downsized read more
  • John Thompson: Sounds like you are still stuck in the old "reality-based read more
  • Robert Pondiscio: Calculator? Clearly you're putting too much emphasis on algorithms, EW. read more




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