A fellow math teacher made a great observation last week. He asked why we can’t group classes by mathematical mastery levels since that would be “tracking,” a scorned idea of the past, while we are supposed to break our classes into small groups so that we can work most effectively with groups at different mastery levels. “Why can’t we do on a macro level what we are supposed to do on a micro level?” He asked.
Eduhonesty: Ummm… I don’t know the answer. Because we might have to employ more teachers to make sure that all groups received the best possible instruction? Because tracking might discriminate in favor of students who can actually do their math? Because we all have to be in fashion — even if that educational fashion currently has a lot in common with the 6-inch stiletto heels of the shoe world?
Maybe we just like to make everyone’s lives harder.
I believe small groups are in vogue now because, in many classes, teachers cannot choose to teach any other way. If one class varies in mathematical mastery by six or more years, then whole group instruction always confuses some while boring others. One exception to this last statement: If no one in the class knows the content, then whole group instruction is wholly appropriate. But you can surely get in trouble for not breaking into useless, time-sucking groups anyway!