Cognitively Guided Math Instruction at Coeur d’Alene

Getting students to feel comfortable with abstract mathematical concepts can be a challenge for teachers and a major reason so many people feel they’re
“bad at math.”

Coeur d’Alene Avenue Elementary School has been changing that narrative through cognitively guided instruction, an innovate approach to “mathematical thinking” that engages students in discussion or math concepts relevant to real-world experiences, turning symbols on a chalkboard into tangible relationships between objects. A teacher might have students exchange pennies, for example, to illustrate a series of numerical transactions.

In 2015, 46% of Coeur d’Alene students met or exceeded California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress standards for mathematics. In 2018, that number jumped to 72%.

“We use it schoolwide. Every teacher guides their mathematics teaching with the belief that all students have an innate ability to solve mathematical problems,” Coeur d’Alene Principal Andrew Jenkins said.

Project-Based Learning at the Obama Center

An inaugural cohort of 100 high school freshman will be the first to pursue a specialized project-based learning curriculum at Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District’s new Michelle and Barack Obama Center for Inquiry and Exploration.

Small groups with common interests initially spend one day each week off campus learning from experts in a chosen field under the guidance of a credentialed teacher. The next three years, students will spend two days a week pursuing internships with mentors in places such as technology firms, entertainment companies, nonprofit agencies and city government.

When on campus, students pursue coursework that’s aligned with state standards but involves real-world projects and problem-solving exercises. As juniors and seniors, students’ off-campus mobility allows for enrollment in community college classes.

Workshop Helps Parents Talk to Kids about Race

Santa Monica’s grassroots Committee for Racial Justice is hosting a workshop on Sunday (Sept. 1) to help parents talk to young children and even toddlers about racial bias.

“People have the mistaken impression that children are colorblind, that small children don’t notice race. But studies show they are not colorblind,” says com-
mittee organizer Joanne Berlin. “Prejudice starts very young, and it’s harder to get rid of it than it is to prevent it.”

The free 6 to 8:30 p.m. gathering at the Teen Center in Virginia Avenue Park involves group discussion and guided roleplay exercises drawn from two books: “Anti-Bias for Young Children and Ourselves” by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen-Edwards, and “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by Beverly Daniel Tatum.

“The goal of Anti-Bias Education is to help every child be comfortable with who they are and open to other folks who are different to them,” says Berlin. “It goes into how children will raise questions about race, and how adults need to be more comfortable with that.”

Building Cities at Open Magnet Charter School

There’s rarely a “typical” school day at Open Magnet Charter School in Westchester, where students are encouraged to develop critical thinking and social skills by learning at their own pace outside rigid classroom structures. Open Magnet Charter teachers write their own curriculum and teach in pairs within large, double-sized classrooms that allow students to move freely from room to room throughout the class period. They teach in two-grade “clusters” — kindergarten and first, second and third, and fourth with fifth. Each year these clusters build a “city of the future” with its own currency, elections and governance systems based around a particular futuristic theme, explains magnet coordinator Peggy Lew.

Staff and students alike enjoy the freedom of the Open Magnet philosophy and the intellectual opportunities it creates. “It’s like a teachers’ nirvana,” says Lew.

Mandarin and Spanish Immersion Pipelines

There once was a time when a majority of Californians frowned on bilingual education. Now many parents are jumping at the chance for their kids to attend schools that immerse students in two languages in every class, driving a rapid expansion of dual-language immersion programs on the Westside.

Braddock Drive Elementary, Stoner Avenue Elementary and Grandview Boulevard Elementary schools offer Spanish immersion — Grandview being LAUSD’s oldest immersion program, teaching in Spanish 90% of the time. Broadway Elementary School offers an immersion program in Mandarin Chinese. Students can continue on the Mandarin or Spanish immersion track at Mark Twain Middle School’s world languages magnet, which also offers Korean and French. And for the first time this year, students who are aging out of middle school can continue their Spanish or Mandarin immersion track at Venice High School.

Tracking Potholes with Machine Learning

The city of Los Angeles includes more than 6,500 miles of roads. Part of the reason there are so many potholes is that public workers must rely on tips from the public or conduct manual inspections to find them.

A team of Loyola Marymount University engineering students recently teamed up with Google hoping to expedite the process of pothole discovery. Using the company’s open-source machine learning platform TensorFlow, they worked to devise a model that could identify potholes and potentially dangerous cracks from footage captured by a camera attached to the hood of a car. So far, the results are promising.

Incoming seniors this year, the students may continue that work as their capstone engineering project.

Stories compiled by Gary Walker, Matt Rodriguez and Joe Piasecki