I like Naomi Schefer Riley’s account in the Wall Street Journal of Ben Chavis’s math camp in North Carolina’s poorest county: “Math Camp in a Barn: Intensive Instruction, No-Nonsense Discipline” (googling the title of a Wall Street Journal article jumps over the paywall, so my link is to the search page). Naomi’s article illustrates two related principles I have written about. First, almost anyone can learn math with enough hard work and a can-do attitude, as Noah Smith and I write in “There’s One Key Difference Between Kids Who Excel at Math and Those Who Don’t.” Second, a key element of learning is simply time spent learning, as I write about in “Magic Ingredient 1: More K-12 School.” Lengthening the school year is one of the most straightforward ways to increase learning, especially in hard subjects. Naomi points out the arithmetic of math instruction:
From 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday the children learn math, interspersed with some reading, physical education and lunch. Each gets 120 hours of instruction during the three weeks, equivalent to what they would get in a year at a typical public school.
Among many other serious problems with education in the United States, our attachment to the idea of summer vacation is an important one.