Spiral or mastery learning?

The spiral curriculum – learning by exposure. It presumes that one doesn’t have to “teach until students learn” – that is, until students master the lesson.

The assumption by many educators seems to be that students will learn all they need if they are simply-exposed to the same material every year for awhile.  This is called the spiral curriculum.  It presumes that one doesn’t have to “teach until students learn” – that is, until students master their lessons.

Is this one reason why American mathematics students continue to fall behind other countries.? Does this explain why California has outstanding mathematics content standards but students haven’t improved in learning math?

Could one reason be that the spiral curriculum spaces reviews of lessons by 12 months, when instead reviews should be days and weeks after first lesson exposure?

“If I put in front of you a 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade textbook in math and opened up to page 200 and I jumbled them up, and said, ‘order them from fifth through eighth grade in order,’ you’d have a very tough time because they all look the same.

That’s because, unfortunately, we have this national strategy of ‘we’re not really going to teach to master, we’re going to teach to exposure and over lots and lots of years of kids seeing page 200 in the math book, eventually somehow they’re going to learn it.

We’re going to teach them how to reduce fractions in fifth grade, in sixth grade, in seventh grade, in eighth grade, in ninth grade and continue until finally somehow magically they’re going to get it.‘ — instead of thinking, ‘let’s teach the kids how to reduce fractions at a mastery level in fifth grade, maybe spend a little time reviewing it in sixth grade but let’s move on to pre-algebra and let’s move on to algebra then.'”

Fifth Grade Math Teacher Mike Feinberg, Co-Founder of KIPP – Knowledge is Power   Charter Schools