Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hot topic: Everyday Math

This from an SF K Files visitor:
I'd like to see a discussion of "Everyday Math," which was adopted by
the SFUSD under cover of darkness last year and suddenly implemented
in a very short period of time. I'd like to hear parents and
teachers' experiences with it, the perceived advantages of it (if
any), and whether anyone thinks there is anything we can do to
un-adopt it. Avoiding this kind of math instruction was a critical
consideration for us in choosing public school, and now here we are
stuck with it anyway.

114 comments:

  1. I haven't decided how I feel about Everyday Math. However, this is a perfect example of how our school board gets side tracked by issues that affect relatively few of our students (JROTC for example)at the expense of issues that affect the majority of elementary students.

    I wish our school board could just keep their eye on the ball.

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  2. You seem to have a very bad attitude about this math program. Wondering what your frustrations are with it. The program was not adopted in darkness. There was an adoption committee that met many times over the course of a year, used agreed upon criteria to rate the programs and make its final reccomendation. I was not on the committee, although a teacher at my school was and according to her, it was the best program available from the adoption list passed by the state of CA.

    It is a far improvement from the previous 2 programs we have had. There was Hartcourt, which we had most recently where we taught kids procedures and algorithms, but not deep number sense, concept development or problem solving strategies. Prior to that we had Mathland, the other swing of the pendulum which was all concept based, but students never saw the application of the concept. It was more play. Everyday Math seems to be trying to find the middle ground.
    It has been a challenging transition due to the fact that the kids are not used to "thinking" mathematically and articlualting that thinking. I am optimistic, however that we are better educating students to think mathmatically, truly understand concepts and solve problems. Anyway, that is my experience thus far as a 3rd grade teacher in SFUSD.

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  3. I don't have any strong feelings one way or another but my child's math skills seem to have really taken off this year. 2nd grade. It could just be the age though. Also, I mentioned it to someone who teaches in the Piedmont school district, which also uses it, and she really liked it.

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  4. Well, you'd better avoid certain private schools, too. Chinese-American uses Everyday Math and their kids win big Math competitions every year. Must be a truly awful Math curriculum.

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  5. From the University of Chicago:

    http://everydaymath.uchicago.edu/parents/faq

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  6. Some people don't like Everyday Math because it teaches kids several different ways of solving the same kind of equation (adding, multiplying, dividing, etc). This helps ensure that kids develop a deeper understanding of what is happening.

    Some of these algorithms are quite different from what we are used to.

    When *we* were kids, we were taught a single way of solving such problems. We didn't necessarily understand *why* that algorithm worked, we just knew that is how you multiplied, divided added or subtracted. The goal was to ensure everyone knew how to conduct those operation, not to make sure they had a deeper understanding of why those operations worked.

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  7. I agree. I am excited to learn more about Everyday Math as a new kinder parent. This program has been used as a positive marketing tool for many of the private schools...glad to see it arrive at SFUSD. I also spoke to a SFUSD teacher-friend and she said its the best program she's seen...she's also convinced many of the old-timers in the school district are the ones not happy with having to change the way they've been teaching for years.

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  8. I'm not an old timer, nor do I dislike EDM because "it teaches kids several different ways of solving the same kind of equation".

    I dislike it because it shuns mastery as a necessary step to moving forward. The spiraling nature of the curriculum is its biggest drawback.

    Also, you do know that most teachers who use EDM supplement it endlessly. Indeed, good teachers supplement any packaged curriculum that comes their way because they are not complete, and if a teacher relied on the curricular materials alone, mastery for students would be even more elusive. EDM is just a first step in a scripted curriculum, brought to you by Eli Broad. Look it up! Follow the money!

    But you go on and talk like you know what you are talking about. I know how fun it must be. Its just a shame your kids, if you don't help them, will probably suffer as a result of EDM.

    And about private school use of EDM; private schools take the cream of the crop for students, so their scores have nothing to do with curricular materials. Like another commenter said, EDM is merely a marketing tool.

    Bone up on your math skills people! You're going to need them to help your kids! Oh, you don't know these other algorithms? Then I guess your kids are on their own!

    It's a shame you can't go to class with them so you can learn these myriad ways to perform operations, and come to a really deep understanding because of them. I hope the myriad algorithms, introduced one day and not seen again for a week or four, and then reintroduced, won't cause any confusion with the kids (it does).

    Education is not rocket science. EDM is not a magic bullet. No curricular material is, or should even be hoped to be, a magic bullet.

    EDM is a disaster waiting to happen to a school district near you.

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  9. I am amazed that with so much discussion about EVERYDAY MATH in SFUSD, nobody mentions exactly why SFUSD all of a sudden switches Math Curriculum:

    EVERYDAY MATH is a product of McGraw-Hill

    Carlos Garcia, the new SFUSD Superintendent, was vice president of marketing at McGraw Hill.

    Coincidence? I think not.
    Pure cronyism, SFUSd style.

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  10. I was a girl with 'math phobia' starting in the 4th grade in the late 60's. I had a hard time memorizing things -including multiplication tables - and basically thought I was 'dumb in math' until I graduated from college and started managing budgets and research projects on Excel. At that time, I realized that I wasn't 'dumb' at it, but that I really could have used a different approach to the problem. Also, once numbers had a practical application and meaning, I was fine.

    I love the multiple approaches to learning math. I feel I've gotten much better at it just working with my now 6th grader. He, too, was having trouble with the memorization issue and we have been taking him to a math tutor from the Making Math Real program. It's not for everyone, but for a kid who is very conceptual, it helped provide a visual and conceptual way to quickly recall math facts.

    I'm not sure how I feel about the spiraling - but think that it's worth a try. Like all approaches, not every approach works for every kid.

    I also want to reiterate what others have said here: these decisions don't happen in a vacuum. And the BOE has a job to do and one of them is to select a curriculum from among the ones approved by the state. I know that teachers complained about the former program - some don't like the current one. But my kids' teachers seem to be using it a supplimenting it - both are doing great in math now in 4th and 7th grade.

    Is the Everyday Math curriculum adopted K-12 or just in elementary?

    I love that the new books for middle school can be accessed online - I've found them to be quite good. Also, for parents, the online textbook comes in Spanish and Chinese.

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  11. My problem with Everyday math so far in kinder is with the homework (it's hard to get a sense of what they do in class and how it works...). The homework seems like it's supposed to be "fun" and interesting and teach a kind of pre-math thinking (counting all of the fingers of family members to teach counting by 1s and 5s), but it falls flat. For one thing, the assignment above was given after the children already knew how to count to 5s and it was boring... For another thing, many of the assignments are time-consuming with little pay-off: complicated tasks that require looking through the house for not really accessible items in order to count them, helping unload groceries (with no warning, on a specific day --what if you haven't gone shopping that day?). When you're trying to get the homework done before dinner or before bed and then come across an item that takes 15-30 minutes and that your child isn't very interested in, it's frustrating!

    The activities don't really seem to build on concepts (like in project based work), or be tied to anything. They seem like they are meant to be fun and thought provoking but aren't.

    Maybe it all works better in the upper grades, or for different children, but I dread seeing the everyday math sheet in the homework folder!

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  12. Right, Anon. The homework expects too much from parents. In a district like mine, I can't expect some of my students' families to deal with all the minutiae necessary to complete the homework (I teach 2nd).

    And most of this stuff--the games of counting cans after shopping, ...-- is stuff parents should have done with their own children, preparing them for life.

    It is this very problem, illuminated and made paramount through the prism of EDM, that is my biggest complaint about the "reformers" who latch on to EDM, Lucy Calkins, or any number of fads (its what they are, people) rather than address the real problem of poverty, lack of early childhood education, and the severe lack of health care.

    Oh, and now, more homelessness.

    In the old days, teachers could build things, using tools, make things necessitating measurement, angles, perimeters, and so many concepts that now have to be taught using these vapid, yet colorful and jam-packed curricular materials that cost millions of dollars, but offer nothing but confusion. Its disgusting. But more than that, its stupid.

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  13. You got another job yet, frustrated teacher? So you can be frustrated with something else? You may know the best pedagogical strategies for all kids, but I wouldn't want my kid taught by someone who hates his job so much.

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  14. Brilliant, anon. You know exactly how I teach based on an EDM rant on a blog, apparently.

    Actually, I channel my passion into great pedagogy, and my students love coming to school each day.

    I would hate my kid to have a teacher who just laid down and did whatever they were told, regardless of whatever's efficacy.

    Teaching is 90% kids, and 10% bullshit. Its the bullshit I rail against, not the kids.

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  15. Another SFUSD teacher here. There's plenty to dislike about EDM:

    1. EDM curriculum designers have a mania for making up their own monikers for ordinary tasks and operations. Workbook pages are now 'math boxes' or 'math journals', homework is 'home links', counting on is 'counting up', regrouping is 'exchanging', etc. This causes unnecessary confusion, especially for parents trying to help with homework.

    2. Many of the lessons feature extensive scripts that ramble on and on, giving background information barely relevant to the skills being taught. Some lessons are boring, boring, boring!

    3. Lessons often feature concepts that are beyond students' developmental level. This is the 'spiraling' philosophy, and it can really frustrate and confuse students. I do not see the point of introducing negative numbers, for instance, to first graders who are just beginning to understand the relationship between written numbers and real objects.

    On the other hand, EDM includes many great math games, and provides challenges even to students who are used to finding math class too easy. I do think the program has strengths. Overall, my students seem much weaker in adding and subtraction, but much stronger in place value, counting by 5's and 10's, counting coins and telling time. I wouldn't throw it out yet.

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  16. TFT is a troll, ignore him, he just comes here to insult parents. Luckily, he isn't an SFUSD teacher.

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  17. On a related note, is there a corresponding all-encompassing reading curriculum for K-3 or so that parents can prepare for?

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  18. Although teaching kids "deep number sense" sounds good, I don't think I've ever seen that succeed. My kids suffered over all the tedium and confusion in Mathland (hopefully Everyday Math is better) and hated math. It wasn't until it was over we realized that one was really a math kid (quite talented and loves it), but what he was doing hardly resembled math.
    Years of being forced to make up wrong guesses to questions he knew the answer to, and being forced to write lengthy tedious explanations to math concepts that were pretty simple killed his enthusiasm. We've been much happier with the traditional stuff. I guess these programs may work for kids who don't get or like math, but they can be torture for kids that do. I wish they could address both types of kids and not just the math haters (and I don't think it really works for them either)...

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  19. I agree with 11:02. I don't know what curriculum my kids' private school uses, but I do think it spends way too much time on creating convoluted strategies for solving problems. Just freakin' do it! I can't help with their homework because it truly doesn't make any sense to me. Math is a lot of rote and memorization at its foundation. Someday the AHA! of practical application comes along, and that is what we prepare for.

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  20. Those of you are interested in learning more about Everyday Math should search out the topic on the New York Times website. There are many, many parents who are unhappy with what their children have not learned using this type of "progressive" math. Everyday Math is singled out by name in more than one article. Apparently, the deficiencies of the instructional method show up in middle and high school. Some students struggle mightily in higher level science as a result of not knowing basic math facts.

    My friends and family here who've experienced Everyday Math as parents have grown increasingly disenchanted with it as their children move through elementary school. Math does have real, everyday applications in our lives (as we all know), but some rote memorization and drills to reinforce basic math facts cannot be eliminated entirely.

    I really and truly hope that Anon at 7:25 is wrong about why EDM was adopted in SF. The cynic in me worries that s/he is right.

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  21. The wars between the traditionalists and progressives rage on for approaches to teaching both reading and math. I have heard that Everyday Math is at least not as wooly-headed as Mathland used to be, but tries to strike a little balance. The spiraling thing sounds a little confusing, though I will say my son loves the games and loves understanding the concepts (and hates drills). I myself am fine with some drilling (times tables, for example) as I think it's just good to know that stuff by heart.

    One thing to keep in mind is that good teachers mix and match a lot anyway. They will use manipulatives in a more traditional math curriculum, and they'll add in some drills and traditional approaches to a progressive one. These are the folks on the front lines, some for many years, and they have seen fads come and go, and they know what works for a range of kids.

    Also, just want to point out that it's kind of funny that SFUSD is getting pushback on this site for picking a curriculum that is too progressive for some parents; usually the public schools get dinged for being all drill and kill (though it is not an accurate assessment in many cases). One of the issues in the mix is that we parent stakeholders are also all over the map in terms of what we want/value in a a math (or reading, or whatever else) education. Some really really want a traditional approach, with certain algorithms drilled in and practiced; others want the progressive, more conceptual teaching. It's not an accident that many private schools and affluent districts (like Piedmont in the East Bay) are also using Everyday Math, as many upper-middle class parents desire that progressive apporach rather than the back-to-basics.

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  22. The EDM debates always degenerate into the traditionalist vs. true understanding debates.

    This is ridiculous, particularly since it gets away from the real question ("Is EDM successful?") toward "How I Personally Feel About Math Instruction As a Lay Person".

    I like EDM because the data showing its success is quite strong and because it values problem-solving over rote instruction. I think that it benefits from supplementing with some drillwork on math facts. Personally, I don't assign the homework because it requires too much parental involvement - if I think something in the homework is worth doing, we can do it in class.

    Did SFUSD have these debates when the district used MathLand? MathLand is much more "touchy-feely" than EDM.

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  23. Great post, teacher @ 12:54, thanks. I say give it a chance, especially given some of the early results out of U Chicago (where the Obama girls attended the prestigious Lab School).

    There were plenty of debates about Mathland back in the day. Just not so many middle/upper class parents in the mix at that time, nor forums such as this one. Mathland was much too touchy-feely, in my opinion, but I know of teachers who kept some of the manipulatives around to use as a teaching tool in years to come as the pendulum swung the other way.

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  24. Anon 9:02 PM wrote: “…complicated tasks that require looking through the house for not really accessible items in order to count them, helping unload groceries (with no warning, on a specific day --what if you haven't gone shopping that day?). When you're trying to get the homework done before dinner or before bed and then come across an item that takes 15-30 minutes and that your child isn't very interested in, it's frustrating!”

    Dear Anon - Geesh! Complain much!!!! If you don’t have the items that they suggest in your house, count something else. If you didn’t go grocery shopping that day, grab some items from your cupboards and pack a grocery bag. Voila! If you don’t have time before dinner or bedtime, skip the homework and work through the exercises on the weekend (btw, Homelinks are NOT mandatory. I read the Homelinks to find out what my kids are doing, then I throw them away. I use the concepts but not the pieces of paper.). Really Anon, the level of your “issues” is pretty darn amusing.

    I am a mom who supports teachers and public schools in San Francisco. I have a PhD in mathematics, I have children in first and third grade in SFUSD, and I like Everday Math (actually, it would take a lot for me to find fault with any approach). Believe me; it is fine for a foundation, for a starting point if you will. C’mon bloggers, there is no single method in teaching subject matter, esp. mathematics, that will please all of the parents (or teachers) all of the time, but some methods are useful. I went to school in the 60s, when they were introducing something called “New Math.” I guess they called it “New Math,” so as not to be confused with old math, the stuff my parents learned. I think that the biggest difference compared to my parents’ day was the amount of word problems, “If you are on a train going East at 60 mph and your best friend is on a train going West at 90 mph, when will you collide?” I remember how my mother (who was a book keeper and very good at arithmetic) was freaked out by something called “New Math” (some irrational fear that she couldn’t help me with my homework), so she went to night school to take it simultaneously with me. Point is, I survived, my mom survived, I graduated from elementary school with my self esteem intact, I graduated college, I have a great 6-figure income, and I love arithmetic and mathematics (although, by all accounts, the teaching method was horrible….or was it really????).

    OMG! I just Googled “New Math,” and I found a great description of its rise and fall in the 1960s in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Math ). Just substitute “Everyday Math” for every instance of “New Math” in the following passage and you can see that the more things change, the more they stay the same (he he). Go pour yourself a glass a wine and read this small excerpt….

    New Math was a brief, dramatic change in the way mathematics was taught in American grade schools, and to a lesser extent in European countries, during the 1960s. The name is commonly given to a set of teaching practices introduced in the U.S. shortly after the Sputnik crisis in order to boost scientific education and mathematical skill in the population so that the intellectual threat of Soviet engineers, reputedly highly skilled mathematicians, could be met.

    The New Mathematical Pedagogy: New Math emphasized mathematical structure through abstract concepts like set theory and number bases other than 10. Beginning in the early 1960s the new educational doctrine was installed, not only in the USA, but all over the developed world.
    Much of the publicity centered on the focus of this program on set theory (influenced ultimately by the Nicolas Bourbaki group and their work), functions, and diagram drawings. It was stressed that these subjects should be introduced early. Some of this focus was seen as exaggerated, even dogmatic. For example, in some cases pupils were taught axiomatic set theory at an early age. The idea behind this was that if the axiomatic foundations of mathematics were introduced to children, they could easily cope with the theorems of the mathematical system later.
    Other topics introduced in the New Math include modulo arithmetic, algebraic inequalities, matrices, symbolic logic, Boolean algebra and abstract algebra. Most of these topics (except algebraic inequalities) have been greatly de-emphasized or eliminated since the 1960s.

    Resistance to Curriculum Change: Parents and teachers who opposed the New Math in the U.S. complained that the new curriculum was too far outside of students' ordinary experience and was not worth taking time away from more traditional topics, such as arithmetic. The material also put new demands on teachers, many of whom were required to teach material they did not fully understand. Parents were concerned that they did not understand what their children were learning and could not help them with their studies. In the end it was concluded that the experiment was not working, and New Math fell out of favor before the end of the decade, though it continued to be taught for years thereafter in some school districts.

    In the Algebra preface of his book "Precalculus Mathematics in a Nutshell," Professor George F. Simmons wrote that the New Math produced students who had "heard of the commutative law, but did not know the multiplication table."

    In 1973, Morris Kline published a book devoted to debunking the New Math: "Why Johnny Can't Add: the Failure of the New Math."

    …the Wikipedia passage goes on to tell about the “New New Math” that was introduced in 1989. And my all-time favorite article headline from 1989, “Math Is Only New When the Teacher Doesn't Get It.”

    Yessiree, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Stop complaining, settle back, and enjoy it (for the moment anyway). It will go full circle before you know it….

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  25. 5:31
    Just because its not an issue for you please don't dismiss it for everyone. Some parents think its important to respect a teachers' wishes re: assignments, and I've learned many teachers think that is important as well. Some kids will be upset if things aren't done like the teacher said. And many families don't have a lot of give during the evening.

    New Math is way different from what's being taught now in that it was math. I remember doing the basics but also doing logic, set theory, boolean algebra, which were all interesting facets of math. I loved it. It's different from drawing pictures or writing treatises. My poor kindergartner had to draw 30 kids in a bus (3 x 10) and it brought her to tears. She was reprimanded by the teacher when she only drew 10 (they were the ones at the window).

    Kudos to the teacher who thinks math work should be done in class. Kids seem to have a lot more time there than at home these days.

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  26. Count me as one of the proponents of reform math curricula in general and EDM in particular. I may have more to say later, but right now I'll just say that SFUSD selecting EDM is one of the things giving me the confidence to believe that our public schools may not be the unmitigated disaster my glibertarian friends and coworkers would have me believe they are. I'm looking forward to helping my kid through the math homework. I see those videos on YouTube posted by those outraged people and I just laugh all the way through them.

    The horror! They teach kids how to use calculators! Oil up the guillotines!!

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  27. We've had fun doing the math stuff at home. This weekend the task was to make change and the workbook suggested you play at having your kids buy things and then make change. It was a good practice thing and something I didn't learn until Campfire Girls and making change selling mints.
    Don't know about other curricula for math but the practical applications we've had in 2nd grade seem useful. The one thing is that you really have to sit with your kid while they're doing their homework, as it takes a bit to figure out what they're supposed to be doing.

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  28. Anyone interested in digging deep into the current state of hostilities in the math education wars should start by comparing the two main advocacy sites on the web put together by the opposing camps: Mathematically Correct and Mathematically Sane. As I've said before, my sympathies are squarely in the latter camp, just so everyone here knows.

    I invite you to compare them and come to your own conclusions. For my part, I think the choice of adjectives in the names of the two web sites shows pretty clearly where each camp has set their priorities. If your general belief system is that correction is intrinsically virtuous, then you're probably going to find the traditionalists to be pretty convincing. If, on the other hand, you believe like I do that sanity leads to the optimal methods and the correct results, then you're probably going to find the reformers more convincing.

    I'm happy to hear other opinions.

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  29. Not to comment specifically on the math curriculum, but I must join those here who have raised a general concern about SFUSD's "spiraling" technique. I feel that subjects like time and coins and geometric shapes are worked on only briefly, and, by the time I find out that the teacher is working on the subject, she has moved on to another one and I've missed a chance to try to work on that subject with my kid at home. And I find the "HomeLinks" letters that come home which are supposed to tell me what is about to happen don't give me enough warning. Some teachers are good at communicating what is coming next, and others are terrible at it. Finally, after four years of SFUSD, I have to say that I have had too many instances of homework coming home that is not tracking what the kids are learning in class. We just had that happen with our third grader where long division came home when the teacher hadn't started teaching long division. I found myself apologizing to my kid because he had sat there blankly at the homework unable to do it and I had chided him for not paying more attention in class. Then I found out the next day that the teacher had "accidentally" sent long division questions home before she'd covered it. This was not the first time, however, and I'm starting to become concerned about this pattern -- interestingly, the pattern seems to scale up in the six weeks before the STAR tests, when lots of the homework is STAR-tested oriented.

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  30. does anyone supplement with kuman?

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  31. 8:09 (and 9:02), did you discuss your concerns with your child's teacher? Most teachers I know would be happy to give advice on how to modify homework to fit you and your child's needs. Even if that's not the case, it is still important to make the effort to communicate with them in good faith.

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  32. I'd love to hear about any longitudinal research. Initial research suggested an improvement in test scores, but this does not seem to answer the criticism that kids suffer when they get into upper grades. I've found some articles suggesting that the bloom came off of the rose pretty quickly after the initial research.

    Has anyone seen a longitudinal study?

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  33. http://www.nychold.com/em.html

    The article, "Review of the Everyday Mathematics Curriculum and its Missing Topics and Skills" is comprehensive and extremely disturbing.

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. @Annette Hurst: The collection of links to which you've linked belongs to a fairly biased source that aligns itself with Mathematically Correct. They're also very in favor of Saxon Math, which is scripted (to the extent of telling teachers what to say in the event of specific wrong answers), spiraling (which parents have said they do not like in EDM) and about a year below CA state standards (only 1-20 and no number writing in K, for instance).

    I don't find this article as disturbing as you do, and it's not terribly comprehensive in that they've cherry-picked negative studies (even ones from the notorious Texas textbook adoption committee!).

    Also, for all its flaws, EDM is written by professors from a nationally-recognized, Top 10 university. Not that it should therefore be accepted without question, but I think these alarmist reports by people from outside of education and mathematics are not necessarily our best source for information.

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  36. Ah yes, the NYC HOLD site. As noted by Anon10:12pm, not one of the "reviews" posted in that article would pass peer-review in a reputable journal, whereas the studies of the major reform curricula, e.g. the ARC Tri-State study and the Massachusetts study, show positive results. There is also the federal What Works Clearinghouse report on EDM specifically, c.f. here.

    The closest thing to a longitudinal study I've seen is the NAEP Long-Term Trend Assessment, but you'll have a hard time interpreting those results in favor of traditional curricula, because they basically show that the long-term trend only started to improve once the new stuff appeared.

    Good luck searching the literature [as opposed to the genre fiction] for countering evidence to support traditionalism. It just doesn't seem to be there.

    Show us real data. We shouldn't be swayed by heated argument and contrived anecdotes from uptight parents and university professors lured into foolishly trading their reputations away as they bleat wrongly about subjects outside their area of professional expertise.

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  37. s9,

    There are plenty of math and science professors concerned with the progressive, math-lite
    curricula out there. Labeling parents, some of whom have direct experience with the curriculum you seem to be heavily invested in, as "uptight" does not aid your cause.

    Everyday Math appears to have been created by education professors, not mathematics professors.

    The request from one poster about Kumon on this thread struck me as highly ironic and appropriate. Kumon will be necessary for many kids who are not taught "mastery" of basic math facts. Of course, only the middle- and upper-middle-class families will be able to afford that.


    http://www.svmoms.com/2009/04/old-math-new-math-draft.html

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  38. "There are plenty of math and science professors concerned with the progressive, math-lite curricula out there."

    Yes, well... when I need to check my proof of the decidability of type inference with 2nd-order polymorphism in the typed D-fusion calculus, then I'll happily defer to the math professors whose area of expertise includes type theory and not primary education curriculum development.

    There are also plenty of otherwise sane and intelligent engineers and scientists who think their graduate degrees should give them credibility when they endorse intelligent design theory, and I don't want them designing our biology curriculum either.

    If you're going to make an appeal to authority, it pays to make sure the people you cite are actually authoritative on the subject at hand.

    "Everyday Math appears to have been created by education professors, not mathematics professors."

    And we should discount the expertise of education professors on the subject of primary education more than the expertise of university mathematics professors who haven't set foot in a primary classroom since they were still cutting their milk teeth for what good reason again? Do we think education professors aren't expected to know anything about education?

    p.s. I'm not expecting to persuade the hardened opponents of reformed mathematics education to give up their campaign, but I'm not going to let the alarmism they display that borders on hysteria go without receiving the mockery it truly deserves. Some of those idiots on the YouTube videos I've seen are complete raving loons, and I'm not afraid to call them that. A strident tone is only justified when the matter at hand is a really urgent one. The adoption of EDM at SFUSD is not a "disaster" or anything close to it.

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  39. Why are we still struggling to figure out the best way to teach math to kids? New Math, Mathland, Everyday Math...it just seems like one trend after another. I can understand how this would frustrate some educators. How much latitude are experienced teachers given to incorporate methods that they feel are "tried-and-true" along with newer methods?

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  40. 2:36, the curriculum has to be approved every few years by the state, which then offers several options to local districts. Because of the curriculum "wars" (and because of the high-stakes competition to win contracts on the part of the curriculum companies), changes get made.

    Yes, teachers have latitude to incorporate other techniques that they know work for a range of kids. I know teachers that still use some of the manipulatives from Mathland despite the demise of Mathland generally in our classrooms. I know others who draw on many sources to reach kids. Good teachers will do this!

    Count me in as one who does not consider it a disaster that SFUSD (and many local private schools too) are now using EDM. Of course we should pay attention to the results and make changes as necessary, but this one strikes me as a reasonably sane balance to the previous iterations that veered wildly between New Math and Old Math. I also agree with S9 that the NYC HOLD folks are pretty loony.

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  41. are there places that consistently produce kids who are good at math? and who like math? how do they teach math? what are they doing that we aren't? (allowing for demographic and socioeconomic differences in student populations, too, i suppose.)

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  42. "are there places that consistently produce kids who are good at math?"

    Yes, but that's a loaded question. Please allow me a brief digression to unpack it.

    When I was an elementary school student in California back in the early 1970's, I was in one of the experimental programs for mathematics that was part of what they were calling the Open Education movement back then. It was modeled on a program used in an English private school that consistently produced high achievers. What the research eventually showed is that Open Education works great for kids from advantaged families. Sadly, it blows mightily when you try to apply it to everyone. Disadvantaged kids, especially, seem to get shafted pretty badly by it.

    To summarize: I got a great math education. The kids in my same classroom who lived across the railroad tracks in the shack village whose father was in prison and whose undocumented mother spoke no English and worked twelve hour days in a roach coach for cash? Not so good.

    So, it depends on what you mean by "consistently" in that question. Because one way to answer it is to say that, yes, there are places that consistently produce kids who are good at math: they're called motivated and resourceful families. It's just not a very useful answer when you're talking about how to design a school curriculum.

    The more difficult question to answer— and that means the answer is necessarily more difficult to present for accuracy and comprehension— is this one: "is there a mathematics curriculum that consistently produces measurably better achievement for all classes of students?"

    Fortunately, the answer to that question seems to be, Yes.

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  43. s9,

    "Everyday Mathematics was found to have potentially positive effects on students' math achievement."

    The above quotation is from your link. You referenced it as a "yes" answer to your final question.

    Tell me, are potentially positive effects all you are looking for? If they are, you have found your program!

    If not, and I suspect that given your astute observation that it is SES that predicts student outcomes and not a curriculum, then why are you touting EDM as math education's savior?

    We teachers use a bit from here and there, as we always have. That's what good teachers do, as was stated earlier in this thread somewhere.

    EDM and NCLB sanctions are paving the way for scripted teaching. If EDM is to be used, as a script, those good teachers who supplement won't have that luxury anymore.

    And, most of you active, engaged parents have kids who will do fine by virtue of your efficacy. It is the kids who have no one at home to help them that will suffer the most.

    Follow the money.....

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  44. s9 - I think your link hits at was undoubtedly one of the District's big reasons for buying this program. It appears to close achievement gaps between student groups. NCLB may be changed, but I doubt it will be changed in such a way that SFUSD must find a way to close its pervasive, disturbing, long-ignored opportunity gap.

    EDM's also been pretty effective in wealthy districts (it's used very widely in and around Chicago), just for the record.

    No one given program is perfect. Maybe I like EDM because it offers so many different ways to get to the answer - it's like admitting that there is no One True Way to Mathematics Mastery for All!

    In re teachers creating their own program - even the worst curriculum is a gift for a first-year teacher. I have many years in and have pretty much created my own reading program from the state standards, various stories and themes, bits of different curricula. It took years (literally, YEARS) and I am still refining it. I probably have enough content knowledge (math through calculus), pedagogical knowledge, and standards knowledge to build a math curriculum for my Kindergarten. What I don't have is the time for such an undertaking. It's not something where you can wing it everyday, you know? It's got to be well-planned, reflected upon...yikes, I'm getting anxious even thinking about it.

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  45. s9, your tone is pretty nasty and belittling, and it does nothing to advance your cause.

    On the substance, the fact that some wackos have linked to something does not make it less credible. They are not the source of the information, they are simply republishing it. I'm not sure why you would dismiss out of hand a great deal of anecdotal evidence from people with significant relevant substantive knowledge, except due to your own bias. It's not like there's a definitive study (or studies) establishing that EDM is so great.

    People keep saying well it came from University of Chicago so it must be great. As a lawyer who has seen the rise and fall of "the Chicago school" of law and economics to the substantial detriment of public welfare, I would not for a moment accept that argument.

    Here are facts that concern me:

    For nearly a decade and two editions of this curriculum, the California DOE refused to adopt it.

    In 2007, California DOE changed its position but failed to explain why (that I can find, anyway) for K-6, but continues to reject the curriculum for grades 7-8.

    Many math and science professors have declared that students have insufficient scaffolding to pursue advanced math and science topics as a result of this progam. Their skill development is extremely weak.

    Specific curricular analysis that seems well considered has identified substantial missing elements.

    Many parents have reported the inability of their children to master basic skills with this curriculum.

    A local independent school with a rigorous academic curriculum (Brandeis) rejected it after several years of use amidst a great deal of parent and teacher criticism.

    A number of teachers in SFUSD have expressed a great deal of trepidation about using it.

    It was a change that was not published in advance and had little or no public input.

    All of this smells to me like a disaster in the making.

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  46. Annette, you raise some reasonable concerns, but "disaster in the making" sounds just a little hyperbolic to me. This curriculum is waaaaay more realistic and rigorous than Mathland, and I don't see kids falling off a cliff in math--especially not with experienced teachers who are much greater than the sum of ANY curriculum. We should keep our eyes open, yes, and we should be paying attention to results, especially across socio-economic groups. But I do not see a need to panic. Be watchful but give it a try, I say.

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  47. I really wish the parents in SFUSD who are investing this much time investigating Everyday Math spent this much time attending Pink Friday rallies, advocating for school equity, fighting for fair funding...

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  48. 8:50 PM - hear, hear!! Well said.

    s9 - you are brilliant. Things I want to say, but don't have the time to research correctly. If I met you at a coffee shop, I am sure that I would enjoy the conversation.

    AH - stick with your legal practice, not math education. Your postings sound like closing arguments where you are trying to confuse the jury beyond "a reasonable doubt." less astute might be swayed, but those that know (math) can see beyond your smoke and mirrors.

    And to all those teachers who teach beyond the curriculum (any curriculum I might add), I hope my child is in your class! Your thoughtful post last night is an example of exemplary teaching and recognition of the role of EDM (or any program) as teachers evolve in their careers.

    And to all the parents on this blog with careers, computers, and iPhones, your child's academic success is guaranteed, no matter what method the district selects.

    Apologies in advance fortypos. Typed on Muni during rush hour.

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  49. Everyday Math is one of about 12 programs funded through the NSF's Education and Human Resource Division in the early 90's. They are based on a "top down" strategy of learning with procedures and memorization minimized. The result is lack of mastery, lack of procedural fluency, and lack of the conceptual understand which procedural fluency leads to.

    For more information on how this came about (including some perspective on the 60's new math which was mentioned by someone),
    this article may be of interest.

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  50. It should be noted that Mr. Garelick is national advisor to NYC Hold and that the paper to which he links - his own work, by the way - was published in a Hoover Institution magazine.

    The Hoover Institution is a stridently right-wing organization whose fellows have included Shelby Steele, Condoleeza Rice, Milton Friedman, and Victor Davis Hanson (just to name some of my very favorites - and while Friedman has gone on to that great free market in the sky, his students can find a friendly home at Hoover).

    The publication is strongly pro-charter and "pro-accountability". I find the pro-accountability argument disturbing because it presupposes that I (a card-carrying union teacher) am accountable to no one and I like it that way. Of course, I am accountable to my students, their families, myself, the administration of my school...and so on.

    I appreciate that Mr. Garelick used his name, but I wonder why he did not mention the bias in Education Next - a bias that always supports rote instruction for all children but their own (although perhaps Mr. Garelick did enroll his children in a KIPP school, in which case I stand corrected.

    Similarly, I note his concerns boil down to not enough facts practice. An issue so easily ameliorated is not one that damns a curriculum, I think.

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  51. There are other aspects besides the de-emphasis on facts in EM that are bad, which my article did not go into, but which include the lack of sequence, spiraling, lack of textbook that are part and parcel to the series.

    No, my daughter is not enrolled in a KIPP school. Her school had EM, so I taught her math after school using the Singapore Math series.

    There is a false dichotomy which "anonymous" and others rely upon, which is that procedural fluency and conceptual understanding are mutually exclusive. In fact, they work in tandem. There is also a tendency to cast all so-called traditional math programs as "rote memorization" which is untrue.

    Finally, the characterization of arguments as foolish because they are published in a journal that has conservative leanings is specious. The conservative side tends to believe education should rest on a foundation of direct instruction and mastery of core knowledge. There are those, myself included, who are not otherwise conservative, but see eye to eye on the education aspect. Saying the article was published in a journal that may have a right wing bias does not make everything published in it wrong.

    Since SFUSD seems to have surprised many people by adoptng EM, perhaps some of you may be interested in an article I wrote on how the textbook adoption process was carried out in Washington DC, which uses EM.

    It can be found here.

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  52. I am a parent who learned about EDM teh hard way.. It took me a year to figure out what it was all about it. becuase i trusted teh school administration.
    The program tells teh teachers not to send the textbook home, not to send the workbook home and not to send the calculator home that is given to the students starting in Kindergarten. ( i have nothing against the calculator as a checking tool but not as the method to achieve the answer on the first try)
    I had an awakening moment when my oldest came home and told me that he and 2 other's in his class where the only ones who could conveert 3/4 into a decimal into a % without a calculator. and when I saw the Assessment aka test (the program also says not to send the assessments home, another reason it flew under my radar)there was a question on it that asked how do you do that convert to a decimal to a percent without a calculator.. my mouth dropped. and wait till you see the partial products method for multiplying fractions..now that is a hoot. I could go on and on..but i have a math tutor and i taught my 3rd grader the multiplication tables (it is not taught in 3rd grade) and i am teaching her division......

    If my child had learned division and came home with a worksheet of the traditional algorithm for division as hw and was given this fun worksheet (EDM) for division which consisted of 4 problems which required pasta.. EDM would be semi-ok. But to come home with just a pasta worksheet and then not see division ever again.. i have issues with that.

    and then when your child comes home and tells you that the teacher will not be using edm for a month but the "traditional" textbook that was used prior to edm until after teh sate assemsment test..

    what does that tell you?

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  53. This is not a political issue. Many from both sides of the fence are against Everyday Math. It's also not about what parents know or grew up with. It's about mastery of the basics, and that is a structural flaw of Everyday Math. They want it both ways and it doesn't work.

    Everyday Math is designed around the idea that mastery is not necessary at any one point in time. They use the concept of spiraling to implement this, but it is not spiraling built on top of mastery. It is spiraling to achieve mastery. If a child does not master the material in one year, that's OK, because he or she will see it next year. This appeals to schools that use full inclusion. It allows them to keep moving everyone along together. In reality, they are just ignoring the problem and making it worse. One parent complained to me that she had three kids in three different grades and they were all studying the same material at the same time. She called it circling.

    Many teachers in grades 5 and 6 hate EM because they are stuck trying to diagnose and fix all of the gaps in knowledge. EM thinks this will happen naturally if you simply repeat the material and give the student extra review work in the form of "Math Boxes". Teachers know better. At least enVision Math tries to provide a way to identify and fix individual issues along the way. They don't just rely on some sort of natural spiraling process like EM. Unfortunately, enVision, like many modern reform math curricula, does not set very high mathematical goals.

    In fifth grade my son's EM teacher had to form a special after-school session to help kids finally master things like adding 7 + 8. This was an affluent private school. Even so, it was impossible for her to get through all of the material. Just because you see good problems when you open up an EM workbook doesn't mean that the students will ever get there or that the material will be mastered.

    And what about the kids who are able to master the material the first time around? They will do fine, except for the fact that teachers will slow the process down for the students with gaps and not cover all of the material. Kids who have mastered the material in the previous spiral are bored silly and do not get to a lot of needed knowledge. EM classes are notorious for skipping huge chunks of material.

    All of the schools I've talked to supplement EM. This doesn't mean that they add more to the curriculum. It means that they take a lot away and spend much more time ensuring mastery of the basics. They know that you can't let the spiral solve the problem naturally. It doesn't work. EM's recent attempts to fix this issue can't cover over the fact that their whole premise is fundamentally flawed.


    I could teach math well using EM if I taught the same students through every grade. Then again, it really wouldn't be EM anymore, and if I had a choice, I could do much better with another curriculum. When you point to some students or schools who do well with EM, you better check much more closely to see what's going on.


    Mastery IS important at specific times, and there IS a linkage between mastery and understanding. Mastery is not just about speed. Learning is not natural for many kids and you can't just blame them in the end and point to the kids who did make it through.

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  54. I'm amazed that spiraling has become an issue, since almost every curricula on the market - including some traditional (conservative) favorites uses it. Saxon Math - spiraling (also behind CA standards by about a year). Open Court and HM - spiraling! Harcourt Math - moderately spiraling.

    It is specious to delink conservative political opinion and the Math Wars (or, for that matter, the Reading Wars). Not only is there a remarkable confluence in education theory between the math/reading traditionalists and political conservatives, but there are some financial links much more well-documented than the Superintendent's to EDM. Google "Reading First" to start.

    Mr. Garelick, my concern with your model of education is that you seem willing to provide it in the public system but not necessarily to your own children. I am always reminded of Chancellor Rhee's comment that children in the DC schools - poor children of color - don't deserve imagination. These reductive and rote prescriptions for education (...Saxon Math, anyone?) are alarming for all, but especially when we reserve them for certain segments of the public schools.

    Which is not to say that there is no achievement gap. I just don't believe that the answer to that gap is regimented, military-like education for all.

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  55. Awesome. Now the topic is really heating up.

    I too am surprised that EDM's spiraling and distributed practice is viewed by some as a bug in the program and not a feature. The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, which developed EDM, has a page linking to the research literature that explains why spiraling and distributed practice are used in the program. It would help very much if opponents of EDM who cite spiraling and distributed practice as detractions of the program could explain why they are implying, without substantiation, that all this research literature should be disregarded.

    I'm especially looking forward to seeing our new participant from the Hoover Institution expound on the remarks in his article where he uses phrases like "brew of progressivism and constructivism" and "constructivism taken to extremes" in an attempt to disparage the research basis used by UCSMP to develop EDM.

    Please, Mr. Garelick. Bring it. You seemed to pull your punches in the pages of Education Next. I'd really like to know why we poor benighted peasants in the thunderdome of Baghdad By The Bay should be quivering with concern and fear at the news that progressivism and constructivism (horrors!) were used in the research basis for the development of our elementary math texts.

    This appears to be a completely unmoderated forum, Mr. Garelick. Feel free to unload yourself.

    p.s. in the event you feel it beneath you to debate with a pseudonym, I'll understand, but I'm hoping you'll respect my need to keep my online political persona separate from my professional persona, a concern I suspect you don't actually have yourself.

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  56. "I'm amazed that spiraling has become an issue, since almost every curricula on the market - ..."

    Not all siraling is the same. EM uses spiraling for basic mastery, not spiraling using previously mastered skills. That's why many call what EM is doing circling.



    "It is specious to delink conservative political opinion and the Math Wars (or, for that matter, the Reading Wars)."

    Just because you can demonstrate some sort of linkage doesn't mean that it defines the problem.


    "These reductive and rote prescriptions for education (...Saxon Math, anyone?) are alarming for all, but especially when we reserve them for certain segments of the public schools."

    You're entitled to your own opinion, but many come to the comlete opposite conslusion. Unfortunately, inner city kids and their parents don't get that choice.

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  57. "It would help very much if opponents of EDM who cite spiraling and distributed practice as detractions of the program could explain why they are implying, without substantiation, that all this research literature should be disregarded."

    But why should anyone take this self-serving research on face value? What makes you think that this is what goes on in the typical classroom? This is a typical defense. Schools select whatever curriculum they want and point to any sort of research, but demand proof from others.

    My son's fifth grade EM teacher didn't get to 35% of the material at the end of the year, but the school declared victory over critical thinking and problem solving.

    Spiraling and distributed practice are nice ideas, but with EM, they allow lower grade teachers to pass off mastery problems to the 5th and 6th grade teachers, some of whom get really pissed off. EM has no effective way to catch and resolve gaps in understanding early in the process. It's too easy to pass kids along. The only way to make EM effective is to chop out big chunks of material and force the lower grade teachers to not let next year fix the problems.

    Distributed practice in EM is really repeated partial learning. There is no guarantee that the student will understand the concepts any better the next time through the loop, but the class has to move on and the teacher has no time to assess and fix individual student problems.

    Before long, students have all sorts of gaps in skills and understanding that defy the the magic of even the best teachers. At least enVision Math is trying to tackle this issue in a teacher-friendly, automated manner. EM is based on the idea that mastery will happen just by looping.

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  58. Mr. Garelick, my concern with your model of education is that you seem willing to provide it in the public system but not necessarily to your own children.I don't understand this comment. I tutored my daughter using Singapore Math. I would love to see this program provided in the public school system. The school she was in used Everyday Math, which I am not willing to subject anyone to in the public system.

    Or are you saying that I wouldn't subject her to rote learning which is what you believe most students are getting in public schools if it isn't a reform math program? Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley's K-6math is good, as is Sadlier Oxford's, and Harcourt's. I've used Saxon too which I also liked, but settled on Singapore. And I've heard people say that Singapore relies on memorization of procedures as well and doesn't foster problem solving skills or spark creativity.

    The "brew of progressivism" referred to in the Education Next article refers to the top down discovery approach, which does not achieve mastery. There are some approaches to discovery learning that are good. I do not believe the discovery approaches in the NSF sponsored programs are effective.

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  59. Leading Minds K-12 Math Education ForumAny district contemplating adopting one of these curricula should watch these lectures first.

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  60. Here is an interview with my cousin, who pulled her daughter out of public school because of Everyday Math.

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  61. Stop complaining, settle back, and enjoy itlet's not and say we did

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  62. Seattle adopted Everyday Math and increased instructional time to 75 minutes per day. The result was the passing rated of all fourth graders dropped from 61.9% to 56.4% on the WASL math test. That is only 5.4% lower. Consider Hispanic Kids who dropped 10% from 43.5% to 33.5%. ELL kids went from 23.6% to 17.8% down 5.8%.

    To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Is SF devoid of intelligence?

    Hey thats nothing take a look at Seattle.
    http://mathunderground.blogspot.com/2009/04/11th-hour-stop-execution.html

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  63. I see that many of the players just joining us on this thread are team members at a weblog called "Kitchen Table Math, The Sequel." I'm really looking forward to having a visit from their team member who goes by the handle "rightwingprof" and whose other weblog contains an endorsement of this idiotic editorial in the Dallas Morning News that advocates arming college and university professors with concealed firearms.

    Yay. I'm sure that would make thesis defenses more entertaining.

    I hesitate to bring this up, because I don't want to derail the fine discussion about math curricula we're having here into one about small arms proliferation issues, but I think it's worth noting that we've clearly got a swarm of out-of-town players here— and some of them probably believe and repeat the nastiest things about our town when they think we're not listening to them— trying to make it seem like there's more local controversy than maybe there really is. Take that for what it's worth.

    Mr. Garelick of the Hoover Institute and his friends may not be quite as barbaric as Mr. RightWingProf with whom they're affiliated, but they're using all the tactics of know-nothing traditionalist anti-progressivism: assertion of anecdote in place of evidence, appeal to false authority, and worse.

    Mr. Garelick asserts that the distributed practice of the Everyday Mathematics program is "top down"— whatever that means (I don't have my right-wing codebook handy)— and "doesn't achieve mastery" [of basic facts]. He's absolutely wrong about the not achieving mastery part. It suffices to show just one single student who has passed the course and achieved complete mastery of basic facts to refute his argument. Several well-accepted studies have found literally thousands of such students.

    Perhaps Mr. Garelick is overshooting. Perhaps he really meant to say something else, less easily refuted, but if he did, then it's not clear what that might be. Does he have a penchant for overshooting the mark with his statements? What else has he exaggerated?

    See? This is what I meant above when I complained about the hysterical pearl-clutching alarmism of the parrot-math faction. You can see it demonstrated here in this thread. You need only open your eyes and see it.

    I get that you're afraid of progressive education and constructivist methods. But you haven't offered any evidence that your fears are grounded in anything resembling reality. It's hard to tell what you're really objecting to, actually... what, did Jean Piaget poison your kittens or something? Come on, spill!

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  64. "It suffices to show just one single student who has passed the course and achieved complete mastery of basic facts to refute his argument."

    I see. This must be the justification they used when they selected EM.


    Life is tough when you try to cram everything through a political filter.

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  65. So I think this "debate" has reached the nadir to which these discussions generally fall. There will be no changed minds. The traditionalists will bring in as many voices as they can, which may cause the New(er) Math types to do the same. They will make the same points over and over to the edification of none.

    I wonder why it seems to be UCSMP that really gets these arguments started. There are far more radical curricula available - EDM and the 6-12 series really aren't that cutting-edge. Maybe that causes more districts to adopt it as a middle ground solution, I don't know.

    Within SFUSD (and to some extent, within California) this debate is almost offensive. The curriculum's less than a year in use here. I know few teachers who feel that their use of the program was particularly strong this year. And even if we had perfect implementation, results will be seen a couple of years down the line.

    What exactly are the anti-EDM forces after? SFUSD cannot afford to purchase a new curriculum for math. As I understand it, even though this is an adoption year for ELA the state is not requiring that districts buy a new ELA program. The money isn't there. So if the desire is for a different math program, it's borderline offensive. There are FAR FAR FAR FAR FAR more important things classrooms need, especially in SFUSD (where teachers have a good amount of latitude in implementation and supplement/differentiate as needed).

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  66. It's true that there are far worse curricula than EM. Back when my son was in first grade, his school used MathLand, a curriculum so bad that Google won't show anyone who admits to owning it. Of course EM would show improvement. Am I supposed to be happy now because of a small relative change?


    "What exactly are the anti-EDM forces after? SFUSD cannot afford to purchase a new curriculum for math."


    Fait accompli.


    Yes, it's too late now, but that's hardly a comforting argument. The comments might not change anything at SFUSD, but other school districts might realize that there is a big difference between how a curriculum looks during a review process and what happens in reality.

    Here on the East Coast, we've been "down the line" with EM for more than a few years. My son had five years of it. Even if you like that style of teaching and curriculum, there are very serious implementation issues that can't be passed off due to lack of teacher training or experience. Some kids will do just fine and mask problems for kids who could be doing a whole lot better.

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  67. "Life is tough when you try to cram everything through a political filter."

    No, Steve, it's just hard to expect people to accept an over-the-top assertion like "program X fails to achieve Y" when it's possible to find many individual cases where program X, in fact, completely achieved Y. Maybe you want to make a different assertion? Maybe you want to offer a counter to the argument that making over-the-top assertions like this is part of an ongoing pattern?

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  68. So.. let's assume Everyday Math is not perfect and doesn't work for every kid.

    Let's also assume that it is too late (and not within our power) to change the District's Math curriculum.

    What is the best way to support our kids' math education at home? How can we supplement Everyday Math at home to either shore up weaknesses in their program or to "translate" it in ways that children with different learning styles might understand?

    Any concrete guidance out there for parents who want to help their individual children learn and learn to love Math?

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  69. "Any concrete guidance out there for parents who want to help their individual children learn and learn to love Math?"

    Love math? Learning math is not always fun or natural, but I want my son to learn the value of hard work. I take a long term view of the love of learning proposition. Mastery may not ensure love, but it does make it a lot easier.

    If your kids are using EM, make sure that they understand the concepts and master the skills the first time they see the material. It's not too difficult, but the school won't do it. That's not what EM is all about. Do NOT leave it for the next year. This can be tough because EM jumps around like crazy from one topic to the next, and EM doesn't even TRY to achieve mastery the first time. Do NOT accept this assumption.

    Also, I ran into a big problem with my son in that his school did not get to large chunks of the material. When the school got to the end of the year, they just stopped working. I remember a couple of years where we had to finish the workbook in the summer. There was no "love" there.

    Distributed practice is fine if there is a process for closing the mastery loop early, but EM is weak here, by definition. Kids will "love" math a lot more if they don't feel like they are always catching up. When they see the material the next year, it will be a good distributed review if they know it already rather than another struggle to finish learning something the first time. Kids HATE only partially learning things.


    With EM, it's too easy to slide along and assume that the process will fix everything. It doesn't. By sixth grade, the student has no more years to push back mastery. The class is filled with kids who have all sorts of issues, from basic math facts to concepts of fractions and decimals. The teacher can't possible diagnose and fix all of the problems. In addition to learning new material that can't be pushed off to the future, the student gets "Math Boxes" filled with old material that still has to be learned.

    Even in the new edition of 6th grade EM, the Math Boxes were placed right in the middle of learning new material. I can't imagine how they expect kids to finish mastering old material right in the middle of new material that might require the use of that old material. There are no more years to distribute that practice.

    On top of all of that, 6th grade is usually when the school gives kids a math placement test for a 7th and 8th grade math track. At our school, some parents and kids are taken completely by surprise. Based on that test of basics, kids get put on the slow, medium or fast math track. Those who have kept up on mastery of their skills will get to algebra in 8th grade. For the rest, I can hear the doors closing and kids beginning to say that they are just not good in math.

    The slower speed math classes are filled with kids who have all sorts of knowledge and skill gaps that may never be fixed. Our high school now offers an algebra course that includes a "lab" that tries to fix these issues. Good for them! However, these issues would be so much easier to diagnose and catch in the earlier grades and more students might find themselves on the AP calculus track.

    There is no love without mastery.

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  70. I did love math as a child, so please don't write math off as unlovable. And yes, part of that love can be mastering it, understanding how it all fits together. My own parents supplemented my school lesson math with workbooks they got themselves. It was great.

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  71. Maybe this is a stupid question, as my kids aren't at testing grades yet, but wouldn't any real gap in a particular child's math skills show up on the star test results?

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  72. Any advice for kinder parents?

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  73. You really want to know what kids need to succeed at math? TEACHERS WHO HAVE PLANNING TIME TO COLLABORATE. Teachers who have dedicated release time to talk to each other, compare what is working, what is not, at the grade level as well as between grade levels. It's a huge missing piece.

    At my school we sit down with our grade level colleagues and discuss math maybe once a year for an hour. There's no time for it. Planning time is taken up with prepping for our individual classes, and still most of that is done on our own time. As long as the school districts won't pay for real planning time (and more than a couple days of what passes for "professional development" which this year was a basic introduction to the structure of the curriculum) it doesn't really matter what curriculum we use. We aren't putting the resources towards making sure teachers understand how best to use the curriculum. That's the real danger with these more scripted programs, and the reason they don't work. Teachers aren't robots that run programs! They need to collaborate and support each other.

    Harcourt sucked, and EM will suck, too, without teachers who are well prepared to use it. And right now they are not well prepared.

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  74. Anonymous@4:32pm writes: "Planning time is taken up with prepping for our individual classes, and still most of that is done on our own time. As long as the school districts won't pay for real planning time (and more than a couple days of what passes for "professional development" which this year was a basic introduction to the structure of the curriculum) it doesn't really matter what curriculum we use."I'd happily put this in the category of Things I'd Rather Be Doing Than Resisting The Parrot-Math Zombies. If the discussion in this thread tails away into irrelevance, as I hope it will along with its successors, then maybe our teachers won't have to get jerked around with prepping for yet another math curriculum change to add to that basic problem of not enough planning and preparation time.

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  75. "I did love math as a child, so please don't write math off as unlovable."

    I never said that. I have two masters degrees in engineering and used to teach college math and computer science. I luuuuuuv math. However, you can't assume that the process of learning math is natural or fun. Some of the modern math curricula exchange rigor for fun and games (hidden behind a label called discovery), but being excited about a subject doesn't always get the job done. It's kind of like eating mathematical Twinkies.

    I was a coach for my son's FIRST Lego league and Science Olympiad teams. It's too easy to go through the fun motions or allow some kids to slide while just a few set off all of the discovery light bulbs. Two kids might do all of the real work while the rest do the simple work and go along for the fun ride. Classrooms might look like beehives of hands-on, active learning, but who is really doing the work and how much material is being covered? You can always reduce rigor and slow down coverage in exchange for fun. Some kids will do just fine, but what about the rest? They've slipped through the cracks.

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  76. "...but wouldn't any real gap in a particular child's math skills show up on the star test results?"

    If this is a yearly state test, then you shouldn't wait until then to find answers. As a parent, I look at everything that comes home in my son's backpack. My evaluation timeframe is daily. Unfortunately, his school is really big on rubrics and hiding everthing away in portfolios. This makes it much harder for parents to keep up with cause and effect. I may work with my son on an assignment that doesn't come back for a month or gets hidden away in a portfolio. Then the quarterly rubric grades get sent home and parents have only a crude sense of any problem or potential solution.

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  77. "Any advice for kinder parents?"

    It's not kind to set high expectations? How many tough teachers do you now remember fondly even though they forced you to do a lot of work?

    I know that some parents like the idea of unschooling or natural learning. I think they should be given that choice, just like I think that other parents need to have the choice of selecting a school that emphasizes a specific curriculum and specific grade-level expectations.

    Unfortunately, only the affluent get to have these choices. The poor don't even have the choice to get into schools where they are with other kids who care about education.

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  78. "You really want to know what kids need to succeed at math? TEACHERS WHO HAVE PLANNING TIME TO COLLABORATE."


    It takes more than that, but I have said elsewhere that even with Singapore Math kids might still get to fifth grade not knowing what 6 times 7 is.

    As a parent, comments like this are very disturbing. Teachers shouldn't assume that parents single them out for blame. It could be that parents don't know what goes on behind the scenes at school between teachers and the administration. I've been in parent-teacher school improvement meetings where it's quite clear that nobody wants parents to see anything that happens behind the veil.

    I really don't want to pick sides in ongoing teacher-administration battles but parents could help fix this problem if you just let us in. Even if you don't do that, you have the responsibility to raise this issue with the school committee. If you see something that harms education in a major way like this, you have the professional responsibility to do something about it, and it doesn't have to be translated into a line item in a union contract. This is a fundamental expectation of education.

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  79. The poor don't even have the choice to get into schools where they are with other kids who care about education.As someone who grew up poor in a family that valued education and who teaches poor children (90% of my Ksters get free lunch), I refute your assertion. It may be that you are making a claim based on stereotypes. The stereotype is based on incorrect information. It may be that you have interacted with many poor families, in which case I must ask if you considered the possibility that these families do care, but they express that differently than you do.

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  80. To the parent who asked for K recommendations:

    1. Take a look at the K math standards and if possible the framework, since they give a nice explanation as to why these skills are important and how they build into algebra and calculus.

    2. EDM is actually pretty good for K - in my opinion - because it teaches mathematical thinking and math language. Ask your child's teacher what math language their school uses and reinforce those words when talking to your child (I notice many children need to be explicitly taught the meaning of the word "fewer" for instance, and it's one that kids need for math.)

    3. Exploration time with blocks, pattern blocks, legos, etc. - all of these build mathematical thinking.

    4. Use math with your child for daily activities: telling time (including time words), deciding what to buy, looking at money/counting money, patterns in nature and our world, etc.

    5. Even if you personally hate math and/or find it difficult, don't share that with your child (except in terms of learning from mistakes or feeling good about doing things that are hard).

    6. Do not pressure your child on math facts (adding and subtracting) early in the year. Actually, don't pressure your child on anything, of course, but save facts practice for later.

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  81. "I'd happily put this in the category of Things I'd Rather Be Doing Than Resisting The Parrot-Math Zombies."

    Nobody is stopping you.

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  82. "...in which case I must ask if you considered the possibility that these families do care, but they express that differently than you do."

    Do you mean that students have the option to get out of a classroom where others don't care and make learning impossible? Or are you saying that these other kids are just expresssing their love of learning in a different fashion? Would you not allow kids the choice to go to KIPP or Green Dot schools?

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  83. SteveH:

    Would you send your children to KIPP schools? Because I - a white woman who's now in the middle class - would certainly NOT send mine to a school that is in session eight or more hours a day and that uses punitive methods of discipline.

    You are ignoring my point, though, so let me make it clear. Parents and caregivers care about their children's education. Your bias may cause you blindness in seeing that, but that doesn't mean that parents don't care. I interact on a daily basis with parents you would certainly see as uncaring. I know that they do care - they just don't express it the way you might.

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  84. "...since they give a nice explanation as to why these skills are important and how they build into algebra and calculus."

    This is more true in CA, but the frameworks in many other states will not give you that information. Ask if your school has a 6th grade math placement test. Ask for a copy or a sample.



    "EDM is actually pretty good for K - in my opinion - because it teaches mathematical thinking and math language."

    It takes much more than that. You have to master the skills. There is no understanding without mastery. Mastery is not just speed and it's not just rote.


    "Exploration time with blocks, pattern blocks, legos, etc. - all of these build mathematical thinking."

    Lose the blocks as soon as you can.


    "Use math with your child for daily activities: ..."

    Check their homework daily and fix any mastery problems you see.


    "Even if you personally hate math and/or find it difficult, don't share that with your child ..."

    I'll agree with that. Make sure that they do their homework.


    "Do not pressure your child on math facts (adding and subtracting) early in the year. Actually, don't pressure your child on anything, of course, but save facts practice for later."

    This is the worst advice possible. You should make sure that your child is AHEAD of the class in terms of mastery of basic skills.

    This advice comes just after one teacher exclaims how many schools never have planning time for ANY type of math curruiculum. What does that tell parents? Don't assume that you can trust the school.


    If you want to know why good students are good students, ask their parents. Their kids have moved on from playing with blocks and patterns. The parents have ensured mastery (at home or with tutors) when the school hasn't.

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  85. "...would certainly NOT send mine to a school that is in session eight or more hours a day and that uses punitive methods of discipline."

    Are you saying that other parents shouldn't have that choice?


    "Parents and caregivers care about their children's education."

    I never talked about parents not caring. I'm talking about kids who don't care and how the students who do care have no choices. Apparently you don't want others to have choices that you disagree with. Apparently, you don't even worry about separating those students who can or will from those who can't or won't.

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  86. I was confused by "mastery" and "spiraling" so Googled them. I learned arithmetic by mastery back in the 60s and early 70s. The teachers used a variety of games to make it lively and fun but we got it done. Mathematics--well I never understood algebra or geometry and gave up on math after freshman year geometry. (You could do that back then and still go to a reputable college.) After no math classes at all in my sophomore or junior years of HS, I scored in the 97th percentile (top 3%) on the math portion of the SAT that I took at the end of junior year. I actually did attempt to work through the SAT problems, not just choose b for every answer and get lucky. Was I abnormal or did that mastery stuff possibly lay some sort of solid foundation? Would be interested to hear from anybody on this. I feel very confused and don't know what I should be looking for in terms of my child's skill development. Also, do people think if one were to switch from a spiral curriculum in one school to a mastery curriculum in another, or vice versa, would that be a disaster?

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  87. Steve H: Are you an educator? Because I think your sense of what is developmentally appropriate for kindergarten might be skewed.

    I don't know where you live, but in San Francisco, none of the top private schools -- including the most rigorous and academic schools -- give homework before second grade.

    (The public schools do, though...)


    Your comments didn't seem appropriate for 4 and 5 year olds...

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  88. " don't know where you live, but in San Francisco, none of the top private schools -- including the most rigorous and academic schools -- give homework before second grade."

    Perhaps we're talking past each other. I never talked specifically about Kindergarten. The discussion was mostly about EveryDay Math, which goes up to 6th grade. The major point is whether you can depend on spiraling or natural learning to ensure mastery. It may work for some, but most kids need more structure and expectations; things that dont happen in EM unless you force it to happen.

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  89. "Was I abnormal or did that mastery stuff possibly lay some sort of solid foundation?"

    I can't say.


    "Also, do people think if one were to switch from a spiral curriculum in one school to a mastery curriculum in another.."


    There could always be a problem going from one school to the next, but it's really not about spiraling versus mastery. Spiraling can mean many things and there are different levels and types of mastery and understanding. There is also the (big) issue that one teacher brought up about teacher preparation and coordination. You could have the best curriculum in the world and the best fifth grade teacher in the world, but it doesn't matter if some kids come into class adding on their fingers.

    Some states have good math standards and some states only worry about getting all kids over a low cut-off point, but it is a place to start to check for grade-level expectations.

    In terms of mastery, my big advice to parents is to make sure it happens, sooner rather than later, no matter what curriculum or spiraling is used. Gaps can cause huge problems later on that are hard to diagnose and fix.

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  90. What specific math skills should one "master"? By when should a normal-bright (as opposed to challenged) child have mastered these skills? Of what do "good math standards" consist? What exactly is meant by "mastery"--being able to answer correctly automatically without even thinking, as one can after memorizing the multiplication table? Being able to compute in one's head? Something else? Thank you for any responses to these questions. I have some anxiety because so far my child has a strong bent for math and hopes of an engineering career. He's only 6 and of course may change his mind 100 times or more, but I am hopelessly ignorant. I don't want to inadvertently close doors to him by putting him or keeping him in a situation where he won't be acquiring the math foundation he will need to move forward.

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  91. SteveH:

    I see that you do not appreciate my advice, and you are certainly welcome to criticize it. However, I feel that I should mention that I am a veteran Kindergarten teacher. The tone of your comment leads me to believe that you are not one who accords much, if any, respect to teachers. I will point out, though, that my students - ALL of my students - reach or exceed grade-level standards every year. And they do it in math without daily fact practice the moment they walk in the door. And by your lights, their parents do not care about education (they do, actually, but you seem unwilling to consider that possibility). So personally, I think my advice is pretty good.

    Yes, I would absolutely keep as many children from KIPP schools as I could. Overall, KIPP's results are very problematic, especially as regards retention of students and staff. (And corporal punishment in Fresno.) Also, I don't believe that what ails education will be solved by militarizing schools for the poor.

    I note with interest that you seem unwilling to answer my question: would you send your own children to KIPP schools? (Also, KIPP does not like the implication that they "cherry-pick" the certain parents who "care" about education, so you might want to avoid that one.)

    While I admit I have some interest in your non-response to my question, I am going to exit this thread. It is clear that you are unwilling to accept any opinion other than your own, and I am learning nothing from this exchange.

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  92. "And by your lights, their parents do not care about education."

    I never said or implied that, but that won't stop you. Actually, many of these parents care so much that they are willing to fight people like you to have their kids go to Green Dot and KIPP schools.


    "Yes, I would absolutely keep as many children from KIPP schools as I could."

    Yep. Those poor people just aren't smart enough to decide for themselves. Apparently this isn't one of those other ways in which parents show they care about education.


    Oh, and yes, I would consider a KIPP school for my son if the public education system in our state ever allowed one to be set up! And if they don't pass legislation denying that choice to any parent who lives in a town that meets the pathetically poor state cut-off standards.


    "Also, KIPP does not like the implication that they 'cherry-pick' the certain parents who "care" about education,.."

    Yes, parents who care apply more than those who don't. Imagine! That's just so unfair! Heaven forbid that parents want their kids to go to a school where the other parents "care" about education. Either everyone gets out or nobody gets out. That's such an inspirational thought for inner-city parents to keep in mind. If you are a low income family that cares about education, you're not allowed to do anything about it.

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  93. "What specific math skills should one "master"? By when should a normal-bright (as opposed to challenged) child have mastered these skills?"

    The CA state standards are pretty good, and you can find the information online.


    "What exactly is meant by 'mastery'--being able to answer correctly automatically without even thinking, as one can after memorizing the multiplication table?"

    That's only part of it. When you get into the later grades, mastery is much less rote in nature, but it still needs to be automatic. The skill of manipulating fractions has to be strong enough to make the transition to rational expressions. You can't just stop with a slice of pie type understanding of fractions.


    "I have some anxiety because so far my child has a strong bent for math and hopes of an engineering career."

    If you want to keep the doors open for a career in engineering, you need to know what's required. The first big door usually occurs in 6th grade when schools give kids a math placement test for two or more math tracks in 7th and 8th grade. You need to get your child on the algebra in 8th grade track. That's the one which leads to the AP calculus track in high school. Getting to calculus in high school is not required, but you need to make sure you get on that track: Geometry in 9th grade, Algebra II in 10th, and Pre-Calc (or trig) in 11th.

    I wish I could say that there is a secure path to that point if you don't make the cut on the 6th grade test, but I rarely see it. Kids often get the lower expectation math and struggle to even reach Algebra II. This won't get you into a college of engineering.

    So, get a copy of any sort of 6th grade placement test and make sure that your school offers the same algebra I class and textbook in 8th grade as the high school offers in 9th. This has to be the same algebra class that heads towards AP calculus.

    Surprisingly, our 8th grade just started doing this a couple of years ago after finally (!) dropping CMP, a math curriculum that led nowhere.

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  94. Well at our SFUSD public Span Imm school the Everyday Math is not being used, at least not in our Kg room. The teachers have told us they do not like it, don't understand it and do no think kids learn from it. Instead our kids are getting mind-numbingly boring math worksheets over and over, with no "real life" application of math. We are very unhappy that the Everyday Math is not being used but there seems to be no oversite. If the teachers do not like a curriculum, they can chuck it or ignore it?

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  95. "If the teachers do not like a curriculum, they can chuck it or ignore it?"

    There are a number of issues. I can understand why one teacher on this thread complained about no time or protocol for making sure that math education is coordinated across the grades. I can also understand why some would claim that this matters much more than the particular curriculum selected. Math is cumulative, so if all teachers aren't working off of the same game plan, that's a major problem.

    The next question is what is the game plan and who gets to decide? As a parent, I see things happen at my son's school that both sides (teachers and administration) don't want me to know about. Therefore, I don't know the details and tensions that exist over this issue. You don't want an administration cramming a new curriculum down teachers' throats every few years, but you don't want teachers to feel that they are educational free agents. I can see problems with both approaches, but don't expect parents to necessarily agree with either side.

    If an administration selects a new math curriculum without input from teachers (and parents), or if they don't provide proper teacher preparation, then that's one cause for major problems. However, if a school allows teachers great latitude over what happens in class, then that might allow great teachers to shine, but poor teachers to really screw things up. As I've said before, a great 5th grade teacher might not be so great because he or she is trying to fix the screw-ups of earlier teachers.

    Many of my comments about math curricula assume that there are none of these major screw-ups taking place. My son's school selected Everyday Math, it was carefully introduced, and teachers were properly prepared. However, we still have some teachers who think they are free agents and don't feel the need for any coordination with other teachers. Depending on your point of view, they could be improving education or making it worse.


    "Instead our kids are getting mind-numbingly boring math worksheets over and over, with no 'real life' application of math."

    This is a perfect example. My son loves math. By the time he got to Kindergarten, he was doing all sorts of problems. I would leave math worksheets on the kitchen table and he would see them and then sit down and do them. I remember that one of them required him to put a greater than, equals, or less than signs between two numbers. When I naively mentioned this to his Kindergarten teacher, I got the impression that she was going to call the police.

    This also reminds me of what his first grade teacher told me when I also naively told her that he could find any country in the world and knew most of the state capitals. She said: "Yes, he has a lot of superficial knowledge."

    I call it foundational knowledge, thank you. But she didn't bother to find out if he knew anything else. Ironically, later that year my son had to show the student teacher where Kuwait was on the map when the class was having a thematic unit of sands from around the world.

    Many people have quite different views about what constitutes a proper education. This doesn't bother me. I mentioned before that if parents want their kids to have some sort of natural, unschooling approach to school, they should be able to get it. If other parents want a KIPP-style approach, they should get that.

    What does bother me is when those who barely know anything about math (or hate math) pretend to tell me about mastery, understanding, creativity, and the real world, and that they alone know not only how to teach, but what to teach and the proper level of expectation. On top of that, I'm not supposed to have any say or choice in the whole process. Schools decide (or teachers decide as free agents) what is taught and then hold open houses to inform parents that they really need to accept the school's view of what 21st century education is all about.

    School choice can't get here soon enough.

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  96. Thank you Steve H for responding to my question about what skills should be mastered to lay a solid foundation for moving to advanced levels. It's quite a challenge for math-impaired parents to know what to do. There's plenty of math talent in our extended family but our son is the only one in our household. His current K-8 school's reputation for math is shaky past about 4th grade. I realize that all schools' strengths are fluid (faculty move on, administrative emphasis changes, etc.) but do you have any thoughts about which elementary schools in San Francisco, public or private, have been consistent in offering effective math instruction?

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  97. Steve H: In an earlier post, you dissected advice given to kindergarten parents.

    Then you claimed you never said anything about kindergarten.

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  98. Which Spanish-immersion school chucked Everyday Math?

    I know that at Marshall the teachers got extra training on teh curriculum, so I'm pretty sure they are implementing EDM.

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  99. "...do you have any thoughts about which elementary schools in San Francisco, public or private, have been consistent in offering effective math instruction?"

    No. I live on the East Coast.

    I would suggest that you talk to parents of kids who do well. Perhaps some of their kids are naturally smart and the parents will shrug their shoulders. Others will have lots to say. That doesn't mean that you will agree with them or that you will get a consistent answer. However, I've found that my grocery store and soccer sideline chats with other parents have been very enlightening. You will hear things that nobody will dare say in a letter to the editor.

    Also, don't assume that private schools automatically do better. You could spend a lot of money for little to no improvement. A larger public school might have the numbers and resources to offer more choices for more ability levels. The principal at my son's public school does a great job trying to adjust schedules for each child. Unfortunately, this comes only after 6th grade when the school can't pretend that differentiated instruction will still work.

    Also, check to see what math textbooks or math curriculum is used in middle school. Most schools offer different levels based on the 6th grade test. The school should offer a real algebra I class in 8th grade that aligns with the honors math track in high school. Ask the school what percent of kids get into the honors geometry class as 9th graders.

    A big key is to not wait until the 6th grade math placement test to find out that something is wrong. By then, it's almost too late.

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  100. ...in San Francisco, none of the top private schools -- including the most rigorous and academic schools -- give homework before second grade.In our San Francisco K-8 Catholic school (one of the ones with a good rep and good ITBS scores), student have had at least a small amount of homework since Kinder.

    And as I said much earlier, I would never send a child of mine to a school, public or private, that used EDM.

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  101. Dear SteveH - tl;dr

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  102. SteveH, I made the comment at April 27, 2009 4:32 PM, and I'd like to know where you got the idea that I assume parents single teachers out for blame?

    You go on to say that parents could help teachers, if teachers would let them in. How exactly do you imagine that would work? I'm posting here with the hopes that I will educate some parents about the issues that exist in many schools. However, I can't see taking an issue like the lack of paid planning and collaboration time to the parents in my school, at least not without my principal being directly involved in such an appeal for assistance. This may surprise you, but not all teachers and administrators are enemies. My principal understands the problems around the lack of planning time, unfortunately school budgets being what they are, we all also understand that there is very little flexibility in this area. No principal can wave a magic wand and make money appear where none exists, and that is the key. The funds to pay for time to plan and collaborate are just not there.

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  103. "No principal can wave a magic wand and make money appear where none exists, and that is the key."

    So planning and collaboration are extras that come after everything you do now? The argument that I responded to was that math curricula don't matter compared to the lack of planning and collaboration. If that's the case, schools should put this in front as a required task to get done, not something they have to get more money to do. If it's that basic and important, then it shouldn't be automatically translated into more money.

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  104. How is it supposed to get done without the resources to do it? Time is money, as they say, and schools have none. If you're saying that the priority should be to pay for teachers' time before new (and novel) curricula, I agree.

    At this point, yes, planning and collaboration are largely extras that come after everything else we do as teachers. When scripted curriculum is adopted, it comes with the assumption that teacher input is unnecessary. The idea is that if we just follow the plan and the pacing guide, if we implement the program as designed it will "work."

    I certainly do NOT blame parents for this state of affairs. I blame education "reformers," and those who seem to wish the public school system to fail. I also don't expect parents to take on the job of running the schools their children attend, anymore than I expect the customers of a restaurant to run the kitchen. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? Would you expect it to improve the food or the service?

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  105. "...anymore than I expect the customers of a restaurant to run the kitchen. Doesn't that sound ridiculous?"

    Yes, but I can always go to another restaurant. Schools can't have it both ways; no choice and no input.

    Besides, I'm talking about a process. Our schools make assumptions about education with absolutely no input from parents. There is even a strong resistance against our school committee getting involved with anything other than budget and extraneous issues. Everything gets translated into dollars as if nothing is a just a matter of changing how the money is spent. The school comes up with a budget and everyone talks about money. More money; better education. Less money; worse education. Well, no. Show me the details. Nope. I'm not allowed any input. The school decides and it's either a yes or no on the budget.


    Good restaurants will ask their patrons what they like and don't like. They will offer specials to see what the response is. Schools don't do that. They select the menu and then hold open houses to tell parents (who could be culinary experts) why this food is so good for them. But I see mathematical Twinkies on the menu. Schools can't claim that this is a budget issue or that I should ignore the Twinkies because there are worse problems hidden in the kitchen. After that, don't tell me that I can't go to another restaurant.

    I complain about bad math curricula, but what do I get? I get people in schools saying that I really don't know what math is, or that curriculum is minor issue compared to planning and collaboration. If it's that bad, then fix it so the curriculum does matter. Don't ask for more money.

    Others complain about administrators or "reformers" (whoever they are), but since I'm not allowed behind the veil, don't expect me to know what that means or expect me to advocate for one side or the other.

    Schools can't have it both ways.

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  106. SteveH, have you considered that you are expecting 4-star cuisine at taco stand prices? You admit you don't understand school budgets, but you still insist that schools don't need more money to do a better job. Sorry, that just doesn't make sense.

    I do however have sympathy for your frustration with not being able to get an accounting of how the money is spent. As I understand it, in San Francisco the school site councils have a great deal of input into budget decisions, although I don't know how available the numbers are to them, or to the public. However it does seem to me that the information should be provided. If anyone's still reading this who has more info on budget transparency in schools I hope you'll enlighten us!

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  107. "SteveH, have you considered that you are expecting 4-star cuisine at taco stand prices?"

    [Hey! I like tacos!]

    Basic collaboration and coordination in math is a 4-star offering? We have to pay a lot more for basic educational planning before we can even begin to talk about curriculum? "You mean you want a plate with that taco?"


    "taco stand prices?"

    That's a really, really expensive taco at current cost per student levels.

    I can get a better meal for my money. Oops. That's right. I'm not allowed to do that. Maybe that's why so many kids get a taco stand education.

    Hasta la vista.

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  108. Well Steve, I'll put it this way: Last year I worked at a school that wouldn't even let teachers into the supply closet. We had to fill out requisitions once a month to get pencils, paper, and other very basic supplies and if we missed the date, too bad. We were allotted copies by the thousand (to last a quarter or longer), but if you do the math you'll see that 1000 copies equals 40 single-sided sheets per student for a class of 25. That's about a month's worth of math homework (that's how Harcourt handled math homework - teachers had to copy the assignments). But you insist that there is some hidden money in the budget. Where? It's definitely not at the school site level. Maybe it's at the district level, but after all the cuts to education funding in my state (CA) I find it difficult to imagine where, except maybe administrative salaries.

    I agree that budget transparency is needed, but I'm not convinced that we'd find what you imagine is being kept from you.

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  109. I approve of the spiraling philosophy that they tried to incorporate into Everyday Math. Instead of breaking the concepts into chapters that you cover from week to week exclusively, the program comes back to touch on the concepts throughout the year. I believe that this really helps most kids understand something like say, fractions, in the younger grades. For example. If you only are taught and practice fractions for two weeks during February....that knowledge can be too easily forgotten. Same with money, same with telling time, same with a lot of "packaged from start to finish" concepts. It isn't redundant either. The developers worked hard to reintroduce already taught math skills in new ways and from new angles of though. So, the kids that didn't quite "get it" the first time around have second, third, and fourth (tenth) chances to be exposed to the math concept and get that "Aha! I understand this." moment.

    Even though the program is a juggling act with many different booklets and games and various 5 minute maths and homework links and whatever...I think it definately is one of the better math programs. The explanations for most of the student work is a little complicated. Though, all in all, I like the program. Instead of being a critic about 1 or two homeworks, like I have read in some other comments, I think we should look at the whole years worth. And, use common sense. If you can't count cans from a shopping trip one night, just try to remember to do it some other time or count the cans that you have from the last shopping trip. (That is just a suggestion anyway - to try to use parents to help children understand that there is math in the real world too.)

    Next time you go to Mitchel's ice cream, when you pull the number ask your children how many people are in front of you. (But we don't live near Mitchel's!) OK. How about at the bank then? Or IKEA returns. Or Lucca Deli.

    Next time you get gas, have them guess at how much it will cost to fill up the 14 gallon tank. (But we take the bus!) OK. How about guessing how many people are on the bus and then counting to see if you are right?

    Pick a number between 1 and 100 and have them guess it. Teach them the strategy to pick 50 first, which will narrow it down to 1-50 or 51-100. (But, our religion forbids us from guessing games!) Uh. Good luck.

    My point is: just use your common sense with the homework. Explain to your kids that you can do it another night or in a different way.

    Would I pick it for SFUSD?

    Absolutely not. This math program is - very - wordy. The dialogue about the math is what makes this program different from most others. If a student is going to be successful, they need to speak the same language as the teacher. And, since we have so many language learners, bilingual, and immersion types of learning....this program is not going to be as effective as if it were a district of English speakers (like Michigan, where it originated).

    I actually can't believe that SFUSD picked it up, just based on the heavy use of language and discussion needed to teach almost all of the math concepts. ESL kids or immersion kids learning the new language will have more difficult time mastering math concepts with Everyday.

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  110. My children are being subjected to Everyday Math in the Seattle Public Schools and from my experience as a parent, it leaves many gaps in a child's elementary math education.

    Parents, teach your kids the pencil-and-paper arithmetic you learned (no calculator needed) and make sure they learn their multiplication facts. If you can, stay one step ahead of the curriculum and teach the standard computation methods before they are exposed to the EDM way.

    Don't wait until the 3rd grade when your child is attempting to solve a simple multi-digit addition problem with tally marks. Or they get to the 4th grade and they still don't know their multiplication facts.

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  112. Everyday math is nothing short of educational malpractice. I'm thinking that it was written by education majors, not math majors. It leaves elementary age children unfamiliar with the basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and unprepared to tackle Algebra, Trig, and Calculus.

    Want to be an engineer, veterinarian, or doctor? You'll need to get through Calculus first. Want to work at the Sprint store for minimum wage? Everyday math will suit you just fine. As long as the cash register doesn't break.

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