Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hot topic: Everyday Math

This from a reader:
It's been over a year since SFUSD adopted Everyday Math. Is everybody happy with it?

Here are a few past posts on this same topic:


  1. Yes, I'm so happy that the SFUSD is teaching children to use a calculator and balance a cheque book.

    I'm sure that is the most important thing for them to know.

  2. Good lord, it's not the worst thing for them to learn. Look at the financial mess this country is in with people up to their eyeballs in debt, not knowing how credit cards work. A few math life skills thrown in with the regular algebra, etc. can't hurt.

  3. The school we're going to next year (Zion Lutheran) is introducing Saxon Math. The grade 2 teacher is very enthusiastic about this curriculum. Would be interested to know how it compares with Everyday Math. I can't find much information online.

  4. How is math taught in immersion school? Are the textbook available in other languages than English?

  5. In practice, I like it. I find it to be a reasonable balance between traditional (learn the algorithms) math and new (think it through your own way) math techniques.

    It has its detractors and supporters, of course. The traditionalists prefer Singapore-math style learning--drill the algorithms until they are second nature. The new math people liked Mathland (from the 1990's) with its manipulatives and whole learning approach. For me, the balance here is good. My kid (7th grade) seems both to understand algebraic concepts--why an algorithm works, and how else one might arrive at the answer--as well as to understand how to apply the techniques to a variety of problems, including "real-life"- type examples. I especially liked the statistics section--can't think of when I ever learned that stuff before college. Anway, it works for my kid. Others' mileage may vary.

    Everyday Math was originally developed at U. Chicago and premiered in the Lab School (of Obama daughters fame).

  6. New waitlist posted.

  7. Unfortunately, in order to understand the current financial crisis, cheque book balancing skills will not get you there.

    For starters, it would be helpful to understand the effect of compound interest, a concept that is not examined until at least advanced algebra.

    Everyday Math will likely not help our kids to get to advanced algebra.

    The finanical crisis might also be understood through risk estimation, which is a field of statistics, another field in the area of advanced mathematics, not check book balancing.

  8. The waitlist numbers for the immersion programs look all wrong.

    They practially cleared the Alvarado, Buena Vista and Marshall waitlists? I doubt it. I am really nervous now - I feel like there were some big screw-ups.

    Does anyone have any info?

  9. "In practice, I like it. I find it to be a reasonable balance between traditional (learn the algorithms) math and new (think it through your own way) math techniques."

    There are no "new" math techniques at the elementary level.

    The think it through your own way approach cannot work for someone who has not even learned the basics of arithmetic.

    That's a joke. A myth, perpetuated by educators who are too lazy to do the hard work of teaching math.

  10. oh - I get it. They are identifying the waitlist by english speakers and spanish speakers

    SE - means english speaking waitlist
    SN - means spanish speaking waitlist

    I guess this is pretty helpful.

    With that information, it looks like almost no movement in these three schols this round

  11. 10:55, the kids are learning statistics in 7th grade through Everyday Math. Also probability (including compound probability). Also linear and non-linear equations--solving for them and graphing them. Also finding measurements (volume, area, etc.) of various plane and 3-D figures. Next year they'll be getting Algebra 1 in preparation for Algebra 2 in 9th grade.

    Actually, my kid started learning about mean, median and mode in 4th and 5th grade. In 7th grade statistics they reviewed this and also learned new concepts such as how to find outliers and how to determine the interquartile range (middle half of the data)--and really, how to interpret data. They learned various ways to notate statistics and why to pick one over the other depending on what one wants to learn or show from the data. I learned some things just watching the homework get done.

    What grade is your child in? Is he or she not getting this stuff? I believe it is standard curriculum. They were just tested on it this past week state testing.

  12. The think it through your own way approach cannot work for someone who has not even learned the basics of arithmetic.

    Like I said, your mileage may vary. I have found it to be a good balance between drill/kill and think-it-through conceptual approaches that, I agree, can be fuzzy if they are missing the elements of practice. My kid picks up algorithms quickly and loathes worksheets that rehearse the same concepts over and over, but I have explained that in math as in piano, there is value in repetition. I'm a fan of memorizing the multiplication table in third grade, and of memorizing certain basic techniques for algebra in 7th-9th grade. I really am. I hated Mathland even though I liked some of the games. But I also think there is value in understanding why they work, and in allowing kids who are at that level to try other ways of deriving the answer.

    Fundamentally, this takes a good teacher. I loved loved loved my kid's 5th grade teacher--the best. The current 7th grade teacher is more of a worksheets kind of person, with less room for the thinking it through. Maybe that's because more kids need the former. But at least the textbook encourages it--and the teacher is allowing my kid to work out of the textbook some of time, and not always from the worksheets.

    Anyway, I think Everyday Math, while not perfect, is a reasonable balance.

  13. The problem with Everyday Math is that it fails to emphasize arithmetic automaticity.

    The research on EM was done on affluent kids, who likely had families that filled in the gaps of EM.

    A let them teach themselves method does not work in general.

    I've had a look at both EM and Singapore math. Singapore math is a far more rigorous system and advanced system. It is also a lot more fun, than EM.

    The kids teach arithmetic to themselves thing is a joke.

  14. I can't find the updated waitpool info. Would someone please post a link to the actual .pdf. Thanks (and sorry to be off topic).

  15. Would love to hear more about Singapore math as well as EM. I understand that Brandeis has switched to this curriculum.

  16. PS.

    There is no reason why teaching automaticity can't be fun.

    Kids love the rapidity and challenge of doing arithmetic.

    Most other cultures embrace this. For example, the abacus. I have a friend from Vietnam, a woman, who foundly recalls her father teaching her arithmetic on an abacus. Today, she is an engineer.

    There is something wrong with us that we think that teaching automaticity in arithmetic is somehow traumatizing our children.

  17. Would love to hear more about Singapore math as well as EM. I understand that Brandeis has switched to this curriculum.

    Has switched to which one?

  18. 11:22 - 11:17 here. Sorry for the confusion. I understand that Brandeis now uses Singapore math.

  19. "They practially cleared the Alvarado, Buena Vista and Marshall waitlists? I doubt it. I am really nervous now - I feel like there were some big screw-ups."

    Marshall looks almost clear, but there are still big pools for BV and Alvarado. For some reason, they are listing K after all the other grades. They have also mixed in the middle schools and high schools rather than separating them out, which I am finding harder to read (want to compare apples to apples).

  20. Regarding Singapore Math vs Everyday Math:

    There's lots of information on the web.

    You can also order the Singapore Math workbooks on Amazon.

    They're beautifully illustrated, colorful, and very fun.

  21. This is 11:30. My apologies! I was looking at an old version. Disregard, please!

  22. Re Singapore Math versus Everyday Math. I'm a bit of an agnostic other than to say that I don't think my child would find Singapore to be as fun as all that! Yet I am far from a supporter of New Math and Mathland---much too fuzzy (as one who was taught at the height of New Math and whose kid caught the tail end of Mathland). Everyday Math is NOT New Math--please don't confuse it with the extremes of that approach. That would be a straw man.

    But if you really love Singapore Math, you should campaign for it. There are plenty of parents who want rigorous, automatic-response, fast math skills. You'll have to fight the folks that want manipulatives and conceptual approaches, but you just might win. Pendulum is swinging in that direction, as it does every generation or so.

  23. Everyday Math is used in SFUSD only for elementary. The text your 7th grader is using is not Everyday Math middle school program which is Pathways to Geometry and Algebra, but rather California Mathmatics.

    Everyday Math is ok, not great. Singapore is better and you could use Singapore and incorporate the games.

  24. Regarding WP assignments: what is the column "WP Assignments by Sept '09"?

  25. "The text your 7th grader is using is not Everyday Math middle school program which is Pathways to Geometry and Algebra, but rather California Mathmatics."

    Thank you for the clarification.

  26. For the waitlist info - go to and look to the right

  27. "But if you really love Singapore Math, you should campaign for it. There are plenty of parents who want rigorous, automatic-response, fast math skills. You'll have to fight the folks that want manipulatives and conceptual approaches, but you just might win. Pendulum is swinging in that direction, as it does every generation or so."

    Sorry, I don't have to fight for anything. I just buy the Singapore math books on Amazon myself.

    Singapore math also uses manipulatives. It's not an either/or proposition.

    I'm just putting up a little information, for those who might want to listen to reason.

  28. I only saw wait pool link for April 5th. Where is the newest update?

  29. ^ Never mind. Although the link says April 5, once you click in, the document says "Posted April 30th"

  30. EPC took the link down. It is no longer available

    It was previously listed as

    Waiting Pool Cohorts April 30, 2010

  31. Yeah, the April 5 link was the old one.

    Can someone dig out the PDF link? Check your browser history please.

  32. Good grief...I am sure they all went to lunch, while I bite my nails waiting for a glimmer of hope.

  33. why did they take the link down?

  34. Probably don't want parents to dig the data before receiving the letter tomorrow.

  35. The April 30 waitpool cohorts are still there, they just took the link down. Change the old link from 4_5_10.pdf to 4_30_10.pdf

  36. Maybe it is wrong and they are fixing it! I called this morning b/c I had been refreshing the website since 6:45 am and hadn't seen it yet. She told me it would be posted today, probably this afternoon. It was up from about 10:30 to 12:30 then taken down. Maybe they didn't mean to post the info that breaks out the English and Target language speakers. I have the file open on my desktop. It says DRAFT across the top.

  37. It does not work to change the link to 4_30_10

    1:00 p.m., I'd hit save or print :)

  38. Hey 1:00

    Can you tell me what the breakdown of english to spanish is for grade 1 Alvarado on the draft you have open?

  39. Sorry, use underscores: 4_30_10

  40. Wow, interesting - Alice Fong Yu dropped to 6. What happened?

  41. Wooo!! Yick Wo is not listed, does that mean everyone got in from the waitpool??

  42. 1:07

    For Alvarado SPANISH 1st grade
    8 in english waitlist
    - 2 in 0/7
    - 5 in R1 no choice
    - 1 in R1 choice
    3 in spanish waitlist
    - 0 in 0/7
    - 2 in R1 no choice
    - 1 in R1 choice

    For Alvarado GE 1st grade
    2 in waitlist
    - 2 in R1 no choice

  43. I think they forgot to list the english speakers for AFY (although supposedly everyone is supposed to be english proficient for said program no?)

  44. Alvarodo 1st G

    SE 2 0/7, 5 0/less than 7, 1 1/7

    SN 2 0/less than 7, 1 1/7

  45. Agree, must be a mistake for AFY. And that's how I would read it Yick Woo parent. Hopefully congrats are in order to you. My co-worker pointed out it was a bit fishy there were no appeals approved at all on pg 2. I suspect that might have been a mistake too.

  46. Thanks for the info, 1:16 and 1:19.

  47. Thanks for the link. But I'm a little confused. Do these numbers represent what the wait pool looked like right before they just ran it, or do these numbers represent what the wait pool looked like right after they ran it? I assume the latter, but would love confirmation. For exp., the 4/5/10 stats. list Peabody as having 1 sibling and 15 in the 0/7 cohort. The 4/30/10 stats. list Peabody as having 0 siblings and 5 in the 0/7 cohort. Assuming no hardships and that there was not movement in or out of this wait pool, that would mean that 11 kids got into Peabody, correct?

    But some of the info. does look wrong. For exp. the 4/5/10 stats. for Lafayette had 1 sibling and 1 in the 0/7 cohort. The 4/30/10 stats. now list only the 1 sibling and no one in the 0/7 cohort. Shouldn't the sibling get in before the 0/7 cohort? And before you say that perhaps the one family left the 0/7 cohort and the 4/30/10 data simply reflects that no one got in, I personally know a family who switched into the Lafayette 0/7 cohort. If no one got off the wait pool and into Lafayette, it should at least list this family (unless EPC screwed up and didn't switch their wait pool choice). Sigh! How come the EPC stats. NEVER seem to add up???

  48. 2:11, you are thinking of it the right way. this is what the WPs look like after all the R2 assignements have been made. So yes, I bet that sibling got into Peabody and then some kids off the 0/7 list (hopefully our blogger, was it Debbie) and then some kids probably left the 0/7 cohort b/c it was crowded. Lafayette is suspect to me. Looks like a mistake to me. I am obsessively hitting refresh on the sfusd website to see when the post the file again.

  49. It looks like New Traditions cleared its waitpool, for those Grattan families that are despairing about the 20 0/7s on that list (
    There's a carnival tomorrow, May 1st, which would give parents a way to see the school and meet the current parents.

  50. I am NOT looking at the new revised waitlist chart. There's lots of possibilities for the new numbers, from people dropping out and changing their waitlist to people getting in. I'm not going to get depressed about it; I'm going to tackle my mailperson tomorrow!

  51. Do we get a letter from EPC only if we got something in Round 2? Or do you also get a letter if you didn't get anything?

  52. If the draft is correct our wait pool position (11th, since we are 1/7 in Round 1) has not changed at all. But I don't expect to hear until September, by which time we'll be ensconced elsewhere. Oh dear . . .

  53. Okay, they posted, again.

  54. Okay, I need some help. I'm having difficulty managing the lists.
    Does it look like the waitpools have changed for those looking at 2nd grade to 6th?
    Cause honestly, they look the same to me. and I know for a fact for one of the grades for the school I'm interested in there are at least 3 spots available. Why no change? This is the 2nd round!
    I'd love to hear your thoughts.

  55. I do see movement in the upper grades. For example, looks like in 3rd grade one family dropped off Rooftop and one got into Yick Wo. The person in 4th grade for Monroe either changed or got in. The ones that did not move look like Lillenthal and Clarendon.

  56. We have an upper elementary teacher (much admired) who doesn't like it at all. She calls it "every which-way math".

  57. Saxon Math is below California state standards at almost every grade level (including Kindergarten) and must be supplemented.

    I've taught EDM and Saxon. Saxon Math is very drill-focused and not very fun to teach, but it is very easy to teach. EDM requires a lot of preparation and planning, but I find that students tend to have better math reasoning. Both need supplementation.

  58. As a K teacher, I mostly like EM. It can require a lot of prep, but it's still a huge improvement over the Harcourt we used to use because EM is much more kid-friendly; Harcourt had too much workbook work. That said, the centers and games often assume a high level of executive functioning - kids need to have experience cooperating with partners and groups, waiting to take turns, etc. What 11:14 said about the EM research being done on affluent kids rings true. Certainly the homework assumes a stable home life where basic necessities and more are present. Unfortunately, that's not the reality for all of our students.

    We do supplement the program with our own centers to make sure the kids get a good foundation in number knowledge and basic addition and subtraction in particular .

  59. Have to ask again - how is match taught in immersion schools?

  60. 12:18 - I can't speak for Spanish immersion, but in my son's Mandarin immersion class the written materials are in English but the teacher does instruction in Mandarin. I believe the teacher does familiarize the kids with the English math terminology, even as she is giving the instruction in Chinese.

  61. 1:45, it varies. They work it out as a team to balance it out over the course of the years so that terminology is learned in both languages across many subjects. So some years, math is taught in Spanish in the SI programs. Certainly in K when 90% of the class is in Spanish. By 5th grade, it may well be that math is taught in English, depending on the teaching team and the language skills, and how it is spread over the six years.

  62. Currently in Mandarin immersion, the math is taught in Mandarin using the Everyday Math materials in English. The Mandarin teacher doesn't speak any English to the kids (and the English teacher doesn't have time to cover math terminology), so the parents are supposed to go over the math terms in English at home. We also received a vocabulary sheet of 254 Everyday Math terms in English and Mandarin that we're supposed to go over with the kids at home.

  63. We use EDM materials in Spanish at my Spanish Immersion school. I think it's taught in Spanish K-5.

  64. 7:39

    How about the parents who do not speak Mandarin? How would the parents help the kids to match the terms?

    I guess I was hoping they use some Hong Kong or Singapore Math.

  65. "I guess I was hoping they use some Hong Kong or Singapore Math."

    English is the first language of Singapore.

    All the math terminology of the Singapore math system is in English.

  66. Again, regarding EM, one of the things it is very week on, compares to Singapore Math, is in teaching the manipulation of units. (feet, pounds, degrees)

    The technique of including and manipulating units in the setup and solution of word problems is not well done in EM.

    I have heard it said that the reason for the choice of EM was that it covered all of the material in the California curriculum.

    Unfortunate. And a waste of tax payer money.

  67. 8:53

    Both Starr King and Jose Ortega use Everyday Math. I assume that AFY and CIS Cantonese immersion also use Everyday Math like the rest of SFUSD, but I'm not sure.

    The math definitions provided to us have both English and Chinese, so anyone can look up the terms. For example, it says "angle jiǎodù 角度". As long as you can read the pinyin, you just go over it verbally at home. The students would not usually see the math vocab written in Chinese anyway - the teacher is using the terms in spoken explanations to the class.

    The math vocab list is really more important for the teachers since they are translating the math materials on the fly and all need to use the same terminology.


    I don't like it. Neither did the What Works Clearing house.

    Nor do mathematicians.


    Great post.

    The above very funny, very sad story refers to a teachers that is asking real *real* questions about EM.

    She or he is given complete BS for answers.


    The article refers to the commutative and associative properties (of addition and substraction.)

    commutative property of addition:

    1 + 2 = 2 + 1

    my five year old gets this.

    associative property:

    (1 + 2) + 3 = 1 + (2 + 3)

    no big deal hey?

    well, even though these principles are obvious, they do need to be emphasized, as they are very important.

    As the "frustrated teacher" points out, kids aren't going to learn the importance of the commutative and associative property of addition and multiplication if they are doodling around with making change.


    Complete waste of our kids time.

    Snakes and ladders or cribbage would be far more helpful and more fun.

  70. Although I was taught with the traditional math, I can see a point with EM by observing how my daughter learns.

    Iteration is how kids learn. Different kids have different strength. Some will get it sooner or later.

    The problem with the traditional approach is, once a kid is behind, he is forever behind. Everything is based on mastering the previous step. So, if you miss a step, good luck with catching up. That's why private schools emphasize the age of the kids profoundly.

    By using the spiral approach, EM give every kid a chance to catch up. By going through iterations, eventually all kids will learn.

    Of course, kids with math mind probably get it at the first few rounds, and at the end of the year, they will get bored. However, please realize that no matter what program is used, there will always be some kids who advance faster than the others and they will get bored when others play catchup. Nothing new here.

    It also comfort me that CAIS uses it. I know how important education is for Chinese culture. There is no way CAIS would use it if they don't think it is a good program.

    I guess I will know whether it works or not when my daughter starts K this fall. Of course, I am fully ready to give her my own tutoring - but I will do that no matter what program the school uses.

  71. I found some paper that came out slightly positive on EM and neutral on all the others but I could not find it again. I believe it was a US Dept of Education evaluation.

  72. "kids aren't going to learn the importance of the commutative and associative property of addition and multiplication if they are doodling around with making change."

    Really? Doesn't a nickel plus a dime = a dime plus a nickel, and (a nickel plus a dime) plus a penny = a nickel (plus a dime plus a penny)? Or am I missing something?

  73. yes, but adding change isn't that interesting to a child.

    I don't know about you, but it wasn't all that interesting to me.

    And even if some kids will have grasped the commutative and associative property through there not so thrilled "making change" exercises, the formality of how you actually take advantage of the commutative and associative properites will not be taught by em.

    you can google em. very quickly, you will come across sites like "what to do if you school uses em" followed by a long list of things you will have to teach or pay outside of school to have taught, to make up the gap.

    Kate posted the em thing. I think I've tried to let people know that kids will likely not be ready for middle school unless they have an extraordinary teacher that compensates for em or parents that do the same.

    good luck.

  74. Are there sources on the web for objective, independent evaluations of the different elementary math curricula? My kid seems to be doing pretty well (division and beginning statistics & geometry in grade 1, which may be par for the course these days) and at age 7 says he wants to be an engineer. He gets the concepts easily, at least as they're taught in the SFAW curriculum his current school uses, but it's harder to create the right combination of carrots and sticks to get him to memorize his facts (multiplication tables etc.). While we know he may change his mind about a career a thousand times, we don't want to limit his opportunities by letting his math education fall through the cracks. Unfortunately DH and I are both strictly word people so it's hard for us to tell what's advocacy for the different curricula and what's independent evaluation. It sounds like maybe no single approach is perfect? Any references would be much appreciated.

  75. 9:12, are they really teaching the multiplication table in grade 1? My kids did it in grade 3, and the teacher taught it in several ways, some based on the book and some drawn from his own experience. The times tables are worthy of memorization imo and we played several different kinds of games at home to aid in memorization--but these games were all sent home as homework, which was great. My kids enjoyed them. We even used to play them in the car.

    Again, in the 3rd grade though. I'm having trouble believing they are teaching that in 1st now given that the some kids don't even kick into reading gear until the end of 1st -- reading age ranges from pre-K to end of 1st and that is considered normal.

    I doubt there is any way to measure curricula "objectively" because you would have to agree on assumptions and goals first. Not that it is bad therefore to read the data, but you'll have to draw your own conclusions.

  76. Engineering is no the only field in which you need a strong math background.

    Medicine, emerging fields of anthropology, emergying fields of biology, genetics, economics, industrial design all require strong math capability.

    Not to mention the fields of math and statistics.

    Within engineering, there are many disciplines: bridge and seismic design, environmental engineering, alternative energy design, human factors engineering, audio design.

    Virtually all fields are highly paid, and highly sought after in the Bay Area. Even with outsourcing, high skilled engineering salaries have continued to increase.

    The work place is international diverse and quite ethically motivated.

    The ipod, ipad and iphone are chock full of engineering contributions from many fields of engineering and computer science.

    A mastery of highschool and undergraduate math is the entry point to these careers.

  77. Yes, they teach multiplication in 1st grade in our school, plus division, geometry and statistics. Some of the geometry vocabulary is beyond what I remember from HS (which is not much). He knows right, acute and obtuse angles and wants to play a game in the car where we identify the angles in objects we pass. Some of the kids in the class are go-go-go and have learned their times tables up through the 12s. Ours not so much though he knows 1s, 2s, 3s, 5s, 10s and 11s. He trips up on the story problems and problems where words are part of the required answers, because he's totally not there yet with reading and writing. I can't say for sure because I don't know enough about pedagogy, but the school overall seems to take a spiraling approach, where you learn things on a conceptual level quite young, then go back later to revisit and master the details.

  78. Which school? Our first grader is definitely not learning times tables. I think they do that in second grade or maybe third at our school.

  79. Adda Clevenger. The 1st grade math teacher seems to do a very good job. She pushes hard and has high expectations, but she's very personable and generates a lot of enthusiasm. It's my son's favorite class. She uses Scott Forsman Addison Wesley materials along with games and Schoolhouse Rock. I can't say whether the school remains strong in math through 8th grade.

  80. Times tables in the 1st grade is certainly "pushing hard." Not every kid is ready for that--there are large gaps at that age in reading and math readiness. I wonder how many of those kids really get the concept. Most schools (of all types) teach multiplication and division in the third grade, maybe starting late in second.

    But Adda Clevenger marches to its own curricular drum, for sure--and can, as a private, for-profit institution. Their kids seem to do fine coming out, but that is to be expected given the almost all-white, upper middle class demographics, so its hard to compare to other schools. I don't think of it as a powerhouse academically. Theater arts, yes.

    Anyway, I wouldn't worry about your kid memorizing the times table at this stage! Worry later, in third and fourth.

  81. Well, considering Adda Clevenger is open enrollment, the kids do pretty well. The high schools this year's twelve 8th graders are going to include University (3), Lowell (3), International (2), Crystal Springs (1) and SOTA (1).

    It's also much more racially diverse than 1:26 suggests, but as they offer no financial aid, not very economically diverse.

    Generally, up until 6th grade I think, the curriculum is SFAW one year ahead of grade level. The classes are quite small, so while all 8th graders take Algebra I, there's really no way to move any of the more mathematically adept students into Geometry, which I think some of the bigger schools do.

    I'm not the previous Adda Clevenger poster, my kid is a 4th grader at AC. Her weak spot is word problems. I think the curriculum is a little light on them. She is very strong in most other aspects of Math so far, and I think she does generally understand the concepts behind the algorithms she has learned.

    Keep in mind, the kids get 45 minutes of math daily taught by a Math teacher starting in K. It really is something completely different. (Intentional Monty Python reference)

  82. "It's also much more racially diverse than 1:26 suggests, but as they offer no financial aid, not very economically diverse."

    Curious, since I know very little about it--what is the racial/ethnic breakdown, do you know? I cannot imagine it mirrors the diversity of San Francisco's kids as a whole, but is it less than 80% white, which seems to be the average for many private schools around here? Are there blacks and latinos, or is it mainly asian kids making up the diversity?

    I assume the economic diversity has to be virtually nil, given that it is a for-profit school that does not offer financial aid. $20,000 is a huge hit for the average family.

    One final thought--you simply can't judge the curriculum based on the success of twelve upper-middle class kids getting into University or Lowell. Sample size is way too small and the demographics utterly skewed. You'd have to compare test scores to other kids from the same demographic who are attending other private, or parochial, or public schools. ALL the upper-middle class kids I know from all of these types of school have done equally as well (with one behavioral/psych exception). You'd also have to look at AC's results over several years to generate a big enough sample. I'm assuming AC doesn't publish test score results :-)

  83. No, since they don't do any standardized testing, they don't publish test scores. Some parents have their kids assessed independently to see if they are on track. Most seem to be, though some are not and then usually transfer out. The sample size IS small, I wasn't making a statistical argument, just pointing out that while maybe not considered an "academic powerhouse", the kids generally get into very competitive high schools.

    The racial demographics, well, I was responding to the virtually all-white assertion, upthread. I'd guess it is around 60% white? Nothing to get excited about, but not some sort of lily-white enclave either.

  84. Thanks for the response. Only 60% white is actually *very* good for private school. I think even Synergy is about that or maybe a little better. Most private schools are more in the 80% range--and that's counting adoptees and an awful lot of half-white, half-asian kids, which okay, yes that counts still leaves the overall school community pretty white. I'm surprised that AC is that diverse therefore, especially with no financial aid or recruitment, but good for them.

  85. This is the exact demographic breakdown for SF Day School.

    African / American 11 3%
    Asian 33 8%
    Latino 13 3%
    Multi-Racial 86 21%
    Other Non White 9 2%
    White 260 63%

    The Kindergarten and 1st Grade is more diverse than the overall numbers. More like 45%-50% white. And don't assume that the multi-racial is all half-white either. We are one of several families we know in our grade who are multi-racial and neither parent is white.

    I'm sure people will slam this as not representative of SF, etc. Just throwing the real numbers out there for people to make their own judgements. Rather than just stating that "all the private schools are 80% white."

  86. Most of the brown faces at AC are Asian, but there are African-American and Latino families and adoptive families and several mixed-race couples (e.g., he's Latino and she's Vietnamese; he's African-American and she's white). I haven't done a head count but it looks more diverse to me than any of other independent schools I've visited in its price range. (Parochials in the $7-8K range are more diverse in my observation.) I would guess AC is 65% to 70% white but that's just a guess. I see more brown kids at AC birthday parties than at public school birthday parties, but that may be because the school is so small and tight-knit that every kid in your kid's class is your kid's friend. It also seems to be an unwritten school tradition, at least in the lower grades, to invite your whole class to your party. Mostly there are two-income families, but if there are super-wealthy families, I have not met them.

    The open-enrollment point is a fair one. Other schools in AC's price range do extensive academic and behavioral screening of potential students before they admit them--perhaps because there is so much demand that they can. AC is not that much in demand and takes anybody who signs up. There are some very bright kids there, but also some who are not super-brains by any means. There are quite a few ELL kids, though the parents must be reasonably successful and value education if they're forking over that kind of money. Overall, the academics seem adequate to get the kids into competitive high schools, and the performing arts curriculum is, as the other poster said, "something completely different."

    No, AC definitely does not release test scores!:-) The only standardized testing they do is the SSATs, and the kids are prepped heavily for them. They just release high school admit data. We're about to attend our third graduation, and the HS data seems pretty consistent from year to year with Lowell, University and Crystal Springs cropping up repeatedly. When you look at the amount of time the kids spend rehearsing, the open as opposed to competitive admissions, and the school's reputation for imposing a relatively light academic load, the students' academic outcomes are respectable though perhaps to be expected given the demographics.

    The thing about "curriculum" is, as far as I know, AC really doesn't have anything formal. Individual teachers are free to use whatever they like. They've got textbooks from the 1950s sitting around, and they're still in use. The kindergarten is still learning to read with Sally, Dick, Jane and Spot. Definitely, a place that marches, or dances, to its own drummer.

  87. 4:05 and 4:06, thanks for the responses.

    4:05 @ SF Day, I'm wondering if the higher #s of families of color in the lower grades is due to attrition later on (and why is that, if so), versus recent and perhaps more successful efforts at outreach and recruitment?

    Also, are there special efforts to retain the African American and Latino kids who together are just 6% of the total (recognizing that some of the multiracial kids are also be AA or Latino, or both, so the numbers may be a little higher, but presumably still alarmingly small)?

    Since there is a huge and well-recognized chasm in education between white and Asian kids on the one hand, and Black and Latino kids on the other, this seems important, even while recognizing that this achievement gap is somewhat confounded by socio-economic status. But also knowing that being the only Black kid in a class, even coming from an educated, well-off family, brings with it some challenges.

    Serious questions! I guess I'm trying to understand something about the culture of support for Black kids. Thanks in advance.

    And yeah, AC is its own show, for sure. I know a family there. Works for them, not for others, including me. Great location though.

  88. 4:05 here.

    It's been a push to increase diversity over the past couple of years. Corresponds to the hiring of Linda Talton as AD - who is unfortunately leaving this year to go to NY. We are waiting to see who they hire to replace her and are pushing from our end to make sure they keep their commitment to increasing diversity.

    Regarding support - there are several affinity groups and diversity workshops for both kids and parents. Especially helpful because normally families don't socialize as much across grade lines. It's not perfect by any means and there is some concern from the diversity coordinator this year that there were a lot of siblings this year and less diversity than the past two years. So far, we are pleased overall but keeping an eye on the administration and advocating from our position as parents. hope this helps.

  89. Yes, thank you. That is helpful!

    Hopefully the sibling admits will eventually include a larger cohort of kids of color--it does take a few years for that to happen in a system. But do keep advocating!

  90. Hated teaching with EM last year, but I'm really coming around: I love the inclusion of math games and the emphasis on looking for patterns on the number chart. Students are challenged, and have many 'aha' moments during the week. They don't just count change, and, by the way, many children really enjoy playing with money!

    Yes, I make adjustments. A few games / activities are confusing, and some of the scripted teacher talk is annoying. I do believe students should memorize the math facts. Giving student many opportunities to solve problems is not enough: we need to actually TELL our students that we expect the facts memorized, and then assess for mastery. It is very easy to add this in. Most programs overemphasize math facts, leading to math fatigue.

    Overall, B+: an experienced teacher can easily turn it into a top-notch learning experience. Much better than the last two state adoptions.

  91. Hm, yes, as a diehard humanities person and teacher, I want to speak up for good math education, though I can't say which system is best. I was knocked off the rails by a bad math teacher, which tracked me into dummy math and science, which meant any number of possible careers were out of reach. I'm glad I do what I do, but I'm still angry. I think that writing and math are two places where the ground you lose early stays with you for life, so I know I'll be supplementing both at home no matter what curriculum my kid gets.

    And here I would like to put in a plug for Cuisinaire Rods. They are little manipulatives that teach adding, subtracting, multiplication, and fractions at the very least. I had them as a kid in the 1970s and was an ace math student until I met Very Bad Teacher (whose main sin was calling me stupid on a daily basis). They're still around, reasonably inexpensive, and my 4-year-old gets the basic concepts of all of the above concepts from just occasional play with them. No affiliation with the company that makes them.

  92. 6:41:

    Thanks for your comments.

    My grandmother bought me Cuisinaire Rods back in the seventies as well. I'll have to get some.

    As I've mentioned above, playing dice games such as Snakes and Ladders is also a great way to get kids doing a lot of adding as early as age five.

    I would say that I don't think young children should be pressured to do addition and subtraction. Their attention span is pretty short.

    But I also think it is unfair and unrealistic to think that kids are instantaneously going to know their multiplication tables in grades three and four.

    It seems so basic, but knowing your multiplication tables is absolutely essential by grade six. Knowing by heart common fraction to decimal conversions is also essential. Without these, kids will be subject to years of drudgery and working it out the long way.

  93. 9:22:

    "Yes, I make adjustments. A few games / activities are confusing, and some of the scripted teacher talk is annoying. I do believe students should memorize the math facts. Giving student many opportunities to solve problems is not enough: we need to actually TELL our students that we expect the facts memorized, and then assess for mastery. It is very easy to add this in. Most programs overemphasize math facts, leading to math fatigue."

    The fact is that since EM does not inherently emphasize knowing math facts, most kids will not know their math facts. Sure, a few kids will get an in the know teacher like you, but most will not.

    Also, unlike Singapore math, there is not enough work material to enforce knowing math facts. Sure, parents can augment EM by helping kids learn multiplication tables, but most will not have the background to augment many other math concepts.

  94. Everyday Math seems to be geared toward just what its name implies - everyday math. I think we are really damaging our kids potential at higher levels by using this program. We will be hiring a tutor to supplement. Any suggestions?

  95. My kid loves to play Monopoly, which is good for counting, adding, subtracting, and even a bit of reading with the Chance and Community Chest cards. And they get some sense of how capitalism works.

  96. I don't have recommendations for a tutor.

    As much as possible, I think it is important for parents to be involved in math teaching. Kids need to learn that math is a family activity, not something that "other people do."

    I know that might be very difficult, if you don't have a math background. Believe it or not, there are groups in the city set up to help:

    If you do hire a tutor (Kumon, also plenty on Craigslist) I'd recommend staying involved with the math education of your child.

    Also, trips to various science and math museums, as well as the beach, are important ways to emphasize the relevance of math.

    There's a beautiful exibit at the Exploratorium (upstairs) that shows resonance on a string. That's a great way to emphasize the mathematical basis of music.
    Many other math opportunities at the Exploratorium. It's an amazing place.

    At the beach, you can look at the waves, think and talk about periodicity and interference. You can look at the ocean horizon and talk about whether or not you can see a curvature. You can talk about how long it might have taken to make the sand from rock. If there is a river, such as at Pescadero State Beach, you can return time after time to observe the effect of flowing water and the tide. Believe it or not, there are mathematical equations for flowing water. However, since the equations are very simple, compared to all the effects experienced in the natural world, modelling of flow is quite difficult. You could talk with your children about modelling of natural phenomena and the problems involved.

    Just a few ideas to illustrate how terrific math can be.

    Still, again, there is still plenty of hard work involved. But seeing the beaty and power of math can be a great motivator to get through the drudgery of memorizing fraction conversions and multiplication tables.

    Unfortunately, for most of us, math is like a lost language.

  97. And sorry for the above spelling mistakes and errors. I'm scribbling this out at work in a hurry.

  98. 7:37 says, "I would say that I don't think young children should be pressured to do addition and subtraction. Their attention span is pretty short."

    I totally agree. But the cool thing about Cuisinaire rods, unit blocks, measuring cups, tape measures, money, and M & Ms is that you can sneak in some concepts as you play. So while my 4 year old can't consistently add or subtract, she knows that add means "put together" and subtract means "take away," what it means to double something, how to ask math questions (what does one plus seven equal, mommy?), some basic ideas about multiplication (how to line up, say, two sets of three and then count the results), and the concept of a fraction (what a quarter, half, and three-quarters means, how many days in a month, months in season or year, etc.). That's why I can't completely dismiss everyday math, even though I think there must be automatic procedures taught later on. It looks to me like play- and games-based math do *something,* if not everything. And it keeps math "real," i.e., fun and relevant.

  99. "How is math taught in immersion school? Are the textbook available in other languages than English?"

    Math is in the target language, at least in the earlier grades.

    I kinda liked Everyday Math so far. A lot of at-home exercises doing quantitative stuff around the house (e.g. measuring), and a lot of work on money and coins. It's more math than I remember doing at that age.

  100. I spent a few minutes helping a 3rd grader with her Everyday Math homework this evening at a school event. Oh. My. God. It's hard. One of the questions was something like "Mike bought a sandwich for $1.35 and a drink for $0.40 and paid with five quarters and four dimes. How many nickels would he need to pay?" That requires pretty sophisticated logical reasoning, not to mention computation skills, for a 3rd grader.

  101. Has anyone tried Kumon to supplement?

  102. "Mike bought a sandwich for $1.35 and a drink for $0.40 and paid with five quarters and four dimes. How many nickels would he need to pay."

    135 + 40 - 5(25) - 4(10) =
    175 - 125 - 40 =

    Mike needs enough nickels to make 10 cents -> Two nickels.

    In this problem, a child would have to be able to do three column addition, three column subtraction and two column multiplication.

    I don't think the proglem is that hard. Kids are supposed to be able to do three column addition, subtraction and multiplication by the end of grade three.

  103. Very good, 7:57 p.m.--you got the problem right. I didn't mean it was hard for *me*.

    Do you know any actual 3rd graders? It's not the arithmetic that would make this problem hard for them, it's deciphering the text in order to comprehend the problem; translating that into numbers and setting up the problem, including correctly converting the words "quarter" and "dime" into numbers; finding the answer; then converting the answer of 10 back into the correct number of nickels.

  104. 11:09 PM

    Yes, I do know many third graders. Unfortunately, many of the ones in public school would not be able to do this problems, not even in middle school.

    Yes, if they had been talking word problems and playing with arithmetic starting in kindergarten, they should be able to do this problem.

    If they didn't have someone telling them this problem is hard, they might not develop a math phobia.

    Being able to put a word problem into equations is at the crux of starting to do mathematics.

    We teach it poorly. We don't have our kids practise setting up word problems. Yes, practise is important.

    Would you tell an eight year old that gymnastics, softball or hockey is hard? *NO* You'd make them practise.

    But then we are oh so *surprised* when more than half of the kids in SF public schools bomb out of algebra in middle school. They're somehow, by some mirable, supposed to be able to do hard word problems and algebra in middle school while never having practised in elementary school.

    In this discussion about math, I often hear people say, "oh, but what they are doing is soooo much harder than what I was doing at that age."

    Yes, and there is a reason why virtually all technical fields in the US are dominated by foreign born professionals.

    Ask a Russian or Asian family if they think your word problem is too hard for an eight year old.

  105. Check out the "Collaborating to Teach Teachers: Mathematicians & Educators Team Up" publication on the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute web site. ( It's great that they're launching these initiatives to improve the mathematical knowledge and teaching skills of people obtaining elementary school teaching credentials, but scary how few there seem to be.

  106. 10:01 am:

    Great article.

    Thanks for posting the website.


  107. It's funny - I have posted this before but it never got any traction on this blog.

    Why aren't there any "math / science" magnet elementary schools?

    We now have 8 spanish immersion schools. My child will attend one of them in August. I would ditch immersion in a heartbeat of there were a public math/science focused elementary. I mean a real program with a real committment and curriculum - Math taught everyday, math circle, math enrichment - math art. You know a "math immersion school"

    I think it would be awesome. I would hope no-one would think this is elitist - We are talking about elementary school - no prior education necessary! Like learning a language from birth. I guess it might be hard to find teachers (they would obviously have to "math" teachers and not a general credential). I guess the curriculum would have to be built. Any private schools out there that are doing something like this?

  108. I'm sort of fantasizing about starting a private K-8 school that would be 1/2 full scholarship, 1/2 paid or something along those lines (see if people in this town would put their money where their mouths are about wanting real socioeconomic diversity). Getting teachers who have the specialized math training is definitely on my wish list.

    I'm thinking private for a lot of reasons, partly because I want a facility I can't get with a public school budget. Also I want a longer school day and year than SFUSD offers to accommodate my ideas for a rich and varied curriculum, I want my teachers to be able to collaboratively choose the teaching materials they feel are most effective rather than have them set by a district-wide school board, and I want to avoid "state actor" restrictions on my ability to recruit scholarship students from historically under-performing ethnic groups. Dream on, eh? . . . .

    Spring Valley is supposed to be a science magnet elementary school, but I did not see much evidence of those special programs when I toured, and the Nob Hill location is difficult for many people. Good school though.

  109. Does anyone for what period SFUSD has adopted Everyday Math (i.e., is it like a 5-7 year commitment whereby they will then reassess)?

    I'd prefer Singapore Math, based on my research. How do parents influence these decisions?

  110. Please keep us posted if you are thinking of starting a math school, public or private.

    I'm very interested.

  111. "I would ditch immersion in a heartbeat of there were a public math/science focused elementary."

    Spring Valley and Grattan have a science focus.

    Me, my attitude is I can teach my kids math but I can't teach 'em Chinese.

  112. I can't teach my kids math or Chinese (though I can teach a little French). In grade 1 the homework is estimating the area of shapes with irregular borders. I'm positive my efforts to "help" are messing things up, but at least my kid tells me his teacher worked with him in class on the topic prior to the HW assignment. A friend whose kid goes to public grade 2 is working on the same material, and she says the teachers are so overwhelmed that they send the math home and expect the parents to teach it. She also feels in over her head and it's only 2nd grade. We're middle class college-educated people; imagine what it's like for kids from more challenged backgrounds.