Weekly Math Comic

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2008 at 2:23 pm

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  1. The arrogance of the school board


    The comments by Bonnie Borsa, vice president of the Frederick County Board of Education, in The Gazette’s Sept. 4 article, “Parents call for ethics probe into math book decision,” that the public outcry against TERC math was “grasping at straws” was for me the final straw.

    It takes incredible arrogance to dismiss this level of parent concern as “just another attempt to overturn a decision they are not happy with.”

    Just for the record, being parents does not make us stupid.

    As much as Frederick County Public Schools likes to vilify parents as irresponsible hedonists who can’t teach our own children the “pillars of character” or remember to feed them a good breakfast on standardized test days, the response to TERC has been driven by parents who are taking the time to research the program and materials thoroughly and voice real concerns for the future of their children.

    To presuppose that parents won’t understand the board’s interpretation of “pilot program” versus “field test” is insulting and disingenuous at best.

    They are not talking about product improvements to casual investors here. These are our children. We have a legitimate right to be concerned for their futures, a legitimate right to question the board’s decision based on the available data in regard to TERC all over the Internet for those who both to seek it out, and a legitimate right as taxpayers who are paying for this to hear the board defend its choice.

    The TERC decision by FCPS incorporates more than a pure choice of math curriculum.

    When TERC was first announced, the decision was said by FCPS itself to be primarily based on the textbook and materials. A catchy textbook and lots of handouts to keep swifter learners busy while kids who have more difficulty grasping the material catch up is a necessity in FCPS’ vaunted (and deeply flawed) heterogeneous classroom system (kids grouped together in all subjects regardless of proficiency). Textbooks and material do not make a solid math program if the teaching method behind them is not effective. The biggest problem of all is that the shortcomings of the TERC program are cumulative; the data that parents are most concerned about is how the program falls shortest as kids reach high school and college math courses already profoundly behind.

    Ms. Borsa’s secret pilot program data from Lincoln Elementary is not likely to be able to address that. It’s time to get down off her high horse and acknowledge Frederick County’s intelligent, well-informed parents seeking quality education for their tax dollars before we vote her off it.

    Karen Lindsay, Middletown

  2. Doesn’t compute
    Originally published September 15, 2008


    “I recently reviewed some TERC materials that I understand will be used in Frederick County public schools. I almost threw up when I examined them.”
    That was just the beginning of Point of Rocks resident John Wicker’s response to TERC Math, now known as Pearson Math Investigations.
    Wicker might be super-sensitive about PMI since he is a Ph.D. with 40 years of math education experience who currently teaches math and statistics as an adjunct professor at American University. But his published comments made it clear he also is a parent, which intensifies the punch delivered by his further assessment that the TERC materials “are several years below grade level, lack essential math content, and don’t cover the math basics.” He called for removal of the program “now” and a “return to an emphasis on math fundamentals, so our children will have a green light to become productive citizens,” admonishing: “We owe them no less.”
    Wicker’s succinct, scathing weigh-in on the PMI topic adds weft and weight to members of the parent advocacy group FrederickEducationReform.com and their petition to the Board of Education ethics panel regarding Frederick County Public School System’s policies for testing new materials. Central to their action is the “Investigations in Numbers, Data and Space,” textbook which FCPS staff chose from among 10 other contenders and tested for three years before introducing it this year as the mainstay math text for all FCPS elementary students.
    FrederickEducationReform.com — and numerous others — despise that book and the strategies-other-than-standard-algorithms it rode in on. With kids already perusing its pages and teachers imparting its core lore as we speak, FrederickEducationReform.com is working to retrieve the text on a technicality.
    Tom Neumark, co-founder of FrederickEducationReform.com, has filed a formal ethics investigation request with the Board of Education on behalf of the group, contending that its field testing process may have violated school board policies. He’s asking that a third party review how “Investigations” wound up in curriculum and classrooms absent things like data collection. It’s a contest that has boiled down to quibbling over the difference between a “field test” and a “pilot” and the various who’s-in-charge-of-what and to-what-ends the BoE asserts such distinctions entail.
    While that’s pending some third-grade test results are in Prince William County that may up the ante in the Pearson pro/con controversy. Recent Maryland Standards of Learning test scores — the first to gauge the new “Investigations” program’s effectiveness — reveal that fewer than half of Prince William’s third-graders scored in the advanced category this year. Last year, third-graders who had not begun “Investigations” posted the same results. To make matters worse, this year’s scores marked the first time in three years that the percentage of Prince William third-graders who achieved an advanced score in math dipped below the state average.
    It behooves us to say that Frederick County needs to investigate the “Investigations” decision for more reasons than one.

  3. Q: How many math fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: 11

    1 to change the bulb + 10 to whine endlessly about the curriculum

  4. Q: How many constructivists does it take to change a light bulb?

    A: Unanswerable since I’m, a TERC graduate and can’t do math.

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