Letter to the Editor of the Ridgewood News

7 November 2008

Math Team Doesn’t Add Up

Why the lack of balance in the choice of external advisors to the Mathematics Planning Team charged with unifying K-5 math curricula in Ridgewood Public Schools (RPS)? Perhaps the outcome is pre-determined, since the controversial program ‘Connected Mathematics’ is already being implemented in our middle schools.

The four external advisors are Ms. Schultz of Montclair State, Dr. Rosenstein of Rutgers, Mr. Daro of Berkley, and Dr. Posamentier of City College. Schultz, Rosenstein, and Daro have made careers of promoting ‘reform math’ including TERC and Everyday Math. The resulting lack of mathematical skill and fluency has sent scores of Ridgewood parents to Kumon, tutors, and various other supplementary curricula.

Rosenstein is only advisor that can be considered a mathematician. However in the words of Prof. James Milgram of Stanford University, one of the country’s leading mathematicians who is also working on issues in math education, Rosenstein “hasn’t been active in mathematics since the 1970s. In view of his very strong preference for reform curricula, a view shared by far fewer than 1% of the professional mathematicians

in this country, it is inappropriate for him to be the only ‘mathematician.’”

Milgram continued “Daro has been central in at least two of the biggest failures out there, the 1992 California Math Standards that precipitated the math wars, and the current Georgia Math Standards. As far as I can tell he knows very little mathematics.”

There is reason to be hopeful that Posamentier will provide moderation. According to Milgram “Posamentier is very level headed. I trust his judgment.”

Reform math isn’t all bad – It has many good ideas that now supplement traditional math textbooks, consistent with recommendations of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. However, it appears that the math-fad pendulum will remain nailed to the extreme in RPS unless Dr. Posamentier can moderate the others.

John G. Sheehan, Ph.D.

Ridgewood

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truer words couldn’t have been written. I appreciate this letter’s honesty. BOE and Dan are you listening?

11 November 2008at4pmBoE and Dan,

Do you even give a shit? Or are you content to allow Regina to play you as fools.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, the six of you will be held responsible.

11 November 2008at4pmDr. Sheehan puts it quite succinctly when he writes, “Reform math isn’t all bad – It has many good ideas that now supplement traditional math textbooks…”

But Regina is not interested in “traditional” math textbooks even if they incorperate the best practices of constructivist math.

She wants us to literally and figuratively buy into constructivist math. Thus totally ignoring the fact that teachers have to supplement Everyday Math and TERC by more than 80% with traditional math.

This begs the question… why?

11 November 2008at5pmRidge School has used Everyday Math for 15 years, and their scores are consistently outstanding.

So why all the handwringing about Everyday Math?

I think some people are just looking for attention.

11 November 2008at5pmDr. Sheehan earns my respect for a well-written, erudite and logical position on the math issue. That is one great letter.

The Anonymous crank weighing in at 11:58 demonstrates how not to influence the argument in his/her favor. Throwing bombs doesn’t really work against bureaucrats. They just build bigger, thicker walls to keep all diverging opinions out. A tempered tongue will ultimately be far more expedient in trying to change minds in this battle.

11 November 2008at6pmI’m beginning to think that the only thing that will stop the BOE is a class action lawsuit.

The Ridgewood BOE has shown time and again their unwillingness to listen to reasonable voices with opinions that differ from their own and they refuse to assign any weight to respected mathematicians who contradict their constructivist approach to mathematics (such as in the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report).

Why would anyone think that reasonable, rational discourse would yield any results NOW since they have been totally ineffective in the past?

What has changed?

Perhaps it is time for discussion to be replaced with a legal approach to resolving this issue.

11 November 2008at6pmTo the poster hailing a success story from Ridge’s use of EM… the math program at Ridge is heavily supplemented and many, many parents tutor their elementary kids to undo the effects of a bad math program. Until you support your arguement with evidence of EM’s success at Ridge with facts other than poorly rated state tests, your arguement is unfounded.

11 November 2008at7pmTo 2:29 (and everyone else who has tried to have a discussion with 12:49):Stop wasting your time.

12:49 consistently posts the same comment (almost verbatim) to any math discussion. No new insights or information is ever brought forth by 12:49; No intention to listen or discuss is ever indicated by 12:49.

It’s like talking to a brick wall.

11 November 2008at8pmI’m beginning to think that the only thing that will stop the BOE is a class action lawsuit.A class action lawsuit based on what??? The fact that Ridgewood schools continues to rise in the public school rankings?

Boy, you have some grievance there!

This asinine idea will only make some law firm a few bucks before the courts throws the idiotic case off the docket.

11 November 2008at9pmSomerville uses EM as does Ridge and does very well BECAUSE the teachers and parent supplement with traditional math. I supplement my children with Saxon and Singapore and various worksheets easily printed out from internet sites. At the request of several of my friends whose children are in the same grades as mine, I copy the supplements for their children and help their children, if necessary.

11 November 2008at9pm1:13 PM,

Maybe you can be Obama’s envoy to Iran and North Korea.

Give me a break, these folks at the BOE don’t give a rat’s ass for reasoned dialog. Where have you been, parents tried that 2 years ago.

Sometimes annihilation is the only solution when your adversary refuses to negotiate.

Building thicker walls will eventually exhaust the interlopers and force them to flee the battle field.

11 November 2008at10pm2:29 – You haven’t presented any hard facts either.

Do parents in Ridge use tutors more than parents in Willard — a school that uses a traditional math program?

Do Ridge teachers supplement the math materials any more than Willard teachers do?

Until you show evidence supporting your answers to these questions, then your arguments remains unfounded.

11 November 2008at11pmHeh I remember when I went to AMSP and the teachers and mentors would not let us use calculators for AMC/AIME problems. I failed miserably at first and hated it. Boy am I glad they did that.

12 November 2008at1amI’m sorry AMSP as in Awesomemath not Appalachian Math and Science. The latter one sounds like it is the one that is causing problems(perhaps? eliminating the acheivement gap), the former is eliminating some of those problems.

12 November 2008at1amAlso I forgot (for the 1000th time) there are free math problems/notes on the awesomemath website. They can be found here http://reflections.awesomemath.org/archives.html. AOPS also refers to some practice links available http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Resources/AoPS_R_Problems.php.

12 November 2008at2amI am 2:29… Willard doesn’t have to supplement because they use a traditional math program. Hence, they don’t require tutors to teach the content that is left out by Everyday Math. Furthermore, if you want “hard” facts go stand outside Willard’s and Ridge’s playground someday and ask the parents if they tutor their elementary kids. You could also call Huntington, Sylvan, Kumon, The Learning Center and ask how many of their students come from Ridgewood’s elementary schools?

12 November 2008at2pmWhy is there such a focus on Everyday Math? Isn’t there a possibility that the MPT may select TERC?

12 November 2008at3pmWillard doesn’t have to supplement because they use a traditional math program. Hence, they don’t require tutors to teach the content that is left out by Everyday Math.No one at Willard uses tutors?

That’s not what my Willard friends tell me.

Where are you getting your “facts”?

12 November 2008at3pm5:28

Thanks for proving my point. Yours is an absolutely irrelevant voice in this discussion.

12 November 2008at4pmEvery Day math is a constructivist program that uses the dreaded spiraling at its core.

It took an eminent math panel over 2 years to come to the conclusion that spiraling weakens math comprehension for all students exposed to it. While it may match up well with NJ constructivist math standards, it does not lead to higher math ability in later years.

Our focus should not be on math for a successful stint in elementary school. It should be on math to make our kids successful at higher level math in high school.

Neither life nor learning ends at 5th grade!

12 November 2008at4pmI think it should be middle school and high school math teachers and administrators who should select the math program — not elementary math principals. They know where these children must end up and the abilities they will need to master. We are aiming for a higher ceiling than is currently required in elementary school.

Bring on Canzani, Litvak, Glotzer et al. The constructivist disasters in the image of Debra Ives need not apply!

12 November 2008at4pm11:32 AM,

What, are you kidding me? If we did what you are suggesting, we wouldn’t need all those bureaucrats at Cottage Place.

Let’s see, we could get rid of the Astt. Super of Curriculum, the Asst, Asst Super in charge of Math, and the Director of Math.

Gee, with all the money we would save, we could afford to buy real math books and still have some left over to help plug the projected budget shortfall for next year.

12 November 2008at4pmGosh darn I forgot 11:42. If we became a more efficient public school machine what will we use as the excuse for raising taxes?

12 November 2008at5pm5:28

Thanks for speaking out. Yours is a succinct and resounding voice in this discussion that speaks with clarity and common sense.

12 November 2008at7pmLook no further then the RPS MIS department to find waste, mismanagement, lies and bad decisions to see where your tax dollars are going.

12 December 2008at5pm