Teachers and Parents Agree on Math Needs…But Where are the Administrators?

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2008 at 3:13 pm

The Fly has learned that district teachers had a math workshop similar to the workshop the district held for parents recently. Teachers were given the same questions asked of parents, and their answers were pooled to provide feedback to the group of principals and math partners working on standardizing our K-6 math programs. Not surprisingly, the teachers overwhelmingly wanted what the parents answers overwhelmingly revealed: A program that is tested, true, traditional math. They also wanted to have books and fewer games. We know that games, gadgets, computer interfacing, fancy graphics and bold colors are used to “sell” uncritical administrators on constructivist math programs. Kudos to the teachers and, especially, to the high school teachers who were there and who put their support, backed up by experience, behind this position (and behind the parents!). Thank you Ridgewood teachers.


  1. We have good math teachers in Ridgewood, some are even great. Why people like Regina won’t get out of the way is anyone’s guess. Maybe we should just build her a monument and be done with it. Hey Bolger are you listening. Get rid of that mailman and put in Regina woman. Then maybe she’ll leave us alone to have the quality school district we can have (and did have) without her.

  2. Is any one surprised that the teachers are of the same mind as the parents.

    The only folks out of sync are the administrators and their paid consultants.

    Now that the BOE can wet its collective finger and thrust it into the air to see which way the wind is blowing, one should expect these wimpy pols to fall in line behind parents and teachers and support a true, modern, traditional based math program.

    Hence, all believers in constructivist math should be asked to resign for having tortured us for 2 and 1/2 years about changing our program from dumb, dumb math to what we all know works.

    I think parents should be given the opportunity to attend a forum to hear from the math reps who wish to sell us a new curriculum.

    The student center at the high school would make a nice venue for such an event.

  3. 11:21 – What should happen to people like Charlie who have no position from which to resign – expulsion from the Village?

  4. all believers in constructivist math should be asked to resign

    Yes! Let’s have people sign a pledge as to their ideology. Those who confess to dangerous constructivist will be purged by the Thought Police!

    Four legs good, two legs bad…

    Traditional good, construcitivist bad…

  5. 12:10 –

    You are confused.

    Please don’t apply your Marxist life philosophy to the situation.

    Let’s boil it down to its simplest level:

    When teaching a Crap Class, teach Crap.
    When teaching a Math Class, teach Math.

  6. Four legs good, two legs bad…

    It depends… are we talking about a table, then Yes.

    Traditional good, Constructivist bad…

    It depends… are we talking about mathematics, then Yes.

    Some things actually ARE simple and easy to understand.

  7. 12:10 PM

    Interesting how you use the term ideology to describe ones preference in math.

    You are correct about one thing, constructivism is based on an ideology. Traditional math is based on fact. It is the PC crowd of constructivists that have inflicted their radical ideology and politics into education. Not the other way around.

    But isn’t just like a liberal to point trot out the victim card. What’s next calling traditionalist, McCarthites?

    When one surveys the political landscape of education, the liberal “thought police” run wild.

    You’re right about one thing, the constructivist “ideology” is dangerous to the development of a child’s math skills.

  8. Ideology of itself is not bad. What is bad is bad ideology, such as the belief that all people can be made to demonstrate equal ability, as in math. That is just hogwash and causes great calamity to a community of people. Why? Because some people will have their higher output curtailed and others will have their lower output falsely enhanced. This, so that their bad ideology of man made “equality” can be realized.

    If you give everyone bad math, then those with less inclination and/or ambition won’t appear so far behind. This is at the heart of Regina’s constructivist ideology.

  9. This makes it clear why Dan Fishbein wouldn’t allow teachers on the planning team. He is calling the shots, isn’t he?

  10. From the NYT article on our dilemma (6/14/07):

    “School officials say it (reform math) spread largely because teacherrs embraced it.”

    So, which is it?

  11. Um, hello??

    The so-called victim card was played by 11:21 when she whined about being “tortured”. If you want to see real torture, go to Guantanamo!

    The same poster is also the one who demands that “all believers in constructivist math should be asked to resign”.

    There’s your Maoist/Marxist/Fascist ideology in action — purge those who believe in the “wrong” thing!

    Ask not for whom the bell tolls…it tolls for thee.

  12. 2:39 the person responsible for the quote in the times article was paul arilotta. he would always pit parent against teacher. That was his intent all along, muddy up the waters of truth to stall for more time. fyi… paul’s legacy at travell still has a stronghold, it’s diminishing (thank goodness). He’s long gone from the district.

  13. 2:39 it is school “officials” saying that… c’mon now. You know better how to parse the speech of a school “official.” “Blame the Teachers” ranks right up there with “Pass the Trash” as school administrative techniques of management.

  14. 3:07 you speak as if you know the identities of posters. How is that so? Is 11:21 a “she” as you note?

    But to the subject –
    I have to argue with you that 11:21 did not play the victim card by saying that the community has been tortured over 2 years about this math. Since the public schools lord it over all of us (taxpayers and parents with students), a description of their impact no matter how colorful is just opinion.

    If you think the opinion can be challenged, then do so and make a better case. Otherwise you come across as whining.

  15. “If you want to see real torture, go to Guantanamo!”

    Oh Geez! A delusional Obama voter.

  16. You’re welcome.

    A teacher

  17. “If you want to see real torture, go to Guantanamo!”

    Oh Geez! A delusional Obama voter.

    Wrong again!!!

    I supported Ron Paul. He wanted/wants Guantanamo shut down too.

    Interesting how you Maoists/Marxists/Fascists often make erroneous assumptions like this. It’s probably due to your skewed ideological frame of reference.

  18. If we do adopt a new math program it should be one that kids should be able to only get around 40% of the questions on. Like the IMO, math tests should not be easy enough so that most students can get 80% correct. If that is the case the top students are just wasting their time. For example at MIT the average grade is a 30 which would be a C. But anyone who can get 30% of the questions right on a MIT test is far beyond anyone who can get 90% right in some random college. I think if you make the tests harder it would make those who want to achieve work more and gain more skills. Look at the IMO and you will see what I mean. Most people will be lucky to even get 1 question right, however in preparing for it, you will grow leaps and bounds. I’m sure there are 4-5 kids in each class capable of getting perfect scores on tests and many others not far behind. For those kids math class is a waste of time.

  19. Many teachers did not go to this meeting. They felt that the decision has already been made to go with Everyday Math. Why waste their time. I’ll be very surprised if the new math program isn’t Everyday Math. I vote for a traditional program.

  20. Unfortunately, neither the teachers nor the parents are allowed to write the checks to the publishers.

  21. 12:10… I couldn’t agree more with your comment (sarcastic or not). Would you believe that administrators flat out ask potential teachers interviewing for a teaching position how they feel about constructivism and certain math programs. Isn’t that unbelievable and pathetic? Imagine a teacher being hired or not, based on their ideaological beliefs. Newsflash, it happens all of the time!

  22. This makes it clear why Dan Fishbein wouldn’t allow teachers on the planning team. He is calling the shots, isn’t he?

    Good one.

    I almost spit my soda all over my keyboard I was laughing so hard.

    Dan Fishbein calling the shots… good one.

  23. Like the prisoners in Gitmo are boy scouts.

    Torture, please… tell it to Daniel Pearls wife.

  24. Unfortunately, neither the teachers nor the parents write the checks to the publishers.

  25. I feel very bad for the teachers at Orchard, Travell, GW and BF.

    Their time is taken up every day making copies of old curriculum and trying to piece together a math program for an entire year because they have been given nothing to work with!!! Yes, no program is perfect, but TERC and CMP2 have so many holes in them, teachers have to basically create everything. It’s good when you have an experienced, older teacher and bad when you have one fresh out of school.

    Isn’t the Ridgewood teachers time more valuable than that?

    Buy them and their students a book for goodness sake!!!

  26. why are we the only town in the world that’s parents are not up i arms against this stupid dumb dumd math?

  27. Yea, and we overwhelmingly voted for Obama. We voted Brogen and Goodman to the BOE. We also voted for Shulman. And he would have won too, if not for our neighbors to the west knowing which side their bread is buttered on.

    So, it shouldn’t surprise any one that we constantly do things that are against our best interests. And that includes burying our heads in the sand or kissing arse and criticizing those demanding a tradition of excellence in our schools.

  28. Most people agree that constructivism should be taught as a supplement to traditional methods. Where TERC and EM fall short is that although they ask kids to come up with ideas, they do not follow those ideas up with concrete mathematics which renders it pointless. Here are some excerpts of the AOPS books, (http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Books/Excerpts.pdf). Look through it, I think this is what people mean by balance, not only does it ask kids to create ideas but the solutions to the problems teaches kids to not only think but also how and why the concepts work. Traditional math falls short on the thinking part, constructivist math falls short on the concrete concepts part.

  29. 2:24pm said:

    “Ideology [in and] of itself is not bad. What is bad is bad ideology, such as the belief that all people can be made to demonstrate equal ability, as in math. That is just hogwash and causes great calamity to a community of people. Why? Because some people will have their higher output curtailed and others will have their lower output falsely enhanced. This, so that their bad ideology of man made “equality” can be realized.

    “If you give everyone bad math, then those with less inclination and/or ambition won’t appear so far behind. This is at the heart of Regina’s constructivist ideology.”

    I say:

    With respect, I would suggest that you bone up on recent scientific research regarding brain function and cognition, and consider adjusting your attitude accordingly.

    If ever there was perceived to be a need to isolate and separate individuals of different apparent abilities in math in the early elementary school grades, there would appear to be no purpose in clinging to this position now. As an example of this new reality, please take the time to consider (without dismissing the example as too remote or otherwise inapplicable) the enormous turnaround the proud citizens of Singapore have been able to achieve in the little more than thirty years since they finally decided to come together as a nation to find real solutions rather than accept excuses for failure. That country, not so tiny as some have tried to imply, has gone from rock-bottom worst in the Far East (worst math scores and lowest per-capita income) to undisputed champ, and simply cannot be overlooked as a model for what can be achieved by people of good will, a determination to succeed, and unmitigated love for their children.

    I say this with full knowledge that you and I would probably fall on precisely the same side when it comes to what should constitute an appropriate elementary school math curriculum (i.e., with traditional mathematics instruction approach as the central vehicle for imparting math content).

    Get with the program, 2:24pm. Walk the mile with us, and you will be pleased to find that nearly all children who lack a substantial learning disability can be brought through the process of mastering the critical concepts that constitute elementary mathematics, as well as gaining true automaticity with basic math facts and skills.

    IMHO, one of the most urgent tasks we have at hand in Ridgewood, as well as one of the best opportunities we have to demonstrate the subtle depravity that has befallen those who favor constructivist teaching methods in mathematics and science, is to convey this “good news” message to parents in the Ridgewood district: Subject matter mastery in elementary math, and true automaticity with respect basic math skills, is not, and in truth never was, the sole domain of gifted students.

    In other words, if relative parity in math outcomes (e.g., by the time our children graduate from fifth grade) is a goal that we are bound and determined to achieve, there appears to be no need to settle for the so-called “lowest common denominator” approach so amply embodied in content-poor constructivist math curricula like Everyday Math and TERC/Investigations.

    This point cannot be hammered home often enough. The vast bulk of modern, peer-reviewed research at nearly all educational levels, but most importantly at the elementary school level, has shown without question that modern content-rich mathematics curricula have the capacity to capture the imagination of, and effectively harness the ingenuity of, all of our students, with very few exceptions.

    In order for Ridgewood to cross the threshold into this new reality, a few important changes need to take place.

    First, and most simply, students, teachers, parents, adminstrators, and BOE trustees alike must give up the notion that some children “just won’t get it.” This single idea has unnecessarily injured generations of U.S. students, most if not all of whom would otherwise be enjoying the confidence and attendant advantages now possessed by math-capable adults worldwide.

    Next, all of us with elementary school age children in our homes, in our classrooms, or under our charge as administrators or BOE trustees alike, must stop accepting weak excuses from our students, and begin demanding a commensurate effort from them during the mathematics instructional hour, during math drills at other times during the school day, and during homework time once the school day has ended. This last fact will likely prove uncomfortable for those teachers who have become accustomed to the easy availability of unscheduled days off. The same will almost certainly also hold true for those parents who have managed to fool themselves into thinking that a moderate amount of math ignorance in their children is an acceptable price to pay to preserve treasured flexibility in scheduling what they consider to be right number and variety of vacations during the school year.

    Finally, once we commit ourselves to this new path, we must continue to work hard at building up both our personal, as well as our collective, resistance to those among us who insist on singing the siren song of constructivist instructional methods for elementary school mathematics.

    When times get tough, and you find yourself outnumbered by those who would disabuse you of your hard-won beliefs, remember this: It they who have failed to prove their thesis, not you. They who deserve to be on the outside looking in, not you. And they who have gone off the rails in pursuing an ideology entirely unsupported by the undisputed facts and reliable analysis at hand, not you.

    Take comfort in the durability of these facts, and don’t ever be ashamed to demand something better from your school system. Remember too, that without our hard-earned money to spend, and our precious children to educate, the Ridgewood Public School District would literally be history.

  30. I say:

    With respect, I would suggest that you bone up on recent scientific research regarding brain function and cognition, and consider adjusting your attitude accordingly.

    I say:

    If you wouldn’t state your case using high-falutent pseudo-intellectual-speak (emphasis on “pseudo”), people would be more persuarded by your case.

    As it is, you sound just another soapbox narcissist.

  31. 8:52 AM,

    While you are right about many things, one believes that you have misinterpreted 2:24’s meaning when he/she writes about equal ability and the attempts to flatten results. There will always be those who run faster and jump higher, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else can’t jump or run.

    The ideology spoken of is theirs, the constructivists’. They believe that not all children can learn the same things and thus have devised a way to make all children “feel” equal by lowering the bar of achievement. Traditionalists believe that, except for the very few, all children are capable of learning mathematics (or any other subject for that matter).

    It is the liberal educrats and their social service counterparts, who have sold society the racist excuse for the failed performance of urban school children, i.e.; they learn differently. This is the genesis of their constructivist theory, now ideology. In their zeal for egalitarianism, liberal educrats have now exported this ideology to high performing suburban school districts such as Ridgewood’s. They avoid the hard work required to ensure that all students receive a rigorous and comprehensive understanding of math, and in a quest to dispel any whiff of elitism, they promote their egalitarian world view by imposing this disaster called constructivist math to our elementary schools.

    It is precisely due to the differences in how quickly students master certain elements of math that has driven this agenda to replace the traditional math curriculum with what is referred to derisively as “dumb, dumb math.” Not all children learn at the same pace due to the differences in when cognitive development takes place. However, that is no excuse for throwing the baby out with the bath water as the liberal educrats are wont to doing. What it means is that some students will learn and master some concepts before others, not that the “others” are incapable of mastering these same concepts.

    The solution to this natural state of occurrence in the variation of cognitive developmental abilities from child to child, strikes at the very heart of the egalitarians’ pseudo-psychological theory of the fragile student self-esteem mantra. Their theory espouses that emotional harm will come to a child if placed in a group of like learners to be taught in a way and pace that suits their cognitive ability. Liberal educrats bristle at this formula for teaching. They claim it stigmatizes children, refusing to take into account that children will excel at different rates, at different times, through out their years in school. We have all had those moments when we couldn’t comprehend something and then all of a sudden one day, “it clicked.” Children experience the same things through out their student lives.

    So, again this all comes back to ideology. The liberal educrat, like his fellow political liberal, believes everything is a zero sum game; that the pie is only so big, that it can never get bigger and that upward mobility is not possible without dragging down those at the top. Therefore, they believe it is their responsibility ensure equalize results for the good of all. It is called socialism in economics and contructivism in education, neither of which work for the betterment of all.

  32. Hang in there, 9:46AM. We’re all still chiming in anonymously, and I’m certanly not trying to call you out in any malicious way. Not that you need me to say this, but I can tell that you are clearly motivated by a desire to restore excellence in the Ridgewood schools. Disgusted by some of the things you see, you seem to be advocating in favor of a deeper level of change than what the district seems to be contemplating. In my book, this is all to the good.

    What most concerns me about your stated position is my concern that you will inspire others to re-assume tired prejudices that deserve to be retired. In the past, such arguments have served to pit different groups of well-meaning people against each other. As a strategy, this actually works in favor of those who are opposed to taxpayer and parental intervention at the district and BOE level, because it makes it hard for disinterested bystanders to conclude that those who are accusing the BOE and the district of being ‘stuck in the past’ are not vulnerable to a similar attack. Just as a tie goes to the runner in baseball, so will it go to the BOE or the district administrators if we fail to distinguish ourselves in comparison to them.

    If we stand any chance of turning the tide of overall public opinion in Ridgewood in our favor, we simply must take the fight to the front door of the hard-core supporters of construcivist math instructional methods. If the goal is to show that such people suffer from an abject poverty of ideas, it is important that we do not become distracted by discredited notions of innate math ability or disability in elementary school students.

    Even if you are adamant about pressing the point that some students are bound to fall off track, I would think that such an argument would be much more germane to a discussion of higher-level math instructional programs in Ridgewood, such as at the High School.

    We should be laboring to build a broad and deep foundation of math-capable students emerging from the elementary schools and feeding into the BF and GW middle schools for the benefit of the teachers there. Each of these students should have the valid option of putting his or her new skills and knowledge to use in higher-level mathematics subjects in higer grades. The confidence and pride possessed by such students would last throughout life, regardless of whether they decide to pursue STEM careers.

  33. I am 2:24 PM, the one who started this conversation about the forced “equality of output” that drives the constructivist agenda. This pursuit survives because it is rewarded by the public school monopoly system. Because it is rewarded, it is heavily protected and has become the de facto political religion of the system. Sadly, this also makes it difficult to stop or even curtail. To stop it, parents must take an active position in removing its most corrosive aspects from their children. Do not let the public school set the standard of excellence for your child. Go in to see the principal and set you own “higher” standard. Ask that the school report back to you if the teacher or class assigned to your child cannot fulfill your mandate. Since you are paying for this service, help them serve you better by telling them precisely what is expected of them. It works.

  34. 10:47AM:

    You seem to be in favor of leaving open the option of “tracking” in the elementary schools.

    I am not philosophically opposed to this, provided it does not occur too early.

    I am aware, for example, that in Singapore, each student whose individual performance in a math test administered at the end of the third grade reveals an insufficient grasp of mathematical concepts and basic skills for that level is identified and subsequently “tracked” during fourth and fifth grade. This ensures that by the time the tracked students reach the end of fifth grade, they are on par with their non-tracked classmates in math. In other words, when the whole class moves on to sixth grade, virtually nobody is suffering from a deficit of knowledge or skills. Everyone has an opportunity to move forward with confidence and pride.

    Admittedly, the questions naturally arise: 1) How is such “tracking” handled?, and 2)Won’t “tracked” students miss out on certain things that non-tracked students receive in terms of non-math instruction?

    In answer to the first question, I understand that the “tracked” students experience a 4th and 5th grade math curriculum that involves a relatively heavier emphasis on repeating and reinforcing math concepts, both with respect to such concepts as are covered in earlier grades, as well as new math concepts that are appropriate to the grade they are currently in. By contrast, the non-tracked students spend a proportionally smaller amount of their time in math instruction. The net result is that by the end of 5th grade, the tracked students have completely caught up to their non-tracked classmates in math.

    The answer to the second question is apparently “yes”. But since the remedial program experienced by the “tracked” students is spread out over two years, the differential in terms of exposure to non-math subject matter is kept to a minimum. The people of Singapore have clearly decided that the most costly deficit from which a child at the elementary school level can suffer is in math conceptual knowledge and basic math skills. They have molded and shaped their overall elementary school instructional program accordingly.

    In my view, Singapore was particularly wise to do this. It has set itself up for success by taking the early steps necessary to provide as many students as possible with the valid option to pursue educational paths leading to financially rewarding and intellectually stimulating careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Most of us in the U.S. who never opted to pursue a STEM career are easily convinced that early preparation and diligent practice is essential for musicians who will eventually seek a fine arts degree in instrumental performance, just as much as such behavior is critical for the success of budding professional dancers, or for aspiring collegiate athletes. Why it it that so many in this country resist coming to a similar concluson when it comes to students who will eventually pursue STEM careers? This is a problem that only time and patient argumentation can overcome.

    The challenge faced by elementary students worldwide in aquiring critical mathematics concepts, and in developing automaticity with important math facts and processes (like the Standard Algorithm), is well documented. At the same time, premiere public school districts in the U.S. seem particularly unwilling to address this problem head-on. I am beginning to view this as a dysfunction that has its origins in a misplaced concern for egalitarianism. Administrators seem loathe to take specific action to address deficiencies in math instruction, fearing that if they do so, they will be seen by district parents and teachers as regarding non-math subjects as less important than math. Based on my experience thus far, I would say that the Ridgewood administrators are suffering from this syndrome in spades.

  35. 12:51,

    You give the administrators and BOE too much credit when you state that they are loathe to take specific action… fearing they will seem to favor math over non-math subjects.

    They have taken action and it is in line with their troubled experience in math as youngsters and reinforced by their feel-good ideology that doesn’t like the idea that some students may be quicker to learn than others.

    It really does come down to egalitarianism and a socialism of knowledge.

    They will never admit that a tiny country like Singapore could and should be the model for math education in the USA. They will give every excuse in the book as to why it can not apply to us, as did Bob Hutton at a BOE meeting last year.

  36. The egalitarian zeal being discussed here is right on target for its negative, stereotypical impact on public education.

    But what bodes ill for us here in the United States is the alarming and growing lack of teachers in the k-6 environment with teachable mathematical competency. Since it’s easier to fail at math and far harder to fail at social studies, such soft sciences get the attention of our teacher corps at the expense of mathematics.

    Singapore has a great math outcome for its students because it has highly competent teachers throughout its school system. Not so America, where even wealthier districts suffer from this particular teacher brain drain.

  37. Thanks for the input 5:06. If I’m bringing a knife to a gunfight, I suppose its best that someone let me know this in advance!

    Anyway, my comment about adminstrators being loathe to get off the dime about bad math was more geared toward pointing up the aspect of the 4th and 5th grade math remediation program in Singapore by which “tracked” students are afforded more time than non-tracked classmates for direct math instruction. My premise is that US administrators, even if they know full well that the most important thing such “tracked” students could be doing at that point would be to double down on math instruction in order to catch up to their peers by the end of 5th grade, would be inclined to allow influential parents, teachers, or professional colleagues in other districts to persuade them that to deprive “tracked” students of **any** amount of time in non-math subjects as compared to their non-tracked classmates will irreversibly render them unlettered dullards by comparison.

    You appear to be saying something somewhat quite different–that administrators tend to be an ideologically rigid bunch who categorically refuse to take any action that would result in the classification of any child in any grade as being a below-grade-level performer in any subject based on a misplaced fidelity to the principles of egalitarianism. If this is your point, I have to say that it does have a certain ring of truth to it.

    Perhaps you are correct, and that my hypothesis is more of an explanation of the craven mechanism by which ideologically rigid administrators deflect the blame for poor outcomes away from themselves and onto an unaccountable group of “others”.

  38. 7:41,

    Indeed. That is exactly what I’m saying.

    It is not for nothing that I refer to administrators as educrats.


  39. Public schools would be better served by managers instead of administrators. Managers bear responsibility; administrators get to just, well, administrate and accountability slips by the wayside.

  40. I’m fortunate to know both Paul (Arilotta) and Dan (Fishbein).

    The students come first…

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