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Controversial math program rejected

In math wars on March 18, 2009 at 4:01 am

Tuesday, March 17, 2009
BY DEENA YELLIN
NorthJersey.com
STAFF WRITER

After a vociferous outcry from parents against what they called a controversial math program, the River Dell Regional Board of Education opted not to adopt Connected Mathematics.

The decision last night was in response to a request from the Tri-District Math Committee, which had asked the superintendents of Oradell, River Dell and River Edge to use Connected Mathematics alongside the traditional math curriculum in Grade 7.

“I remain hopeful that the three districts will come together in order to present a unified curriculum for our students so that they can be successful in their future endeavors,” River Dell Superintendent Patrick Fletcher said.

He acknowledged that the board may eventually reconsider. “We’re trying to take our time,” he said. “I hope that this shows to people that we are considering the comments that have been raised by the members of the public.”

The board in River Edge, one of two elementary districts that send students to the regional middle school and high school, approved using Connected Mathematics in the sixth grade. The other district, Oradell, rejected it for sixth-graders in a unanimous vote last week.

Connected Mathematics attempts to foster a deeper understanding of math principles and problem solving, but some parents expressed concerns that the program doesn’t focus enough on basic math. Parents who were already on edge about Everyday Mathematics, a similar program for elementary school students used in River Edge and Oradell, were particularly concerned.

Among the numerous parents who complained was Jane Daly, whose fifth-grader started Everyday Mathematics at Roosevelt School in River Edge this year.

“It’s been a lost year for these guys,” Daly said at a meeting for parents at River Dell Middle School last week. “I don’t think my kids are going to have what they need to get good SAT scores.”

Fletcher had said Connected Math would not replace traditional teaching methods, but that apparently did not calm anxious parents.

“I think the basic impression everyone has is that we’re going to throw out every single textbook that we have and throw out every single aspect of the curriculum that’s working now,” Fletcher said at a math forum held at the middle school last week. “That’s not true.”

Fletcher argued that Connected Mathematics would allow students to get a more in-depth understanding of math concepts.

The evidence that Connected Mathematics improves students’ abilities is inconclusive, according to the federal Department of Education. Only one of three studies showed positive results. Two others were inconclusive.

E-mail: yellin@northjersey.com

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  1. One more SMART district. When are we going to get together as parents and strongly reject the programs that are damaging for our children future????

  2. Ridgewood used to lead, that is, in the right direction.

    Now we follow what others have rejected.

    Total turnaround time: 4 years (the # of years the Queen has reigned.

  3. Comments by RD Superintendent Fletcher seem to indicate that he’s probably trying to mollify the public while fully supporting the long-term objectives of the constructivist math supporters who are advising his school system:

    –“I remain hopeful that the three districts will come together in order to present a unified curriculum for our students so that they can be successful in their future endeavors,” River Dell Superintendent Patrick Fletcher said.

    –He acknowledged that the board may eventually reconsider. “We’re trying to take our time,” he said. “I hope that this shows to people that we are considering the comments that have been raised by the members of the public.”

    –Fletcher had said Connected Math would not replace traditional teaching methods, but that apparently did not calm anxious parents.

    –“I think the basic impression everyone has is that we’re going to throw out every single textbook that we have and throw out every single aspect of the curriculum that’s working now,” Fletcher said at a math forum held at the middle school last week. “That’s not true.”

    –Fletcher argued that Connected Mathematics would allow students to get a more in-depth understanding of math concepts.

    Now take a look at the ‘Mission’ and ‘Vision’ Statements for the Tri-District Mathematics Committee in light of our experience here in Ridgewood and consider whether parents in his district would be wise to take Superintendent Fletcher at his word:

    Tri-District Vision for Mathematics

    Mission Statement

    The three districts will implement a constructivist, research/standards-based approach to mathematics instruction. We will improve student learning by organizing professional opportunities for teachers to understand how to teach research/standards-based concepts of mathematics to children. We will provide support to all students to develop a comprehensive understanding of the mathematics taught. During our committed change to a standards- based program, parents will be provided with opportunities to actively participate in the paradigm shift.

    Vision Statement

    The students of Oradell, River Dell, and River Edge will have access to aligned, high-quality curriculum, instruction, and assessment in mathematics. Students will be engaged in learning and understanding the value of mathematics in their everyday lives. Students will be confident, flexible, reflective, resourceful problem solvers, able to communicate their ideas effectively.

  4. They should have capitalized “everyday” in their vision statement, thus killing 2 birds with 1 stone.

  5. Here’s what James Milgram, Professor of Mathematics, Stanford University, said about the Connected Mathematics program we have in our middle schools. Apparently the math decisions makers in Ridgewood see no need to ask a mathematician about mathematics.

    “Overall, the program seems to be very incomplete, and I would judge that it is aimed at underachieving students rather than normal or higher achieving students. In itself this is not a problem unless, as is the case, the program is advertised as being designed for all students. In fact, as indicated, there is no reputable research at all which supports this.

    The philosophy used throughout the program is that the students should entirely construct their own knowledge and that calculators are to always be available for calculation. This means that

    1. standard algorithms are never introduced, not even for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions

    2. precise definitions are never given

    2. repetitive practice for developing skills, such as basic manipulative skills is never given. Consequently, in the seventh and eighth grade booklets on algebra, there is no development of the standard skills needed to solve linear equations, no practice with simplifying polynomials or quotients of polynomials, no discussion of things as basic as the standard exponent rules.

    4. throughout the booklets, topics are introduced, usually in a single problem and almost always indirectly — topics which, in traditional texts are basic and will have an entire chapter devoted to them — and then are dropped, never to be mentioned again.

    5. in the booklets on probability and data analysis a huge amount of time is spent learning rather esoteric methods for representing data, such as stem and leaf plots, and very little attention is paid to topics like the use and misuse of statistics. Statistics, in and of itself, is not that important in terms of mathematical development. The main reason it is in the curriculum is to provide students with the means to understand common uses of statistics and to be able to understand when statistical arguments are being used correctly. “

  6. Another low brow unenlightened, backwaters school district rejecting the superior progressive cutting edge constructivist math that is the mark of a premier district like Ridgewood…

    \sarc off

  7. Constructivism is like a plague. A virus that is spread by liberal educrats from district to district.

    It is amazing to see that parents all over understand that reform math is crap and that their children are being cheated of a proper education.

  8. Well put, 5:45.

    To that I would add that those who are infected by the constructivist virus are immediately seized by a notion of moral and intellectual superiority over anyone not yet infected.

    To those whose constuctivist infection is so deep and so pervasive as to be incurable, there is nobody so evil as an uninfected individual with eyes and ears to detect their infection, and a mind and voice to call it what it is (or at least what it has devolved into)– a social agenda.

    The worst thing about constructivism today is the naked and unabashed agression of its adherents. Then there is this distressing fact: theirs is the most advantageous position conceivable for individuals bent on using young children as agents to implement basic changes to the social order.

    In other words, the number of non-foxes guarding this particular henhouse is so low now as to be approaching zero.

    IMHO, the process for selecting a mathematics curriculum on which to standardize for our six elementary schools was intentionally and wastefully stretched out over multiple years to tire out, benumb, or hypnotize all but the most ardent and knowledgeable opponents to constructivist teaching techniques. Dire-sounding financial figures are now being leaked out of Cottage place on a regular basis, as if to build a foundation to support an ultimate decision, ostensibly driven by funding limitations, to either: 1) do nothing, thereby allowing all six elementary schools to continue doing what they are doing now, or 2) announce a decision to standardize on Everyday Mathematics according to a glacially slow roll-out schedule.

    With CMPII completing its steady takeover of the middle schools, and the elementary schools coming under the ever-expanding dominion of Everyday Mathematics, it won’t be long before the math program at the High School is targeted for final constructivist subjugation.

    What a pinch we in Ridgewood, who care deeply about mathematics as an academic discipline, and who ardently wish to pass strong math skills onto our children, are in.

  9. It has long been my suspicion that those educators who push the constructivist agenda are not really comfortable with mathematics themselves. Their own insecurities about their ability to perform mathematical operations are projected to the students as a whole. Let’s face it, not everyone is strong in math. People with a certain political viewpoint don’t like to hear that.

  10. True, true 9:41 AM

  11. 8:37am – is that the same P Fletcher who ran Glen Rock into the ground and had to leave?

  12. 11:32 AM – I just checked, and yes, it is the same Patrick J. Fletcher. How bad did things get for him in Glen Rock?

    8:37 AM

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