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Our Expert’s take on the final four math programs.

In math wars, Ridegwood Schools on March 26, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Our Expert’s take on the final four math programs. We rate these up to four stars (best) based on our criteria for 1) content; 2) clarity; 3) skill development; and 4) sequential connections.

A) Math Expressions
This is a reform program that boasts “new ways to teach and learn mathematics.” Yes, there are educators actually searching for new ways to teach elementary math, like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. The publisher has found those people and is aiming its product directly at their need for the new. We would describe this program, but the publisher does it best: “Combining the most powerful elements of reform mathematics with the best of traditional approaches, Math Expressions uses objects, drawings, conceptual language, and real-world situations to help students build mathematical ideas that make sense to them.” We especially applaud the goal to “build mathematical ideas,” NOT. Best use of faddist buzzword, “real-world situations.” Rating: **½ out of 4.

B) enVision Math
This program is the marriage of math and technology. But be forewarned, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. The features of enVision — interactive computing, smartboards, bell and whistles — are designed to be alluring and ultra modern, like a classic whore with perfect make up. Teachers who don’t like math and don’t have a clue how to teach math will really like this program. They just have to show up, plug it in and WHAM — instant math instruction. This program is only one year old, so if Ridgewood picks it, the publisher’s stock will go up and there will be money for contract payments (i.e. kickbacks). Please note that enVision is Nancy Schulz’s (Montclair math consultant) preferred program. Publisher describes program using verbiage such as, “sequential visual/verbal connections,” “Visual Learning Bridge,” “daily Data-Driven Differentiation,” “Visual Learning strategies to deepen conceptual understanding,” yada, yada, yada. Only problem, it doesn’t make coffee. Rating: * out of 4.

C) EveryDay Math
EveryDay Math has just about everything the National Math Panel said elementary math instruction should avoid. It is based on the spiral approach which is designed to keep kids from being bored by jumping all over the place, touching lightly on topics and endlessly revisiting them. This program has taken the notion of an algorithm (short, sweet, quick and accurate) and made it more like fun with Dick and Jane. Your young elementary student will not only learn how to add, but will learn how to add upside down, in a tree, on a beach and in space using a Ouija board. If this doesn’t make sense to you, then you’re too old. EveryDay Math does not support automaticity of any basic math facts (boring), it emphasizes language over math (because math is boring) and is enraptured with non-standard algorithms (standard ones are so passe and boring). It is an expensive program that requires lots of work from Nancy Schultz, our permanent math consultant and teacher re-training guru. If Regina gets her way and picks this program, taxpayers may want to consider taking up a collection and buying Nancy a house here in Ridgewood. Rating: ** out of 4.

D) Primary Mathematics
Primary Mathematics is a Singapore Math program. For parents, Singapore is the land of plenty. For math educators, Singapore is the land of too much, since in public school, education administrators are very careful not to set too high a bar for themselves. Students of Singapore Math are approximately two years ahead of other American students. This means that our teachers would have to be ahead, too. That could be a problem if we don’t hire the best and the brightest, not our strong suit with Regina and Dan at the helm. About the program – it is streamlined, mostly steak, little potatoes. There are some fluffy reform words to woo progressive thinking teachers, like conceptual understanding, visual learning strategies, real-world problem solving (as if others are using fake-world strategies), but these phrases are kept to a minimum, allowing the program to succeed by not replacing the actual math with such marketing selling points. This is a fundamental math program that actually lays out the instruction of math in a manner that focuses on teaching the student until he/she gets it. It is sequential, uses accurate math concepts and terms, emphasizes retaining math knowledge and lays a clean, uncluttered foundation for ongoing math study. Rating: **** out of 4.

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