Archive for the ‘math wars’ Category

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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One of the four math program finalists is Primary mathematics. This is a Singapore program and is the gold standard for elementary school math.

In BOE, math wars, Ridgewood Schools on March 24, 2009 at 8:05 pm

One of the four math program finalists is Primary mathematics. This is a Singapore program and is the gold standard for elementary school math. A Blog Reader had this to say about the program and what it would mean for Ridgewood elementary students.

This is the Singapore program approved for Oregon and California.

I’ve always thought the right thing for Ridgewood to do is use what California’s been using, and now Oregon as well. However, I’m very concerned now because the Ridgewood parents might not choose it due to its lack of glitz. The parent community may not be savvy enough about math materials to understand why Singapore is superior to the others. I can only hope that the Ridgewood parents who go to look at the books will recognize this f act about themselves, and will do their best to find out the substantive truth, rather than get distracted by the glitz.

Here is some information on the Singapore site about Cavendish Singapore.




Students of Singapore Math are approximately two years ahead of other American students.

For eighteen months I taught all three of my kids daily, using Singapore Math. All of them had had an American education and specifically, some amount of TERC in school. Singapore is divid ed into two half-years.

My grade 2 child tested and placed at Singapore grade two (the equivalent of American grade K) before the lessons. After the eighteen months, he tested as ready for Singapore grade seven (the equivalent of American grade 9).
My grade 5 child tested and placed at Singapore grade three (the equivalent of American grade 1) before the lessons. After the eighteen months, she tested as ready for Singapore grade seven (the equivalent of American grade 9).
My grade 7 child tested and placed marginally at Singapore grade four (the equivalent of American grade 2) before the lessons. After the eighteen months, she tested as ready for Singapore grade seven (the equivalent of American grade 9).

You can see that the older the child, the more catching up they had to do, after years of an American math education.

My kids started out varying a great deal in their ability to learn math. Yet after the 18 months, all of them had become skilled in both mechanics and in problem-solving, and knew the basics of Algebra. In addition, all three had learned weights and measurements, both English and metric.

Ridgewood School District would be making a big mistake to reject Singapore Math, which is quickly becoming the gold standard. Just look at California, a state that’s been through the mill concerning “reform math,” and which now has its own version of Singapore Math. In fact, it’s this version that Ridgewood is considering.

After all, it is universally known among math education experts that Singapore is the top math-achieving country in the world. It’s hard to argue with that. Children don’t need glitz when they can instead feel the deep satisfaction of a lesson learned well. And what’s downright poetic about this is that because Singapore is less glitzy, it’s probably also cheaper than other programs. What a thought.

I do not recommend parents tutoring their kids at home unless they love the idea. It’s not easy. In my case, I have a math teaching license, and got a sick thrill out of teaching my own kids.

But if our district’s elementary schools get Singapore Math, the parents will be able to relax for the first time in years. I’ve heard some people argue that Ridgewood’s teachers are not equipped to teach Singapore Math, as it is more rigorous than American math, but I disagree. I believe Ridgewood’s teachers will take to Singapore Math like a duck to water. It’s organized and has good materials for treating teachers as lifelong learners. In my opinion, it contains the best of what reform math tries, but fails, to do. It is both traditional and progressive. It’s the blend that the board has been talking about, is more proven than Everyday Math, and will cease the uproar

It is a sad situation when the weakest member of the BOE goes unchallenged

In BOE, math wars, Regina, Ridgewood Schools on March 20, 2009 at 11:19 am

It is a sad situation when the weakest member of the BOE goes unchallenged. But hey, would you really want to be the only member on the BOE that had a brain in your head and actually used logic to make decisions.

Jack Carrol lasted one term and gave up on these folks. All but one is employed in the private sector. Shelia rules the BOE, working behind the scenes to manipulate the outcome. Ask former BOE member Mark Bombace, he will attest to this.

No, sane people reject working in such environments. Unless two people can be elected at the same time, as a slate, in order to protect one another, there is no sense in running to be the odd man out.

It is unfortunate but that is the political reality. Our BOE is totally out of touch and is radically to the left of center. It is easier to affect change from the outside than to be on the inside at the moment. Witness the debate over math. The math mom’s have won the war of public opinion regardless of what the BOE does.

Everyday Math has been chosen by Regina and Dan for our grade schoolers. But at what price to their credibility. Ask around, everyone knows these people are inept and foolish. We just hire tutors for now. But you wait, when the kids do miserably on their SAT’s in a few years, then we’ll see the backlash. Ridgewood parents are patient and compliant for the most part. That is until you mess with their child’s chances of getting into collage. Oh, the chickens will come home to roost and then we’ll see the real fireworks.

The truly sad thing about this venture, is that none of these BOE members have kids in the system that are now being thought this dumb, dumb math, so they really don’t care. How’s that for representative government.


letters to the editor

In math wars on March 20, 2009 at 4:14 am

From today’s Bergen Record, three interesting letters to the editor caught the Fly’s eye…

Dear Editor:

Reform math programs such as Everyday Math for elementary school and Connected Mathematics Program for middle school use practices that have no credible research to support their efficacy. More importantly and most recently, the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report (NMAP) published in March 2008 has recognized many of the flaws of these programs which ultimately continue to fail our children:
· These math programs do not teach standard algorithms, the ones mathematicians state must be learned.
· They have watered down math content and replaced it with a heavy emphasis on language.
· They insist that children use a calculator and rely on technology instead of their own brainpower.
· They no longer require students to memorize any of the basic math facts like multiplication tables.
· They encourage students to “discover” methods and procedures to solve problems.
· They use a large percentage of class time for students to work in groups where they are expected to teach each other. The teacher is merely to act=2 0as a facilitator instead of a provider of direct and clear instruction.
It concluded that schools should move away from these kinds of programs.

Renata Pestic
Oradell, March 18

Here’s the link to the other letters from the opinion page

Here’s what James Milgram, Professor of Mathematics, Stanford University

In math wars, Prof.James Milgram on March 20, 2009 at 3:46 am

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. “

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Controversial math program rejected

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

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.

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Ridgewood Math : Time for an Autopsy?

In BOE, math wars, Ridegwood Schools on March 14, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Mathematics in Ridgewood has been so convoluted and butchered that it’s been a moving target, requiring many chiefs to keep it all under control.

In the last few years, Ridgewood math has been beaten to death.

As long as we have plenty of math chiefs, the agony will continue. Here is how it will go:

They’ll conduct an autopsy, which will take a few years. At the end of the autopsy they will “discover” that the victim had simply been experimented on too much.

In the meantime, they’ll be doing plenty of chaos management behind the scenes.

Then they will eventually conclude from their discovery that mathematics is taught best in a straightforward, systematic, direct manner.

Then, after that, slowly and imperceptibly, over a few more years, they will swing the pendulum back to basics, perhaps with a few improvements, but it must happen slowly enough that nobody notices the turnaround.

(That’s exactly what happened to the subject of spelling, by the way. Over many years of evolution and “discovery,” we are now seeing spelling becoming important again, but they’re covering up for their botch job by suggesting that spelling is important for reading, rather than for its own sake. But it happened so slowly that this has gotten slipped past a new crop of parents and kids. You can be certain that the math turnaround will have some new spin on it, too.)

Then, a few years after that, they’ll discover that they don’t need so many math administrators any more.

Hmmmm… what if they hasten their autopsy, make their discoveries today, and cut those jobs now?

But alas, that would mean that just as private businesses do, they’ll have to cut their losses and be more transparent about mistakes.

What a concept. (Pardon the expression.)

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Reader," Asks What’s more important? Having math administrators or having actual math in the classrooms? "

In BOE, math wars, Ridegwood Schools on March 13, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Yes, I agree the major cost is people. But look at their compensation and the administrative layers.

We have too many math chiefs and they are relying too much on consultant math chiefs to help them. We are failing at providing the quality of math instruction parents are requiring.

So can’t we just fail with fewer administrators?

Even when we get a better program in place, will we still need three math administrators? Can’t we do with 2 or 1?

Get rid of one of those salaried administrator at cottage place and we would be able to afford implementing the new math program in our elementary schools. Right now, we are picking a program and then saying to parents you can’t all have it because we don’t have the money.

That’s rich. A public school saying it doesn’t have the money for Math. Math!

What’s more important? Having math administrators or having actual math in the classrooms? Is this one really that hard?


Current research continues to show how really bad this program (TERC a/k/a Investigations) is.

In BOE, math wars, Ridegwood Schools, Ridgewood New Jersey on March 5, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Regina Botsford, assistant superintendent for curriculum, placed TERC a/k/a Investigations in Number, Data, and Space in two of our elementary schools: Orchard and Travell. With heavy supplementation, Orchard has survived it; Travell has not. Current research continues to show how really bad this program is. So Regina, who told you TERC was a “good” program that should be force fed to our students?

Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary School Math Curricula: Findings from First Graders in 39 Schools
Achievement Effects of Four Early Elementary School Math Curricula: Findings from First Graders in 39 Schools reports on the relative impacts of four math curricula on first-grade mathematics achievement. The curricula were selected to represent diverse approaches to teaching elementary school math in the United States. The four curricula are Investigations in Number, Data, and Space; Math Expressions; Saxon Math; and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics. First-grade math achievement was significantly higher in schools randomly assigned to Math Expressions or Saxon Math than in those schools assigned to Investigations in Number, Data, and Space or to Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics. This study is being conducted as part of the National Assessment of Title I. The report cleared IES peer review on February 2, 2009.


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Our BOE, however, is to radicalized to pay any attention to such practical research.

In BOE, math wars, Ridgewood New Jersey on March 4, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Pleased to see so much attention being paid to this issue. Our BOE, however, is to radicalized to pay any attention to such practical research.

Daniel Fishbein has made up his mind that we will have the reform math program Every Day math. He and Regina will pretend that everything we’ve been through since last year actually mattered to them. They will pick this program because they are reform minded and that is perhaps all they feel comfortable with.

The National Math Panel said NO to spiraling; Regina says YES.

The State of NJ is saying NO focus on conceptualization for young students; Regina says YES.

Newest research is saying NO to too many topics visited lightly; Regina says YES.

High performing states have focused on teaching algorithms and memorization of basic facts like multiplication tables; Regina says NO.

The Queen and her Consort have spoken. Parents and students be damned.

Remember the $90,000 figure cited by the administration for implementing the new math program. It just so happens that that is the cost of EVERY DAY MATH.

Yes, folks. We’ve been duped again.