Thursday, November 29, 2007

Trendy Math is building a Weak Foundation for Michigan children; does Singapore Math add up instead?

More Michigan schools continue to adopt "Everyday Math" (also known as "Chicago Math") while other academically serious states are now starting to abandon it.

I've pasted below a scathing email communication from
EdWatch that addresses this growing concern over a weak math curriculum.

"Critics dub fuzzy math an “epidemic.” If so, it’s been festering for at least twenty years. “New math” goes back farther yet, but the so-called “world class” national math standards embedded fuzzy math into the classrooms by nursing it along with generous amounts of our tax dollars beginning in the early 90’s. Now Fuzzy Math is an open, oozing canker. Armies of graduates are unprepared for college math, or for life, for that matter."

Many educators seem to be drawn into trendy "new-math" techniques. But here is a great video entitled
"Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth" that shows the fundimental problems with Everyday Math:

(You'll need to click the PLAY button twice)



Writer Michelle Malkin offers this great piece too, saying:

"Do you know what math curriculum your child is being taught? Are you worried that your third-grader hasn’t learned simple multiplication yet? Have you been befuddled by educational jargon such as “spiraling,” which is used to explain why your kid keeps bringing home the same insipid busywork of cutting, gluing and drawing? And are you alarmed by teachers who emphasize “self-confidence” over proficiency while their students fall further and further behind? Join the club."

This growing drumbeat over Everyday math should be a concern to you, regardless of whether you have children in the public education system or not. This shows how public education is using your tax dollars to prepare our children for this challenging global economy.

I'd like to emphasize that schools should be encouraged to try new things, especially when "standard" techniques are not achieving desired goals. But the mistake they seem to make is that they dive into this trendy stuff and make it a systemwide standard before it is proven.

For example, the so-called "Singapore Math" shows great promise. According to this Hoover Institution article entitled "Miracle Math.", it was piloted in Montgomery County, with largely positive results. I'm not suggesting that every district convert, but given Singapore Math's proven success internationally, and given the obvious weaknesses of Everyday Math, I think more schools should be trying their own pilots.

The Hoover article is a bit "wonkish", and discusses in detail the shortcomings of the pilot process, including poor planning, poor teacher preparation / professional development, and other integration issues. But it's worth noting that

TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) has become a respected standard of international academic achievement. And in three consecutive TIMSS test rounds (in 1995, 1999, and 2003), 4th- and 8th-grade students in the former British trading colony of Singapore beat all contenders, including math powerhouses Japan and Taiwan. United States 8th graders did not even make the top ten in the 2003 round; they ranked 16th. Worse, scores for American students were, as one Department of Education study put it, “among the lowest of all industrialized countries.”

During the Montgomery County pilot, "The Singapore texts and methods were so effective in College Gardens that the scores of students there on the math computation portion of the standardized Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS) rose from the 50th and 60th percentiles to the low 90s in the first 4 years they were used."

Unfortunately it seems the pilot was prematurely cancelled despite it's early success. But this math program is continuing to grow, with the lastest boost coming from California, which has stopped allowing tax dollars to be used for Everyday Math, but now allows them to be used for Singapore Math.

The significant point is that there are good, strong alternatives to this "fuzzy math" that unfortunately seems to be gaining popularity in Michigan. (It's used throughout the Rochester elementary schools, to the dismay of some parents -- including me.)

If you are serious about understanding the flaws with Everyday Math, I'd also encourage you to check out Everyday Math thread on the Livonia Neighbors Chat Board. It contains hundreds of entries by intelligent and concerned people who have collected data from a wide variety of credible sources.

My biggest concern about Everyday Math is the negative impact it might have on student achievement during a student's high school years. A strong foundation is essential when they get into advanced math, and much of what's been written on EveryDay Math suggests that the appropriate foundation might not be there when they really need it.

-----------------------------------------------------


Fuzzy Math Faces Revolt
Integrated Math, Everyday Math



Fuzzy math has run into a bit of a buzz saw recently. When the Texas State Board of Education abandoned it this month, new controversy erupted across America. Texas curriculum sets the framework for the rest of the country.

Fuzzy math’s names are Everyday Math, Connected Math, Integrated Math, Math Expressions, Constructivist Math, NCTM Math, Standards-based Math, Chicago Math, and Investigations, to name a few. Fuzzy math means students won’t master math: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Remind me­-why are we sending them to school?

Fuzzy math teaches students to “appreciate” math, but they can’t do it. They are to come up with their own ideas about how to compute, lest they come to think there’s a single most efficient way. Lessons about racism, sexism, global warming and American imperialism are melded ("integrated") into math classes. One program calls itself “radical math” to describe its political math agenda. (See "
If we really hope to improve mathematics education.")

Hear familiar ideas here? What works, what’s true, what is tested isn’t the point in education anymore, whether math, history, or literature. That’s outdated, because it implies objective knowledge larger than ourselves.

Critics dub fuzzy math an “epidemic.” If so, it’s been festering for at least twenty years. “New math” goes back farther yet, but the so-called “world class” national math standards embedded fuzzy math into the classrooms by nursing it along with generous amounts of our tax dollars beginning in the early 90’s. Now
Fuzzy Math is an open, oozing canker. Armies of graduates are unprepared for college math, or for life, for that matter. (See "AN OPEN LETTER TO UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, RICHARD RILEY")

Something is stinky with education “experts” and in the halls of education colleges. The sooner the public realizes that the “professionals” have bought nutty fantasy-land drivel and are undermining our children with it, the sooner we can rise to the challenge of restoring knowledge to the classroom.

Hurray for the Texas Board of Education. Send them a thank-you.

Julie Quist
EdWatch
***************************
The New York Sun
Texas Challenges City on Math
State Abandons the Fuzzy Curriculum
By Elizabeth Green
November 20, 2007

The state of Texas has dropped a math curriculum that is mandated for use in New York City schools, saying it was leaving public school graduates unprepared for college. The curriculum, called Everyday Mathematics, became the standard for elementary students in New York City when Mayor Bloomberg took control of the public schools in 2003.

About three million students across the country now use the program, including students in 28 Texas school districts, and industry estimates show it holds the greatest market share of any lower-grade math textbook, nearly 20%. But Texas officials said districts from Dallas to El Paso will likely be forced to drop it altogether after the Lone Star State's Board of Education voted to stop financing the third-grade textbook, which failed to teach students even basic multiplication tables, a majority of members charged. One board member, Terri Leo, who is also a Texas public school teacher, called the textbook "the very worst book that we had submitted." This year, the board of education received 163 textbooks for consideration.
Read rest of the article here...
***************************
National Review Online, 11.28.07
Superbug in the Classroom
A mathematical epidemic.
By Michelle Malkin

Do you know what math curriculum your child is being taught? Are you worried that your third-grader hasn’t learned simple multiplication yet? Have you been befuddled by educational jargon such as “spiraling,” which is used to explain why your kid keeps bringing home the same insipid busywork of cutting, gluing and drawing? And are you alarmed by teachers who emphasize “self-confidence” over proficiency while their students fall further and further behind? Join the club.
Read rest of article here...
***************************
Letter to New York Sun
"Kudos for covering the important story of the Texas Board of Education rejecting Everyday Math, Grade 3 for its schools [Front Page, "Texas Challenges City on Math," November 20, 2007]. I have lived through Everyday Math with three children who are now in high school and beyond. In my community, students flock in huge numbers to Kumon Math or other tutoring services because of the deficiencies in Everyday Math. Everyday Math and other Reform Math or Standards Based Math curricula have done a woeful job of preparing students with a sound math education. Students who are taught by these curricula are typically calculator-dependent, and unable to perform basic math functions because they are de-emphasized. Instead greater emphasis is placed on making math fun and expecting the students to discover how to solve math problems on their own. This topic needs more exposure across the country if we are to produce well-educated students capable of competing in our global world. Thanks for drawing attention to it. MARGUERITE BLISS, St. Louis, Mo."
***************************
Hoover Institute
"The difference between the widely used math books and Singapore Math illustrates the problem. Look at the difference in the amount of material in the two. Singapore is step-by-step and to the point."
http://www.hoover.org/publications/ednext/3853357.html
***************************

Dr. J. E. Stone, educational psychologist, professor in the College of Education at East Tennessee State University, and head of the
Education Consumers Clearing House.
"For years educational experts have held that the only good way to engage students in schoolwork is by making it exciting, engaging, and fun. Students have been expected to study and learn but only if the subject wasn't boring. The public has been told that school facilities must be attractive, books colorful, and, above all, studies must be "intrinsically" interesting. Teachers have been expected to be stimulating but not obtrusive, challenging but not demanding of overexertion. They have been told that if their teaching is truly enthusiastic, innovative, and creative, students will learn spontaneously, if not effortlessly.

"Laurence Steinberg's Beyond the Classroom, Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do (Simon & Schuster, 1996) takes a decidedly different view of why successful students pay attention, complete their assignments, and succeed. Distilling the results of studies carried out over ten years, Steinberg concludes that high-achieving students treat their studies as work, not fun and games. Although the central point of Steinberg's research pertains to parent and peer influences, his broader message is that successful students approach school as an important opportunity and they work hard to make the most of it. A growing number of experts agree with his observation."
Read rest of the article here...
***************************
From our mailbox:
"Everyday Math was used in the our school district. My son brought home a multiplication worksheet on estimating. He had "estimated" that 9 x 9 = 81, and the teacher marked it wrong. I met with her to defend my child's answer. The teacher opened her book and read to me that the purpose of the exercise was not to get the right answer, but was to teach the kids to estimate. The correct answer was 100: kids were to round each 9 up to a 10. (The teacher did not seem to know that 81 was the product, as her answer book did not state the same.) Not long ago, a clerk at Target, a produce of this school district, and likely a "beneficiary" of years of Everyday Math, could not figure out change for $17.23, when I gave her a $20 bill, and then pulled a quarter out of my pocket after she had pressed the "amount tendered button." Even scarier, she called the manager, who could not calculate it in his head, got out a calculator, and still got it wrong the first time. I home school now."
***************************
For more detailed information about integrated math and why it is being implemented, see the book AMERICA 'S SCHOOLS: The Battleground for Freedom.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

EdWatch.org / 105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116 / Chaska, MN 55318 / 952-361-4931

1 comment:

Lone_Heckler said...

The Chicago Math worked well for my oldest. Now in 8th grade and ahead in math she will be pulling "A"s in Geometry. She gets it and things appear fine.

My 10 year old is not getting the Chicago style so we have been working with the teacher on Plan "B". At least we can get a Plan "B".

Do you believe there is a one size fits most solution?