Financial ability correlates w/ maths skills not financial education: Revisiting Madison’s 2007 Math Forum

James Pickford: But they don’t appear to do much financial training in Shanghai?  One of the report’s most interesting conclusions was that the best way of teaching financial literacy is not necessarily by instruction in the classroom. Far more important as indicators of proficiency were mathematical skills and personal experience with financial products. So Chinese children, who […]

Math Forum Audio / Video and Links

Video and audio from Wednesday’s Math Forum are now available [watch the 80 minute video] [mp3 audio file 1, file 2]. This rare event included the following participants: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and UW Math Professor) Linda McQuillen, Madison Metropolitan School District Gabriele Meyer […]

Math Forum: Wednesday 2.22.2006 7:00p.m.

There’s been no shortage of discusion regarding math curriculum. Rafael Gomez’s latest event, this Wednesday’s Math Forum should prove quite interesting. The event will be at the Doyle Administration Building (McDaniels Auditorium) [Map] from 7:00 to 8:00p.m. Participants include: Dick Askey (UW Math Professor) Faye Hilgart, Madison Metropolitan School District Steffen Lempp (MMSD Parent and […]

6 Baltimore schools, no students proficient in state tests

Chris Papst: A Project Baltimore investigation has found five Baltimore City high schools and one middle school do not have a single student proficient in the state tested subjects of math and English. We sat down with a teen who attends one of those schools and has overcome incredible challenges to find success. Related: Math […]

(2009) What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack and Michael Fish: Major Findings CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students Change in performance was observed immediately after switch Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as […]

Why Singapore’s kids are so good at maths

aJeevan Vasagar: The classrooms at Admiralty are sparsely decorated. When I visit a class of 13-year-olds, there’s a single artwork on the back wall; a paper cut-out of a cherry tree scattering blossom. At the front, where the teacher stands, is a whiteboard, a projector, a Singapore flag and a clock. I am later told […]

Deja Vu: Madison School District Agreement with the US ED Office of Civil Rights

Last October, Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham signed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding OCR’s compliance review of access to advanced coursework by Hispanic and African-American students in the District. The resolution agreement was presented at the December 5, 2016 Instruction Workgroup meeting (agenda item 6.1): The […]

Madison School District Middle School Math Specialist Program

Madison School District Administration (PDF): Project Description: MMSD has provided funding to support coursework in the content and teaching knowledge of middle school teachers of math. Toward that goal, a partnership was formed back in 2010 between the District, the UW-Madison School of Education, the UW- Madison Department of Mathematics, and the University of Wisconsin […]

The Economist’s Washington correspondent wonders why his offspring are being taught swimming so well and maths so badly

James Astill: Yet my children’s experience of school in America is in some ways as indifferent as their swimming classes are good, for the country’s elementary schools seem strangely averse to teaching children much stuff. According to the OECD’s latest international education rankings, American children are rated average at reading, below average at science, and […]

Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

Kevin Hartnett “Overall, there’s a movement towards more complex cognitive mathematics, there’s a movement towards the student being invited to act like a mathematician instead of passively taking in math and science,” said David Baker, a professor of sociology and education at Pennsylvania State University. “These are big trends and they’re quite revolutionary.” Pedagogical revolutions […]

Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

Kevin Hartnett: If we could snap our fingers and change the way math and science are taught in U.S. schools, most of us would. The shortcomings of the current approach are clear. Subjects that are vibrant in the minds of experts become lifeless by the time they’re handed down to students. It’s not uncommon to […]

A bot crawled thousands of studies looking for simple math errors. The results are concerning.

Brian Resnick: But Michèle Nuijten, a PhD student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands who co-created Statcheck, has her sights on fixing a much smaller but surprisingly impactful problem in science: rounding errors. “When starting this project, I wouldn’t say [this was a big problem],” Nuijten tells me. “We’re detecting when people are making rounding […]

Great Mathematicians on Math Competitions and “Genius”

Less Wrong: mentioned in Fields Medalists on School Mathematics, school mathematics usually gives a heavily distorted picture of mathematical practice. It’s common for bright young people to participate in math competitions, an activity which is closer to that of mathematical practice. Unfortunately, while math competitions may be more representative of mathematical practice than school mathematics, […]

Wayne State drops math as general ed requirement

David Jesse: Wayne State University has subtracted mathematics from the list of classes all students must take to graduate. Up until now, students had to take one of three different math classes before they could earn their degree. Now, depending on their major, students may be able to squeak through college without taking math. The […]

Approved Textbooks

American Inst. of Mathematics: The list below groups open textbooks by course title. All the books have been judged to meet the evaluation criteria set by the AIM editorial board. Related: Connected Math, math forum audio/video and English 10.

Commentary On K – 12 Math Preparation

Vauhini Vara: Teachers pack their items outside of Everest College, in City of Industry, California, one of the shuttered Corinthian Colleges. Last year, I met fifteen former students and graduates of Corinthian Colleges who had taken a remarkable action to protest the collection of their student debt. Corinthian, a for-profit institution that was, at the […]

“In addition, we see that very few schools actually achieved growth improvements of 5% or more, with changes in growth generally clustering around 0%.” Slide updates on Madison’s $500M+ Government School System

PDF slides from a recent Madison School District Quarterly Board retreat. Readers may wish to understand “MAP” or “Measure of Academic Progress” [duck duck go SIS 2012 Madison and Waunakee results] Using MAP for Strategic Framework Milestones and SIP Metrics Feedback from various stakeholders has led us to examine the use of MAP (Measures of […]

The Man Behind Modern Math

John Steele Gordon: Mathematicians often deal in abstractions that are quite beyond the ken of non-mathematicians. For instance, in 1637, the Frenchman Pierre de Fermat conjectured that there is no whole-number solution for the equation An + Bn = Cn where N is greater than two. He famously wrote in the margin of a book […]

“the widespread denial of educational mediocrity”

Laura Waters: What’s more troubling is that many middle-class families take this propaganda as gospel and reject efforts to maintain meaningful oversight and accountability. The Problem Is Us Now, New Jersey may be an extreme example. We’re die-hard local control fanatics who cherish our small towns and district identities. As such, we adhere to what […]

Will Our Understanding of Math Deteriorate Over Time?

Lance Fortnow: Scientific American writes about rescuing the enormous theorem (classification of finite simple groups) before the proof vanishes. How can a proof vanish? In mathematics and theoretical computer science, we read research papers primarily to find research questions to work on, or find techniques we can use to prove new theorems. What happens to […]

Young Adults Look to Parents for Financial Education

KSTP: The results of a new survey released Monday by U.S. Bank stated that many college-age young adults say they have no idea how to keep a budget. What’s more, they look to their parents for financial education and advice. The study’s key findings show college students don’t fully understand credit and credit scores. They […]

No One Can Figure Out 1917 Multiplication Wheel

NPR: Math teacher Sherry Read’s classroom is a total mess. The students are gone for the summer, and light fixtures dangle from the ceiling. The floor has a layer of dust. Down the hallway, workers make a racket while they renovate the school, which dates back to the 1890s. They’re working in what has become […]

Parents feel ‘unequipped’ to help children with maths

Josie Gurney-Read: “It’s not a subject, maths, it’s a language. A language, without which, we cannot communicate. The teaching of arithmetic and algebra, for example, is like teaching the grammar of this language.” It will perhaps be unsurprising to most that Carol Vorderman, who spent 26 years as co-host on the Channel 4 quiz show […]

On Remedial Math

Ron Schacter Many of the graduates entering college from New York’s Hampton Bays High School in 2011 weren’t ready for higher education math. At neighboring Suffolk County Community College, 68 percent of the first-year students from Hampton Bays had to take remedial math. “These numbers were horrifying to us and created a real sense of […]

Deja Vu on Madison Math: Algebra: The most-failed class for Madison freshmen

Molly Beck: “When you look at the data, there’s something not working, clearly,” she said. “And if you know being on track in ninth grade is key to a student’s success then it’s our obligation to change that.” She said the district will be strengthening the quality and consistency of algebra instruction across schools so […]

Teacher group: Math is ‘the domain of old, white men’

Danette Clark: According to a Teach for America website, culturally responsive teaching in math is important because “math has traditionally been seen as the domain of old, White men.” As reported earlier this week, Teach for America groups across the country are committing themselves to “culturally responsive teaching,” a radical pedagogy used by communist Bill […]

Math wars: Rote memorization plays crucial role in teaching students how to solve complex calculations, study says

Joseph Brean: In a finding sure to inflame the math wars, a team of neuroscientists has revealed the crucial role played by rote memorization in the growing brains of young math students. Memorizing the answers to simple math problems, such as basic addition or the multiplication tables, marks a key shift in a child’s cognitive […]

21% of University of Wisconsin System Freshman Require Remedial Math

Karen Herzog: Regent Margaret Farrow said K-12 must be a strong partner in preparing high school students for college. “We’re not, quite frankly, creating this situation we’re trying to solve.” Starting next year, all 11th graders in Wisconsin pubic schools will be required to take the ACT college-readiness exam that universities use in their admissions […]

Dumping Everyday Math? The Future of Seattle Elementary Math Education Will Be Decided on Wednesday

But I would suggest an even more important vote will occur on Wednesday, one that will decide the future of tens or hundreds of thousands of Seattle students over the next decade: the Seattle School Board’s vote on the future elementary math curriculum. As I have noted in previous blogs, Seattle Public Schools is now […]

2+2=What? Parents rail against Common Core math

Michael Rubinkam: What could be so horrible? Grade-school math. As schools around the U.S. implement national Common Core learning standards, parents trying to help their kids with math homework say that adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing has become as complicated as calculus. They’re stumped by unfamiliar terms like “rectangular array” and “area model.” They wrestle […]

Solve math problems with logic

Manila Standard Today:

An educational and enrichment workshop was recently conducted by the Galileo Enrichment Learning Program where the multi-awarded mathematician and Singapore Math advocate Dr. Queena Lee-Chua together with her son Scott, shared with the participants the fundamentals of Singapore Math and demonstrated how this fun learning approach is used to solve word problems.
Multi-awarded mathematician and Singapore Math advocate Dr. Queena Lee-Chua shared with the participants the fundamentals of Singapore Math and demonstrates how this fun-learning approach is used to solve word problems.
The workshop, held at Nuvali Evoliving AVR, Sta. Rosa City, Laguna, was organized by Galileo Sta. Rosa, attended by parents and their kids, as well as by teachers from different pre-schools and elementary schools in and outside Manila. It was indeed an enlightening and engaging time for everyone as the mother and son tandem proved to the audience that complex mathematical problems can be solved with simple math logic.

Much more on Singapore Math, here.
Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

The Surprising Impact of High School Math on Job Market Outcomes

Jon James:

The economic returns to education are well documented. It is also well-known that college graduates with certain majors will earn more than others and find it easier to land a job. But surprisingly, the courses students take in high school also make a difference, when the courses are mathematics. Even among workers with the same level of education, those with more math have higher wages on average and are less likely to be unemployed. These findings suggest that even students ending their formal education after high school can increase their future earnings by investing in more math courses while in high school.

High school graduates earn more money in general than high school dropouts. This well-known fact is a powerful incentive to finish high school. But is it just the diploma that counts, or do the particular courses students take while in high school matter for their future job prospects? Students can opt for a variety of courses, from vocational tracks to advanced placement classes for college credit, during their final four years of required education.
Most high school graduates choose a curriculum that is far more rigorous than the minimum requirements. This is most evident in mathematics courses. For example, in 2009, 75 percent of high school graduates completed math coursework at the level of Algebra II or above. Most of these students could have stopped at Algebra I and satisfied the minimum high school requirements. Only six states required Algebra II for graduation as of 2006. About 11 required Algebra I, six required geometry, and the remaining 27 required only that students complete a minimum of three years of mathematics at any level.
The fact that so many students take a rigorous math curriculum is not surprising given that a minimum of Algebra II is necessary for adequate college preparation. But an analysis of detailed high school transcript data and employment outcomes suggests that a more rigorous high school math curriculum benefits even those who do not go to college. While math may be difficult for many, our findings indicate that the payoffs for all students may be substantial.

Unsurprising, particularly when one encounters young people unable to comprehend cell phone costs, student loan terms or simply make change.
Related: Math Forum audio / video and Connected Math.

Grades are in: June’s final exams in math show more failure in Montgomery County Schools

Donna St. George, via a kind reader’s email:

For another semester, Montgomery County high school students flunked their final exams in math courses in startlingly high numbers, according to new figures that show failure rates of 71 percent for Geometry and 68 percent for Algebra 1.
The numbers add to a phenomenon that goes back more than five years and came to widespread public attention this spring, setting off a wave of concern among parents as well as elected officials in the high-performing school system.
Latest math-exam figures show high failure rates persist in the high-performing school system.
The new figures, for exams given in June, show that failure rates worsened in Algebra 1 and Geometry; improved in Precalculus and Bridge to Algebra 2; and stayed fairly even in Algebra 2, Honors Precalculus, Honors Algebra 2 and Honors Geometry.
Overall, 45 percent of high school students in eight math courses failed their June finals — about 14,000 students out of roughly 31,000 enrolled.
Exactly what explains steep failure rates for exam-takers has been an issue of debate in recent months.
In a memo to the school board, School Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released a preliminary figure on test-skipping: As many as 500 students were no-shows for the Algebra 1 exam in June, accounting for one-sixth of the 2,912 students who failed the test.
Starr said student motivation was one of a half-dozen issues under study as a newly created math work group seeks to understand the failure problem and suggest ways to turn it around. Other possible causes cited include alignment between the curriculum and the exam, school system practices and policies, and the “cognitive demands” of the exam.

Related: Math Forum audio & video along with a number of connected matharticles.
2004 (!) Madison West High School math teacher letter to Isthmus on dumbing down the curriculum.

Failing Math Curriculum in Seattle Public Schools

Cliff Mass:

If I was a Seattle Public School parent, I would be getting angry now.
Why? Most Seattle students are receiving an inferior math education using math books and curriculum that will virtually insure they never achieve mastery in key mathematical subjects and thus will be unable to participate in careers that requires mathematical skills.
There are so many signs that a profound problem exists in this city. For example,
Parents see their kids unable to master basic math skills. And they bring home math books that are nearly indecipherable to parents or other potential tutors.
Nearly three quarters of Seattle Community College students require remediation in math.
Over one hundred Seattle students are not able to graduate high school because they could not pass state-mandated math exams.
Minority and economically disadvantaged students are not gaining ground in math.

Much more on Seattle’s math battles, here.

Study: Schools And Colleges Are Teaching The Wrong Type Of Math

John O’Connor:

Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.
And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers.
The study was produced by the Washington, D.C.-based National Center on Education and the Economy and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“What these studies show is that our schools do not teach what their students need,” the authors wrote, “while demanding of them what they don’t need; furthermore, the skills that we do teach and that the students do need, the schools teach ineffectively. Perhaps that is where we should begin.”

Related: Math forum audio/video.

“Sadly, many teachers working with our children at the start of their mathematical journeys are not themselves comfortable with the mathematics they are trying to teach.”

Susan Schwartz Wildstrom:

I am moved to respond to Sol Garfunkel’s “Opinion” article.1 I am a long-time high school mathematics teacher in a public school. I started teaching around the time of SMSG and have been in the trenches throughout several of the math wars. I know Dr. Garfunkel’s fine work in creating interesting modeling projects and his outspoken opinion that using technology to solve problems that apply the mathematics we are teaching will better concretize students’ understanding of the underlying mathematics. It sounds like a fine idea, but the reality is often very different.
Our problems in teaching mathematics begin in elementary school. Sadly, many teachers working with our children at the start of their mathematical journeys are not themselves comfortable with the mathematics they are trying to teach. They often only know one way to teach an idea and they may not fully understand how that method works and why it gives the right answers. Such a teacher confronted with an alternate creative method (perhaps suggested by a clever child or a seasoned colleague) may reject the alternative rather than trying to see how and why two methods produce the same result. Beyond stifling the creativity of students and discouraging them from trying to see how the mathematics works, such an approach is not fertile ground for applications and modeling projects in which creative exploration and possibly unorthodox methods are encouraged as a means of truly understanding what is happening. Teachers who lack confidence in their own understanding of the ideas may not want to include these sorts of activities in their classrooms.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

Math…. “Introducing the 97-Month Car Loan”

Mike Ramsey:

Last month Nakisha Bishop took out a loan to buy a $23,000 Toyota Camry and pay off several thousand dollars still owed on her old car. The key to making it work: she got more than six years–75 months in all–to pay it off.
“I had a new baby on the way, and I was trying to keep my monthly payment a little bit lower to help afford child care,” Ms. Bishop, a 34-year-old sheriff’s deputy in Palm Beach County, Fla., said recently. She pays $480 a month for the 2013 Camry, just $5 a month more than the note on her old car. The car won’t be paid off until her 1-month-old daughter is heading to first grade.
Ms. Bishop’s 75-month loan illustrates two important trends rippling through the U.S. auto industry. Rising new-car prices and competition among lenders to attract borrowers is pushing loans to lengthier terms. In part, banks see the longer terms as a way to attract buyers, by keeping monthly payments under $500 a month.

Related: Math Forum.

It’s Time to Turn the Page on Math in Seattle Schools

Rick Burke:

Days are getting longer, the weather is warmer. The smell of spring is in the air. But if you inhale deeply down by JSCEE, there’s another smell. It’s the smell of math. After years of sideways movement, the stars are aligned for systemic changes to math instruction in Seattle Public Schools.
When you look at Seattle kids’ math achievement against other urban districts, Seattle might seem to be doing OK. As a district-level statistic, we’re not too bad. But closer inspection of disaggregated data and the view from inside the system prompt a cry for help. Seattle still has a large number of struggling students and a persistent achievement gap which we can’t shake. Outside tutoring has become commonplace, with math as the most frequent remediation subject. However, recent national and state developments have identified common ground and outcome-proven methods which can serve as a model for Seattle.
This brings us around to a community support initiative for math education. Seattle has a math-focused School Board, and Seattle’s new superintendent, Jose Banda, came to Seattle from proven math success with a diverse student population in Anaheim. Recent news reports are that staff at JSCEE are planning a K-8 math instructional materials adoption soon. Examples of success are scattered through Seattle classrooms and it’s time for those successes to take root across the district.

Related: Math forum audio/video and Seattle’s “Discovery Math” lawsuit.

A Math Teacher on Common Core Standards

Stephanie Sawyer, via a kind reader’s email:

I don’t think the common core math standards are good for most kids, not just the Title I students. While they are certainly more focused than the previous NCTM-inspired state standards, which were a horrifying hodge-podge of material, they still basically put the intellectual cart before the horse. They pay lip service to actually practicing standard algorithms. Seriously, students don’t have to be fluent in addition and subtraction with the standard algorithms until 4th grade?
I teach high school math. I took a break to work in the private sector from 2002 to 2009. Since my return, I have been stunned by my students’ lack of basic skills. How can I teach algebra 2 students about rational expressions when they can’t even deal with fractions with numbers?
Please don’t tell me this is a result of the rote learning that goes on in grade- and middle-school math classes, because I’m pretty sure that’s not what is happening at all. If that were true, I would have a room full of students who could divide fractions. But for some reason, most of them can’t, and don’t even know where to start.
I find it fascinating that students who have been looking at fractions from 3rd grade through 8th grade still can’t actually do anything with them. Yet I can ask adults over 35 how to add fractions and most can tell me. And do it. And I’m fairly certain they get the concept. There is something to be said for “traditional” methods and curriculum when looked at from this perspective.
Grade schools have been using Everyday Math and other incarnations for a good 5 to 10 years now, even more in some parts of the country. These are kids who have been taught the concept way before the algorithm, which is basically what the Common Core seems to promote. I have a 4th grade son who attends a school using Everyday Math. Luckily, he’s sharp enough to overcome the deficits inherent in the program. When asked to convert 568 inches to feet, he told me he needed to divide by 12, since he had to split the 568 into groups of 12. Yippee. He gets the concept. So I said to him, well, do it already! He explained that he couldn’t, since he only knew up to 12 times 12. But he did, after 7 agonizing minutes of developing his own iterated-subtraction-while-tallying system, tell me that 568 inches was 47 feet, 4 inches. Well, he got it right. But to be honest, I was mad; he could’ve done in a minute what ended up taking 7. And he already got the concept, since he knew he had to divide; he just needed to know how to actually do it. From my reading of the common core, that’s a great story. I can’t say I feel the same.
If Everyday Math and similar programs are what is in store for implementing the common core standards for math, then I think we will continue to see an increase in remedial math instruction in high schools and colleges. Or at least an increase in the clientele of the private tutoring centers, which do teach basic math skills.

Related links: Math Forum.

In L.A., inexperienced teachers more likely to be assigned to students behind in math, study says

Teresa Watanabe:

A new study has found that inexperienced teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are disproportionately more likely to be assigned to lower-performing math students, perpetuating the achievement gap.
The study also found that L.A. Unified teachers “vary substantially” in their effectiveness, with top teachers able to give students the equivalent of eight additional months of learning in a year compared with weaker instructors.
Such findings raise “deep concerns,” said Drew Furedi, the district’s executive director of talent management, who oversees teacher training. “For us, it’s a call to action.”
The study by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, analyzed the performance of about 30% of L.A. Unified teachers and presented findings based primarily on students’ standardized math test scores from 2005 through 2011 in grades three through eight. The study’s authors acknowledged that test scores were only one measure of teacher effectiveness.
The study also found:
Teacher effects vary substantially in LAUSD, more than in many other districts. The difference between a 25th and 75th percentile elementary math teacher is over one-quarter of a standard deviation, which is roughly equivalent to a student having eight additional months of instruction in a calendar year.
Teach for America and Career Ladder teachers have higher math effects on average than other novices in their first year by 0.05 and 0.03 standard deviations respectively, which is roughly equivalent to one to two months of additional learning. These differences persist over time
The performance of math teachers improved quickly in the first five years, then leveled off.
Those with advanced degrees were no more effective than those without, although L.A. Unified pays more to teachers pursuing such degrees.
Long-term substitute teachers — who have been employed more frequently to fill in amid widespread layoffs — have positive effects in teaching middle-school math

View the complete 1.4MB PDF study, here.
Related: Math forum audio/video.

UW-La Crosse gets $50K from the Gates Foundation to improve remedial math


The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has received a $50,000 grant to help incoming students who need remedial math courses.
The UW System says one in five incoming freshmen needs remedial math. And for under-represented minority students, that figure is double.
To bring those students up to speed faster, the La Crosse campus is using the grant money to develop an online math course. The program will be available to high school students who want to evaluate how ready they are for college, and for non-traditional students who’ve been away from school and need a refresher before coming back.

Remarkable. Are we making no progress? Perhaps it is time to revisit the math forum audio and video.
What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack and Michael fish.

Tyrany of Low Expectations: Will lowered test scores bring about broader change in Madison schools?

Chris Rickert via several kind readers:

Wisconsin has a “long way to go in all our racial/ethnic groups,” said Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
My hope is that, given Wisconsin’s overwhelmingly white population, proficiency problems among white students will spur more people to push for policies inside and outside of school that help children — all children — learn.
“I hate to look at it that way, but I think you’re absolutely right,” said Kaleem Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The low performance of white students in our state may just lead to the type and level of change that’s necessary in public education for black and other students of color to succeed as well.”
Indeed, Gamoran said Massachusetts’ implementation of an evaluation system similar to the one Wisconsin is adopting now has been correlated with gains in reading and math proficiency and a narrowing of the racial achievement gap in math. But he emphasized that student achievement is more than just the schools’ responsibility.
Madison has known for a while that its schools are not meeting the needs of too many students of color.

The issue of low expectations and reduced academic standards is not a new one. A few worthwhile, related links:

Why Math Teachers Feel Poorly Prepared

Anna Kuchment:

When William Schmidt, an expert on math education at Michigan State University, moved his family from East Lansing to Charlottesville, Virginia for a year’s research leave, his work took a personal turn. He noticed that the public school his daughters would be attending outside Charlottesville was academically behind the one they had attended in Michigan. Back home, his 2nd grade daughter would be learning multiplication tables up through the number 5, yet in Charlottesville, multiplication was not even part of his local school’s second grade curriculum.
His daughter’s experience, he explains in a new book excerpted below, is not unique. ” The [American] system of schooling represents a game of chance that few are even aware is being played,” he writes in “Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools,” co- written with Curtis C. McKnight. The inequalities pose a risk to every child, they write, regardless of socioeconomic background or race. They stem from differences in state education standards, in school funding, in curricula that districts choose to adopt and in the content that individual classroom teachers choose to teach. In this excerpt, Schmidt and McKnight focus on variations in how math teachers are trained and how that, in turn, affects student achievement.
The following is excerpted from Inequality for All: The Challenge of Unequal Opportunity in American Schools, by William H. Schmidt and Curtis C. McKnight. (Teachers College Press, 2012).

Related: Math Forum.

Something Doesn’t Add Up: How marketers can take advantage of consumers’ innumeracy

The Economist:

WHEN retailers want to entice customers to buy a particular product, they typically offer it at a discount. According to a new study to be published in the Journal of Marketing, they are missing a trick.
A team of researchers, led by Akshay Rao of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, looked at consumers’ attitudes to discounting. Shoppers, they found, much prefer getting something extra free to getting something cheaper. The main reason is that most people are useless at fractions.
Consumers often struggle to realise, for example, that a 50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price. They overwhelmingly assume the former is better value. In an experiment, the researchers sold 73% more hand lotion when it was offered in a bonus pack than when it carried an equivalent discount (even after all other effects, such as a desire to stockpile, were controlled for).

Related: Math Forum.

Singapore vs. Madison/US Schools: Do We (Americans) Put Money into Our Children?

I read with interest Nathan Comps’ article on the forthcoming 2012-2013 Madison School District budget. Board Vice President Marj Passman lamented:

“If Singapore can put a classroom of students on its money, and we can’t even put our money into children, what kind of country are we?” asks Passman, Madison school board vice president. “It’s going to be a horrible budget this year.”

Yet, according to the World Bank, Singapore spends 63% less per student than we do in America on primary education and 47% less on secondary education. The US spent $10,441/student in 2007-2008 while Madison spent $13,997.27/student during that budget cycle. Madison’s 2011-2012 budget spends $14,858.40/student.
The Economist on per student spending:

Those findings raise what ought to be a fruitful question: what do the successful lot have in common? Yet the answer to that has proved surprisingly elusive. Not more money. Singapore spends less per student than most. Nor more study time. Finnish students begin school later, and study fewer hours, than in other rich countries.
In Finland all new teachers must have a master’s degree. South Korea recruits primary-school teachers from the top 5% of graduates, Singapore and Hong Kong from the top 30%.

Rather than simply throwing more money (Madison taxpayers have long supported above average K-12 spending) at the current processes, perhaps it is time to rethink curriculum and just maybe, give Singapore Math a try in the Madison schools.

Via the Global Report Card. The average Madison student performs better than 23% of Singapore students in Math and 35% in reading.

Is $14,858.40 Per Student, Per Year Effective? On Madison Superintendent & School Board Accountability…

Oh, the places we go.
I’m glad Matt DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal obtained the most recent Superintendent Review via open records. We, as a community have come a long way in just a few short years. The lack of Board oversight was a big issue in mid-2000’s competitive school board races. Former Superintendent Art Rainwater had not been reviewed for some time. These links are well worth reading and considering in light of the recent Superintendent review articles, including Chris Rickert’s latest. Rickert mentions a number of local statistics. However, he fails to mention:

  1. Despite spending nearly $15,000 per student annually, our Reading Results, the District’s job number one, need reform. 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This is not a new topic.
  2. The District’s math program has been an issue for some time, as well (Math Forum).
  3. How does Madison compare to the World, or other US cities? We can and should do much better.
  4. What is happening with Madison’s multi-million dollar investment (waste?) in Infinite Campus? Other Districts have been far more successful implementing this important tool.
  5. Are the District’s tax expenditures well managed?

With respect to the current Superintendent Review, the job pays quite well (IRS income distribution data: table 7), so I believe the position should be fully accountable to parents and taxpayers. Matthew DeFour:

In 2014, Madison superintendent Dan Nerad qualifies for a $37,500 payment for six years of service, which like Gorrell’s would be paid into a retirement account. Nerad already receives an annual $10,000 payment into his retirement account, which is separate from his state pension and in addition to a $201,000 yearly salary.

More, here.
The current rhetoric is quite a change in just 8 years. (Why did things change? A number of citizens care, decided to run for school board – won – and made a difference…) I certainly hope that the Board and community do not revert to past practice where “we know best” – the status quo – prevailed, as the Obama Administration recently asserted in a vital constitutional matter:

Holder made clear that decisions about which citizens the government can kill are the exclusive province of the executive branch, because only the executive branch possess the “expertise and immediate access to information” to make these life-and-death judgments.
Holder argues that “robust oversight” is provided by Congress, but that “oversight” actually amounts to members of the relevant congressional committees being briefed. Press reports suggest this can simply amount to a curt fax to intelligence committees notifying them after the fact that an American has been added to a “kill list.” It also seems like it would be difficult for Congress to provide “robust oversight” of the targeted killing program when intelligence committee members like Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are still demanding to see the actual legal memo justifying the policy.

More, here on the political class and the legal system.
The choice is ours. Use our rights locally/nationally, or lose them.
A look back at previous Madison Superintendents.
High expectations surely begin at the top.

Hold district accountable for deceit, academic failure and questionable activity
“Where ignorance is bliss, ignorance of ignorance is sublime.” – Paul Dunham

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

Last week, I went to a Spokane Public Schools math presentation at Indian Trail Elementary School. It was billed as a forum in the school newsletter and on the reader board outside of the school. It was not, in any way, a forum. It was a tightly controlled 20-minute presentation that offered no data, little information, allowed for no parent input and was patronizing in tone.
At one point, parents were asked to define math to the person next to us. (The principal said he would not offer his definition.) We also were told to describe to our neighbor a math experience we’d had. These conversations ended right there, thus being pointless. We watched a video of several small children talking about the importance of math. The kids were cute, but the video was long. It was made clear to us that math is hard, parents don’t get it (see slide 7 of the presentation), “traditional math” is no longer useful, and math is intimidating to all. Printed materials reinforced the idea of parent incompetence, with students supposedly “taking the lead” and teaching their parents.
Parents were warned to stay positive about math, however, despite our supposed fear and lack of skill, and we also were told what a “balanced” program looks like – as if that’s what Spokane actually has.

Related: Math Forum audio & video.

Montgomery schools’ decision to slow pace of math courses divides parents

Michael Birnbaum

One recent night, Mackenzie Stassel was cramming for a quiz in her advanced math course in Montgomery County. Her review of the complicated topics followed hours of other homework. Eventually she started to nod off at the table.
It was 11:15 p.m. Mackenzie is a sixth-grader.
There will be fewer such nights in the future for many Montgomery students.
Last month, Maryland’s largest school system announced that it would significantly curtail its practice of pushing large numbers of elementary and middle school students to skip grade levels in math. Parents had questioned the payoff of acceleration; teachers had said students in even the most advanced classes were missing some basics.

Related: Math Forum and Madison’s Math Task Force.

Private school finds answers in Singapore method

Jason Wermers:

Educators at a small private Christian school in Olde Town Augusta are seeing results with a math curriculum imported from halfway around the world.
For the past three years, Heritage Academy has used Singapore Math as its basal math curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade.
In the first year the school adopted Singapore Math, all of its kindergarten and first-grade pupils met or exceeded proficiency standards on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, as did 80 percent of second-graders.
Why use math from Singapore?

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

One-time funds to train 153 Oshkosh teachers to help students with math

Adam Rodewald

New spending approved by the Oshkosh school board would cover a gap in math tutoring services that has left four schools with inadequate help for struggling students since last year.
About 13 percent of Oshkosh elementary school students perform below grade level in math, said Director of Curriculum Shelly Muza.
That’s better than the average Wisconsin district, which has about 25 percent of elementary students performing below grade level. But budget cuts in the 2009-10 academic year stripped Oakwood, Carl Traeger, Lakeside and Green Meadow schools of math support services after the board decided to fund the $295,000 program with federal Title I dollars – money given only to schools with higher rates of poverty – instead of general fund dollars.
The remaining math intervention teachers who work one-on-one with struggling students can barely keep up. The equivalent of 4.25 full-time teachers are split between about 570 students in 12 elementary schools, said Muza.

Two relate links: Math Forum Audio, Video & Links; Math Task Force.

Seattle Public Schools Administration Response to the Discovery Math Public Lawsuit Loss

602K PDF.

Respondents focus their brief on arguing that no reasonable school board would adopt “inquiry-based” high school mathematics textbooks instead of “direct instruction” textbooks. There are “dueling experts” and other conflicting evidence regarding the best available material for teaching high school math, and the Seattle School Board (“the Board”) gave due consideration to both sides of the debate before reaching its quasi legislative decision to adopt the Discovering series and other textbooks on a 4-3 vote.
The trial court erred by substituting its judgment for the Board’s in determining how much weight to place on the conflicting evidence. Several of the “facts” alleged in the Brief of Respondents (“BR”) are inaccurate, misleading, or lack any citation to the record in violation of RAP l0.3(a)(4). The Court should have an accurate view of the facts in the record to decide the important legal issues in this case. The Board is, therefore, compelled to correct any misimpressions that could arise from an unwary reading of respondents’ characterization of the facts.

Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here. Clusty Search: Discovery Math.
Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

Math Curricula

Charlie Mas:

I know that I’m inviting trouble with this, but something that Reader wrote in a comment on another thread piqued my interest. I would like to discuss only a narrow question. Please don’t expand the discussion.
Writing about Everyday Math and Singapore, Reader wrote: “The fact is, the newer curricula stress more problem solving and discovery. That is, it’s doing more than a lot of older curricula.”
Here’s my question: can problem-solving be taught?
I mean this in the nicest possible way and I don’t have an answer myself. I’m not sure, I’m asking. Can people be taught or trained in problem-solving techniques or is it a talent that some people just natively have more than others? Problem solving requires a certain amount of creativity, doesn’t it? It can require a flexibility of perspective, curiosity, persistence, and pattern recognition. Can these things be taught or trained?

Related: Math Forum audio/video links.

School Districts vs. A Good Math Education

Charlie Mas:

If you are a parent in cities such as Bellevue, Issaquah or Seattle, your kids are being short-changed–being provided an inferior math education that could cripple their future aspirations–and you need to act. This blog will tell the story of an unresponsive and wrong-headed educational bureaucracies that are dead set on continuing in the current direction. And it will tell the story of how this disaster can be turned around. Parent or not, your future depends on dealing with the problem.
Let me provide you with a view from the battlefield of the math “wars”, including some information that is generally not known publicly, or has been actively suppressed by the educational establishment. Of lawsuits and locking parents out of decision making.
I know that some of you would rather that I only talk about weather, but the future of my discipline and of our highly technological society depends on mathematically literate students. Increasingly, I am finding bright students unable to complete a major in atmospheric sciences. All their lives they wanted to be a meteorologist and problems with math had ended their dreams. Most of them had excellent math grades in high school. I have talked in the past about problems with reform or discovery math; an unproven ideology-based instructional approach in vogue among the educational establishment. An approach based on student’s “discovering” math principles, group learning, heavy use of calculators, lack of practice and skills building, and heavy use of superficial “spiraling” of subject matter. As I have noted before in this blog, there is no competent research that shows that this approach works and plenty to show that it doesn’t. But I have covered much of this already in earlier blogs.

Related: Math Forum audio / video.

More Rhetoric on the Seattle School District’s Court Loss on the Use of Discovery Math

Melissa Westbrook:

For entertainment value read the Discovering Math Q&A in this article in the Seattle Times. The Discovering Math guy (1) doesn’t always answer the question asked, (2) answers but doesn’t address the topic properly – see the question on if Discovering Math is “mathematically unsound” and (3) sounds like he works for the district.
Here’s one example:
The Discovering books have been criticized by parents, but they’ve been the top pick of a couple of districts in our area, including Seattle and Issaquah. Any thoughts on why the textbooks seem to be more popular with educators than with parents?
Ryan: I think because (parents) lack familiarity — this doesn’t look like what I was taught. I don’t know how you get students to a place where more is required of them by repeating things that have been done in the past. That’s not how we move forward in life.

Much more on the successful community lawsuit vs. the Seattle School District’s implementation of Discovery Math. Math Forum audio / video.

The secret of Schmitz Park Elementary School is Singapore Math

Bruce Ramsey:

Sally made 500 gingerbread men. She sold 3/4 of them and gave away 2/5 of the remainder. How many did she give away?
This was one of the homework questions in Craig Parsley’s fifth-grade class. The kids are showing their answers on the overhead projector. They are in a fun mood, using class nicknames. First up is “Crackle,” a boy. The class hears from “Caveman,” “Annapurna,” “Shortcut” and “Fred,” a girl.
Each has drawn a ruler with segments labeled by number — on the problem above, “3/4,” “2/5” and “500.” Below the ruler is some arithmetic and an answer.
“Who has this as a single mathematical expression? Who has the guts?” Parsley asks. No one, yet — but they will.
This is not the way math is taught in other Seattle public schools. It is Singapore Math, adopted from the Asian city-state whose kids test at the top of the world. Since the 2007-08 year, Singapore Math has been taught at Schmitz Park Elementary in West Seattle — and only there in the district.
In the war over school math — in which a judge recently ordered Seattle Public Schools to redo its choice of high-school math — Schmitz Park is a redoubt or, it hopes, a beachhead. North Beach is a redoubt for Saxon Math, a traditional program. Both schools have permission to be different. The rest of the district’s elementary schools use Everyday Math, a curriculum influenced by the constructivist or reform methods.

Related: Math Forum Audio / Video.

Madison School District Administration Response to the Math Task Force

The local school district’s increasing use of reform math programs lead to the creation of a “Math Task Force“. The District Administration’s response is outlined in this 2.6MB PDF document:

The purpose of this report is to describe the recomrnendations in response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Mathematics Task Force Report: Review of Mathematics Curriculum and Related Issues, submitted to the Board of Education June, 2008.
Administrative Recommendations Summary The materials included in this packet update and replace those distributed to the Board of Education in April 2009. Included in the materials is a proposed budget.
Middle School Mathematics Specialists (see Recommendations 1-5)
The Superintendent and UW-Madison Deans of Letters and Sciences and the School of Education commissioned a representative and collaborative group to design a professional development plan for this initiative. The group was convened in June and has since met four times during the summer to research and design a professional development plan to support middle school mathematics teachers.
The Middle School Math Partnership committee has tentatively planned five courses for the professional development proposal. Those courses are Number and Generalization, Rational Number and Proportional Reasoning, Geometry, Measurement and Trigonometry, and Algebra and Functions. The courses would be spread out over two years and be co-facilitated by UW and MMSD staff.
Research, data gathering and design will continue through 2009-2010 with the initial cohort of middle school teachers beginning in summer 2010. Upon completion of an initial draft, the plan will be presented to district teachers for further input and refinement.
In collaboration with the above group, a National Science Foundation Targeted Partnership proposal, Professional Learning Partnership K-20 (PLP K-20), was submitted on August 20, 2009. A UW-Madison and MMSD team of nearly 30 members worked during the summer to craft a proposal focused on systemic and sustainable mathematics professional development. The vision described in the proposal creates “a lasting interface to coordinate material, human, social, and cyber resources” among the UW-Madison and District. The principal investigator of the NSF proposal is Eric Wilcots. Co-Pl’s include Provost Deluca, Superintendent Nerad, Dean Sandefur and Dean Underwood.

Background notes and links:

Again, it will be interesting to see what, if any substantive changes occur in the local math programs.

Madison School District Elementary Math Curriculum Purchases

Superintendent Dan Nerad [64K PDF]:

MMSD has begun a three-year implementation plan to achieve an equitable and balanced mathematics program at tbe elementary level. The plan was developed and refined through collaboration with teachers, Instructional Resource Teachers and principals over the course of the past several years. The plan includes the materials described below (details via this 64K PDF),
With the attached order, MMSD has provided each classroom teacher in the District with a Learning Mathematics in the Primary/Intermediate Grades instructional guide and the set of teacher resources from the Investigations program. The third component of the teacher materials is Teaching Student Centered Mathematics by John Van de Walle, which is in place in most classrooms but will continue to be ordered using ELM or Title I funds, as necessary. Additional professional resources have been or are being purchased at the building level to create a library available for all staff to access as needed. Those resources include Primary Mathematics textbooks and teacher guides, Thinking Mathematically and Children’s Mathematics by Thomas Carpenter, Teaching Number series from Wright, among other recommended titles.
MMSD has provided all Title I schools with the Primary Mathematics (Singapore) workbooks and Extra Practice workbooks for the 2009-2010 school year. All manipulatives have been ordered for Title I schools over tbe past two years and are in place. Non-Title I schools have been and will continue to use ELM funds to purchase tbe student components for the implementation of a balanced mathematics classroom.


Singapore Math Workbook Only Purchase Discussion (No textbooks or teacher guides) at the Madison School Board

26MB mp3 audio file. Marj Passman, Lucy Mathiak and Maya Cole raised a number of questions regarding the purchase of $69K worth of Singapore Math Workbooks (using Federal tax dollars via “Title 1“) without textbooks or teacher’s guides at Monday evening’s Board Meeting. The purchase proceeded, via a 5-2 vote. Ed Hughes and Beth Moss supported the Administration’s request, along with three other board members.
Related Links:

The Madison Math Task Force Report [3.9MB PDF] found that local elementary school teachers used the following curricular materials (page 166):

What, if anything has the Math Task Force report addressed?

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement?

James Wollack & Michael Fish [280K PDF], via a kind reader’s email UW Center for Placement Testing [Link to Papers]:

Major Findings:

  • CORE-Plus students performed significantly less well on math placement test and ACT-M than did traditional students
  • Change in performance was observed immediately after switch
  • Score trends throughout CORE-Plus years actually decreased slightly – Inconsistent with a teacher learning-curve hypothesis
  • CORE-AP students fared much better, but not as well as the traditional – AP students – Both sample sizes were low


[280K PDF Complete Presentation]

In Favor of Everyday Math; Middleton Cross Plains Math Scores Soar

Angela Bettis:

The most recent research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that American 15-year-olds are behind their International counterparts when it comes to problem solving and math literacy.

The report showed the U.S. ranks 24th out of 29 nations.

But a math program, gaining in popularity, is trying to change that.
The program is called Everyday Math.

Lori Rusch is a fourth grade teacher at Middleton’s Elm Lawn Elementary. This year she teaches an advanced math class.

On Monday, students in Rusch’s class were mastering fractions and percentages.

But her students began learning fractions and percentages in first grade.

“We’ve been incredibly successful with it,” said Middleton’s curriculum director George Marvoulis. “Our students on all of our comparative assessments like WKCE, Explorer Plan, ACT, our students score higher in math than any other subject area so we’ve been very pleased.”

According to Marvoulis, Middleton was one of the first school districts in the nation to use the Everyday Math program in 1994.

“The concept is kind of a toolbox of different tools they can use to solve a problem,” explained Marvoulis.

Related: Math Forum and Clusty Search on Everyday Math.

Madison School District Math Program: Proposal to Increase Teacher Training and Teaching & Learning Staff

Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting will discuss a proposal to increase math teacher training and add staff to the Teaching & Learning Department. 215K PDF.

Interestingly, the latest document includes these words:

MMSD Teaching & Learning Staff and local Institute of Higher Education (IHE) Faculty work collaboratively to design a two-year professional development program aimed at deepening the mathematical content knowledge of MMSD middle school mathematics…

It is unusual to not mention the University of Wisconsin School of Education in these documents…. The UW-Madison School of Education has had a significant role in many Madison School District curriculum initiatives.


Math on the Madison School Board’s Agenda this Evening

The Madison School District Board of Education will discuss this “Administrative Response” to the recent Math Task Force [452K PDF]. Links: Math Task Force, Math Forum and a letter to Isthmus from a group of West High School Math Teachers.

District-Wide Reform of Mathematics and Science Instruction: Case Studies of Four SCALE Partner Districts

William Clune:

This paper is a synthesis of case studies of four districts that implemented multifaceted reforms aimed at offering rigorous instruction in mathematics and science for all students as part of a National Science Foundation-supported partnership. A common theory of action aimed for a rigorous curriculum, professional development delivered close to the point of instruction, monitoring of instructional quality, and system coordination. Immersion units would offer an in-depth experience in scientific inquiry to all students. The theory of action was successful in many ways. Excellent access to top management allowed the partnership to assist with multiple aligned dimensions of instructional guidance. The biggest obstacles were turnover in district leadership, loose coupling across departments, attenuation of vertical alignment through overload of instructional guidance, and insufficient budget for adequate school site support (e.g., coaches). Greater coherence resulted from delivery of instructional guidance closer to schools and teachers, as with science immersion. The study suggests that complete, affordable packages of instructional guidance delivered to the school level district-wide might be the best model for district reform.

Related: Math Forum, Madison School District’s Math Task Force and the significant role that the UW-Madison School of Education has had in Madison School District curriculum decisions (see links and notes in this post’s comments)

Math Performance Anxiety

Debra Saunders:

n the 1990s, the Math Wars pitted two philosophies against each other. One side argued for content-based standards – that elementary school students must memorize multiplication tables by third grade. The other side argued for students to discover math, unfettered by “drill and kill” exercises.
When the new 1994 California Learning Assessment Test trained test graders to award a higher score to a child with a wrong answer (but good essay) than to a student who successfully solved a math problem, but without a cute explanation, the battle was on. New-new math was quickly dubbed “fuzzy crap.” By the end of the decade, repentant educators passed solid math standards.
Yet the Math Wars continue in California, as well as in New Jersey, Oregon and elsewhere. In Palo Alto, parent and former Bush education official Ze’ev Wurman is one of a group of parents who oppose the Palo Alto Unified School District Board’s April 14 vote to use “Everyday Mathematics” in grades K-5. Wurman recognizes that the “fuzzies” aren’t as fuzzy as they used to be, but also believes that state educators who approve math texts “fell asleep at the switch” when they approved the “Everyday” series in 2007.
The “Everyday” approach supports “spiraling” what students learn over as long as two or more years. As an Everyday teacher guide explained, “If we can, as a matter of principle and practice, avoid anxiety about children ‘getting’ something the first time around, then children will be more relaxed and pick up part or all of what they need. They may not initially remember it, but with appropriate reminders, they will very likely recall, recognize, and get a better grip on the skill or concept when it comes around again in a new format or application-as it will!” Those are my italics – to highlight the “fuzzies’ ” performance anxiety.

Related: Math Forum.

Washington State High School Math Text Review

W. Stephen Wilson: 285K PDF via a kind reader’s email:

A few basic goals of high school mathematics will be looked at closely in the top programs chosen for high school by the state of Washington. Our concern will be with the mathematical development and coherence of the programs and not with issues of pedagogy.
Algebra: linear functions, equations, and inequalities
We examine the algebraic concepts and skills associated with linear functions because they are a critical foundation for the further study of algebra. We focus our evaluation of the programs on the following Washington standard: A1.4.B Write and graph an equation for a line given the slope and the y intercept, the slope and a point on the line, or two points on the line, and translate between forms of linear equations.
We also consider how well the programs meet the following important standard: A1.1.B Solve problems that can be represented by linear functions, equations, and inequalities.
Linear functions, equations, and inequalities in Holt
We review Chapter 5 of Holt Algebra 1 on linear functions.
The study of linear equations and their graphs in Chapter 5 begins with a flawed foundation. Because this is so common, it will not be emphasized, but teachers need to compensate for these problems.
Three foundational issues are not dealt with at all. First, it is not shown that the definition of slope works for a line in the plane. The definition, as given, produces a ratio for every pair of points on the line. It is true that for a line these are all the same ratios, but no attempt is made to show that. Second, no attempt is made to show that a line in the plane is the graph of a linear equation; it is just asserted.
Third, it not shown that the graph of a linear equation is a line; again, it is just asserted.

Related: Math Forum and Madison’s Math Task Force.

Madison Math Task Force Public Session Wednesday Evening 1/14/2009

The public is invited to attend the Cherokee Middle School PTO’s meeting this Wednesday, January 14, 2009. The Madison School District will present it’s recent Math Task Force findings at 7:00p.m. in the Library.
Cherokee Middle School
4301 Cherokee Dr
Madison, WI 53711
(608) 204-1240

Notes, audio and links from a recent meeting can be found here.
A few notes from Wednesday evening’s meeting:

  • A participant asked why the report focused on Middle Schools. The impetus behind the effort was the ongoing controversy over the Madison School District’s use of Connected Math.
  • Madison’s math coordinator, Brian Sniff, mentioned that the District sought a “neutral group, people not very vocal one end or the other”. Terry Millar, while not officially part of the task force, has been very involved in the District’s use of reform math programs (Connected Math) for a number of years and was present at the meeting. The 2003, $200,000 SCALE (System-Wide Change for All Learners and Educators” (Award # EHR-0227016 (Clusty Search), CFDA # 47.076 (Clusty Search)), from the National Science Foundation) agreement between the UW School of Education (Wisconsin Center for Education Research) names Terry as the principal investigator [340K PDF]. The SCALE project has continued each year, since 2003. Interestingly, the 2008 SCALE agreement ([315K PDF] page 6) references the controversial “standards based report cards” as a deliverable by June, 2008, small learning communities (page 3) and “Science Standards Based Differentiated Assessments for Connected Math” (page 6). The document also references a budget increase to $812,336. (additional SCALE agreements, subsequent to 2003: two, three, four)
  • Task force member Dr. Mitchell Nathan is Director of AWAKEN [1.1MB PDF]:

    Agreement for Releasing Data and Conducting Research for
    AWAKEN Project in Madison Metropolitan School District
    The Aligning Educational Experiences with Ways of Knowing Engineering (AWAKEN) Project (NSF giant #EEC-0648267 (Clusty search)) aims to contribute to the long-term goal of fostering a larger, more diverse and more able pool of engineers in the United States. We propose to do so by looking at engineering education as a system or continuous developmental experience from secondary education through professional practice….
    In collaboration with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), AWAKEN researchers from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER) will study and report on science, mathematics, and Career and Technical Education (specifically Project Lead The Way) curricula in the district.

  • Task force member David Griffeath, a UW-Madison math professor provided $6,000 worth of consulting services to the District.
  • Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater is now working in the UW-Madison School of Education. He appointed (and the board approved) the members of the Math Task Force.

Madison School Board Vice President Lucy Mathiak recently said that the “conversation about math is far from over”. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
I am particularly interested in what the ties between the UW-Madison School of Education and the Madison School District mean for the upcoming “Strategic Planning Process” [49K PDF]. The presence of the term “standards based report cards” and “small learning communities” within one of the SCALE agreements makes me wonder who is actually driving the District. In other words, are the grants driving decision making?
Finally, it is worth reviewing the audio, notes and links from the 2005 Math Forum, including UW-Madison math professor emeritus Dick Askey’s look at the School District’s data.
Related: The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor.

Madison Math Program Public Input Session

The Madison School District Administration held a public input session on the recent Math Task Force report [3.9MB PDF] last evening at Memorial High School. Superintendent Dan Nerad opened and closed the meeting, which featured about 56 attendees, at least half of whom appeared to be district teachers and staff. Math Coordinator Brian Sniff ran the meeting.
Task force member and UW-Madison Professor Mitchell Nathan [Clusty Search] was in attendance along with Terry Millar, a UW-Madison Professor who has been very involved in the Madison School District’s math programs for many years. (Former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater recently joined the UW-Madison Center for Education Research, among other appointments). UW-Madison Math professor Steffen Lempp attended as did school board President Arlene Silveira and board members Ed Hughes and Beth Moss. Jill Jokela, the parent representative on the Math Task Force, was also present.
Listen via this 30MB mp3 audio file. 5.5MB PDF Handout.

Mathmetician The Best Job in the US; Madison Math Task Force Community Meetings Tonight & Tomorrow

Sarah Needleman:

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation — mathematician — has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.
“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school,” says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. “It’s the science of problem-solving.”
The study, to be released Tuesday from, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. ( is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)
The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac,” and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz’s own expertise.
According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions — indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise — unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren’t expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching — attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber.
The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160, but Ms. Courter, 38, says her salary exceeds that amount.


Parents and citizens have another opportunity to provide input on this matter when Brian Sniff, Madison’s Math Coordinator and Lisa Wachtel, Director of Madison’s Teaching & Learning discuss the Math Report at a Cherokee Middle School PTO meeting on January 14, 2009 at 7:00p.m.

Madison School District seeks input on proposed math changes

Andy Hall:

A series of potentially controversial proposals will be outlined next week as residents are invited to help shape how math is taught in the Madison School District.
Among the recommendations from a task force that recently completed a one-year study:
• Switch to full-time math teachers for all students in grades five through eight.
• The math task force’s executive summary and full report
• Substantially boost the training of math teachers.
• Seriously consider selecting a single textbook for each grade level or course in the district, rather than having a variety of textbooks used in schools across the district.
The task force was created in 2006 by the Madison School Board to independently review the district’s math programs and seek ways to improve students’ performance.

Related links:

Counting on the Future: International Benchmarks in Mathematics for American School Districts

Dr. Gary W. Phillips & John A. Dossey [2.5MB PDF Report]:

Students in six major U.S. cities are performing on par or better in mathematics than their peers in other countries in grades 4 and 8, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). However, students from five other major cities are not faring as well, and overall, U.S. student performance in mathematics falls off from elementary to middle school grades — and remains behind many industrialized nations, particularly Asian nations.
The AIR study offers the first comparison between students from large U.S. cities and their international peers. The study compares U.S. 4th grade students with their counterparts in 24 countries and 8th grade students with peers in 45 countries.
“Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off…it is the economic equivalent of a force of nature… like the wind and water” (Bill Clinton)
If you are a student today competing for jobs in a global economy, the good jobs will not go to the best in your graduating class–the jobs will go to the best students in the world. Large urban cities are intimately connected to the nations of the world. Large corporations locate their businesses in U.S. cities; foreign students attend U.S. schools; and U.S. businesses export goods and services to foreign nations. Large urban cities need to know how their students stack up against peers in the nations with which the U.S. does business. This is especially important for students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The students in these fields will allow our future generation to remain technologically innovative and economically competitive.
This report provides a comparison of the number of mathematically Proficient students in Grades 4 and 8 in 11 large cities in the United States with their international peers.
This comparison is made possible by statistically linking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2003 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 when both assessments were conducted in the United States in the same year and in the same grades.
After the statistical linking was completed, it was possible to compare the most recent NAEP results (from 2007) to the most recent TIMSS results (from 2003). How the United States compares to the overall international average.
At Grade 4, five countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Flemish portion of Belgium) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 39% proficiency) performed better than the international average (27% proficiency) of all 24 countries (Figure 13).
At Grade 8, eight countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium (Flemish), Netherlands, and Hungary) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 31% proficiency) performed better than the international average (21% proficiency) of all 44 countries (Figure 14).
Because of the persistent requests of urban school districts, the U .S . Congress authorized NAEP to assess, on a trial basis, six large urban school districts beginning in 2002 . Since then, more districts have been added, resulting in 11 school districts in 2007 (and plans are underway to include even more districts in the future) . The urban school chiefs in these 11 large school districts, which voluntarily participated in the 2007 NAEP, recognized the global nature of educational expectations and the importance of having reliable external data against which to judge the performance of their students and to hold themselves accountable . They should be commended for their visionary goal of trying to benchmark their local performance against tough national standards. National standards provide a broad context and an external compass with which to steer educational policy to benefit local systems . The purpose of this report is to further help those systems navigate by providing international benchmarks.

Clusty Search: Gary W. Phillips and John A. Dossey.
Greg Toppo has more:

Even if the findings are less-than-stellar, he says, they should help local officials focus on improving results.
“In that sense, I think it could be a very positive thing to use in-house, in the district, to keep their nose to the grindstone,” says Kepner, a former middle- and high-school math teacher in Iowa and Wisconsin.”If they can show they’re improving, they might be able to attract more companies to a system that’s on the move.”
Phillips says the findings prove that in other countries “it is possible to do well and learn considerably under a lot of varied circumstances — in other words, being low-income is not really an excuse when you look around the rest of the world.”

Math Forum audio & video.

Amusing, but Not Funny

Bob Herbert:

Sara Rimer of The Times wrote an article last week that gave us a startling glimpse of just how mindless and self-destructive the U.S. is becoming.
Consider the lead paragraph:
“The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.”
The idea that the U.S. won’t even properly develop the skills of young people who could perform at the highest intellectual levels is breathtaking — breathtakingly stupid, that is.
The authors of the study, published in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, concluded that American culture does not value talent in math very highly. I suppose we’re busy with other things, like text-messaging while jay-walking. The math thing is seen as something for Asians and nerds.

Related: Math Forum.

Janet Mertz Study: Math Skills Suffer in US, Study Finds

Carolyn Johnson:

It’s been nearly four years since Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, made his controversial comments about the source of the gender gap in math and science careers. Still, the ripple effect continues – most recently in a study made public today on the world’s top female math competitors.
The study, to be published in next month’s Notices of the American Mathematical Society, identifies women of extraordinary math ability by sifting through the winners of the world’s most elite math competitions. It found that small nations that nurtured female mathematicians often produced more top competitors than far larger and wealthier nations.
The message: Cultural or environmental factors, not intellect, are what really limit women’s math achievements.

Sara Rimer:

The United States is failing to develop the math skills of both girls and boys, especially among those who could excel at the highest levels, a new study asserts, and girls who do succeed in the field are almost all immigrants or the daughters of immigrants from countries where mathematics is more highly valued.
The study suggests that while many girls have exceptional talent in math — the talent to become top math researchers, scientists and engineers — they are rarely identified in the United States. A major reason, according to the study, is that American culture does not highly value talent in math, and so discourages girls — and boys, for that matter — from excelling in the field. The study will be published Friday in Notices of the American Mathematical Society.
“We’re living in a culture that is telling girls you can’t do math — that’s telling everybody that only Asians and nerds do math,” said the study’s lead author, Janet E. Mertz, an oncology professor at the University of Wisconsin, whose son is a winner of what is viewed as the world’s most-demanding math competitions. “Kids in high school, where social interactions are really important, think, ‘If I’m not an Asian or a nerd, I’d better not be on the math team.’ Kids are self selecting. For social reasons they’re not even trying.”
Many studies have examined and debated gender differences and math, but most rely on the results of the SAT and other standardized tests, Dr. Mertz and many mathematicians say. But those tests were never intended to measure the dazzling creativity, insight and reasoning skills required to solve math problems at the highest levels, Dr. Mertz and others say.
Dr. Mertz asserts that the new study is the first to examine data from the most difficult math competitions for young people, including the USA and International Mathematical Olympiads for high school students, and the Putnam Mathematical Competition for college undergraduates. For winners of these competitions, the Michael Phelpses and Kobe Bryants of math, getting an 800 on the math SAT is routine. The study found that many students from the United States in these competitions are immigrants or children of immigrants from countries where education in mathematics is prized and mathematical talent is thought to be widely distributed and able to be cultivated through hard work and persistence.

Complete report 650K PDF.
Related: Math Forum.
Much more on Janet Mertz here.

Prince William County, Maryland Pupils Still Grapple With Math Test

Ian Shapira:

New state test results show that Prince William County’s third-graders are struggling to score at the highest level since the implementation of a controversial math program that was intended to boost performance.
The scores, which are the first state Standards of Learning (SOL) results to gauge the new program’s effectiveness, reveal that fewer than half of Prince William’s third-graders scored in the advanced category this year, the first that the Pearson math program “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space” was taught in that grade. Last year, third-graders who had not begun “Investigations” posted the same results.
The flat scores are a sizable decline since 2006, when 56 percent of third-graders reached the advanced level in math.
” ‘Investigations’ didn’t cure the problem,” said Vern Williams, a Fairfax County teacher and former member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel who was invited by the Prince William School Board to speak at its work session later this month.

It will be interesting to see what, if any effect the soon to be released Madison Math Task Force report has on the local curriculum.
Math Forum

Why Some Kids Aren’t Heading to School Today
Choosing the most radical education reform there is

Tony Woodlief:

So we frown on radicalism. Yet we have embarked on one of the most radical endeavors families can undertake: home-schooling. Given preconceptions about this practice, I should note that we are not anti-government wingnuts living on a compound. We like literature, and nice wines, and Celeste would stab me in the heart with a spoon if I gave her one of those head bonnets the Amish women wear. We are not, in other words, stereotypical home-schooling parents. But neither are most actual home-schooling parents.
Even though Ma and Pa Ingalls sent their children off to the little schoolhouse in Walnut Grove, we’ve decided to start our own. In the eyes of Kansas authorities that’s exactly what we’ve done; regulations require us to establish a school and name it. Ours is the Woodlief Homestead School. I wanted to go with something like: “The School of Revolutionary Resistance,” but Celeste said that was just inviting trouble.
The reason we’ve broken with tradition, or perhaps reverted to a deeper tradition, is not because we oppose sex education, or because we think their egos are too tender for public schools. It’s because we can do a superior job of educating our children. We want to cultivate in them an intellectual breadth and curiosity that public schools no longer offer.
Somewhere there is now an indignant teacher typing an email to instruct me about his profession’s nobility. Perhaps some public schools educate children in multiple languages and musical instruments, have them reading classic literature by age seven, offer intensive studies of math, science, logic, and history, and coach them in public speaking and writing. The thing is, I don’t know where those schools are.

A wise friend recently mentioned that “choice is good”. It will be interesting to see if the upcoming Madison School District math review addresses ongoing concerns over reduced rigor. Math Forum audio / video.

On Math Curriculum Reduction

Emily Messner:

The students swapped stories of little sisters, brothers and cousins who were taking above-grade-level math and getting good grades, yet did not seem to have a firm grasp of the material. The curriculum is being “narrowed and shallowed,” Walstein said. “The philosophy is that they squeeze you out the top like a tube of toothpaste. That’s what Montgomery County math is.”
Several students nodded their heads. This thesis has become Walstein’s obsession: In its drive to be the best, please affluent parents and close the achievement gap on standardized tests, the county is accelerating too many students in math, at the expense of the curriculum — and the students. The average accelerated math student “thinks he’s fine. His parents think he’s fine. The school system says he’s fine. But he’s not fine!” Walstein declares on one occasion. On another, Walstein is even less diplomatic. ” ‘We have the best courses and there’s no achievement gap and everything is wonderful,’ ” he says, parroting the message he believes county administrators are trying to project.
“The problem is, they’re lying!”

Math Forum audio / video links.

Math Meltdown

Patrick Welsh:

Summertime means school for an increasing number of high school students who have struggled in their math courses. But the system could be contributing to the kids’ poor performances.
Sam Cooke once cooed: “It’s summertime, and the living is easy.”
Tell that to the increasing number of middle and high school students who will be sweating out summer school this year because of their meltdown in math.

Related: Math Forum.

More “Algebra” for Chicago Public Schools Eighth Graders

Alexander Russo:

What do you think about the CPS effort to bring more algebra into middle schools?
From Catalyst: “The June board meeting included a brief presentation on student achievement from the Office of Instructional Design and Assessment. A recap of statistics showed that while 40 percent of 8th-graders across the country take algebra, only 8 percent of CPS 8th-graders do.
“With this in mind, Chief Officer Xavier Botana noted how the district is revamping algebra instruction: 8th-grade algebra will now be called “High School Algebra in the Middle Grades,” a name change that Botana said will help parents and others understand that students are tackling high-school-level material.

A commenter nails the issue:

The exit exams have to be real. They can’t be given credit for high school algebra, then show up in high school unprepared to take second year algebra.
Of course, they would only be prepared to take algebra in 8th grade if they have had rigorous math instruction before that. I believe these suburban schools with 40% of 8th graders taking algebra also have pre-algebra programs for kids in the 7th grade.
I’m all for offering rigorous classes; but there has to be some support to help kids get there.


  • Madison West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus:

    Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

  • Math Forum audio / video and links

It will be interesting to see the results of the Madison Math Task Force’s work.

Return of the Math Wars

Debra Saunders:

1997 saw the height of the Math Wars in California.
On the one side stood educrats, who advocated mushy math – or new-new math. They sought to de-emphasize math skills, such as multiplication and solving numeric equations, in favor of pushing students to write about math and how they might solve a problem. Their unofficial motto was: There is no right answer. (Even to 2 +2.)
They were clever. They knew how to make it seem as if they were pushing for more rigor, as they dumbed down curricula. For example, they said they wanted to teach children algebra starting in kindergarten, which seemed rigorous, but they had expanded the definition of algebra to the point that it was meaningless.
On the other side were reformers, who wanted the board to push through rigorous and specific standards that raised the bar for all California kids. Miraculously, they succeeded, and they took pride in the state Board of Education’s vote for academic standards that called for all eighth-graders to learn Algebra I.

Math Forum Audio, Video and links.

Madison Math Task Force Minutes

March 7, 2008 Meeting [rtf / pdf]. Well worth reading for those interested in the use of Connected Math and Core Plus, among others, in our schools.
A few interesting items:

  • Mitchell Nathan proposed a change to the name of the Work Group to more authentically describe its intent. There was consensus to accept the change in designation for the Work Group from “Curriculum Review and Research Findings” to “Learning from Curricula.”
  • “Addresses the misconception that there is one curriculum. There are a number of curricula at play, with the exception of the narrowing down at the middle school level, but teachers are also drawing from supplementary materials. There are a range of pathways for math experiences. The work plan would give an overview by level of program of what exists. “
  • “Could say that variety is good for children to have places to plug into. Could expand on the normative idea of purchasing commercial curricula vs. richer, in-house materials. Standards tell the teachers what needs to be taught. Published materials often are missing some aspect of the standards. District tries to define core resources; guides that help people with classroom organization.” Fascinating, given the move toward one size fits all in high school, such as English 9 and 10.
  • “Want to include a summary of the NRC report that came out in favor of Connected Math but was not conclusive—cannot control for teacher effects, positive effects of all curricula, etc. “
  • “Would like to give some portrayal of the opportunities for accelerated performance — want to document informal ways things are made available for differentiation. “
  • “Include elementary math targeted at middle school, e.g., Math Masters. There is information out there to address the Math Masters program and its effect on student achievement.”
  • “Data are available to conclude that there is equity in terms of resources”
  • “District will have trend data, including the period when Connected Math was implemented, and control for changes in demographics and see if there was a change. No way to link students who took the WKCE with a particular curriculum experience (ed: some years ago, I recall a teacher asked Administration at a PTO meeting whether they would track students who took Singapore Math at the Elementary level: “No”). That kind of data table has to be built, including controls and something to match teacher quality. May recommend that not worth looking at WKCE scores of CM (Connected Math) student or a case study is worth doing. “
  • The Parent Survey will be mailed to the homes of 1500 parents of students across all grades currently enrolled in MMSD math classes. The Teacher Survey will be conducted via the district’s web site using the Infinite Campus System.
  • MMSD Math Task Force website

Math Forum audio / video and links.

Columbia, Missouri ACT Results Compared with Math Curriculum

Columbia Parents for Real Math:

CPS Secondary Math Curriculum Coordinator Chip Sharp provided average ACT scores reported by course enrollment which are used in the figures below. Plotting the data in several ways gives food for thought regarding the differences between algebra and integrated math pathways offered at CPS.
The data don’t distinguish between which students are sophomores, juniors or seniors when they take the ACT, which students may have repeated courses or what year they started the pathway (7th, 8th or 9th grade). But it does give some idea of how much math “preparation” each course pathway provides at least for the years for which data is available.

I’ve heard that Madison’s Math Task Force will render a report prior to Superintendent Art Rainwater’s June 30, 2008 retirement. Related: Math Forum.

Accelerated Math Adds Up To a Division Over Merits

Daniel de Vise:

Next fall, 26 of the sharpest fifth-grade minds at Potomac Elementary School will study seventh-grade math. The rest of the fifth grade will learn sixth-grade math. Fifth-grade math will be left to the third- and fourth-graders.
Public schools nationwide are working to increase the number of students who study Algebra I, the traditional first-year high school math course, in eighth grade. Many Washington area schools have gone further, pushing large numbers of students two or three years ahead of the grade-level curriculum.
Math study in Montgomery County has evolved from one or two academic paths to many. Acceleration often begins in kindergarten. In a county known for demanding parents, the math push has generated an unexpected backlash. Many parents say children are pushed too far, too fast.
Sixty Montgomery math teachers complained, in a November forum, that students were being led into math classes beyond their abilities.

Related links:

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Releases Latest State Test Results, Madison Trails State Averages

380K PDF Press Release [AP’s posting of DPI’s press release]:

Results for statewide testing show an overall upward trend for mathematics, stable scores in reading, and a slight narrowing of several achievement gaps. This three-year trend comes at a time when poverty is continuing to increase among Wisconsin students.
The 434,507 students who took the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD) this school year showed gains over the past three years in mathematics in six out of seven grades tested. Reading achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels was stable over three years. An analysis of all combined grades indicates a narrowing of some achievement gaps by racial/ethnic group.
“These three years of assessment data show some positive trends. While some results point to achievement gains, we must continue our focus on closing achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.

Andy Hall notes that Madison Trails State Averages [Dane County Test Result Comparison prepared by Andy Hall & Phil Brinkmanpdf]:

But in the Madison School District, just two of the 23 proficiency scores improved, while five were unchanged and 16 declined, according to a Wisconsin State Journal review of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school year data from the state Department of Public Instruction.
Madison’s scores trail the state average in 22 of the 23 scores. Typically the percentage of Madison students attaining proficient or advanced ratings trails the state average by several percentage points.
“The fact that we’re able to stay close to the state average as our demographics have made dramatic changes, I think is a positive,” said Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater, who added that the district’s “strong instructional program” is meeting many of the challenges of immigrant and low-income students while ensuring that “high fliers are still flying high.”
A district analysis shows that when the district’s students are compared with their peers across the state, a higher percentage of Madison students continue to attain “advanced” proficiency scores — the highest category.
Madison students who aren’t from low-income families “continue to outperform their state counterparts,” with higher percentages with advanced scores in reading and math at all seven tested grade levels, the district reported.
Rainwater said he’s long feared that the district’s increasingly needy student population, coupled with the state’s revenue limits that regularly force the district to cut programs and services, someday will cause test scores to drop sharply. But so far, he said, the district’s scores are higher than would be expected, based on research examining the effects of poverty and limited English abilities on achievement.
This school year, 43 percent of Madison students are from low-income families eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, while 16 percent of students are classified as English language learners — numbers that are far above those of any other Dane County school district.
Rainwater noted that students with limited English abilities receive little help while taking the reading and language arts tests in English.

Tamira Madsen:

Reading test scores for Madison students changed little compared to 2006-07, but math results decreased in six of the seven grades tested. Of 23 scores in five topics tested statewide, Madison lagged behind state peers in 22 of 23 of those scores.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater attributes the district’s performance and trends to the growing population of English language learners in the district.

Officials now are able to draw upon three years of results since Wisconsin began administering testing to students in grades three through eight and grade 10 in reading and mathematics. Based on state regulations, students in fourth, eighth and 10th grade were also tested in language arts, science and social studies.

Alan Borsuk on Milwaukee’s results:

But there is little room for debate about what the scores say about the need for improvement in the outcomes for Milwaukee Public Schools students: The gaps between Milwaukee students and the rest of the state remain large, and school improvement efforts of many kinds over the years have not made much of a dent.
The problem is especially vivid when it comes to 10th-graders, the highest grade that is part of Wisconsin’s testing system. The gap between sophomores in Milwaukee and those statewide has grown larger over the last two years, and, once again, no more than 40% of 10th-graders in MPS were rated as proficient or better in any of the five areas tested by the state. For math and science, the figure is under 30%.

Amy Hetzner notes that Waukesha County’s test scores also slipped.
Notes and links regarding the rigor of Wisconsin DPI standards. DPI academic standards home page. Search individual school and district results here. The 2006 Math Forum discussed changes to the DPI math test and local results.
TJ Mertz reviews Wright Middle School’s results.
Chan Stroman’s June, 2007 summary of Madison WKCE PR, data and an interesting discussion. Notes on spin from Jason Spencer.
Jeff Henriques dove into the 2007 WKCE results and found that Madison tested fewer 10th graders than Green Bay, Appleton, Milwaukee and Kenosha. There’s also a useful discussion on Jeff’s post.
Advocating a Standard Grad Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”.
Madison School District’s Press Release and analysis: Slight decline on WKCE; non-low income students shine

Study Suggests Math Teachers Scrap Balls and Slices; “The Researchers Did Something Rare in Education Research”

Kenneth Chang:

One train leaves Station A at 6 p.m. traveling at 40 miles per hour toward Station B. A second train leaves Station B at 7 p.m. traveling on parallel tracks at 50 m.p.h. toward Station A. The stations are 400 miles apart. When do the trains pass each other?
Entranced, perhaps, by those infamous hypothetical trains, many educators in recent years have incorporated more and more examples from the real world to teach abstract concepts. The idea is that making math more relevant makes it easier to learn.
That idea may be wrong, if researchers at Ohio State University are correct. An experiment by the researchers suggests that it might be better to let the apples, oranges and locomotives stay in the real world and, in the classroom, to focus on abstract equations, in this case 40 (t + 1) = 400 – 50t, where t is the travel time in hours of the second train. (The answer is below.)
“The motivation behind this research was to examine a very widespread belief about the teaching of mathematics, namely that teaching students multiple concrete examples will benefit learning,” said Jennifer A. Kaminski, a research scientist at the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State. “It was really just that, a belief.”
Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues Vladimir M. Sloutsky and Andrew F. Heckler did something relatively rare in education research: they performed a randomized, controlled experiment. Their results appear in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

The Advantage of Abstract Examples in Learning Math by Jennifer A. Kaminski, Vladimir M. Sloutsky, Andrew F. Heckler.
I wonder what has become of the Madison School District’s Math Task Force?
Math Forum audio, video, notes and links.

“Professor Strengthens Math, Science Education”

Madeline Fisher:

Talk with Terry Millar long enough and it’s bound to happen: The mathematics professor will begin drilling you in math. He’ll slip in a question such as “What is pi?” and before you know it you’re being coached to a whole new level of mathematical understanding.
Linda McQuillen refers to it as having Millar “attend to her mathematics” and as his long-time collaborator she’s well acquainted with the experience.
“Traveling with him [to meetings] and when we’d do presentations for various audiences, on the cab rides to and from the airport, we were always doing mathematics,” laughs McQuillen, a retired math teacher and a former leader of the Madison school district’s math goals. “The problem is, Terry can do it verbally and I can’t. He’s just amazing.”
If Millar’s enthusiasm for teaching math can be overwhelming, it’s also true he has put the energy to good use. For well over a decade, Millar has worked to improve math and science instruction for students at all levels by bringing together the knowledge of university mathematicians and scientists with the teaching and curricular expertise of educators.

Terry Millar and Linda McQuillen participated in the Math Forum. Check out the notes, audio and video here.

“America’s Math Education System is Broken”

Maria Glod:

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel was convened by President Bush in April 2006 to address concerns that many of today’s students lack the math know-how needed to become tomorrow’s engineers and scientists. The 24-member panel of mathematicians and education experts announced recommendations to improve instruction and make better textbooks and even called on researchers to find ways to combat “mathematics anxiety.”
Larry R. Faulkner, panel chairman and former president of the University of Texas at Austin, said the country needs to make changes to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy. He noted that many U.S. companies draw skilled workers from overseas, a pool he said is drying out as opportunities in other countries improve.
“The question is, are we going to be able to get the talent?” Faulkner said in a briefing before the report’s release. “And it’s not just a question of economic competitiveness. In the end, it’s a question of whether, as a nation, we have enough technical prowess to assure our own security.”

Google News. Math Forum audio / video.
Joanne rounds up a few more links.

New Math Textbooks Irk Some Parents

Ian Shapira:

Greg Barlow, an Air Force officer in the defense secretary’s office at the Pentagon, was helping his 8-year-old son, Christian, one recent night with a vexing problem: What is 674 plus 249?
The Prince William County third-grader did not stack the numbers and carry digits from one column to the next, the way generations have learned. Applying lessons from his school’s new math textbook, “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space,” Christian tried breaking the problem into easier-to-digest numbers.
But after several seconds, he got stumped. He drew lines connecting digits, and his computation amounted to an upside-down pyramid with numbers at the bottom. His father, in a teacherly tone, nudged him toward the old-fashioned method. “How would you do that another way?” Barlow asked.
In Prince William and elsewhere in the country, a math textbook series has fomented upheaval among some parents and teachers who say its methods are convoluted and fail to help children master basic math skills and facts. Educators who favor the series say it helps young students learn math in a deeper way as they prepare for the rigors of algebra.
The debate over “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space,” a Pearson School series used in thousands of elementary classrooms, including some in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Howard counties, is one of the newer fronts in the math wars. Such battles over textbooks and teaching methods are fueled in part by the anxieties of parents who often feel powerless over their children’s education, especially in subjects they know.
The curriculum, introduced in the 1990s and updated in a second edition issued last fall, offers one answer to the nation’s increasingly urgent quest for stronger elementary math education. The nonprofit organization TERC, based in Cambridge, Mass., developed “Investigations” with support from the National Science Foundation.

Related Links: