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# Sensenbrenner on Connected Math

Running some searches recently, I came across this April, 2004 article by Lee Sensenbrenner on Connected Math. The words remain timely more than two years later:

A seventh-grader at a Madison middle school is posed with the following situation: A gas station sells soda in three sizes. A 20-ounce cup costs 80 cents, a 32-ounce cup is 90 cents and a 64-ouncer goes for \$1.25.
The first question, which appeared in similar form on a recent exam, is as traditional as any mathematical story problem: What size offers the most soda for the money?
But the second question carries the spirit of the Connected Math Program, which has developed strong undercurrents of controversy – both here and nationally – and plays prominently in one of the Madison School Board races Tuesday.
This question asks: If the gas station were to offer an 84-ounce Mega Swig, what would you expect to pay for it?
There’s really no concrete answer. A student, for instance, could argue that the 84-ouncer would cost what the 20-ounce and 64-ounce cups cost together. Another student could say that soda gets cheaper with volume, and then choose an answer based on some per-ounce price slightly less than what was given for the 64-ounce drink.
For the people fighting an impassioned battle over Connected Math, the differences between question number one and question number two are not subtle or inconsequential.
On one side, those who support Connected Math say that engaging students by presenting problems as real-life scenarios – often with no absolute solution or single path to arrive at an answer – fosters innovation and forces students to explain and defend their reasoning as they discover mathematical concepts.
The other side says the approach trades the clear, fundamental concepts of math, distilled through thousands of years of logical reasoning, for verbiage and vagary that may help students learn to debate but will not give them the foundation they need for more advanced mathematical study.

Many links and articles on math can be found here. The recent Math Forum is also worth checking out, along with a discussion of the District’s math performance.

I’m told that the MMSD’s math curriculum will be getting some attention this fall. We’ll see (35 of 37 UW Math Faculty Open Letter on Math).

My largest concern with Connected Math – having read some of the books is that we’re training the students to be consumers, not creative types (figure out the phone bill, count the cheerios, buy a soda, etc.). TeacherL made a great point recently: We can choose to be consumers or we can choose to be citizens. I know which one I think will provide the stronger future for our country.”

# Analysis of Connected Math and Core Plus Textbooks

A reader deep into math issues emailed these two reviews of curriculum currently used within the Madison School District:

• Connected Math (Middle School); R. James Milgram:

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

• standard algorithms are never introduced, not even for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions
• precise definitions are never given
• repetitive practice for developing skills, such as basic manipulative skills is never given. Consequently, in the seventh and eighth grade booklets on algebra, there is no development of the standard skills needed to solve linear equations, no practice with simplifying polynomials or quotients of polynomials, no discussion of things as basic as the standard exponent rules
• throughout the booklets, topics are introduced, usually in a single problem and almost always indirectly — topics which, in traditional texts are basic and will have an entire chapter devoted to them — and then are dropped, never to be mentioned again. (Examples will be given throughout the detailed analysis which follows.)
• in the booklets on probability and data analysis a huge amount of time is spent learning rather esoteric methods for representing data, such as stem and leaf plots, and very little attention is paid to topics like the use and misuse of statistics. Statistics, in and of itself, is not that important in terms of mathematical development. The main reason it is in the curriculum is to provide students with the means to understand common uses of statistics and to be able to understand when statistical arguments are being used correctly.

• Core Plus (some high schools); R. James Milgram and Kim Mackey:

In a recent issue of the NCTM Dialogues, Prof. R. Askey comments on a particular and remarkably inept misunderstanding in CorePlus, of some basic methods in probability Prof. R. Askey’s comments on a problem with Core Plus.
Recently, Core Plus has begun to appear in the Minnesota High Schools, with the usual results, including servere questions from parents and the withdrawal of a significant number of students from the school system. This has also prompted a number of independent analyses of the program by other professional mathematicians. Here are the comments of Larry Gray, a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. A Sample List of Mathematical Errors in the Core Plus program.

# Connected Math in Olympia, WA

After a number of parents and teachers objected, the school board of Olympia, Washington, has ignored an administrative recommendation to adopt a constructivist math program for their middle schoolers:

Connected Math and the Madison School District was discussed at a recent math forum (audio / video).
UW Emeritus Math Professor Dick Askey wrote a followup article on test scores and the local math curriculum.
The MMSD is currently looking for a “Coordinator of Mathematics“.
Clusty Connected Math Search.

# Math & Progress

Eliminating 8th grade algebra in the name of equity.

Harrison Bergeron

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

# Notes on Parents and Math Rigor

On RussianMathTutors.com, a site promoting a Soviet-era style of math instruction, a sample question involves Masha, a mom who bakes a batch of unmarked pies: three rice, three bean and three cherry. The student must determine how Masha can find a cherry pie “by biting into as few tasteless pies as possible.”

While Masha is biting pies, American parents are eating it up.

In the smarter, faster, better quest that is child-rearing in the United States, goal-oriented moms and dads eager to give their children an academic edge have long looked beyond U.S. borders for math education. Singapore math promotes concept mastery and critical thinking. Japanese math espouses the discipline of daily study. Now, another turbocharged math style is having its moment. Russian math, which uses reasoning and abstract concepts to build understanding, is lighting up parent group chats as the country emerges from a pandemic that left children zoning out over Zoom and schools prioritizing social-emotional recovery over homework.

“I always think for students it’s great to aim higher,” said Andrea Campbell, a mother from Newcastle, Calif. Her three children have studied with \$20-an-hour instructors from Russian Math Tutors for the past two years as they pursue math competitions. “For math, you can’t do enough.”

Math Forum Audio / Video

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

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

Related: Singapore Math.

# Math education outcomes: credit card edition

Sumit Agarwal, Andrea Presbitero, André F. Silva, and Carlo Wix:

We study credit card rewards as an ideal laboratory to quantify the cross-subsidy from naive to sophisticated consumers in retail financial markets. Using granular data on the near universe of credit card accounts in the United States, we find that sophisticated consumers profit from reward credit cards at the expense of naive consumers who lose money both in absolute terms and relative to classic cards. We estimate an aggregate annual cross-subsidy of \$15.5 billion. Notably, our results are not driven by income—while sophisticated high-income consumers benefit the most, naive high-income consumers pay the most. Banks lure consumers into the use of reward cards by offering lower interest rates than on comparable classic cards and bank profits are highest for borrowers in the middle of the credit score distribution. We show that credit card rewards transfer wealth from less to more educated, from poorer to richer, from rural to urban, and from high to low minority areas, thereby widening existing spatial disparities.

Math Forum audio video.

Connected math

Singapore Math

Discovery math

# How One School Is Beating the Odds in Math, the Pandemic’s Hardest-Hit Subject:Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Connecticut overhauled the way it taught — and the way it ran the classroom. Every minute counted

Sarah Mervosh:

It’s just after lunchtime, and Dori Montano’s fifth-grade math class is running on a firm schedule.

In one corner of the classroom, Ms. Montano huddles with a small group of students, working through a lesson about place value: Is 23.4 or 2.34 the bigger number? Nearby, other students collaborate to solve a “math mystery.” All the while, Ms. Montano watches the time.

At 1:32 p.m., she presses a buzzer, sending students shuffling: “Ladies and gentleman, switch please!”

This is what pandemic recovery looks like at Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Meriden, Conn., where students are showing promising progress in math, a subject that was hit hard during the shift to remote learning, even more so than reading.

The school’s math progress may not look like much: a small improvement amounting to a single decimal point increase from spring 2019 to the spring of this year, according to state test results.

But by pandemic standards, it was something of a minor miracle, holding steady when test scores nationally have fallen, particularly among low-income, Black and Hispanic students, the children that Franklin serves. About three in four students at the school qualify for free or reduced lunch, and a majority are Hispanic, Black or multiracial.

The groundwork was laid before the pandemic, when Franklin overhauled how math was taught.

It added as much as 30 minutes of math instruction a day. Students in second grade and above now have more than an hour, and fourth and fifth graders have a full 90 minutes, longer than is typical for many schools. Students no longer have lessons dominated by a teacher writing problems on a white board in front of the class. Instead, they spend more time wrestling with problems in small groups. And, for the first time, children who are behind receive math tutoring during the school day.

Related: math forum audio and video

Discovery math

Connected math

Singapore math

# “Social Justice Math” & California

California’s new Mathematics Curriculum Framework has become a political hot potato, reports Lawrence Richard on Yahoo News. The state education board will postpone a decision on implementation for 10 months in response to critics who charged it would “de-mathematize math” and prevent high achievers from taking advanced classes.

2007 Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

# Replace the Proposed New California Math Curriculum Framework

California is on the verge of politicizing K-12 math in a potentially disastrous way. Its proposed Mathematics Curriculum Framework is presented as a step toward social justice and racial equity, but its effect would be the opposite—to rob all Californians, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, who always suffer most when schools fail to teach their students. As textbooks and other teaching materials approved by the State would have to follow this framework and since teachers are expected to use it as a guide, its potential to steal a promising future from our children is enormous.

The proposed framework would, in effect, de-mathematize math. For all the rhetoric in this framework about equity, social justice, environmental care and culturally appropriate pedagogy, there is no realistic hope for a more fair, just, equal and well-stewarded society if our schools uproot long-proven, reliable and highly effective math methods and instead try to build a mathless Brave New World on a foundation of unsound ideology. A real champion of equity and justice would want all California’s children to learn actual math—as in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus—not an endless river of new pedagogical fads that effectively distort and displace actual math. The proposed framework:

2007 Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

# The impact of a lack of mathematical education on brain development and future attainment

Formal education has a long-term impact on an individual’s life. However, our knowledge of the effect of a specific lack of education, such as in mathematics, is currently poor but is highly relevant given the extant differences between countries in their educational curricula and the differences in opportunities to access education. Here we examined whether neurotransmitter concentrations in the adolescent brain could classify whether a student is lacking mathematical education. Decreased γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentration within the middle frontal gyrus (MFG) successfully classified whether an adolescent studies math and was negatively associated with frontoparietal connectivity. In a second experiment, we uncovered that our findings were not due to preexisting differences before a mathematical education ceased. Furthermore, we showed that MFG GABA not only classifies whether an adolescent is studying math or not, but it also predicts the changes in mathematical reasoning ∼19 mo later. The present results extend previous work in animals that has emphasized the role of GABA neurotransmission in synaptic and network plasticity and highlight the effect of a specific lack of education on MFG GABA concentration and learning-dependent plasticity. Our findings reveal the reciprocal effect between brain development and education and demonstrate the negative consequences of a specific lack of education during adolescence on brain plasticity and cognitive functions.

2007 Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

# Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Elizabeth Green:

When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career.

Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher, but like a small number of instructors in Japan, he taught not just young children but also college students who wanted to become teachers. At the university-affiliated elementary school where Matsuyama taught, he turned his classroom into a kind of laboratory, concocting and trying out new teaching ideas. When Takahashi met him, Matsuyama was in the middle of his boldest experiment yet — revolutionizing the way students learned math by radically changing the way teachers taught it.

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

# Commentary on Virginia’s planned advanced math course reductions

Democratic Virginia state Senator J. Chapman Petersen is one of many parents voicing concerns about a new racial equity push that would eliminate certain advanced placement classes in the state’s mathematics curriculum.

The Virginia Mathematics Pathway Initiative (VMPI) would replace the traditional mathematics progression of Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 courses with courses that teach so-called “essential” topics. Under the plan, all students would take the same courses through the tenth grade but would then be allowed to enroll in classes that correspond with their post-graduation career plans.

A major goal of the VMPI is to combat disparities in educational outcomes between racial and ethnic minorities. However, many Northern Virginia parents are mobilizing to reject the program, claiming that the new “pathway” will inhibit higher-achieving students and discourage academic exploration and performance among all kids, including the racial minorities the program is designed to help.

Related: Connected Math Discovery Math

# There Is No Such Thing as “White” Math

I am not at all qualified to introduce today’s guest writer, Sergiu Klainerman.

I barely eked out a C+ in high school calculus, while Sergiu is a professor of mathematics at Princeton who specializes in the mathematical theory of black holes. He’s been a MacArthur fellow, a Guggenheim fellow and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences

Mathematics allowed a young Sergiu, who came of age in Ceausescu’s Romania, to escape to a world where right and wrong couldn’t be fudged, and, ultimately, to a life of freedom in the United States. Without math, his life quite literally would not have been possible.

In the piece below he explains how activists are destroying his discipline in the name of progress. Worse, they are robbing poor children of the opportunity to raise themselves up by mastering it — with untold effects on all of us.

Math, with its seemingly unbiased tools — 2 + 2 always equals 4 — has presented a problem for an ideological movement that sees any inequality of outcome as evidence of systemic bias. The problem cannot be that some kids are better at math, or that some teachers are better at teaching it. Like so much else, the basic woke argument against math is that it is inherently racist and needs to be made antiracist. That is accomplished by undermining the notion of right and wrong answers, by getting rid of the expectation that students show their work, by referring to mathematical testing tools as racist, and by doing away with accelerated math classes.

If that sounds like a caricature, I urge you to read this whole document, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which Sergiu writes about below. As the linguist John McWhorter put it in a powerful piece published yesterday: “to distrust this document is not to be against social justice, but against racism.”

Sergiu wrote me in an email that the situation in his field reminds him of this line from Thomas Sowell: “Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.”

This week, as promised, is education week. Like Shark Week! But dorkier. And, I hope, far more important. This is our first installment.

I’m pleased to publish Sergiu Klainerman:

In my position as a professor of mathematics at Princeton, I have witnessed the decline of universities and cultural institutions as they have embraced political ideology at the expense of rigorous scholarship. Until recently — this past summer, really — I had naively thought that the STEM disciplines would be spared from this ideological takeover.

I was wrong. Attempts to “deconstruct” mathematics, deny its objectivity, accuse it of racial bias, and infuse it with political ideology have become more and more common — perhaps, even, at your child’s elementary school.

This phenomenon is part of what has been dubbed “The Great Awokening.” As others have explained powerfully, the ideology incubated in academia, where it indoctrinated plenty of bright minds. It then migrated, through those true believers, into our important cultural, religious and political institutions. Now it is affecting some of the country’s most prominent businesses.

Unlike the traditional totalitarianism practiced by former communist countries, like the Romania I grew up in, this version is soft. It enforces its ideology not by jailing dissenters or physically eliminating them, but by social shaming, mob punishment, guilt by association, and coerced speech.

When it comes to education, I believe the woke ideology is even more harmful than old-fashioned communism.

Communism had a strong sense of objective reality anchored in the belief that humans are capable of discovering universal truths. It forcefully asserted, in fact, the absolute truth of dialectic materialism, as revealed by its founders Marx, Engels and Lenin. Communist ideology held science and mathematics in the highest regard, even though it often distorted the former for doctrinal reasons.

Mathematics was largely immune to ideological pressure, and thus thrived in most communist countries. Being skilled in math was a source of great societal prestige for school children. And it was a great equalizer: those from socioeconomically disadvantaged families had a chance to compete on equal footing with those from privileged ones.

Related:

Math Forum audio / video

Connected Math

Discovery Math

# What is the place for African Americans in the ‘new’ Madison?

Blacks for Political and Social Action of Dane County, Inc.:

In the midst of these challenges, the Madison Metropolitan School District heard its superintendent-designee, Matthew Gutiérrez, was rescinding his acceptance of the position to remain as superintendent of the Seguin, Texas school district. This lack of a permanent superintendent can have an incredibly negative impact on African American students. The initiative known as “Black Excellence” began under the leadership of former superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. Cheatham has been gone for almost a year. Nothing about the current leadership suggests that Black Excellence is a district priority. African American children in Wisconsin experience the widest achievement disparities in the nation in reading and mathematics. Our eighth graders are performing 47 points below their White counterparts in mathematics. Our fourth graders are performing 39 points below their White counterparts in reading. Where is the collective outrage over these disparities? Who on the current school board is demanding improvement?

The racial problems of MMSD run long and deep: Issues of achievement, disproportionate assignment to special education, lack of access to honors and advanced placement classes, disproportionate levels of suspensions and expulsions, and disproportionate graduation rates (59% Black vs. 88% White). In the midst of this there is an inverse relationship between the percentage of teachers of color and that of students. Eighty-eight percent of the teachers are White in a district with a student population that is 43% White. And, we have had repeated instances of White teachers using racial epithets and other disrespect toward Black students and their parents (e.g. a White teacher mistakenly sent a text to a Black parent about how the parent and her child were so dumb).

African Americans in Madison have been more than patient when it comes to improving their status — education, employment, housing, and every other measure of health and well-being. There have been over 40 years of reports, task forces and initiatives. Post-pandemic Madison will be a “new” Madison. We have learned a lot in the midst of crisis. We know that far too many of our community members are one paycheck away from poverty — loss of housing, food, health care, childcare, schooling, etc. What is the place for African Americans in this new Madison?

English 10

Small Learning Communities

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

# The Unexamined Model Is Not Worth Trusting (We know best…)

In early March, British leaders planned to take a laissez-faire approach to the spread of the coronavirus. Officials would pursue “herd immunity,” allowing as many people in non-vulnerable categories to catch the virus in the hope that eventually it would stop spreading. But on March 16, a report from the Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team, led by noted epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, shocked the Cabinet of the United Kingdom into a complete reversal of its plans. Report 9, titled “Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand,” used computational models to predict that, absent social distancing and other mitigation measures, Britain would suffer 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Even with mitigation measures in place, the report said, the epidemic “would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over.” The conclusions so alarmed Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he imposed a national quarantine.

Subsequent publication of the details of the computer model that the Imperial College team used to reach its conclusions raised eyebrows among epidemiologists and specialists in computational biology and presented some uncomfortable questions about model-driven decision-making. The Imperial College model itself appeared solid. As a spatial model, it divides the area of the U.K. into small cells, then simulates various processes of transmission, incubation, and recovery over each cell. It factors in a good deal of randomness. The model is typically run tens of thousands of times, and results are averaged—a technique commonly referred to as an ensemble model.

In a tweet sent in late March, Ferguson—then still one of the leading voices within the U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), tasked with handling the coronavirus crisis—stated that the model was implemented in “thousands of lines of undocumented” code written in C, a widely used and high-performing computing language. He refused to publish the original source code, and Imperial College has refused a Freedom of Information Act request for the original source, alleging that the public interest is not sufficiently compelling.

As Ferguson himself admits, the code was written 13 years ago, to model an influenza pandemic. This raises multiple questions: other than Ferguson’s reputation, what did the British government have at its disposal to assess the model and its implementation? How was the model validated, and what safeguards were implemented to ensure that it was correctly applied? The recent release of an improved version of the source code does not paint a favorable picture. The code is a tangled mess of undocumented steps, with no discernible overall structure. Even experienced developers would have to make a serious effort to understand it.

I’m a virologist, and modelling complex processes is part of my day-to-day work. It’s not uncommon to see long and complex code for predicting the movement of an infection in a population, but tools exist to structure and document code properly. The Imperial College effort suggests an incumbency effect: with their outstanding reputations, the college and Ferguson possessed an authority based solely on their own authority. The code on which they based their predictions would not pass a cursory review by a Ph.D. committee in computational epidemiology.

English 10

Small Learning Communities

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

# Why are Soviet mathematics/physics textbooks so insanely hardcore in comparison to US textbooks?

There are a lot of good points being made in this thread. I have had a theory that it is in part related to the funding available for lab equipment and computers. During the latter half of the 20th century, in Russia you were very lucky to get access to a “real” computer.

I spent some time in 1992 in Protvino, RU, a science city of (at the time) some 20,000 scientists and engineers. The city hadn’t been listed on any official map from the USSR, even though it had existed since 1958; it was devoted to a large synchrotron. I was really struck by the contrast between the super-abundance of material resources to get the job done in the US and EU, vs. the creativity and thought by the Russians. At the risk of oversimplifying, I noticed that because of the traditional scarcity of equipment, Russian students and scientists had to think rather than experiment, whether with computers or accelerators; it was often all that was available to them.

For instance, there was much more of an effort in Protvino to repurpose equipment than to have new equipment machined as I had seen at FermiLab or CERN. The rank and file Russian engineers that I saw in the ’90s were using a home-grown knockoff of the Intel 8088 series. The managers got imported IBM XTs. At the same time in the US working on the SSC, on my desk I had a SuperSPARC minicomputer, a Mac, and an HP 80486 Windows machine, as well as access to a twin Hypercube.

As a result, “computer experiments” like Monte Carlo simulation were not used very often in Protvino except by those for whom it was essential (and often not even then – such experiments were usually pushed down so far in the queue that they never got executed). Rather, there was much more emphasis on closed-form or approximate analytical solutions. Coding up a simulation and having a computer torture it until it confessed the results you wanted certainly takes talent, but it is arguably a different kind of talent than thinking deeply about the problem itself. Thinking about the simulation often leads to thinking that improves the computing methods and hardware used. Thinking about the problem itself gives insight into the nature of the problem itself and its connections with other areas of study.

Related: Connected Mathd Singapore Math

# Madison Superintendent Search Commentary; Groundhog Day, in some ways

“I think the most important quality we are looking for in an interim superintendent is stability,” School Board member Cris Carusi said. “I don’t think it really matters as much if it’s an internal or external candidate … we’re going to want someone who can provide stability.”

Carusi noted that she hopes the board can engage in an open process when selecting a new superintendent.

“I really hope we have a transparent, public process for choosing a new superintendent where we are able to get input from our staff and our community,” Carusi said. “We absolutely have to do that for our superintendent process and I think on some level for the interim selection process as well.”

Will the interim superintendent eventually be hired as permanent superintendent?

Rainwater was hired as an interim superintendent before the board voted to hire him after conducting its search process. However, whether to have an interim superintendent considered for a long-term post is something the School Board will have to decide as it crafts the characteristics of who it wants to hire as the new district leader.

“When we did our search, we didn’t want the interim to be a person to be considered for the full job,” Howard said. “That’s something the board will have to decide. When we did it six years ago, we determined we didn’t want that person to be in consideration for the job, but that does not have to be the case this time.”

Assistant superintendent Art Rainwater was elevated (no one else applied) to Superintendent when Cheryl Wilhoyte was pushed out. Perhaps Madison will think different this time and look outside the traditional, credentialed Superintendent candidates. The District has much work to do – quickly – on the basics, reading/writing, math and science. A steady diet of reading recovery and connected math along with above average spending of nearly \$15k/student per year has not changed student achievement.

“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

2005 (!): When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before: :

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.

Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

# International Math Competition Defeat Prompts Soul Searching in China

Chinese high school students generally outperform their western peers at math — at least, that’s what many in the country believe.

That assumption was shattered Monday, when China placed a mediocre sixth at the 2019 Romanian Master of Mathematics (RMM), a major math competition for pre-university students. The U.S. won the championship for best team, while the highest individual prize went to an Israeli candidate.

Math competitions like the RMM are serious business in China, where participation can give students a leg up in university admissions.

China’s defeat on Monday prompted social media users to ask if recent Ministry of Education curbs on math competitions were misguided.

Since the ministry requested that universities limit preferential admissions for math competition participants, interest in the subject has fallen, one Weibo user said, in a comment that received 2,200 likes.“Chinese parents still take a utilitarian approach toward education.”

Others said the government should avoid a one-size-fits-all approach and encourage participation from truly talented students.

Related: Connected math

Singapore Math

Discovery Math

# Math from Three to Seven

A question of culture

When I was a grad student at UC Berkeley (in the late 1980s), it was under- stood, among my American classmates, that the Eastern Europeans were simply better. They weren’t genetically superior; indeed, many of my Amer- ican classmates, myself included, were themselves descended from Eastern European immigrants. And we knew that we weren’t stupid. Many of us had excelled at mathematical olympiads, even at the international level. But at Berkeley, the Eastern Europeans — students and faculty alike — were known for their intensity.

American-dominated seminars might last for one polite hour; in contrast, a Russian or Rumanian seminar would go on for an entire argumentative evening. Some of us joked that the Russians really came from the planet Krypton, attaining super powers when they came to live among us.

All joking aside, we fledgling mathematicians understood that the single most important thing was not raw intelligence or knowledge (Americans tend to lag behind in the latter compared to all international students). What mattered was passion. The way to become successful in mathematics, like almost every endeavor, is to care about it, to love it, to obsess over it. And in this, Eastern Europeans had a clear superiority, a cultural advantage. They had been trained, from an early age, to love mathematics more intensely.

For many years, dating from at least the Sputnik era, America has suf- fered from an educational inferiority complex. We try to catch up, hunting for the secret ingredients that other nations use. Should we adopt the Sin- gapore curriculum? Put our kids in after-school Kumon programs? Teach them meditation? Yoga?

There’s nothing wrong with any of this; examining the practices of oth- ers’ is bound to be enriching. But it’s not the ingredients that really matter.

There is no single magical special sauce. What you need is a culture of in- tellectual inquiry, and one that fits.

Related: Math Forum.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

# Just teach my kid the math

It is astounding to me that mathematics – of all school subjects – elicits such potent emotional reaction when “reform” is in the air. We’ve seen the community response to the Common Core State Standards in the U.S., the potency of the Back to Basics movement in Alberta, Canada, and the myriad of internet examples of the absolute absurdity of “new math.”

At face value, the strong reactions we see can be interpreted as paradoxical. Parents might openly admit they themselves did not understand mathematics, that they actively hate mathematics even, but insist that we don’t dare do anything different for their child in math class! Parents’ befuddlement over their child’s third-grade homework might be seen as a wrong of the new curriculum, not as evidence of the failing of their own mathematics education, that they weren’t provided the flexibility and agility of thought to see simple arithmetic in multiple lights.

It seems that previous generations were seduced to equate familiarity with understanding. For instance, our standard arithmetic algorithms are somewhat bizarre – they are the end result of a human process of codifying arithmetical thinking, designed with the extra goal of using as little of precious 17th-century ink as possible. But if one does them often enough, their routine begins to feel comfortable and familiar.

Related: Math Forum

Connected math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

# 13 Baltimore City High Schools, zero students proficient in math

Project Baltimore analyzed 2017 state test scores released this fall. We paged through 16,000 lines of data and uncovered this: Of Baltimore City’s 39 High Schools, 13 had zero students proficient in math.

Digging further, we found another six high schools where one percent tested proficient. Add it up – in half the high schools in Baltimore City, 3804 students took the state test, 14 were proficient in math.

Related: Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

# How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom

Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach \$21 billion in sales by 2020. An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them, The New York Times has found in a review of thousands of pages of Baltimore County school documents and in interviews with dozens of school officials, researchers, teachers, tech executives and parents.

Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

“Kids aren’t going to be able to take risks and push themselves academically, without having a trusting support network there,” said Lindsay Maglio, principal of Lindbergh Elementary School, where some teachers improved on traditional get-to-know-you exercises in the first few weeks of school by adding more searching questions, and where all school staff are engaged in community-building lessons in small-group sessions with students taking place at set periods throughout the year.

While noting that getting to know their students is already “something we do feel strongly about,” fourth-grade teacher Beth Callies, now in her 11th year at Lindbergh, said she saw value in a districtwide strategy emphasizing it. “It’s a good push to remind us,” Callies said.

Beyond asking her students to describe themselves through traditional questions such as choosing what animal or what TV show they would like to be, and where they would like to take a vacation and why, Duernberger also invited them to free-associate this year by responding to the line: “I wish my teacher knew this about me.”

Common ground
The students’ answers, which they also read to each other in a follow-up exercise, were as varied as their life stories. Students said they liked to go camping, had two brothers, worked hard, could read-upside down, and had two dogs at home before mom gave one away.

Teachers have been encouraged to mine a book by educator Zaretta Hammond known as “Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain” for new techniques and deeper understanding of the issue. At Lindbergh, Maglio built time into the school day for all staff to meet once a week for 40 minutes with students in small groups “to build community and work on trust,” with possible lessons on topics such as resolving conflicts or bullying.

“It’s really based off the issues that kids are having, so there’s not a set structure (for the weekly sessions),” Maglio said. “We just need to think about being more purposeful in how we plan for all our students. It might be working for 80 percent of students, but we need to think more about the ones we may be struggling to reach.”

Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than most – now nearly \$20,000 per student.

Math Forum

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

# Déjà vu: Madison elementary school students explore the district’s new math curriculum

MMSD highlighted the success of the new math curriculum in its annual report, released last July. The report said the first cohort of schools using Bridges saw an eight-point increase in math proficiency scores and nine-point gains in math growth in one school year on the spring Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exam for third through fifth grade students.

By comparison, fifth grade MAP proficiency scores across the district increased eight points in the last four years.

“(Bridges) focuses on developing the students’ understanding of math concepts,” Davis said. “It is not about how students can memorize certain skills, but really around their ability to problem solve and look at math in more complex ways…and explain their reasoning to their teachers and peers.”

Related (deja vu):

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Math forum

Singapore Math

Stretch targets

# Michelle Obama at WWDC: Bad Math Teachers Drove My Daughters Out of STEM

“I have two daughters now who are perfectly good in math, but they had one or two bad math teachers and they are done. That’s what happens to girls. They walk away from tech and science. And there’s something going on that is not just about the girls. There’s something going on with how these subjects are taught.”

Related:

Math Forum

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

Remedial Math

# 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 Forum

connected math

Discovery 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 the traditional-AP students

Both sample sizes were low

2012: “An increasing number of freshmen in the UW System need remedial math when they start college, according to UW officials.”

2014: “

The UW’s freshman math remediation rate of 21% is below the national average of 25% to 35%, according to Cross.

UW Regent Jose Vasquez bristled at the UW System taking on “a problem that is really our cohort’s problem,” referring to K-12. “The problem was not created by the university and I’m not convinced we can solve it within the university.”

He advocated earlier intervention in high school.

Related: Math Forum audio/video.

Discovery Math

Connected Math

Singapore Math

Core Plus

# Ortega y Gasset and You Tube

Professor Vlahos concludes that elites (which he defines more broadly than “the One Percent”) are acting to their own advantage, as elites have done in other times moving towards the point when things fell apart (for example, at the end of Classical times in 6th through the 8th Centuries or after the Black Death in the 14th Century or after the World Wars in the 20th Century).

He further thinks that over what could be a long period of time our current elites have set the stage, by monopolizing resources, for a catastrophic event (perhaps climate change) to change how the cards are dealt.

Professor Vlahos came to that conclusion while teaching graduate courses on how global systems subside. He states that he initially focused on climate change, but came to see such events (like the, probably climate related, Plague of Justinian in the 6th Century) as being a trigger for a course of events that were already in trail.

There have been thinkers who have considered these matters before.

In 1930, the Spanish philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset, published a book called The Revolt of the Masses, which dealt with the “mass-ification” of society, which included “señorito satisfecho” (“Little Mr. Satisfied” or the bureaucrat).

In 1995, the late historian, Christopher Lasch, wrote a book called The Revolt of the Elites, which presciently predicted the perception on the part of many Americans that elites “‘dangerously isolated’ from the rest of the country” mind set and lacked a sense of “noblesse oblige.”

I am vastly less qualified than the people I have cited, but let me offer my own opinion.

# 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):
http://www.boarddocs.com/wi/mmsd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AFL2QH731563

The description of the resolution agreement by Dylan Pauly & Jen Cheatham starts around 2 (h) 16 (m)

The OCR resolution agreement was included on the agenda (item 9.3) of the December 12, 2016 full board meeting as part of the Instruction Workgroup “report out” without discussion.

When OCR does a compliance review, it issues a resolution letter to the subject institution which describes OCR’s review and OCR’s findings. The resolution agreement (signed by the institution) then sets forth what the institution agrees to do to address the issues in the resolution letter.

According to the Superintendent, the District did not have a unified cuniculum prior to the 2013-201 4 school year. The Distiict recently reported to OCR that it is implementing “a multi-year, multi-phased plan to engage in course alignment. The end result will be courses that share a common course plan, common titles and course descriptions in the high school course guides, syllabi using common templates and common end-of-course summative assessments.” As summarized below. the District’s cum~nt approach to AL services is the product of several programs and initiatives as well as a recently concJuded audit by WDPI.

Related:

TAG Complaint

Connected Math

Discovery Math

# K-12 Math Rigor? Are High School Graduates Capable Of Basic Cost/Benefit Calculations…

Kevin Carey:

The problem, from a regulatory standpoint, is that they borrow a lot of money to obtain the degree — over \$78,000 on average, according to the university. The total tuition is \$62,593. And because it’s a graduate program, students can also borrow the full cost of their living expenses from the federal government, regardless of their credit history.

After accounting for basic living expenses, the average Harvard A.R.T. Institute graduate has to pay 44 percent of discretionary income just to make the minimum loan payment.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

Connected Math

Discovery Math

Singapore Math

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

More regulation simply makes things worse. Why not make sure that students can adequately assess the cost and benefits of their choices?

# Big bang for just a few bucks: The impact of math textbooks in California

Cory Koedel and Morgan Polikoff, via a kind Dan Dempsey email:

Textbooks are one of the most widely used educational inputs, but remarkably little is known about their effects on student learning. This report uses data collected from elementary schools in California to estimate the impacts of mathematics textbook choices on student achievement. We study four of the most popular books in the state from 2008-2013 and find that one—Houghton Mifflin California Math—consistently outperforms the other three. The superior performance of California Math persists up to four years after adoption and shows up in grades 3, 4, and 5.

The textbook impacts we identify are educationally meaningful and come at an extremely low cost. With regard to cost, textbooks are relatively inexpensive and tend to be similarly priced. The implication is that the marginal cost of choosing a more effective textbook over a less effective alternative is essentially zero. In terms of achievement impacts, our findings suggest non-trivial gains in student achievement are attainable simply by choosing more effective curriculum materials. The effect sizes we document are on par with what one could expect from a hypothetical policy that substantially increases the quality of the teaching workforce. But whereas there is much uncertainty about whether commensurate increases in teacher quality are attainable, and how they might be attained—at least in the near term—choosing a more effective textbook is a seemingly straightforward policy option for raising student achievement.

A critical factor limiting the capacity of school administrators to choose more effective textbooks is that there is virtually no evidence on how different textbooks affect student achievement. The fundamental problem limiting the development of an evidence base is that very few states track school and district textbook adoptions. This point bears repeating: most states do not know which curriculum materials are being used in which schools and districts. Without these data, it is not possible to perform evaluations of textbook efficacy. Thus, in most states, decisionmakers who wish to incorporate into their adoption decisions evidence on how textbooks affect student achievement are simply out of luck.

…..

Our work makes several important contributions. First, we have assembled a dataset of textbook adoptions in California, the largest U.S. state with the greatest number of schools. We have received funding to continue collecting these data moving forward. We will continue to analyze the data and go on to study other subjects and other grades. We also plan to make the data available to interested researchers so that others can pursue new lines of inquiry. There are many questions in this area of great import that do not have to do with impacts on student achievement—
for instance, is there equitable access to current curriculum materials? How do charter and traditional public schools differ in their adoption patterns? We hope these newly available data can spawn a new wave of data-driven research on textbook adoptions and their effects. The current research literature is sorely lacking in quantitative analyses of textbooks in schools.

Second, our work again demonstrates a method (previously demonstrated by Bhatt, Koedel, and Lehmannxiv) that can be applied in other states, grades, and subjects. We believe at this point that the method is suf ciently well developed that it can be widely applied. By doing this—studying textbook effects across multiple settings—we can begin to develop a better understanding of what is working, where, and for whom. In addition to California, we have collected data on textbook adoptions in Texas, Illinois, New York, and Florida. Whether the data we have are suf ciently complete to allow this kind of investigation in each setting is unclear, but we will try.

Related: Math Forum audio/video

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

# Madison School District Middle School Math Specialist Program

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 Extension – Office of Education Outreach and Partnerships. MMSD will continue this for the 2016-17 school year and continue to offer math coursework for teachers to participate. The courses consists of a five course sequence (Number, Ratio, Geometry, Algebra, and Experimentation, Conjecture & Reasoning) with two courses being offered each semester. MMSD will continue to provide some financial support for teachers in each class with priority determined by; 1) middle school teacher working with an existing condition of employment, 2) middle school math teachers, and 3) teachers who began the program in previous years.

NOTE: There is a significant reduction in the estimate of this program from the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year. As a reminder, the change for this program and financial support moving forward was shared with the Board April 2016. The model continues the five course MSMS Program using non-credit courses for teachers currently enrolled in the program. This reduces the annual operating budget to \$27,000. In addition, the full-time Math teacher leader’s responsibilities have been repositioned to provide support and professional development for middle school math teachers and for algebra teachers.

Talent management has been working with principals to select best candidates for current and future hiring. Middle school math teachers are now provided with standards aligned curricular resources and job embedded coaching.

The University of Wisconsin System is exempt from complying with the requirements of the District’s Contract Compliance Plan.

# 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 poor at maths, at which they rank 27th out of 34 developed countries. At 15, children in Massachusetts, where education standards are higher than in most states, are so far behind their counterparts in Shanghai at maths that it would take them more than two years of regular education to catch up.

This is not for lack of investment. America spends more on educating its children than all but a handful of rich countries. Nor is it due to high levels of inequality: the proportion of American children coming from under-privileged backgrounds is about par for the OECD. A better reason, in my snapshot experience of American schooling, is a frustrating lack of intellectual ambition for children to match the sporting ambition that is so excellently drummed into them in our local swimming pool and elsewhere.

My children’s elementary school, I should say, is one of America’s better ones, and in many ways terrific. It is orderly, friendly, well-provisioned and packed with the sparky offspring of high-achieving Washington, DC, commuters. Its teachers are diligent, approachable and exude the same relentless positivity as the swimming instructors. We feel fortunate to have them. Yet the contrast with the decent London state school from which we moved our eldest children is, in some ways, dispiriting.

After two years of school in England, our six-year-old was so far ahead of his American peers that he had to be bumped up a year, where he was also ahead. This was partly because American children start regular school at five, a year later than most British children; but it was also for more substantive reasons.

Related: Connected Math, Discovery Math and the Math Forum (audio and video).

Reading requires attention as well. (MTEL)

Locally, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results despite spending more than most, now around \$18k per student.

And, National Council on teacher quality links are worth a look.

# Civics: Clinton’s data-driven campaign relied heavily on an algorithm named Ada. What didn’t she see?

While the Clinton campaign’s reliance on analytics became well known, the particulars of Ada’s work were kept under tight wraps, according to aides. The algorithm operated on a separate computer server than the rest of the Clinton operation as a security precaution, and only a few senior aides were able to access it.

According to aides, a raft of polling numbers, public and private, were fed into the algorithm, as well as ground-level voter data meticulously collected by the campaign. Once early voting began, those numbers were factored in, too.

What Ada did, based on all that data, aides said, was run 400,000 simulations a day of what the race against Trump might look like. A report that was spit out would give campaign manager Robby Mook and others a detailed picture of which battleground states were most likely to tip the race in one direction or another — and guide decisions about where to spend time and deploy resources.

The use of analytics by campaigns was hardly unprecedented. But Clinton aides were convinced their work, which was far more sophisticated than anything employed by President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, gave them a big strategic advantage over Trump.

So where did Ada go wrong?

Somewhat related: Connected Math.

# Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

“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 are chancy endeavors, however. The Common Core math standards were released in 2010 and NGSS in 2013. Now, years on, even enthusiastic early adopters of the Common Core like the state of New York are retreating from the standards. While the ultimate impact of both the Common Core and NGSS is still uncertain, it’s clear these standards go beyond simply swapping one set of textbooks for another — to really take hold, they’ll require a fundamental rethinking of everything from assessments to classroom materials to the basic relationship between teachers and students.

Related: Connected Math and math forum.

# Meet the New Math, Unlike the Old Math

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 hear kids in Algebra 2 ask, “When are we ever going to use this?” and for the teacher to reply, “Math teaches you how to think,” which is true — if only it were taught that way.

To say that this is now changing is to invite an eye roll. For a number of entrenched reasons, from the way teachers are trained to the difficulty of agreeing on what counts in each discipline, instruction in science and math is remarkably resistant to change.

That said, we’re riding the next big wave in K-12 science and math education in the United States. The main events are a pair of highly visible but often misunderstood documents — the Common Core math standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — that, if implemented successfully, will boldly remake the way math and science are taught. Both efforts seek to recast instruction in the fundamental ideas and perspectives that animate the two fields.

“What we did in reorganizing the content of school mathematics was long overdue,” said Phil Daro, one of three lead authors of the Common Core math standards.

The changes go beyond the contentious new methods of teaching arithmetic that have grabbed headlines and threatened to blunt the momentum of Common Core math. Both documents developed out of decades of academic research on how children learn, and they reflect similar priorities. They exhibit an elegant rethinking of the basic structure of knowledge, along with new assertions of what’s important for students to be able to do by the time they finish high school.

Related: Connected Math; Math Forum audio and video.

# “We know best” & curiosity

Madison students have long endured the disastrous results of “we know best“.

Reading Recovery and Connected Math are two prominent examples.

The question then is whether there is an effective way to prime people to be more science-curious — which could then also have political ramifications.

“It’s an asset that there’s a segment of the population that has that kind of disposition, so what you want to do is exploit it to the greatest extent,” Kahan says. “And if we’re lucky, it will percolate into other people with whom they have interactions.”

# Approved Textbooks

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

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 time, facing a financial meltdown and several lawsuits over alleged fraud in its recruitment process, had recently started shutting down or selling off its campuses. The students, calling themselves the Corinthian Fifteen, had organized a “debt strike,” refusing to repay their student loans even at the risk of going into default. Their argument was that the Department of Education shouldn’t collect on loans that students were misled into incurring, especially since they earned a degree that was all but worthless or, in some cases, found that their college had shut down before they could graduate.

Related: connected math and the math forum audio/video.

# Why the poor pay more for toilet paper — and just about everything else

Using panel data on more than 100,000 American households over seven years, they tracked purchases of toilet paper, which has the great benefit of being non-perishable and steadily consumed (it’s hard to go without, but we also don’t use more just because we happen to have more in the house). That’s nearly 3 million toilet paper purchases.

When Orhun and Palazzolo compared households with similar consumption rates shopping at comparable stores — and controlling for two-ply TP — they found that the poor were less likely than wealthier households to buy bigger packages, or to time their purchases to take advantage of sales. By failing to do so, they paid about 5.9 percent more per sheet of toilet paper — a little less than what they saved by buying cheaper brands in the first place (8.8 percent).

Perhaps this sounds like a subtle discovery about minor household goods. But it supports a larger point about poverty: It’s expensive to be poor. Or, to state the same from another angle: Having more money gives people the luxury of paying less for things.

In the case of toilet paper, or any number of other storable goods like canned tomatoes, rice or paper towels, shoppers have to pay more up front to reap savings over time. And the poor often can’t afford to do that — to pay \$24 for a 30-pack instead of \$5 for a four-pack. Then, because they can’t stock up, they can’t afford to wait until the next sale comes around. When the toilet paper runs out, they have to run to the store for another small quantity of it — whatever it costs in that moment. Because they can’t use one money-saving strategy, they can’t use the other, either.

The use of connected math has not helped. More, here.

# The man who studies the spread of ignorance

Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.

Related: Connected Math and Reading Recovery.

# The Man Behind Modern Math

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 that he had a proof for it, but he never wrote it down.

Most people think Fermat was mistaken, for the proof became a sort of holy grail of mathematicians. And it wasn’t until 1995 that the British professor Andrew Wiles published a proof of Fermat’s conjecture, using many 20th century techniques that were unavailable to Fermat. The proof runs 109 pages, and—trust me on this—if you don’t have a Ph.D. in math, you won’t understand a word of it.

Related: Math Forum audio/video and Connected Math.

# Will Our Understanding of Math Deteriorate Over Time?

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 a research area then when researchers go elsewhere?

In a response to a question about how can one contribute to mathematics, Bill Thurston notes that our knowledge of mathematics can deteriorate over time.

Related: Math Forum and “connected math“.

# 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 have a good perspective on saving, the study found, but they need help understanding investments and retirement savings.

According to the survey results, parents are most often mentioned as students’ financial role models.

“They really felt unprepared to talk about the future or to save for the future, had no knowledge of retirement savings whatsoever and many didn’t know that their parents would have to pay back their loan if they didn’t pay their student loan back,” Christine Hobrough, U.S. Bank region market manager in the Twin Cities, said.

Related: Connected Math and the now 10 year old math forum.

Count Us In graphicA dramatic improvement in the UK population’s mastery of basic numeracy and statistics needs to happen if the country is to take advantage of the data revolution now sweeping the globe.

That’s the verdict of a major British Academy report Count Us In: Quantitative skills for a new generation.

The UK risks falling behind in the race to tap the potential of “big data”, while the countries’ middling record in numeracy is creating skills deficits for employers and means many citizens and consumers lack the skills to make informed choices.

These are among the warnings of the report, which calls for a transformation in our approach to building numeracy, statistics and data analysis skills to ensure that, within a generation, the UK rises to the challenge of becoming a fully data-literate nation.

Related: Connected Math.

# 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 an archaeological site.

A construction crew at the Oklahoma City school made a startling discovery earlier this month. They found old chalkboards with class lessons that were written almost a century ago, and chalk drawings still in remarkably good condition. So Read doesn’t mind the mess. In fact, she’s amazed.

Related: Math Forum and Connected Math.

# Lifelong Math Tax: Rental America: Why the poor pay \$4,150 for a \$1,500 sofa

At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs \$1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: \$1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: \$1,999 over 100 weeks.

Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.

Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.

Related Math Forum and Connected Math.

# US Ranked 35th In Math Achievement

Scientists and the general public have markedly different views on any number of topics, from evolution to climate change to genetically modified foods. But one thing both groups agree on is that science and math education in the U.S. leaves much to be desired.

In a new Pew Research Center report, only 29% of Americans rated their country’s K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) as above average or the best in the world. Scientists were even more critical: A companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% called U.S. K-12 STEM education the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average.

Standardized test results appear to largely bear out those perceptions. While U.S. students are scoring higher on national math assessments than they did two decades ago (data from science tests are sketchier), they still rank around the middle of the pack in international comparisons, and behind many other advanced industrial nations.

Related: connected math.

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

# Cheryl’s Birthday: Singapore’s maths puzzle baffles world

A school maths question posted on Facebook by a Singaporean TV presenter has stumped thousands, and left many asking if that’s really what is expected of Singaporean students.
The question asks readers to guess the birthday of a girl called Cheryl using the minimal clues she gives to her friends, Albert and Bernard.

Cheryl’s Birthday was initially reported to be an examination question for 11-year-olds.
Students stressed by tough examinations is a perennial issue here, and Cheryl’s Birthday reignited concerns that the education system was too challenging.

Related: The infliction of Connected Math on our children is worth a deep dive.

# 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 that courses in each school approach the class the same. After the district’s review of high school curriculum is complete, the ninth-grade algebra requirement and graduation requirements could change.

Like Madison, districts across the state are looking at ways to improve rates at which students pass algebra and are also developing new curriculum that includes algebraic concepts as early as kindergarten, said Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy.

Signe Carney, who has taught math at Memorial High School for 18 years, said part of the reason for the algebra failure rate is that “people are OK with saying, ‘I’m bad at math,’ and they will never say they can’t read. People think they can or can’t, and if they think they can’t, they won’t succeed.”

Another factor is that algebraic concepts build on each other, so it’s hard to catch up if students miss days, she said.

Related:

What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack & Michael Fish @ UW Center for Placement Testing.

Everyday Math

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

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 Ayers and other blatant anti-American indoctrinators.

The site, Culturally Responsive Teaching, Teach for America, says that because math is seen as a domain for old, white men, many students cannot identify with it. Therefore, educators should find ways to relate math to the lives of their students.

Related: Math Forum, Connected Math, Everyday Math and English 10.

# “More Rigor is Needed” – Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham; Possible?

Pat Schneider:

Middle schools in the Madison Metropolitan School District have become caring environments for students, but aren’t rigorous enough to prepare them for high school academic work, says Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.

“We know there are quite a few things that highly effective schools do that we have not been doing in both our middle and our high schools,” Cheatham told Madison School Board members Monday during a review of a district report on coursework in the high schools.

“We haven’t established a coherent approach to instruction, as you’ve heard me say again and again, but we are making progress. We’ve all spent quality time in our middle and high school classrooms, and in middle schools in particular, we’ve made tons of progress in creating very caring environments, but the level of rigor and academic challenge isn’t where it needs to be,” Cheatham said.

Related:

English 10

At the end of the day, given the District’s long term disastrous reading results, is it possible to see meaningful achievement improvement with an agrarian / Frederick Taylor era structure?

# “Connected” Math problems: Brandon, Michigan School District underperformed compared to county average

Susan Bromley:

On average, less than one-third of students in third through eighth grades in the “>(Brandon) district are proficient in mathematics, according to the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.

MEAP scores released last month showed 28 percent of third grade students are proficient in math, compared with 40.2 percent statewide and 51 percent in the county. The gap grows larger by fourth grade. While the district showed 30 percent proficient in math at this grade, it was still behind the state at 45.3 percent, and far behind the county at 57 percent proficient.

Scores for science (tested in fifth and eighth grades) and social studies (tested in sixth and ninth grades) are even more dismal.

Less than 50 percent of district students tested proficient in writing in both fourth and seventh grades. The district’s strongest MEAP scores came in reading, ranging from 62 percent proficient in third grade, 55 percent proficient in seventh grade, to 77 percent proficient in eighth grade.

In every subject tested, at every grade level, district students underperformed compared to the county average, by as much as up to 27 percentage points. The district was also under the state averages at math for every grade level tested. The district did outperform the state average in reading for every grade tested besides seventh, and also did better than the state average in seventh grade writing, eighth grade science, and ninth grade social studies.

The district plans to be better prepared for whatever that test is with the board approval of \$175,000 worth of new math materials for kindergarten through eighth grades. The materials, to be purchased at the end of this year, are the first new mathematics curriculum to be purchased at the elementary level in 12 years. Kindergarten through fifth grades will be using “Bridges” math curriculum, and sixth through eighth grades will use “Connected Math Project” to support the common core curriculum. Teacher representatives from all grade levels examined materials from several companies and selected Bridges and CMP as the best after sampling them in the classrooms and consulting with Geri Devine, a math consultant from Oakland Schools and district parent.

The materials are not traditional type textbooks, McMahon said, but for 6-8, bound books that each contain a unit of study, notebook like in size and shape. At the elementary level, the new materials are consumables, exercises and activities that a certain amount will have to be replaced yearly at a cost of roughly \$20,000-\$25,000.

“With the new materials, we should see an increase in scores,” McMahon said. “The publishers will give mathematics professional development and the district is also planning more professional development in the area of math, with instruction by expert users of the materials and those who have a proven track record for improving mathematical competency.”

Much more on Connected Math, here.

# Shanghai teachers flown to the UK for maths (Stopping in Madison?)

Sean Coughlan:

Up to 60 Shanghai maths teachers are to be brought to England to raise standards, in an exchange arranged by the Department for Education.

They will provide masterclasses in 30 “maths hubs”, which are planned as a network of centres of excellence.

The Chinese city’s maths pupils have the highest international test results.

The announcement comes as a campaign is launched to raise adult maths skills, with warnings that poor numeracy is costing the UK economy £20bn per year.

The National Numeracy Challenge aims to improve numeracy levels for a million people.

It is providing an online self-assessment test – with help for those lacking in confidence in maths.

Financial cost
Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy, says 78% of working-age adults have maths skills below the equivalent of a GCSE grade C – and that half only have the maths skills of a child leaving primary school.

# Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposes \$31 million, five-year technology plan

Molly Beck:

All students in the Madison School District would have their own tablets or notebook computers by the 2018-19 school year under a five-year, \$31 million plan proposed by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham.
If approved, the plan would increase the district’s current
\$1.5 million annual technology budget to \$4.2 million in the 2014-15 school year to start upgrading the district’s network infrastructure, upgrade or equip classrooms and libraries with new technology or computers, and provide notebook computers to all district teachers and administrators. Elementary teachers also would get tablet computers under the plan.
Costs to upgrade are projected to increase each of the five years of the plan for a total of \$31 million spent in that time. Afterward, the annual budget for technology would be about \$7 million per year going forward.
…..
Madison School Board members, who formally received the plan at their meeting Monday, were mostly optimistic about the plan. Board member T.J. Mertz questioned whether the program needed to be as extensive as it’s proposed given what he said were other unmet needs in the district and given research that he called “universally disappointing” surrounding such initiatives.
Mertz said in an interview after Monday’s board meeting that he agrees with the majority of the investments in technology under the plan, “but then there’s a third or a quarter where I think it’s going overboard.”
As an example, Mertz said he questions whether every kindergarten student needs their own tablet computer.

Prior to spending any additional taxpayer funds on new initiatives, I suggest that the District consider (and address) the status of past expensive initiatives, including:
Infinite Campus: is it fully implemented? If not, why? Why continue to spend money on it?
Standards based report cards“.
Connected Math.
Small Learning Communities.
And of course, job number one, the District’s long term disastrous reading scores.
Madison already spends double the national average per student (\$15k). Thinning out initiatives and refocusing current spending on reading would seem to be far more pressing than more hardware.

# 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.

# The Crushing Racism of Low Expectations

One of the lesser-broadcast features of the most recent jobs report is that unemployment for African-Americans actually ticked higher, to 13 percent, even as the rest of the country held even at 7.3 percent.
Unemployment for Hispanics was 9.3 percent and for Asians 5.1 percent. Also worrisome, the number of African-American adults who held jobs actually declined last month, and fewer than 61 percent of blacks are working–the lowest participation rate since 1982.
While New York’s Mayor Bloomberg sees racism in the campaign of Bill deBlasio and Jay Z finds racism in the Trayvon Martin decision, I perceive racism in these jobs figures. Blacks are increasingly left behind, at least in part because their leaders do not demand better schools. The greatest source of “disparate impact” in this country, to borrow a phrase currently popular with the Justice Department, is that most black kids can’t read or write. Upward mobility for the African-American community, tenuous at best, is squashed the minute they enter kindergarten.
Too harsh? Not by half. Consider the results from the recent Common Core testing in New York, one of the first to measure how students meet the new nation-wide standards. Statewide, 31 percent of public school students in grades 3 through 8 were considered proficient in English; only 16 percent of blacks met that test, compared to 50 percent of Asians and 40 percent of whites – results which the state’s education department says reveals “the persistence of the achievement gap.”

Related: English 10 & Connected Math.

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.
Related:

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:

# Paul Vallas visits Madison; Enrollment Growth: Suburban Districts vs. Madison 1995-2012

Related:

Paul Vallas will be speaking at Madison LaFollette high school on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00p.m. More information, here.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here.
Directions.
Per Student Spending:
I don’t believe spending is the issue. Madison spends \$14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Middleton’s 2011-2012 budget: \$87,676,611 for 6,421 students = \$13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.

# Oh, the Places We Go, Madison Superintendents…

Related:

Assistant superintendent Art Rainwater was elevated (no one else applied) to Superintendent when Cheryl Wilhoyte was pushed out. Perhaps Madison will think different this time and look outside the traditional, credentialed Superintendent candidates. The District has much work to do – quickly – on the basics, reading/writing, math and science. A steady diet of reading recovery and connected math along with above average spending of nearly \$15k/student per year has not changed student achievement.

# Poor numeracy ‘blights the economy and ruins lives’

Poor numeracy is blighting Britain’s economic performance and ruining lives, says a new charity launched to champion better maths skills.
The group, National Numeracy, says millions of people struggle to understand a payslip or a train timetable, or pay a household bill.
It wants to challenge a mindset which views poor numeracy as a “badge of honour”.
It aims to emulate the success of the National Literacy Trust.

Related:

# Dumbing down of state education has made Britain more unequal than 25 years ago; In the name of equality, anti-elitist teachers are betraying the hopes of the young.

Toby Young:

A controversy broke out on Twitter earlier this week about an article in the Times Educational Supplement in which a teacher called Jonny Griffiths describes a conversation with a bright sixth-former who’s worried about his exam results. “Apart from you, Michael, who cares what you get in your A-levels?” he says. “What is better: to go to Cambridge with three As and hate it or go to Bangor with three Cs and love it?”
The controversy was not about whether the teacher was right to discourage his student to apply to Cambridge – no one thought that, obviously – but whether the article was genuine. Was Jonny Griffiths a real teacher or the fictional creation of a brilliant Tory satirist? Most people found it hard to believe that a teacher who didn’t want his pupils to do well could be in gainful employment.
Alas, Mr Griffiths is all too real. Since 2009, when I first mooted the idea of setting up a free school devoted to academic excellence, I’ve come across dozens of examples of the same attitude, all equally jaw-dropping.

We’ve certainly seen such initiatives locally. They include English 10, Connected Math and the ongoing use of Reading Recovery.
Perhaps Wisconsin’s Read to Lead initiative offers some hope with its proposal to tie teacher licensing to teacher content knowledge.
Related: Examinations for teachers, past and present.
There are certainly many parents who make sure that their children learn what is necessary through tutors, third parties, personal involement, camps, or online services. However, what about the children who don’t have such family resources and/or awareness?

# Proposed Madison Prep Academy needs to show proof of effectiveness of single-gender education to get grant

Matthew DeFour:

The state Department of Public Instruction is requiring backers of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy to provide scientific research supporting the effectiveness of single-gender education to receive additional funding.
The hurdle comes as university researchers are raising questions about whether such evidence exists. In an article published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers also say single-gender education increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.
Efforts to justify single-gender education as innovative school reform “is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence,” according to the article by eight university professors associated with the American Council for CoEducational Schooling, including UW-Madison psychology professor Janet Hyde.
The Urban League of Greater Madison originally proposed Madison Prep as an all-male charter school geared toward low-income minorities. But after a state planning grant was held up because of legal questions related to single-gender education, the Urban League announced it would open the school next year with single-gender classrooms in the same building.

I find this ironic, given the many other programs attempted within our public schools, such as English 10, small learning communities, connected math and a number of reading programs.
Related: Co-Ed Schooling Group Study Assails Merits of Single-Sex Education and from Susan Troller:

A newly published article by child development experts and neuroscientists blasting the trend toward single-sex education as “pseudoscience” won’t help the cause of the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy.
Neither will the continued opposition of the South Central Federation of Labor, which reiterated its opposition to the Urban League-sponsored proposal this week because teachers at the school would not be represented by a union. The Madison Metropolitan School District has a collective bargaining agreement with Madison Teachers Inc. that runs through June of 2013, and Madison Prep’s plan envisions working conditions for its staff — a longer school day and a longer school year, for example — that differ substantially from the contract the district has with its employees.
With a public hearing on the charter school scheduled for Monday, Oct. 3, the debate surrounding Madison Prep is heating up on many fronts. The Madison School Board must take a final vote giving the charter school a go or no-go decision in November.
Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League and a passionate proponent for the separate boys and girls academies aimed at helping boost minority youth academic performance, says he is unimpressed by an article published in the prestigious journal, Science, on Sept. 23, that says there is “no empirical evidence” supporting academic improvement through single-sex education.

Are other DPI funded initiatives held to the same “standard”?
The timing of these events is certainly interesting.
14mb mp3 audio. WORT-FM conducted an interview this evening with Janet Shibley Hyde, one of the authors. Unrelated, but interesting, Hyde’s interview further debunked the “learning styles” rhetoric we hear from time to time.
UPDATE: The Paper in Question: The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling:

In attempting to improve schools, it is critical to remember that not all reforms lead to meaningful gains for students. We argue that one change in particular–sex-segregated education–is deeply misguided, and often justified by weak, cherry-picked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence. There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex (SS) education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.

# Whose school is it anyway? Under proposal, taxpayers could pay for experimental charter schools

Susan Troller

Kaleem Caire has spent much of the last year making a passionate, personal and controversial pitch for a publicly funded male-only charter school called Madison Preparatory that would operate independently of the Madison Metropolitan School District. It aims to serve primarily minority boys in grades six through 12 and their families.
Caire, a Madison native and the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, has mustered a great deal of community support by highlighting the struggles of and grim statistics surrounding black and Hispanic young boys and men in Dane County, and through telling his own powerful story of underachievement in Madison’s public schools.
“I learned about racism and lower expectations for minority kids when I arrived the first day at Cherokee Middle School, and all the black boys and a few other minorities sat at tables in the back. I was assigned to remedial math, and even when I showed the teacher I already knew how to do those worksheets, that’s where I was stuck,” Caire says.
With its emphasis on discipline, family involvement, preppy-looking uniforms and a non-negotiable stance on being a union-free school, Caire’s proposal for the boys-only middle and high school has won hundreds of enthusiastic supporters, including a number of prominent conservatives who, surprisingly, don’t seem particularly troubled by the school’s price tag.

Some might argue that certain programs within “traditional” public schools are experimental, such as Connected Math and Small Learning Communities among others.

# A \$30 Million Puzzle ‘Solution’? What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

Like many citizens, journalists, and some of my fellow board members, I have been struggling to make sense of the projected \$30 million budget or tax gap. Like others who have tried to understand how we got to the number “\$30,” I have tried several approaches to see if I could come to the same conclusion. Some of them focused on an unexpected major rise in spending, or, an unexpected or unexplained loss of revenue beyond the \$17 million in state cuts. (See Susan Troller’s Madison School’s ‘Budget Gap’ is Really a Tax Gap, for example.)
The answers for the portion of the gap that I could not understand or explain kept coming back to the tax levy. District staff were patient and helpful in trying to answer my questions, but we still didn’t understand each other. The shortest version of the tax levy explanation comes from the district’s Budget Questions and Answers handout.
To recap, the MMSD \$30 million budget gap has been explained thusly by
administration. There are two parts to the gap, \$1.2 million in expenses that cannot be met, and \$28.6 million shortfall from a combination of state funding cuts and tax levy. To date, administration has explained the gap thusly:
This gap is \$28.6 million. This total is composed of three parts:
* \$9.2 million cut in state aid the MMSD sustained this year;
* \$7.8 million cut in state aid the district will sustain next year;
* \$11.6 million of increased costs that come with levying authority – broken out in two parts:
— \$7.6 million of increased costs in order to deliver the same services next year that the MMSD is delivering this year, and which the state funding formula allows;
— \$4.0 million of increased costs and with levying authority from the approved 2008 referendum)
\$28.6 million Tax Shortfall Total
For me, and for others, the sticking point has been the idea that additional levying authority through the referendum and the state funding formula, would add to the shortfall in funds to run our schools. That is, how could more funds turn into a funding loss? Or, put in mathematical terms, how could -17 + 11.6 become -28.6? My math is rusty, and I don’t understand connected math, but it did seem to me that it was unlikely that a negative number would get larger after adding a positive number to it.
Full post on-line at lucymathiak.blogspot.com

There are a number of points in the Summary of Administrative Response to MMSD Mathematics Task Force Recommendations which should be made. As a mathematician, let me just comment on comments on Recommendation 11. There are other comments which could be made, but I have a limited amount of time at present.
The first question I have is in the first paragraph. “One aspect of the balanced approach is represented in the four block approach to structuring mathematics lessons. The four blocks include Problem Solving, Number Work, Fluency and Maintenance and Inspecting Equations.” There is a missing comma, since it is not clear whether Maintenance goes with the previous word or the last two. However, in either case, “Inspecting Equations” is a strange phrase to use. I am not sure what it means, and when a mathematician who has read extensively in school mathematics does not understand a phrase, something is wrong. You might ask Brian Sniff, who seems to have written this report based on one comment he made at the Monday meeting, what he means by this.
In the next paragraph, there are the following statements about the math program used in MMSD. “The new edition [of Connected Math Project] includes a greater emphasis on practice problems similar to those in traditional middle and high school textbooks. The new edition still remains focused on problem-centered instruction that promotes deep conceptual understanding.” First, I dislike inflated language. It usually is an illustration of a lack of knowledge. We cannot hope for “deep conceptual understanding”, in school mathematics, and Connected Math falls far short of what we want students to learn and understand in many ways. There are many examples which could be given and a few are mentioned in a letter I sent to the chair of a committee which gave an award to two of the developers of Connected Mathematics Project. Much of my letter to Phil Daro is given below.

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
(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.

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

# Financial Literacy

“EVERYBODY wants it. Nobody understands it. Money is the great taboo. People just won’t talk about it. And that is what leads you to subprime. Take the greed and the financial misrepresentation out of it, and the root of this crisis is massive levels of financial illiteracy.”
For years John Bryant has been telling anyone who will listen about the problems caused by widespread ignorance of finance. In 1992, in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots, he founded Operation HOPE, a non-profit organisation, to give poor people in the worst-hit parts of the city “a hand-up, not a handout” through a mixture of financial education, advice and basic banking. Among other things, Operation HOPE offers mortgage advice to homebuyers and runs “Banking on Our Future”, a national personal-finance course of five hour-long sessions that has already been taken by hundreds of thousands of young people, most of them high-school students.
The council is not short of expertise. It is chaired by Charles Schwab, eponymous boss of a broking firm. Its other members include the head of Junior Achievement, which has been teaching children about money since 1919, and a co-author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, a self-help bestseller. Already, it has approved a new curriculum for middle-school students, “MoneyMath: Lessons for Life“. (Lesson one: the secret to becoming a millionaire. Answer: save, save, save.) It is starting a pilot programme to work out how to connect the “unbanked” to financial institutions. And it is supporting what, echoing the Peace Corps, is called the Financial Literacy Corps: a group of people with knowledge of finance who will volunteer to advise those in financial difficulties.

Yet another math curriculum. One of the things I noticed when paging through the large Connected Math (CMP) textbooks a few years ago was the consumer oriented nature of the content (as opposed to a creative approach).

The Madison United for Academic Excellence (MUAE) meeting of 21 February 2008 offered a question and answer session with Welda Simousek, TAG coordinator, Lisa Wachtel, Director of Teaching and Learning, and Brian Sniff, Math Coordinator, each of MMSD.

The video of the meeting is about 1 hours and 30 minutes long, but does not include the last 15 minutes of a spirited discussion. Click on the image at left to watch the video. The video will play immediately, while the file continues to download.

The topics covered during remarks and the question and answer sessions are

• Middle School Math Assessment
• Teacher Certifications in Math
• Connected Math Curriculum in Middle Schools
• High School Math Curriculum and variations among schools

The slide materials for Lisa’s and Brian’s presentation are included in Powerpoint format and PDF format. (Thanks to Brian for sending).
The handouts from this presentation (thanks to Welda): In-STEP Teacher Checklist, 2007-8 Middle School Math Assessment – Draft, Math Assessment Report.
NB: The last slides discussed during this meeting are slides numbered 15 and 16 (Math Physics, Math Chemistry, respectively). These latter slides prompted the spirited discussion mentioned above, but is not part of the video. Slides 17-19 were neither discussed nor displayed.

# “American Education Fails Because It Isn’t Education”

Perhaps the most bizarre of all of the school restructuring programs is mathematics. Math is an exact science, loaded with absolutes. There can be no way to question that certain numbers add up to specific totals. Geometric statements and reasons must lead to absolute conclusions. Instead, today we get “fuzzy” Math. Of course they don’t call it that.
As ED Watch explains, “Fuzzy” math’s names are Everyday Math, Connected Math, Integrated Math, Math Expressions, Constructive Math, NCTM Math, Standards-based Math, Chicago Math, and Investigations, to name a few. Fuzzy Math means students won’t master math: addition, subtraction, multiplications and division.
Instead, Fuzzy Math teaches students to “appreciate” math, but they can’t solve the problems. Instead, they are to come up with their own ideas about how to compute.
Here’s how nuts it can get. A parent wrote the following letter to explain the everyday horrors of “Everyday Math.” “Everyday Math was being used in our school district. My son brought home a multiplication worksheet on estimating. He had ‘estimated’ that 9×9=81, and the teacher marked it wrong. I met with her and defended my child’s answer.
The teacher opened her book and read to me that the purpose of the exercise was not to get the right answer, but was to teach the kids to estimate. The correct answer was 100: kids were to round each 9 up to a 10. (The teacher did not seem to know that 81 was the product, as her answer book did not state the same.)”
Social, political, multicultural and especially environmental issues are rampant in the new math programs and textbooks. One such math text is blatant. Dispersed throughout the eighth grade textbooks are short, half page blocks of text under the heading “SAVE PLANT EARTH.” One of the sections describes the benefits of recycling aluminum cans and tells students, “how you can help.”
In many of these textbooks there is literally no math. Instead there are lessons asking children to list “threats to animals,” including destruction of habitat, poisons and hunting. The book contains short lessons in multiculturalism under the recurring heading “Cultural Kaleidoscope.” These things are simply political propaganda and are there for one purpose – behavior modification. It’s not Math. Parents are now paying outside tutors to teach their children real Math – after they have been forced to sit in classrooms for eight hours a day being force-fed someone’s political agenda.

# The Secret Gripes of Professor Klein: An AP-IB Drama

David Klein, a mathematics professor at California State University at Northridge, says he was pleased to review Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate math courses for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He respects institute President Chester E. “Checker” Finn Jr., a longtime leader in the movement to improve U.S. schools. Among the views Klein shares with Finn is that overuse of calculators can interfere with students’ mastery of analytical skills.
But their collaboration on Fordham’s analysis of AP and IB did not turn out the way either of them hoped.
On June 4, Klein submitted his report on two courses, AP Calculus AB and IB Mathematics SL. Klein’s analysis of AP and IB math was more negative and his grades lower than what the experts on AP and IB English, history and biology courses submitted to Fordham. He would have given the AP math course a C-plus and the IB math course a C-minus. The other reviewers thought none of the courses they looked at deserved anything less than a B-minus.
Still, Klein says, he got no indication from the Fordham staff of any problems until the edited version of his material came back to him for review on Sept. 28, a week before the deadline for completing the report. Many of what he considered his strongest points, he discovered, had been deleted. He had Fordham remove his name as a co-author of the report, “Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate: Do They Deserve Gold Star Status?” which was released Nov. 14.
After agreeing to the name removal, Finn told Klein in an e-mail: “I imagine we’ll also reduce your overemphasis on calculator use and probably change the grades (upward). Thanks, tho, for your help.” Klein’s grade of C-plus for AP was not changed, but his grade of C-minus for IB got a big jump to a B-minus, meaning the report was saying that IB math was better than AP math, the opposite of what Klein had said.

Related:

# Columbia (Missouri) Parents for Real Math

To: Columbia Public Schools Board of Education and Superintendent Phyllis Chase
An increasing number of parents and community leaders have expressed concern about the various math curricula currently used in the Columbia Public Schools (CPS). These experimental math programs go by the names of Investigations (TERC), Connected Math (CMP) and Integrated Math (Core Plus) and they emphasize “self-discovery” over mathematical competency. We are concerned because these curricula have been discredited and abandoned in other regions of the country after they failed to deliver demonstrable results. The failed curricula are currently the only method of instruction in the elementary grades and middle schools. At higher grade levels, CPS has actively discouraged students from enrolling in math courses that place more emphasis on widely accepted standard methods. And, while implementing and evaluating these programs, the Columbia School District did not provide open access to meetings or adequately consider the concerns of professional mathematicians, parents and community leaders.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, would like to express our deep concern with the following issues and to propose that the Columbia School District adopt the following goals:
1. Protect the right of students to become computationally fluent in mathematics. We expect students to receive direct instruction in standard algorithms of all mathematical operations and laws of arithmetic so that they can master the skills that allow fast, accurate calculation of basic problems. This goal cannot be met with the current Investigations/TERC math curriculum for lower grade levels.
2. Ensure that math instruction is flexible enough to allow for various learning styles and is age and grade-level appropriate. The elementary level should focus on math standards that will build a solid base of mathematical skills for ALL students. Middle school curricula should build a bridge between the fundamental arithmetic learned in elementary school and the more abstract concepts taught in high school. At both the elementary and middle school levels the curricula should allow teachers the flexibility to meet the needs of all types of learners. This goal cannot be met with the Connected Math program currently used in middle and junior high schools.

Related: Columbia Parents’ blog site, which offers a number of useful posts. [RSS]
Math Forum Audio / Video.

# Against School: How Public Education Cripples our Kids, and Why

How do we educate our children to be active, critical thinkers and not dumb passive consumers serving someone else interests? For however strange this may sound to you, it may have been “marketing” itself to bring us the terrible education system most civilized countries have adopted in the last century or so.
The advent of mass production required a growth in mass consumption as well, but back then most people “considered it both unnatural and unwise to buy things they didn’t actually need“.

We don’t need Karl Marx‘s conception of a grand warfare between the classes to see that it is in the interest of complex management, economic or political, to dumb people down, to demoralize them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don’t conform.

Mandatory schooling was a godsend on that count. School didn’t have to train kids in any direct sense to think they should consume nonstop, because it did something even better: it encouraged them not to think at all.

Non-sense, paranoia?

Prof. Cubberley, who was Dean of Stanford’s School of Education, wrote in his 1922 book entitled Public School Administration: “Our schools are . . . factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned.. . . And it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

The essay I present here today, “Against School” by John Taylor Gatto, is a definitive eye-opener for all those buying into our present education system without any critical perspective.

We have become a nation of children, happy to surrender our judgments and our wills to political exhortations and commercial blandishments that would insult actual adults. We buy televisions, and then we buy the things we see on the television. We buy computers, and then we buy the things we see on the computer.

And, worst of all, we don’t bat an eye when Ari Fleischer tells us to “be careful what you say“, even if we remember having been told somewhere back in school that America is the land of the free. We simply buy that one too. Our schooling, as intended, has seen to it.

This is what Prof. Gatto writes without hesitation. He looks in depth at our present education system and analyzes the history and motives that have brought about “school” as we know it today.

And the more I look at it, the more I see how devastatingly negative, traditional school really is. As I have, if you are a parent to some young minds, consider well and deeply where and how to give them an education, and how to avoid the pitfalls of those paralyzing psychological handicaps that the traditional education system imposes on everyone.

School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently.

Read this fascinating essay in full:

I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom.
Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn’t seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren’t interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were.
Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers’ lounge can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there.
When asked why they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect. Who wouldn’t get bored teaching students who are rude and interested only in grades? If even that.
Of course, teachers are themselves products of the same twelve-year compulsory school programs that so thoroughly bore their students, and as school personnel they are trapped inside structures even more rigid than those imposed upon the children.

Every parent should take some time to read their children’s textbooks, particularly Connected Math, which appears to take a more consumer oriented approach to math education.

# MMSD Math Review Task Force Introduction and Discussion

The Madison School District’s Math Task Force was introduced to the School Board last night. Watch the video or listen to the mp3 audio.

6th Grade Textbooks: Connected (left) and Singapore Math.

I noticed that there were 10 student books in the 6th grade pile for CMP. That was surprising since there are only 8 in publication. Then I looked at the teacher editions and noticed there were 10 as well. There are two copies of both How Likely is It? and Covering and Surrounding.
The statement, “A quick look at the size of the Connected Math textbooks compared to the equivalent Singapore Math course materials illustrates the publisher and author interests in selling these large volumes irrespective of curriculum quality and rigor (not to mention the much larger potential for errors or the lost trees….)” is following the picture in one of the discussions. Taking a look at the Singapore Math website It appears that in addition to the 2 textbooks pictured and student workbooks pictured, there are Intensive Practice books, Extra Practice Books, and Challenging Word Problems books, as well as other resources. Also, the white book on the bottom of the pile appears to be an answer key. There are also teacher guides for 6A and 6B that are not in the picture.
I’m not suggesting the statement above is false, I would just like to point out that the picture being used is not an accurate comparison. I hope you find this information valuable.

# I Support the Madison Studio School

Taxpayers, parents and students, particularly those who will enter our schools over the next few decades will benefit from more local choices if the Madison Studio School can lift off, soon.
The Madison School District Administration’s recent history has been marked by a reduction in choice for parents and students and generally a monolithic approach to curriculum. Examples include the rush toward one size fits all curriculum in high schools [East High School and West High School’s English 9/10], the annual attempt to kill elementary strings and the ongoing implementation of scripted curriculum such as Connected Math, among others. This has occurred despite flat overall enrollment and growing district budgets.
The Madison Studio School initiative rises out of the successful near westside Preschool of the Arts family. Learn more by visiting their website along with these articles.
Lifting off is made more difficult by the Madison School District’s structural deficit, which further limits annual increases in the \$331M+ budget.
I hope that The School Board, Administration and Studio School proponents can mutually find a way to say yes, rather than, as Scott Milfred points out, starting with the usual same service reasons to say no.
Over time, I believe the Studio School will grow and spawn additional charter initiatives, perhaps offering middle and high school students more options.
For me, this is simply a governance issue. I think movement away from the typical monolithic approach will benefit our students and community over the long haul.
A closing data point: Appleton’s public schools offer 13 charter options, compared to Madison’s two.
David Cohen makes some useful counter-points in his comments below.

# New Math Curriculum Draws Complaints

Connected Math textbooks for one year and the equivalent Singapore Math version.
Brandon Lorenz:

A recent meeting at Central Middle School attracted about 50 people to discuss concerns with the district’s Connected Mathematics Project, a new constructivist approach that was introduced in sixth, seventh and eighth grades this year.
Another meeting for parents is scheduled for Dec. 13 at Horning Middle School.
Such new math programs rely on more hands-on activities and problem-solving skills than traditional programs.
Speaking with Zaborowski, Lynn Kucek said she was worried the math program would make it more difficult for her daughter, who does well in other subjects, to get into college.

More on Connected Math and the recent Math Forum.

# “Too Little Math in Math?”

But they strongly believe that their math textbooks should include actual math.
Donald’s “Connected Mathematics” book at Harbour Pointe Middle School in Mukilteo asks him to arrange a list of 20 cities in order of their populations, all in the tens of millions.
Yes, he concedes, he must recognize differences among numbers, but it’s a pretty low-level task for a bright sixth-grader, about as challenging as alphabetizing words.
But check out the next activity: Locate the cities on a map.
“That’s not math,” Donald protests. “That’s geography.”
The Chacon-Taylor children and their parents, Hugh Taylor and Monique Chacon-Taylor, are among Snohomish County families raising questions about the effectiveness of widely used math textbooks that encourage discovery and writing about math, but de-emphasize basics such as multiplication and long division.
They’ve joined other Washington parents in an organization called Where’s the Math? that’s calling on the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to rewrite its K-12 math standards, select more effective textbooks and re-examine the math content of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL)
The calls for rethinking the state’s math education come amid signs that the present system is failing large numbers of students. Just 51 percent of 10th-graders and 59 percent of fourth-graders passed the math section of the WASL in the spring. About 29,000 juniors haven’t passed the WASL math test, which they must do to graduate in spring 2008..

The Madison School District uses Connected Math in middle school. Many links and notes on math, including the recent Math Forum audio/video.

# School math books, nonsense, and the National Science Foundation

Problem: Find the slope and y-intercept of the equation 10 = x – 2.5.
Solution: The equation 10 = x – 2.5 is a specific case of the equation y = x – 2.5, which has a slope of 1 and a y-intercept of –2.5.
This problem comes from a 7th grade math quiz that accompanies a widely used textbook series for grades 6 to 8 called Connected Mathematics Program or CMP.[1] The solution appears in the CMP Teacher’s Guide and is supported by a discussion of sample student work.
Richard Askey, a mathematician at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, reported, “I was told about this problem by a parent whose child took this quiz. The marking was exactly as in the text.”[2] Students instructed and graded in this way learn incorrect mathematics, and teachers who know better may be undermined by their less informed peers, armed with the “solution.” This example is far from the only failing of CMP. Among other shortcomings, there is no instruction on division of fractions in the entire three year CMP series, and the other parts of fraction arithmetic are treated poorly.[3]
Is CMP just an anomaly? Unfortunately not. CMP is only one of more than a dozen defective K-12 math programs funded by the National Science Foundation. More specifically, the NSF programs were created and distributed through grants from the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Division within the NSF. In contrast to the NSF’s admirable and important role in supporting fundamental scientific research, the EHR has caused, and continues to cause, damage to K-12 mathematics education.

Notes and links on math curriculum. Audio / Video from the recent math forum.
Connected Math is widely used within the Madison School District resulting in no small amount of supplementing by teachers, students and parents.

# The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor

Look around the business world and two things stand out: the modern economy places an enormous premium on brainpower; and there is not enough to go round.
But education inevitably matters most. How can India talk about its IT economy lifting the country out of poverty when 40% of its population cannot read? [MMSD’s 10th Grade Reading Data] As for the richer world, it is hard to say which throw more talent away—America’s dire public schools or Europe’s dire universities. Both suffer from too little competition and what George Bush has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”.

Thursday’s meeting between Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater, the MMSD’s Brian Sniff and the UW Math department included two interesting guests: UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley [useful math links via the Chancellor’s website] and the Dean of the UW-Madison Education School. Wiley and the Ed School Dean’s attendance reflects the political nature of K-12 curriculum, particularly math. I’m glad Chancellor Wiley took time from his busy schedule to attend and look forward to his support for substantial improvements in our local math program.

# Brave New World: Are our kids ready to compete in the new global economy? Maybe not

Marc Eisen:

Most of us have had those eerie moments when the distant winds of globalization suddenly blow across our desks here in comfortable Madison. For parents, it can lead to an unsettling question: Will my kids have the skills, temperament and knowledge to prosper in an exceedingly competitive world?
I’m not so sure.
I’m a fan of Madison’s public schools, but I have my doubts if such preparation is high on the list of school district priorities. (I have no reason to think things are any better in the suburban schools.) Like a lot of parents, I want my kids pushed, prodded, inspired and challenged in school. Too often — in the name of equity, or progressive education, or union protectionism, or just plain cheapness — that isn’t happening.

# State Test Scores Adjusted to Match Last Year

A new statewide assessment used to test the knowledge of Wisconsin students forced a lowering of the curve, a Madison school official said.
The results showed little change in the percentages of students scoring at proficient and advanced levels.
But that’s because this year’s Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations- Criterion Referenced Tests proved harder for students than last year’s assessment, said Kurt Kiefer, director of research and evaluation for the Madison School District, prompting adjustments to the statewide cut-off scores for determining minimal, basic, proficient and advanced levels that were in line with last year’s percentages, Kiefer said.
“The intent was not to make a harder test,” Kiefer said, adding that the test was particularly more difficult at the eighth- and 10th-grade levels. “It had nothing to do with how smart the kids were.”
While scores can differ from district to district, Kiefer said, increases in students testing proficient and advanced are not as profound as districts might have hoped.

Kevin Carey recently wrote how states inflate their progress under NCLB:

But Wisconsin’s remarkable district success rate is mostly a function of the way it has used its flexibility under NCLB to manipulate the statistical underpinnings of the AYP formula.

I’m glad Sandy is taking a look at this.
UW Emeritus Math Professor Dick Askey mentioned changes in state testing during a recent Math Curriculum Forum:

We went from a district which was above the State average to one with scores at best at the State average. The State Test was changed from a nationally normed test to one written just for Wisconsin, and the different levels were set without a national norm. That is what caused the dramatic rise from February 2002 to November 2002. It was not that all of the Middle Schools were now using Connected Mathematics Project, which was the reason given at the meeting for these increases.

Alan Borsuk has more:

This year’s results also underscore a vexing question: Why does the percentage of students who are proficient or advanced drop from eighth to 10th grades? The decline was true almost across the board, including across ethnic groups, except in language arts. In reading statewide, the percentage of students who were advanced and proficient held close to steady from third through eighth grade and then dropped 10 points, from 84% to 74% for 10th grade. The decline was even steeper for black and Hispanic students – in each case, 17-point drops from eighth to 10th grade.
Overall, lower test scores at 10th grade are part of a broader picture of concern about how students are doing in high school that has put that level of education on the front burner nationwide, whether it is special programming from Oprah Winfrey or efforts by the National Governors Association, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or others.
But assistant state schools superintendent Margaret Planner said one factor in the 10th-grade drop simply might be that many students at that level do not take the tests very seriously. Their own standing is not affected by how they do, although the status of their school could be affected seriously. She referred to the tests as “low stakes” for students and “high stakes” for schools under the federal education law.

Planner was most recently principal at Madison’s Thoreau Elementary School.
Madison Metrpolitan School District’s press release.

# Better MMSD budget process? Maybe next year.

The National School Board Association argues that local school boards exist to translate the community’s educational goals for its children into programs and to hold staff accountable for the quality and effectiveness of the programs:

Your school board sets the standard for achievement in your district, incorporating the community’s view of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. Your school board also is responsible for working with the superintendent to establish a valid process for measuring student success and, when necessary, shifting resources to ensure that the district’s goals are achieved.

Don’t expect to see that kind of process as the Madison School Board adopts a \$383.7M budget for 2006-07.
On April 24, 2006, Superintendent Art Rainwater presented his proposed budget for 2006-07 to the school board. MMSD Proposed Balanced Budget for 2006-07 To the credit of the administration, the documents are better organized and provide more detail than in recent years.
Nonetheless, the board’s adoption of next year’s budget will likely be an unsatisfying process for parents and the community. I say this because the Madison board has again skipped the decision-making steps that are necessary for budget decisions to occur within a framework that we can all understand and support.
Long before the school board tries to evaluate a budget, the board should have translated the community’s vision for the education of its children into specific, measurable goals for student achievement. Key Work of School Boards
We don’t have such goals except for third grade reading, completion of algebra and geometry and attendance. What kind of budget commitment should we make to offering a comprehensive high school program? We don’t know, because we have set no standards for the “challenging, contemporary curriculum” that we claim is a strategic priority for the district. What funds should we commit to fine arts education? We don’t know, because we have no achievement goals in the arts or any other curriculum area. Should we cease funding a “Race and Equity” position at the \$100,000 a year level? We don’t know because we don’t have objectives for the position to accomplish.
The board should also have developed a shared understanding of how data will be used to evaluate the district’s progress toward meeting its goals.
We don’t determine which data will be used in decisions about educational programs or any other aspect of the budget. Should we cease the “same service” approach to the teaching of reading? Should we continue to invest in “instructional coaches” who teach teachers how to present the Connected Math program? Again, we don’t know. The administration claims that its curriculum decisions are data-driven. However, the administration does not share the student achievement data behind our “same service” approach or proposed new programs nor has the board agreed to rely on whatever data that the administration may use in its internal analysis.
As the result of the April elections, the board has two new members: Lucy Mathiak and Arlene Silveira. Both promised to focus on standards and accountability during their campaigns. Maybe next year will be better. That’s important because the fuss that occurs each spring as the board struggles to “restore” programs or staff that the superintendent has cut should not occur. We should not be on the defensive–always having to create our own individual rationales for replacing cut items or changing programs. We should be on the offensive—judging the superintendent’s budget against the goals that we have set for our programs and the measurements of effectiveness that we have agreed on.
Ruth Robarts

At a meeting on February 22 (audio / video), representatives of the Madison Metropolitan School District presented some data [820K pdf | html (click the slide to advance to the next screen)] which they claimed showed that their middle school math series, Connected Mathematics Project, was responsible for some dramatic gains in student learning. There was data on the percent of students passing algebra by the end of ninth grade and data from the state eighth grade math test for eight years. Let us look at the test data in a bit more detail.

All that was presented was data from MMSD and there was a very sharp rise in the percent of students scoring at the advanced and proficient level in the last three years. To see if something was responsible for this other than an actual rise in scores consider not only the the Madison data but the corresponding data for the State of Wisconsin.

The numbers will be the percent of students who scored advanced or proficient by the criteria used that year. The numbers for Madison are slightly different than those presented since the total number of students who took the test was used to find the percent in the MMSD presented data, and what is given here is the percent of all students who reached these two levels. Since this is a comparative study, either way could have been used. I think it is unlikely that those not tested would have had the same overall results that those tested had, which is why I did not figure out the State results using this modification. When we get to scores by racial groups, the data presented by MMSD did not use the correction they did with all students ( All 8th grade students in both cases)

 MMSD Wisconsin Oct 97 40 30 Feb 99 45 42 Feb 00 47 42 Feb 01 44 39 Feb 02 48 44 Nov 02 72 73 Nov 03 60 65 Nov 04 71 72

This is not a picture of a program which is remarkably successful. We went from a district which was above the State average to one with scores at best at the State average. The State Test was changed from a nationally normed test to one written just for Wisconsin, and the different levels were set without a national norm. That is what caused the dramatic rise from February 2002 to November 2002. It was not that all of the Middle Schools were now using Connected Mathematics Project, which was the reason given at the meeting for these increases.

It is worth looking at a breakdown by racial groups to see if there is something going on there. The formats will be the same as above.

 Hispanics MMSD Wisconsin Oct 97 19 11 Feb 99 25 17 Feb 00 29 18 Feb 01 21 15 Feb 02 25 17 Nov 02 48 46 Nov 03 37 38 Nov 04 50 49
 Black (Not of Hispanic Origin) MMSD Wisconsin Oct 97 8 5 Feb 99 10 7 Feb 00 11 7 Feb 01 8 6 Feb 02 13 7 Nov 02 44 30 Nov 03 29 24 Nov 04 39 29
 Asian MMSD Wisconsin Oct 97 25 22 Feb 99 36 31 Feb 00 35 33 Feb 01 36 29 Feb 02 41 31 Nov 02 65 68 Nov 03 55 53 Nov 04 73 77
 White MMSD Wisconsin Oct 97 54 35 Feb 99 59 48 Feb 00 60 47 Feb 01 58 48 Feb 02 62 51 Nov 02 86 81 Nov 03 78 73 Nov 04 88 81

I see nothing in the demography by race which supports the claim that Connected Mathematics Project has been responsible for remarkable gains. I do see a lack of knowledge in how to read, understand and present data which should concern everyone in Madison who cares about public education. The School Board is owed an explanation for this misleading presentation. I wonder about the presentations to the School Board. Have they been as misleading as those given at this public meeting?

# 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 (MMSD Parent and a UW Math Department Lecturer) Dr. Terry Millar of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research The conversation, including audience questions was lively.

# “Less May be More with Math Curriculum”

The books are distributed by an Oregon-based company known as SingaporeMath.com, which counts a private school in Madison as the first of its growing number of clients.
The biggest difference between math instruction in Singapore – a city-state with a population of about 4.4 million – and the United States is a simple premise: Less is more.
Students in Singapore are introduced to roughly half the number of new math topics a year as students in the United States are. Experts and policy analysts say Singapore’s emphasis on depth over breadth is a formula for success.
The thicker the textbooks and the greater the volume of math topics introduced a year, the less likely American students and teachers are to achieve similar results, says Alan Ginsburg, director of the policy and program studies service at the U.S. Department of Education.

More on the Connected Math / Singapore Math textbook photos.

Madison Country Day School was the first US school to purchase Singapore Math textbooks, in 1997, according to this article.

# Tongue in Cheek Solution

I have noticed a movement about MMSD. There seems to be the following needs:
1. Make each grade/class the same across the district so that all
students have a equitable distribution of funds, resources, and knowledge. (Connected math, FOSS science, middle school curriculm, and West English)
2. Great concern from “legal” I assume that food, animals, and flammable paper present a hazard to the students and potentially invite a lawsuit. (pet proposal, upcoming food proposal to eliminate any homemade food in the school, and the fire code issue)
3. Boundary changes to solve growth and income disparity which causes financial stress on the district. (Task forces, failed referendum, spending cap)
So here’s the solution:

# A Few Notes on the Superintendent’s Evaluation & Curriculum

Several writers have mentioned the positive news that the Madison Board of Education has reviewed Superintendent Art Rainwater for the first time since 2002. I agree that it is a step in the right direction.
In my view, the first responsibility of the Board and Administration, including the Superintendent is curriculum: Is the Madison School District using the most effective methods to prepare our children for the future?

• Language: The District has strongly embraced whole language (Troy Dassler notes in the comments that he has been trained in balanced literacy). I would certainly be interested in more comments on this (and other) point(s). [Ed Blume mentions that “”Balanced literacy” became the popular new term for whole language when whole language crumbled theoretically and scientifically.”] UW Professor Mark Seidenberg provides background on whole language and raises many useful questions about it. Related: The District has invested heavily in Reading Recovery. Ed Blume summarized 8 years of District reading scores and notes that Madison 3rd graders rank below state wide average for children children in the advanced and proficient categories. (Madison spends about 30% more than the state average per student)
• Math: The District embraces Connected Math. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has raised a number of questions about this curriculum, not the least of which is whether our textbooks include all of the corrections. A quick look at the size of the Connected Math textbooks demonstrates that reading skills are critical to student achievement.
• Sherman Middle School’s curriculum changes
• West High School’s curriculum changes and families leaving
• Same Service Budget Approach“: I think the District’s annual same service approach reflects a general stagnation.

# Hamilton Middle School – Two Years of Foreign Language Taught Daily, 7th Grade Algebra I Accelerated and 8th Grade Geometry, Children Select Music Option (Not a Pull out Curriculum)

Hamilton Middle School offers five academic classes per day in 7th and 8th grades. Hamilton offers its students choices in math, foreign language and music. What do other MMSD and Dane County middle schools offer children? I’d be interested in seeing posts with this information.
Hamilton MS Foreign Language:
In 7th and 8th grade, children choose either French or Spanish. Classes meet every day all year for two years.
Hamilton Middle School Math
Connected math is taught at this school. However, there are accelerated math class choices for students. Algebra 1 accelerated is offered to 8th grade students (based upon teacher recommendation, student interest). There are a number of classes of 8th grade Algebra 1 accelerated. Children completing this course in 8th grade successfully are ready for Geometry or Algebra II in 9th grade at West High School.
There is also one 7th grade class of Algebra I accelerated and one 8th grade class of geometry.
Hamilton Music
All children in grades 6, 7, 8 are required to take a music class – options offered are general music, chorus, band and orchestra. Also, in 8th grade music theater is offered. The schedule for all three years is an A/B schedule with physical education. Children have music three times one week and two times in the next week for an average of 125 minutes per week. The MMSD School Board approved music education curriculum calls for 200 minutes of music education per week (50 minutes per day).

# Math Curriculum: Textbook Photos

A year’s worth of Connected Math textbooks and teacher guides are on the left while the equivalent Singapore Math texts are on the right.

Friedman’s latest ,where he demonstrates how other countries are “eating our kid’s lunch in math” is well worth reading, as are these www.schoolinfosystem.org math posts. UW Math Professor Dick Askey has much more to say on K-12 math curriculum.

A few observations from a layperson who couldn’t be farther from a math expert’s perspective on this (in other words, I’m not a math expert):

• Children must be able to read effectively to use the voluminous Connected Math curriculum,
• The Connected Math curriculum has very extensive teacher instructions, while the Singapore curriculum is rather thin in this area. Does it follow that teachers using Singapore Math have far more freedom with respect to their instruction methods, or is the intention to make sure that teachers teach Connected Math in a scripted way?
• The Connected Math texts require more dead trees and I assume cost more than the Singapore texts directly and indirectly (transportation, packaging and the overhead of dealing with more pieces)
• The voluminous Connected Math texts have far more opportunities for errors, simply based on the amount of text and illustrations included in the books.
• Madison Country Day School uses Singapore Math.

There’s quite a bit of discussion on Connected Math and Singapore Math around the internet. Maybe it’s time to follow the www.heymath.net people (from India, China and Great Britain) and virtualize this while eliminating the textbooks?

# PEOPLE Program: The Debate continues

(With apologies to readers – it is not possible to respond using the comments feature on the blog.)
Response to Lucy’s Post on PEOPLE program
JOAN: Tempting though it is to rebut your arguments tit for tat I am not sure it will necessarily be productive.
RESPONSE: I would be interested in a “tit for tat” response to my comments on the reasons why the PEOPLE program is needed.
JOAN: Let’s back up and look at the assumptions underlying this program. The first is that minority students are not getting adequate preparation in their home schools. You assert that this is true in the well-staffed, well-funded Madison school district because of institutional racism. You believe your visual review of a school proves your point. That’s not particularily strong evidence.
RESPONSE: I think you need to go back and read what I wrote. I said,

“All of the above examples are conditions that I have witnessed first hand or, in one or two cases, have heard of from other parents – including parents of white students. When the above conditions disappear and/or white students experience these same conditions, we can talk about equity.”

Nowhere did I say or imply that my comments were “based on a visual review of a school.” It is true that there is no systematic, methodologically defensible, study of how students of color and their parents fare in Madison’s schools. I would welcome a well-crafted study of this nature.

# K-12 Math Curriculum: A Visit With UW Math Professor Dick Askey

UW Math Professor Dick Askey kindly took the time to visit with a group of schoolinfosystem.org writers and friends recently. Dick discussed a variety of test results, books, articles and links with respect to K-12 math curriculum. Here are a few of them:

• Test Results:

Wisconsin is slipping relative to other states in every two year NAP (sp?) Math test (4th and 8th grade). In 1992, Wisconsin 4th graders were 10 points above the national average while in 2003 they were 4 points above. Wisconsin students are slipping between 4th and eighth grades. In fact, white and hispanic children are now performing equivalent to Texas students while Wisconsin black students are performing above Washington, DC and Arkansas (the two lowest performers). He mentioned that there is no serious concern about the slippage.

30 years ago, the United States had the highest % of people graduating from High School of any OECD country. Today, we’re among the lowest. We also have a higher drop out rate than most OECD countries.

Said that he has asked Madison Schools Superintendent Art Rainwater twice in the past five years if our District asked for and received corrections for the current connected Math textbooks.

Mentioned that CorePlus is evidently being used at West High but not Memorial

Asked why these math performance declines are happening, he mentioned several reasons; “tame mathemeticians”, declining teacher content knowledge (he mentioned the rigor of an 1870’s California Teacher exam) and those who are true believers in the rhetoric.

• Books:

Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers’ Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States

The Schools by Martin Mayer

# Math Curriculum Board Meeting Video Clips

The Madison School Board Performance & Achievement Committee met monday night, to discuss “Research-Base Underlying MMSD Mathematics Curriculum & Instruction” Here are some video clips from the meeting: