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At Avenues, we have adopted Math in Focus, a Singapore approach, as our math curriculum in the Lower School*. So what is Singapore Math? The math we are teaching is not different math. Two plus two is still four; ten times ten is still one hundred. What is unique about the Singapore approach is the style of teaching and the student goals.

The classroom lessons begin with concrete experience. A kindergartener may use four blue blocks and three red blocks to add 4 + 3. A third grader may use groups of tens and ones counters to make four groups of fifteen in order to multiply 4 x 15. This concrete step engages students and builds deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. From the concrete stage, lessons move toward a pictorial focus. In this stage students use pictures, symbols, diagrams and other two-dimensional representations. Students learn to visualize math concepts and create representations based on the pictures in their minds.

Much more on Singapore Math, here.

Many Math professors, who have looked at the Singapore K-6 Math Books, are strong advocates of them because these books

1. Do an especially good job in training students in Basic Skills and

2. Do an especially good job in providing students with Conceptual Understanding and

3. Provide an especially good background in Arithmetic and Arithmetic word problems, for the learning of Algebraic calculations and for learning how to solve Algebraic word problems.

4. Do an especially good job in training students in non-trivial Arithmetic word problems; while American texts largely avoid non-trivial Arithmetic word problems.

Barry Garelick, via email:

The New York Times ran a story on September 30 about Singapore Math being used in some schools in the New York City area. Like many newspaper stories about Singapore Math, this one was no different. It described a program that strangely sounded like the math programs being promoted by reformers of math education, relying on the cherished staples of reform: manipulatives, open-ended problems, and classroom discussion of problems. The only thing the article didn’t mention was that the students worked in small groups.

Those of us familiar with Singapore Math from having used it with our children are wondering just what program the article was describing. Spending a week on the numbers 1 and 2 in Kindergarten? Spending an entire 4th grade classroom period discussing the place value ramifications of the number 82,566? Well, maybe that did happen, but not because the Singapore Math books are structured that way. In fact, the books are noticeably short on explicit narrative instruction. The books provide pictures and worked out examples and excellent problems; the topics are ordered in a logical sequence so that material mastered in the various lessons builds upon itself and is used to advance to more complex applications. But what is assumed in Singapore is that teachers know how to teach the material–the teacher’s manuals contain very little guidance. Thus, the decision to spend a week on the numbers 1 and 2 in kindergarten, or a whole class period discussing a single number is coming from the teachers, not the books.

The mistaken idea that gets repeated in many such articles is that Singapore Math differs from other programs by requiring or imparting a “deep understanding” and that such understanding comes about through a) manipulatives, b) pictures, and c) open-ended discussions. In fact, what the articles represent is what the schools are telling the reporters. What newspapers frequently do not realize when reporting on Singapore Math, is that when a school takes on such a program, it means going against what many teachers believe math education to be about; it is definitely not how they are trained in ed schools. The success of Singapore’s programs relies in many ways on more traditional approaches to math education, such as explicit instruction and giving students many problems to solve, in some ways its very success represented a slap in the face to American math reformers, many of whom have worked hard to eliminate such techniques being used.

Sally made 500 gingerbread men. She sold 3/4 of them and gave away 2/5 of the remainder. How many did she give away?

This was one of the homework questions in Craig Parsley’s fifth-grade class. The kids are showing their answers on the overhead projector. They are in a fun mood, using class nicknames. First up is “Crackle,” a boy. The class hears from “Caveman,” “Annapurna,” “Shortcut” and “Fred,” a girl.

Each has drawn a ruler with segments labeled by number — on the problem above, “3/4,” “2/5” and “500.” Below the ruler is some arithmetic and an answer.

“Who has this as a single mathematical expression? Who has the guts?” Parsley asks. No one, yet — but they will.

This is not the way math is taught in other Seattle public schools. It is Singapore Math, adopted from the Asian city-state whose kids test at the top of the world. Since the 2007-08 year, Singapore Math has been taught at Schmitz Park Elementary in West Seattle — and only there in the district.

In the war over school math — in which a judge recently ordered Seattle Public Schools to redo its choice of high-school math — Schmitz Park is a redoubt or, it hopes, a beachhead. North Beach is a redoubt for Saxon Math, a traditional program. Both schools have permission to be different. The rest of the district’s elementary schools use Everyday Math, a curriculum influenced by the constructivist or reform methods.

Related: Math Forum Audio / Video.

Next week’s Madison School Board agenda includes a number of pages [PDF] regarding the purchase of Singapore Math materials for elementary schools. Recent activity on this front included the purchase of workbooks without textbooks.

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

Related Links:

- Math Task Force notes and links
- Math Forum audio / video
- West High School Teachers Letter to Isthmus on the Madison School District’s Math Curriculum

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

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

Some lawmakers want Utah to follow the lead of a tiny Asian country when it comes to teaching math.

A senate committee Friday morning approved a bill, SB 159, that would allow districts and charter schools to apply for grants to use the Singapore method to teach math. Singapore is one of the highest scoring countries on international math tests.

In Singapore, math students are encouraged to think visually and develop mental strategies to solve problems. They’re discouraged from using paper to compute math problems.

“We seek to create a school system that will produce a significant percentage of the scientists and engineers needed by our country,” said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, who is sponsoring the bill.

SB 159 would offer competitive grants to districts that come up with plans for teaching Singapore math in kindergarten through sixth grade and some secondary school classes. The bill would also require districts to train teachers in Singapore math and offer grants to colleges and other groups to train mathematicians to be teachers.

“I believe this will raise the math abilities of everyone in the state,” said Aaron Bertram, chairman of the University of Utah mathematics department.

In 2005, just 45% of the fifth-graders at Ramona Elementary School in Hollywood scored at grade level on a standardized state test. In 2006, that figure rose to 76%. What was the difference?

If you answered 31 percentage points, you are correct. You could also express it as a 69% increase.

But there is another, more intriguing answer: The difference between the two years may have been Singapore math.

At the start of the 2005-06 school year, Ramona began using textbooks developed for use in Singapore, a Southeast Asian city-state whose pupils consistently rank No. 1 in international math comparisons. Ramona’s math scores soared.

“It’s wonderful,” said Principal Susan Arcaris. “Seven out of 10 of the students in our school are proficient or better in math, and that’s pretty startling when you consider that this is an inner-city, Title 1 school.”

Ramona easily qualifies for federal Title 1 funds, which are intended to alleviate the effects of poverty. Nine of every 10 students at the school are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. For the most part, these are the children of immigrants, the majority from Central America, some from Armenia. Nearly six in 10 students speak English as a second language.

Joanne has more.

It’s also different from American math in that fewer topics are taught in an academic year, giving the instructor the opportunity to teach the concept until it is mastered. “There’s a tendency in the United States to teach a topic, then it’s never seen or heard from again,” said Jeffery Thomas, president of SingaporeMath.com Inc., the official distributor of the math books based in Oregon City, Ore.

The American Institute for Research, one of the largest behavioral and social science research organizations in the world, says Singapore Math is better than American math because Singapore’s textbooks provide a more thorough understanding of concepts, while traditional American math books barely go beyond formulas and definitions. Before someone in Singapore can become a teacher, she must demonstrate math skills superior to her American counterparts, according to the AIR, which is based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Singapore offers an alternative math framework for low-performing students, but at a slower pace and with greater repetition.

“And that’s what’s so exciting about the program for the kids,” said Luke Felker, Madison Country Day School, “is that through some solid work at the beginning, they begin to realize that they can do a lot of this in their heads.”

Felker says the program also focuses more on depth, than it does covering a variety of math lessons, making it easier for the kids to retain what they learn.

Retired UW professor Richard Askey says the Singapore program is highly successful, but it isn’t the only way to properly teach math.

“It’s possible to do it in other ways,” said Askey. “Japanese elementary schools are not exactly the same as the Singapore, and they’re done carefully.”

Askey says US schools haven’t been teaching math ‘carefully.’

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

Madison’s Math Task Force

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.

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.

Benjamin Franklin Elementary in Connecticut overhauled the way it taught — and the way it ran the classroom. Every minute counted

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

Idaho can develop effective non-Common Core standards for mathematics and English/reading if its Legislature requires the development of K-12 standards in mathematics and in English/reading with the following features and guiding policies:

In mathematics:

Standards for all basic arithmetical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, short and long division) and standard algorithms are taught at the same grade levels as in Singapore Math’s original series for the elementary grades. Here are articles about the original Singapore Mathematics program for K-5/6 after it began to be taught in 3 elementary schools in the North Middlesex Regional School District in Massachusetts:

Boston.com

PR News Wire

ChristianBook

Singapore math study

Standards that enable all children in public elementary schools to be prepared via their mathematics curriculum to enroll in and complete a traditional Algebra I course in grade 7 or 8 before going on to advanced science and math in high school.

Standards/lessons from Dolciani-authored or co-authored mathematics textbooks in grade 8 and above, where possible.

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

thinkrather thanexperiment, 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

1965 Madison School District Math 9 Textbook Committee

Madison’s most recent Math Task Force

Remedial Math at the UW-Madison.

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

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.

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

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

Natasha Singer & Danielle Ivory:

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.

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results and

“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.

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):

“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:

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

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.

and: Foundations of Reading Results (Wisconsin Education Schools), or MTEL arrives.

Since the creation of “New Math” in the 1950s and delivery via the SMSG (School Mathematics Study Group) textbooks, the USA’s progressive math education establishments have believed that conceptual understanding is the holy grail of math instruction. Supposedly, once a child has conceptual understanding, math skills will be easier to acquire. Yet after 60 years of placing the cart before the horse, this plan is still not working well, but will anyone notice? The fact is that for most children the acquisition of math skills comes effectively via traditional instruction and practice with some memorization involved. Conceptual understanding comes later.

The Common Core thinkers have it backwards as well. Many school districts downplay the Content Standards and push the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice. This method has yet to demonstrate that it is an effective and efficient way to learn mathematics.

The eight Standards for Mathematical Practice are:

(1) Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them

(2) Reason abstractly and quantitatively

(3) Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others

(4) Model with mathematics

(5) Use appropriate tools strategically

(6) Attend to precision

(7) Look for and make use of structure

(8) Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

Notes and links: Singapore Math.

The classrooms at Admiralty are sparsely decorated. When I visit a class of 13-year-olds, there’s a single artwork on the back wall; a paper cut-out of a cherry tree scattering blossom. At the front, where the teacher stands, is a whiteboard, a projector, a Singapore flag and a clock. I am later told that other decorations had been removed to avoid distracting or aiding students during a round of tests.

The subject is English, a second language for most of the children here, who speak either Malay or Chinese at home. At the front of the class, the teacher, Wendy Chen, is showing a film of migrant workers responding to racist comments. It’s a controversial subject: foreign labourers who work in construction, manufacturing and domestic service are often targets of racial prejudice in Singapore. Chen strips the language down to its constituent parts, asking the 13-year-old students to look at the use of the pronouns “we” and “they”. She hands out a newspaper cutting, again about migrant workers, and asks them to analyse it. “Underline who, what, when, where, how,” she instructs briskly.

The atmosphere is industrious. Throughout the day, the children work quietly at their tasks with relatively little chatter. Corporal punishment is permitted as a last resort — for boys only — at Singapore schools. When the teachers need to command attention, they strike an insistent note rather than raising their voices. One teacher, as she senses her class flagging, begins to pepper her instructions with the phrase “my dears”. Further absorbing discipline, many of the children join police or military cadet organisations, and can be seen dressed in uniform and standing to attention in the schoolyard after class. For the boys, who face two years’ national service after graduating from high school, it’s a particularly useful preparation.

Math Forum Audio and Video

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

Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

DEJA VU: REPORT OF THE 1965 MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT MATH 9 TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE.

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

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

Madison’s 2009 (!) Math Task Force

21% OF UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM FRESHMAN REQUIRE REMEDIAL MATH

DEJA VU: REPORT OF THE 1965 MADISON SCHOOL DISTRICT MATH 9 TEXTBOOK COMMITTEE.

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

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

Related: Singapore Math, Math Forum, Connected Math, Discovery Math.

Madison School District Administration (PDF):

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

But I would suggest an even more important vote will occur on Wednesday, one that will decide the future of tens or hundreds of thousands of Seattle students over the next decade: the Seattle School Board’s vote on the future elementary math curriculum.

As I have noted in previous blogs, Seattle Public Schools is now using a grossly inferior math curriculum, Everyday Math. Most school districts in the area (and around the country) have dropped it because it fails to provide basic competency in elementary-level mathematics, crippling students’ ability to learn algebra and higher mathematics later in their career. Everyday Math is a prime example of “fuzzy math,” with students spending much their their time inventing their own algorithms, writing long essays, using calculators, and doing group projects. Everyday Math is a wonderful example of the tendency to jump on the latest fad, which may sound good, but fails in the classroom.

So you would think the district would be doubly sure not to make a serious mistake again.

Last month, a committee established by the district provided their recommendation of a possible new curriculum. Their rankings were:

1. EnVision Math

2. Go Math!

3. Math in Focus (MIF), which is a U.S. version of Singapore Math.As I explained in my last blog of the subject, their evaluation was a great disappointment. Math in Focus, based on the extraordinarily successful Singapore Math approach, was downgraded because it advanced student’s too rapidly (compared to the latest fad, the Common Core standards). Go Math! is glossy and weak. EnVision, their top choice, is glossy and full of excessive reading and writing, making it a poor choice for students who do not have strong English skills. But better than Everyday Math for sure.

Much more on Everyday Math, here.

Related: Math Forum audio/video.

Locally, Madison has also used Everyday Math.

An educational and enrichment workshop was recently conducted by the Galileo Enrichment Learning Program where the multi-awarded mathematician and Singapore Math advocate Dr. Queena Lee-Chua together with her son Scott, shared with the participants the fundamentals of Singapore Math and demonstrated how this fun learning approach is used to solve word problems.

Multi-awarded mathematician and Singapore Math advocate Dr. Queena Lee-Chua shared with the participants the fundamentals of Singapore Math and demonstrates how this fun-learning approach is used to solve word problems.

The workshop, held at Nuvali Evoliving AVR, Sta. Rosa City, Laguna, was organized by Galileo Sta. Rosa, attended by parents and their kids, as well as by teachers from different pre-schools and elementary schools in and outside Manila. It was indeed an enlightening and engaging time for everyone as the mother and son tandem proved to the audience that complex mathematical problems can be solved with simple math logic.

Much more on Singapore Math, here.

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

The model method is a very powerful problem-solving strategy extensively used in the Primary Mathematics curriculum in Singapore, sometimes referred to as “Singapore Math” by other countries. Model Method help students visualize and simplify a math problem in a pictorial way. It was developed and popularized by Mr Hector Chee, a Singapore teacher, in 1990s.

Versatile and used in various topics

It is used to teach a wide range of Mathematics topics taught in the Primary Mathematics curriculum in Primary schools (elementary schools). Some of these include arithmetic, fractions, percentage, decimals, average, ratio and of course various problem sums testing these topics. It provides the pictorial perspective of the Mathematical problems and also provides easy analysis of ‘parts whole’ and comparison between quantities

The Madison School Board has scheduled [PDF] a 2:00p.m. meeting tomorrow, Sunday 30 September for an “Initial exchange of proposals and supporting rationale for such proposals in regard to collective bargaining negotiations regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) for MMSD Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) Teachers, Substitute Teachers, Educational Assistants, Supportive Educational Employees (SEE), and School Security Assistants (SSA), held as a public meeting pursuant to Wis. Stat. §111.70(4)(cm)”.

The School Board along with other Madison area governments have moved quickly to negotiate or extend agreements with several public sector unions after a judicial decision overturning parts of Wisconsin’s Act 10. The controversial passage of Act 10 changed the dynamic between public sector organizations and organized labor.

I’ve contemplated these events and thought back to a couple of first hand experiences:

In the first example, two Madison School District teacher positions were being reduced to one. Evidently, under the CBA, both had identical tenure so the choice was a coin toss. The far less qualified teacher “won”, while the other was laid off.

In the second example, a Madison School District teacher and parent lamented to me the poor teacher one of their children experienced (in the same District) and that “there is nothing that can be done about it”.

In the third example, a parent, after several years of their child’s “mediocre” reading and writing experiences asked that they be given the “best teacher”. The response was that they are “all good”. Maybe so.

Conversely, I’ve seen a number of teachers go far out of their way to help students learn, including extra time after school and rogue curricula such as phonics and Singapore Math.

I am unaware of the School Board meeting on a Sunday, on short notice, to address the District’s long time reading problems.

A bit of background:

Exhibit 1, written in 2005 illustrating the tyranny of low expectations” “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”.

Exhibit 2, 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison speech to the Madison Rotary Club is worth reading:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

William Rowe has commented here frequently on the challenges of teacher evaluation schemes.

This being said, I do find it informative to observe the Board’s priorities in light of the District’s very serious reading problems.

This article is worth reading in light of local property taxes and spending priorities: The American Dream of upward mobility has been losing ground as the economy shifts. Without a college diploma, working hard is no longer enough.

Unlike his parents, John Sherry enrolled in college after graduating from high school in Grand Junction, a boom-bust, agriculture-and-energy outpost of 100,000 inhabitants on Colorado’s western edge. John lasted two years at Metropolitan State University in Denver before he dropped out, first to bag groceries at Safeway, later to teach preschool children, a job he still holds. He knew it was time to quit college when he failed statistics two semesters in a row. Years passed before John realized just how much the economic statistics were stacked against him, in a way they never were against his father.

Greg Sherry, who works for a railroad, is 58 and is chugging toward retirement with an $80,000-a-year salary, a full pension, and a promise of health coverage for life. John scrapes by on $11 an hour, with few health benefits. “I feel like I’m working really hard,” he says, “but I’m not getting ahead.”

This isn’t the lifestyle that John’s parents wished upon their younger child. But it reflects the state of upward–or downward–mobility in the American economy today.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.

TJ Mertz comments on collective bargaining, here and here.

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: Didn’t See That One Coming: How the Madison School Board Ended Up Back in Collective Bargaining.

The Capital Times: Should local governments negotiate with employees while the constitutionality of the collective bargaining law is being appealed?

New city statistics are showing a steep decline in parent involvement in New York public schools, giving potential ammunition to critics who say the Department of Education under Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been unresponsive to families.

City officials attributed part of the plummet to a new data-collection system. But critics, including some possible mayoral contenders, said the numbers in the annual Mayor’s Management Report were hard evidence of long-held frustrations by public-school parents.

I wonder if Madison PTO attendance patterns have changed? During the 2000’s, most meetings that I observed or participated in typically had no more than 12 to 15 parents. Often less than 10 appeared.

One meeting sticks out. More than 50 parents attended a Thoreau PTO meeting which attempted to bring Singapore Math to the school. That was a spectacular failure, unfortunately.

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

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

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

The Economist on per student spending:

Those findings raise what ought to be a fruitful question: what do the successful lot have in common? Yet the answer to that has proved surprisingly elusive. Not more money. Singapore spends less per student than most. Nor more study time. Finnish students begin school later, and study fewer hours, than in other rich countries.

In Finland all new teachers must have a master’s degree. South Korea recruits primary-school teachers from the top 5% of graduates, Singapore and Hong Kong from the top 30%.

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

Related:

- 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use
- Singapore Math and Math Forum.
- Singapore school statistics (PDF)
- When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?
- Alabama, unlike Wisconsin, participated in the 2011 global TIMSS examinations. Perhaps one day, Wisconsin will have the courage to compare our students to the world.

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

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:

Educators at a small private Christian school in Olde Town Augusta are seeing results with a math curriculum imported from halfway around the world.

For the past three years, Heritage Academy has used Singapore Math as its basal math curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade.

In the first year the school adopted Singapore Math, all of its kindergarten and first-grade pupils met or exceeded proficiency standards on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, as did 80 percent of second-graders.

Why use math from Singapore?

Related: Math Forum Audio/Video.

By the time they get to kindergarten, children in this well-to-do suburb already know their numbers, so their teachers worried that a new math program was too easy when it covered just 1 and 2 — for a whole week.

“Talk about the number 1 for 45 minutes?” said Chris Covello, who teaches 16 students ages 5 and 6. “I was like, I don’t know. But then I found you really could. Before, we had a lot of ground to cover, and now it’s more open-ended and gets kids thinking.”

The slower pace is a cornerstone of the district’s new approach to teaching math, which is based on the national math system of Singapore and aims to emulate that country’s success by promoting a deeper understanding of numbers and math concepts. Students in Singapore have repeatedly ranked at or near the top on international math exams since the mid-1990s.

Franklin Lakes, about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan, is one of dozens of districts, from Scarsdale, N.Y., to Lexington, Ky., that in recent years have adopted Singapore math, as it is called, amid growing concerns that too many American students lack the higher-order math skills called for in a global economy.

Superintendent Dan Nerad [64K PDF]:

MMSD has begun a three-year implementation plan to achieve an equitable and balanced mathematics program at tbe elementary level. The plan was developed and refined through collaboration with teachers, Instructional Resource Teachers and principals over the course of the past several years. The plan includes the materials described below (details via this 64K PDF),

With the attached order, MMSD has provided each classroom teacher in the District with a Learning Mathematics in the Primary/Intermediate Grades instructional guide and the set of teacher resources from the Investigations program. The third component of the teacher materials is Teaching Student Centered Mathematics by John Van de Walle, which is in place in most classrooms but will continue to be ordered using ELM or Title I funds, as necessary. Additional professional resources have been or are being purchased at the building level to create a library available for all staff to access as needed. Those resources include Primary Mathematics textbooks and teacher guides, Thinking Mathematically and Children’s Mathematics by Thomas Carpenter, Teaching Number series from Wright, among other recommended titles.

MMSD has provided all Title I schools with the Primary Mathematics (Singapore) workbooks and Extra Practice workbooks for the 2009-2010 school year. All manipulatives have been ordered for Title I schools over tbe past two years and are in place. Non-Title I schools have been and will continue to use ELM funds to purchase tbe student components for the implementation of a balanced mathematics classroom.

Related:

Barry Garelick, via email:

By way of introduction, I am neither mathematician nor mathematics teacher, but I majored in math and have used it throughout my career, especially in the last 17 years as an analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. My love of and facility with math is due to good teaching and good textbooks. The teachers I had in primary and secondary school provided explicit instruction and answered students’ questions; they also posed challenging problems that required us to apply what we had learned. The textbooks I used also contained explanations of the material with examples that showed every step of the problem solving process.

I fully expected the same for my daughter, but after seeing what passed for mathematics in her elementary school, I became increasingly distressed over how math is currently taught in many schools.

Optimistically believing that I could make a difference in at least a few students’ lives, I decided to teach math when I retire. I enrolled in education school about two years ago, and have only a 15-week student teaching requirement to go. Although I had a fairly good idea of what I was in for with respect to educational theories, I was still dismayed at what I found in my mathematics education courses.

In class after class, I have heard that when students discover material for themselves, they supposedly learn it more deeply than when it is taught directly. Similarly, I have heard that although direct instruction is effective in helping students learn and use algorithms, it is allegedly ineffective in helping students develop mathematical thinking. Throughout these courses, a general belief has prevailed that answering students’ questions and providing explicit instruction are “handing it to the student” and preventing them from “constructing their own knowledge”–to use the appropriate terminology. Overall, however, I have found that there is general confusion about what “discovery learning” actually means. I hope to make clear in this article what it means, and to identify effective and ineffective methods to foster learning through discovery.

Garelick’s part ii on Discovery learning can be found here.

Related: The Madison School District purchases Singapore Math workbooks with no textbooks or teacher guides. Much more on math here.

Via a Barry Garelick email:

“The article describes my experience tutoring my daughter and her friend when they were in sixth grade, using Singapore Math in order to make up for the train wreck known as Everyday Math that she was getting in school. I doubt that the article will change the minds of the administrators who believe Everyday Math has merit, but it wasn’t written for that purpose. It was written for and dedicated to parents to let them know they are not alone, that they aren’t the only ones who have shouted at their children, that there are others who have experienced the tears and the confusion and the frustration. Lastly it offers some hope and guidance in how to go about teaching their kids what they are not learning at school.”

University of Wisconsin-Madison math lecturer Gabriele Meyer advocates the use of Singapore math in this 3 minute mp3 audio file. Much more on Madison’s math program here.

Related: the politics (and spin) of calculator use.

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

A few interesting items:

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

Math Forum audio / video and links.

The most noticeable change is a dramatic increase in students taking accelerated math classes in the middle years, an initiative that seems to have spread to every school system in the region. Educators view math acceleration as a gateway to advanced study in high school and, in turn, to college. Higher-level math classes have helped middle schools cultivate a community of students similar to those in honors and Advanced Placement high school classes.

At Samuel Ogle Middle School in Bowie, the number of students taking Algebra I, a high-school-level course, has doubled from 60 to 120 in the past two years.

Barry Garelick references Montgomery County’s experiment with Singapore Math. About Singapore Math. More here.

Greg Barlow, an Air Force officer in the defense secretary’s office at the Pentagon, was helping his 8-year-old son, Christian, one recent night with a vexing problem: What is 674 plus 249?

The Prince William County third-grader did not stack the numbers and carry digits from one column to the next, the way generations have learned. Applying lessons from his school’s new math textbook, “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space,” Christian tried breaking the problem into easier-to-digest numbers.

But after several seconds, he got stumped. He drew lines connecting digits, and his computation amounted to an upside-down pyramid with numbers at the bottom. His father, in a teacherly tone, nudged him toward the old-fashioned method. “How would you do that another way?” Barlow asked.

In Prince William and elsewhere in the country, a math textbook series has fomented upheaval among some parents and teachers who say its methods are convoluted and fail to help children master basic math skills and facts. Educators who favor the series say it helps young students learn math in a deeper way as they prepare for the rigors of algebra.

The debate over “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space,” a Pearson School series used in thousands of elementary classrooms, including some in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Howard counties, is one of the newer fronts in the math wars. Such battles over textbooks and teaching methods are fueled in part by the anxieties of parents who often feel powerless over their children’s education, especially in subjects they know.

The curriculum, introduced in the 1990s and updated in a second edition issued last fall, offers one answer to the nation’s increasingly urgent quest for stronger elementary math education. The nonprofit organization TERC, based in Cambridge, Mass., developed “Investigations” with support from the National Science Foundation.

Related Links:

- 35 of 37 UW Math Department members open letter to the Madison School District.
- Math Forum Audio / Video & Links
- West High School Math Teacher Letter
- UW Math Professor Emeritus Dick Askey reviews Madison School District Math performance information.
- NCTM Press Release
**NCTM Report**: Curriculum Focal Points. 18.9MB Full PDF report- Joanne notes that Kitchen Table Math compares NCTM’s new curriculum focal points to the sequence of topics in Singapore Math.

Via a reader, interested in this issue:

Jessica Blanchard:

When Seattle elementary-schoolers open their math textbooks this fall, they’ll all be on the same page — literally.

In an attempt to boost stagnant test scores, elementary teachers will start using the same math textbooks and materials and covering lessons at the same time as their colleagues at other Seattle elementary schools, the School Board decided Wednesday.

“It’s clear to me that the math adoption is long overdue, and Seattle desperately needs a consistent and balanced approach,” board member Brita Butler-Wall said.

Lessons will now be taught using the conceptual “Everyday Math” books, which help students discover algorithms on their own and explore multiple ways to solve problems, and the more traditional “Singapore Math” books, which help hone students’ basic computation skills through repetition and problem solving. Teachers will follow the district’s guidelines for the order the lessons would be taught.

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.

Background Links:

- Madison School Board Discusses Independent Math Review: Audio / Video.
- Math Forum Audio / Video
- UW Math Professor Dick Askey on the MMSD’s math scores; related: State test scores adjusted to match last year
- Isthmus Take Home Test on Curriculum
- Connected Math in Olympia, WA
- Lee Sensenbrenner on Connected Math
- The Politics of K-12 Math and Academic Rigor
- New Math Curriculum Draws Complaints

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

UPDATE: A reader emailed this:

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.

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.

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.

*Typical of many math textbooks in the U.S., this one is thick, multicolored,and full of games,puzzles,and activities,to help teachers pass the time, but rarely challenge students. Singapore Math’s textbook is thin, and contains only mathematics — no games. Students are given briefexplanations, then confronted with problems which become more complex as the unit progresses.*

Barry Garelick [232K PDF]:

It was another body blow to education. In December of 2004, media outlets across the country were abuzz with news ofthe just-released results of the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) tests. Once again despite highly publicized efforts to reform American math education (some might say because of the reform efforts) over the past two decades, the United States did little better than average (see Figure 1). Headquartered at the International Study Center at Boston College and taken by tens of thousands of students in more than three dozen countries, TIMSS has become a respected standard of international academic achievement. And in three consecutive TIMSS test rounds (in 1995, 1999,and 2003), 4th- and 8th-grade students in the former British trading colony of Singapore beat all contenders, including math powerhouses Japan and Taiwan. United States 8th graders did not even make the top ten in the 2003 round; they ranked 16th. Worse, scores for American students were, as one Department of Education study put it,”among the lowest of all industrialized countries.”

Critics of “Fuzzy” Methods Cheer Educators’ Findings; Drills Without Calculators. Taking Cues from Singapore.

John Hechinger:

The nation’s math teachers, on the front lines of a 17-year curriculum war, are getting some new marching orders: Make sure students learn the basics.

In a report to be released today, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which represents 100,000 educators from prekindergarten through college, will give ammunition to traditionalists who believe schools should focus heavily and early on teaching such fundamentals as multiplication tables and long division.

The council’s advice is striking because in 1989 it touched off the so-called math wars by promoting open-ended problem solving over drilling. Back then, it recommended that students as young as those in kindergarten use calculators in class.

Those recommendations horrified many educators, especially college math professors alarmed by a rising tide of freshmen needing remediation. The council’s 1989 report influenced textbooks and led to what are commonly called “reform math” programs, which are used in school systems across the country.

Francis Fennell, the council’s president, says the latest guidelines move closer to the curriculum of Asian countries such as Singapore, whose students tend to perform better on international tests. There, children focus intensely on a relative handful of topics, such as multiplication, division and algebra, then practice by solving increasingly difficult word and other problems. That contrasts sharply with the U.S. approach, which the report noted has long been described as “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

If school systems adopt the math council’s new approach, their classes might resemble those at Garfield Elementary School in Revere, Mass., just north of Boston. Three-quarters of Garfield’s students receive free and reduced lunches, and many are the children of recent immigrants from such countries as Brazil, Cambodia and El Salvador.

Three years ago, Garfield started using Singapore Math, a curriculum modeled on that country’s official program and now used in about 300 school systems in the U.S. Many school systems and parents regard Singapore Math as an antidote for “reform math” programs that arose from the math council’s earlier recommendations.

The Singapore Math curriculum differs sharply from reform math programs, which often ask students to “discover” on their own the way to perform multiplication and division and other operations, and have come to be known as “constructivist” math.

Links:

- 35 of 37 UW Math Department members open letter to the Madison School District.
- Math Forum Audio / Video & Links
- West High School Math Teacher Letter
- UW Math Professor Emeritus Dick Askey reviews Madison School District Math performance information.
- NCTM Press Release
**NCTM Report**: Curriculum Focal Points. 18.9MB Full PDF report- Joanne notes that Kitchen Table Math compares NCTM’s new curriculum focal points to the sequence of topics in Singapore Math.

Strong parent and teacher views on the MMSD’s math strategy may well spill over to non-support for referendums and incumbent board members, particularly in light of increasing UW Math Department activism on this vital matter.

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.

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.

The problems with CMP go far beyond failing to reach parents. One big problem is that the edifice of mathematics is so huge. Think of how long it took mathematicians to discover all of it. When one tries to use the discovery paradigm as the sole model for math lessons, all of the time available is spent in discovery process of basic concepts. There isn’t time for more than a cursory look at any topic. There isn’t any work on hard problems related to basic concepts. There isn’t time to master computational aspects of basic concepts. Everyone learns 1/2 + 1/4, but no one learns how to find the least common denominator of 1/14 and 1/35. The people who promote a constructivist approach to math set up a false dichotomy between traditional math which teaches one to memorize formulas and tables of computations, and discovery math which teaches one to really understand how math works. I actually had a TAG resource teacher say this to me very patronizingly. “We don’t teach math anymore the way that YOU learned it. Now children really understand math when they learn it.” Excuse me, but traditional math was never like that. Tradtional math presents concepts AND teaches understanding of concepts. One learns formulas AND why they work. One also does large numbers of progressively more difficult computations to become skilled at them. The problem with traditional math is that large numbers of students don’t understand the concepts as presented and try to get by with memorizing and manipulating formulas which they don’t understand. They also don’t master the computational aspects and try to make up for this deficit by using calculators inappropriately.

Two interesting notes, among many, I’m sure from Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting:

- Johnny Winston, Jr. introduced a motion for the Administration to look at acquiring land in Fitchburg for a new school. This motion passed 5-1, with Bill Keys voting no (and Juan Jose Lopez absent).
- Ruth Robarts advocated curriculum changes as a means to attract more families to certain schools. She mentioned the use of Singapore Math (Note that some Madison residents are paying a chunk of money to send their children to Madison Country Day School, which uses Singapore Math).

Speaking of Math, Rafael Gomez is organizing a middle school math forum on February 22, 2006, from 7 to 8:00p.m.

Local news commentary:

- Channel3000:

*The Madison Metropolitan School Board met for hours Monday discussing overcrowding options for the looming referendum* - WKOW-TV:

*After nearly five hours of discussion, the Madison School Board decided to put off asking tax payers for a new school in April and says voters may have to head to the polls this fall instead.* - Susan Troller:

*That potential option was added to the mix regarding how the Madison School District could deal with growth and overcrowding on the west side following a special School Board meeting Monday night.*

Board Vice President Johnny Winston, Jr. led a motion to ask district administrators to explore land sites and options for a possible new school in the rapidly developing areas south of the Beltline in Fitchburg, including land currently in the Verona and Oregon school districts.

Board member Lawrie Kobza supported Winston’s motion and said she may be willing to support a new elementary school in the south Fitchburg area as part of a long-range plan for the district. Kobza does not support an addition at Leopold, saying the school already has more than 650 students, which the district has deemed its maximum acceptable capacity. - Sandy Cullen:

*The Madison School Board voted Monday to direct district administrators to investigate purchasing land for a future school in south Fitchburg as a long-term solution to crowding at Leopold Elementary School, while board members continue to explore a more immediate solution to the problem.*

Dear Board,

While serving as a member on the Long Range Planning Committee for the West/Memorial Task Force I came to a few insights I would like to share.

Our charge was to seek solutions for the over-crowded schools in Memorial and Leopold attendance area as well as address the low income disparity throughout the area.

- Overcrowding in Memorial – with current data and projected growth to be over 100% capacity in 5 of the elementary schools I believe the only solution to this problem is a new school. With the purchase of the far west land the board must believe this as well. This should be the number one priority of the growth solution for MMSD. There is space at Toki/Orchard Ridge and a few seats at Muir for this attendance area and additions could be made to Falk, or an update and expansion of Orchard Ridge/Toki could be made, but otherwise there is no room without changing programmatically.
- Leopold overcrowding is much more complicated, as you know. This huge expansive slice of Madison and the entire city of Fitchburg attendance area has somehow become one elementary school. I do not support an addition to this school for many of the same reasons I did not like two schools on the same land. It is lots of seats in one part of town and you create problems for the future. If Shorewood or Crestwood had 1000 seats we would be busing kids from Fitchburg to that school because that’s where the space is. An addition without a new school means a principal, staff and others at this school are functioning like the other 4 – 5 hundred space schools but with double the students, is that fair to the staff of that school? Would you want to be the principal of 800 – 900 students? I would rather have a school in Fitchburg or south of the Beltline off of 14 to help Leopold and the Allis attendance area that currently is sent to the other side of Monona.

There is space at Midvale/Lincoln, Randall, Shorewood,and there is 110 seats at Hamilton, 94 seats at Wright, and 118 seats at Cherokee. And of course the strange building of Hoyt that must have ghost or something since no one wants to touch it. There is space in West. The move of Leopold to Chavez is wrong minded since it shifts the West area problem to the overcrowded Memorial area.

The Elephant in the Room throughout the entire Task Force was Midvale/Lincoln and the perceived lack of quality at that school. There is 75 seats at Lincoln and 62 seats at Midvale this year and each time the suggestion was made to shift students from Leopold to M/L it was met with distaste, (except for two apartment buildings of 30 students) as the memo from the Swan Creek neighborhood (see attachment) was an example. That memo, while it outraged me, is a glaring example why we can’t solve Leopold overcrowding (see memo [pdf] from Midvale Parent Jerry Eykholt to the Swan Creek Parents). On the task force Leopold was sent to Chavez, Randall/Franklin, Thoreau over and under M/L, but somehow those 137 seats at M/L seemed too far away. I think the district is failing Midvale/Lincoln.

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?

Post your comments below.

Interesting timing, given Jeff’s post below about West’s intention to drop advanced biology.

Doug Erickson on Madison Country Day School’s expansion announcement:

Madison Country Day School broke ground Thursday on a $4.8 million expansion that will add a gymnasium, a performing arts stage and 13 classrooms.

The addition, which will house the private school’s middle and high school, is expected to be done in August.

Opened in 1997 with 22 students in five lower grades, the school has grown to 252 students in grades pre- kindergarten through 10th. It reached capacity two years ago and is now using two portable buildings, said Adam de Pencier, head of school. “We’re absolutely jammed.”

The school at 5606 River Road is in the town of Westport near Waunakee. It is a non- religious, independent school that was designed to incorporate thebest curriculum from around the world. The school wants to be seen as a research facility whose teaching practices can be used as a model for other public and private schools, de Pencier said.

The school was founded by Christopher Frautschi, nephew of philanthropist Jerry Frautschi, whose $205 million donation is paying for construction of the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison.

As always, there are options for people willing to spend the money. A challenging and proven curriculum is vital to our community.

I recently emailed a bit with Bill Keys, Madison School Board President, thanking him for the BOE’s support of Lapham’s English program and two school’s exploration of Singapore Math. Here’s the email message.

Two articles of interest appear in the issue of Isthmus dated June 15, 2004.

A small article on page 6 says “Several Madison elementary schools, including Thoreau and Glenn Stephens, will begin teaching Singapore Math next year. The change comes amid concerns that the district’s preferred math program, TERC Investigations, which stresses self-guided problem solving, does not teach students enough basic math skills.”

A lengthier article reviews the “difficult transiton at East High.” As “faculty vent deep discontent,” the article headline asks “is new princiapl to blame?” One source doubts, says the article, that “Tillman’s contract will be renewed” beyond next year.”

Ed Blume

schoolinfosystem.org