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 […]

S. Mac Healey and Angelina J. Parker “Students don’t have the skills that we had intended downstream in the curriculum, and so it creates different trajectories in students’ math abilities,” Kelly added. Despite the schedule differences, MA5 will reflect the material and structure of MA and MB, collectively known as Math M. “Math MA5 is actually embedded […]

The Disagreement Today’s disagreement is about the “math wars.”The “math wars” is a debate happening in K-12 education about the best way to teach math. Broadly speaking, there are two camps that have conflicting pedagogical approaches: Explicit instruction focuses on procedural fluency, guided practice, and repetition.Inquiry-based instruction focuses on conceptual understanding, open-ended problems, and productive […]

Joanne Jacobs: Brian Conrad, a math professor and director of undergraduate math education at Stanford, is guilty of “academic and professional misconduct” for pointing out errors in the California math framework, claims a letter to the university provost. The letter signed by Duane Habecker, a math administrator, charges that Conrad has “ventured into stochastic terrorism” […]

Sharon Lurye: A few years ago she shifted her approach, turning to more direct explanation after finding a website on a set of evidence-based practices known as the science of math. “I could see how the game related to multiplication, but the kids weren’t making those connections,” said Stark, a math teacher in the suburbs […]

Wesley Crocket: Faculty members in the University of California (UC) system have begun to speak out against their campuses’ adoption of lower math standards in order to bolster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The controversy surrounds a policy enacted by a UC committee in 2020, which changed the admissions requirements for high school applicants in […]

Lucy Kellaway: Some years ago, shortly before I left the Financial Times, I gave a talk at a literary event in Oxford. Put up your hand, I said to the audience, if you are useless at maths — whereupon the arms of around a third of them shot into the air. At the time, I […]

Summer Allen: A new study finds that high school students identify more with math if they see their math teacher treating everyone in the class equitably, especially in racially diverse schools. The study by researchers at Portland State University, Loyola University Chicago and the University of North Texas was published in the journal Sociology of […]

Ellen Gamerman: 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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Joe Hong: At the heart of the wrangling lies a broad agreement about at least one thing:The way California public schools teach math isn’t working. On national standardized tests, California ranks in the bottom quartile among all states and U.S. territories for 8th grade math scores. Yet for all the sound and fury, the proposed framework, about 800-pages […]

Signatories: 1,105 as of November 5, 2021 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 […]

The Economist: America has a maths problem. Its pupils have ranked poorly in international maths exams for decades. In 2018, American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in the oecd, a club of mostly rich countries. American adults ranked fourth-from-last in numeracy when compared with other rich countries. As many as 30% of American adults are comfortable only […]

Jacey Fortin: If everything had gone according to plan, California would have approved new guidelines this month for math education in public schools. But ever since a draft was opened for public comment in February, the recommendations have set off a fierce debate over not only how to teach math, but also how to solve […]

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 […]

Sergiu Klainerman: 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 […]

Terry Tao: As part of social distancing efforts to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus, several universities have now transitioned, or begun transitioning, to online teaching models. (My home university of UCLA has not yet done so, but is certainly considering the option. UPDATE: we are transitioning.) As a consequence, I thought it might […]

Joanne Jacobs: But what will happen to math achievers who do want to take calculus and pursue STEM majors in college? Will they get what they need in untracked classes? Black students are more likely to wait until 11th or 12th grade to take Algebra 1, according to the U.S. Education Department, he reports in […]

Keith Dysarz: Nearly every state includes measures of college- and career-readiness in their accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the quality of classroom assignments can help gauge whether students are being prepared for success beyond high school. What is Equity In Motion? In this series, we look at how issues or equity […]

Amber Walker: 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 […]

David Burkehead: This is just simple math. People compare some “big ticket” item with “small ticket” items and don’t mention how the very large numbers of those small ticket items add up, or how very little the large ticket item would really stretch among the many to whom those small ticket items apply. So when […]

Slashdot.org: “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 […]

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 […]

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

Monica Anderson: For almost 30 years, math enthusiasts have been taking part in festivities on March 14 to honor an infinitely long number beginning with 3.14 – the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, otherwise known as pi. The first official Pi Day was March 14, 1988, when physicist Larry Shaw led staff […]

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, […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

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

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

Emma Brown The nation’s high school seniors have shown no improvement in reading achievement and their math performance has slipped since 2013, according to the results of a test administered by the federal government last year. The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, also show a longer-term stagnation in 12th-grade performance […]

Katherine Beals & Barry Garelick: “In general, there is no more evidence of “understanding” in the explained solution, even with pictures, than there would be in mathematical solutions presented in a clear and organized way. How do we know, for example, that a student isn’t simply repeating an explanation provided by the teacher or the […]

Math Mistakes: I notice that the kid didn’t write them as (x,y) but wrote them as x,y. I wonder how come he did that? Or, more precisely, I wonder if he doesn’t see much of a difference between (x,y) and x,y or if three is some other reason for leaving off the parentheses. Related: Math […]

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

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

Lindsay Gellman: New waves of Indians and Chinese are taking America’s business-school entrance exam, and that’s causing a big problem for America’s prospective M.B.A.s. Why? The foreign students are much better at the test. Asia-Pacific students have shown a mastery of the quantitative portion of the four-part Graduate Management Admission Test. That has skewed mean […]

Brooke Powers: Before Common Core I was a typical math teacher. I had my curriculum maps and and state standards which read like a skill and drill check list that I marked off one by one whether the kids understood them or not. I used really “great” methods and math terminology like “butterfly method”, “keep […]

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

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 […]

Dick Resch Americans could use a crash course in math. According to a new study from the Brookings Institution, jobs in science, technology, engineering and math are vacant for more than twice as long as other positions — largely because employers can’t find people with the math and science skills to fill them. In fact, […]

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

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 […]

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

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 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.

Donna St. George, via a kind reader’s email:For another semester, Montgomery County high school students flunked their final exams in math courses in startlingly high numbers, according to new figures that show failure rates of 71 percent for Geometry and 68 percent for Algebra 1.

The numbers add to a phenomenon that goes back more than five years and came to widespread public attention this spring, setting off a wave of concern among parents as well as elected officials in the high-performing school system.

Latest math-exam figures show high failure rates persist in the high-performing school system.

The new figures, for exams given in June, show that failure rates worsened in Algebra 1 and Geometry; improved in Precalculus and Bridge to Algebra 2; and stayed fairly even in Algebra 2, Honors Precalculus, Honors Algebra 2 and Honors Geometry.

Overall, 45 percent of high school students in eight math courses failed their June finals — about 14,000 students out of roughly 31,000 enrolled.

Exactly what explains steep failure rates for exam-takers has been an issue of debate in recent months.

In a memo to the school board, School Superintendent Joshua P. Starr released a preliminary figure on test-skipping: As many as 500 students were no-shows for the Algebra 1 exam in June, accounting for one-sixth of the 2,912 students who failed the test.

Starr said student motivation was one of a half-dozen issues under study as a newly created math work group seeks to understand the failure problem and suggest ways to turn it around. Other possible causes cited include alignment between the curriculum and the exam, school system practices and policies, and the “cognitive demands” of the exam.Related: Math Forum audio & video along with a number of connected matharticles.

2004 (!) Madison West High School math teacher letter to Isthmus on dumbing down the curriculum.

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:

Community college students are needlessly assigned to remedial math classes to learn lessons they won’t use during their studies, according to new research from a Washington, D.C. group.

And the study also found that many high school graduates are not learning subjects they will need to use in their careers.

The study was produced by the Washington, D.C.-based National Center on Education and the Economy and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“What these studies show is that our schools do not teach what their students need,” the authors wrote, “while demanding of them what they don’t need; furthermore, the skills that we do teach and that the students do need, the schools teach ineffectively. Perhaps that is where we should begin.”Related: Math forum audio/video.

I am moved to respond to Sol Garfunkel’s “Opinion” article.1 I am a long-time high school mathematics teacher in a public school. I started teaching around the time of SMSG and have been in the trenches throughout several of the math wars. I know Dr. Garfunkel’s fine work in creating interesting modeling projects and his outspoken opinion that using technology to solve problems that apply the mathematics we are teaching will better concretize students’ understanding of the underlying mathematics. It sounds like a fine idea, but the reality is often very different.

Our problems in teaching mathematics begin in elementary school. Sadly, many teachers working with our children at the start of their mathematical journeys are not themselves comfortable with the mathematics they are trying to teach. They often only know one way to teach an idea and they may not fully understand how that method works and why it gives the right answers. Such a teacher confronted with an alternate creative method (perhaps suggested by a clever child or a seasoned colleague) may reject the alternative rather than trying to see how and why two methods produce the same result. Beyond stifling the creativity of students and discouraging them from trying to see how the mathematics works, such an approach is not fertile ground for applications and modeling projects in which creative exploration and possibly unorthodox methods are encouraged as a means of truly understanding what is happening. Teachers who lack confidence in their own understanding of the ideas may not want to include these sorts of activities in their classrooms.Related: Math Forum audio & video.

Days are getting longer, the weather is warmer. The smell of spring is in the air. But if you inhale deeply down by JSCEE, there’s another smell. It’s the smell of math. After years of sideways movement, the stars are aligned for systemic changes to math instruction in Seattle Public Schools.

When you look at Seattle kids’ math achievement against other urban districts, Seattle might seem to be doing OK. As a district-level statistic, we’re not too bad. But closer inspection of disaggregated data and the view from inside the system prompt a cry for help. Seattle still has a large number of struggling students and a persistent achievement gap which we can’t shake. Outside tutoring has become commonplace, with math as the most frequent remediation subject. However, recent national and state developments have identified common ground and outcome-proven methods which can serve as a model for Seattle.

This brings us around to a community support initiative for math education. Seattle has a math-focused School Board, and Seattle’s new superintendent, Jose Banda, came to Seattle from proven math success with a diverse student population in Anaheim. Recent news reports are that staff at JSCEE are planning a K-8 math instructional materials adoption soon. Examples of success are scattered through Seattle classrooms and it’s time for those successes to take root across the district.Related: Math forum audio/video and Seattle’s “Discovery Math” lawsuit.

A new study has found that inexperienced teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are disproportionately more likely to be assigned to lower-performing math students, perpetuating the achievement gap.

The study also found that L.A. Unified teachers “vary substantially” in their effectiveness, with top teachers able to give students the equivalent of eight additional months of learning in a year compared with weaker instructors.

Such findings raise “deep concerns,” said Drew Furedi, the district’s executive director of talent management, who oversees teacher training. “For us, it’s a call to action.”

The study by the Strategic Data Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, analyzed the performance of about 30% of L.A. Unified teachers and presented findings based primarily on students’ standardized math test scores from 2005 through 2011 in grades three through eight. The study’s authors acknowledged that test scores were only one measure of teacher effectiveness.

….

The study also found:

Teacher effects vary substantially in LAUSD, more than in many other districts. The difference between a 25th and 75th percentile elementary math teacher is over one-quarter of a standard deviation, which is roughly equivalent to a student having eight additional months of instruction in a calendar year.

Teach for America and Career Ladder teachers have higher math effects on average than other novices in their first year by 0.05 and 0.03 standard deviations respectively, which is roughly equivalent to one to two months of additional learning. These differences persist over time

The performance of math teachers improved quickly in the first five years, then leveled off.

Those with advanced degrees were no more effective than those without, although L.A. Unified pays more to teachers pursuing such degrees.

Long-term substitute teachers — who have been employed more frequently to fill in amid widespread layoffs — have positive effects in teaching middle-school mathView the complete 1.4MB PDF study, here.

Related: Math forum audio/video.

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has received a $50,000 grant to help incoming students who need remedial math courses.

The UW System says one in five incoming freshmen needs remedial math. And for under-represented minority students, that figure is double.

To bring those students up to speed faster, the La Crosse campus is using the grant money to develop an online math course. The program will be available to high school students who want to evaluate how ready they are for college, and for non-traditional students who’ve been away from school and need a refresher before coming back.Remarkable. Are we making no progress? Perhaps it is time to revisit the math forum audio and video.

Related: What impact do high school mathematics curricula have on college-level mathematics placement? by James Wollack and Michael fish.

New spending approved by the Oshkosh school board would cover a gap in math tutoring services that has left four schools with inadequate help for struggling students since last year.

About 13 percent of Oshkosh elementary school students perform below grade level in math, said Director of Curriculum Shelly Muza.

That’s better than the average Wisconsin district, which has about 25 percent of elementary students performing below grade level. But budget cuts in the 2009-10 academic year stripped Oakwood, Carl Traeger, Lakeside and Green Meadow schools of math support services after the board decided to fund the $295,000 program with federal Title I dollars – money given only to schools with higher rates of poverty – instead of general fund dollars.

The remaining math intervention teachers who work one-on-one with struggling students can barely keep up. The equivalent of 4.25 full-time teachers are split between about 570 students in 12 elementary schools, said Muza.Two relate links: Math Forum Audio, Video & Links; Math Task Force.

Respondents focus their brief on arguing that no reasonable school board would adopt “inquiry-based” high school mathematics textbooks instead of “direct instruction” textbooks. There are “dueling experts” and other conflicting evidence regarding the best available material for teaching high school math, and the Seattle School Board (“the Board”) gave due consideration to both sides of the debate before reaching its quasi legislative decision to adopt the Discovering series and other textbooks on a 4-3 vote.

The trial court erred by substituting its judgment for the Board’s in determining how much weight to place on the conflicting evidence. Several of the “facts” alleged in the Brief of Respondents (“BR”) are inaccurate, misleading, or lack any citation to the record in violation of RAP l0.3(a)(4). The Court should have an accurate view of the facts in the record to decide the important legal issues in this case. The Board is, therefore, compelled to correct any misimpressions that could arise from an unwary reading of respondents’ characterization of the facts.Much more on the successful citizen lawsuit overturning the Seattle School District’s use of Discovery Math, here. http://seattlemathgroup.blogspot.com/. Clusty Search: Discovery Math.

Local links: Math Task Force, Math Forum Audio/Video and West High School Math Teachers letter to Isthmus.

I know that I’m inviting trouble with this, but something that Reader wrote in a comment on another thread piqued my interest. I would like to discuss only a narrow question. Please don’t expand the discussion.

Writing about Everyday Math and Singapore, Reader wrote: “The fact is, the newer curricula stress more problem solving and discovery. That is, it’s doing more than a lot of older curricula.”

Here’s my question: can problem-solving be taught?

I mean this in the nicest possible way and I don’t have an answer myself. I’m not sure, I’m asking. Can people be taught or trained in problem-solving techniques or is it a talent that some people just natively have more than others? Problem solving requires a certain amount of creativity, doesn’t it? It can require a flexibility of perspective, curiosity, persistence, and pattern recognition. Can these things be taught or trained?

Related: Math Forum audio/video links.

via a kind reader. Related: Connected Math, Math Forum audio/video, the successful Seattle Discovery Math lawsuit and the Madison School District Math Task Force (SIS links).

If you are a parent in cities such as Bellevue, Issaquah or Seattle, your kids are being short-changed–being provided an inferior math education that could cripple their future aspirations–and you need to act. This blog will tell the story of an unresponsive and wrong-headed educational bureaucracies that are dead set on continuing in the current direction. And it will tell the story of how this disaster can be turned around. Parent or not, your future depends on dealing with the problem.

Let me provide you with a view from the battlefield of the math “wars”, including some information that is generally not known publicly, or has been actively suppressed by the educational establishment. Of lawsuits and locking parents out of decision making.

I know that some of you would rather that I only talk about weather, but the future of my discipline and of our highly technological society depends on mathematically literate students. Increasingly, I am finding bright students unable to complete a major in atmospheric sciences. All their lives they wanted to be a meteorologist and problems with math had ended their dreams. Most of them had excellent math grades in high school. I have talked in the past about problems with reform or discovery math; an unproven ideology-based instructional approach in vogue among the educational establishment. An approach based on student’s “discovering” math principles, group learning, heavy use of calculators, lack of practice and skills building, and heavy use of superficial “spiraling” of subject matter. As I have noted before in this blog, there is no competent research that shows that this approach works and plenty to show that it doesn’t. But I have covered much of this already in earlier blogs.Related: Math Forum audio / video.

For entertainment value read the Discovering Math Q&A in this article in the Seattle Times. The Discovering Math guy (1) doesn’t always answer the question asked, (2) answers but doesn’t address the topic properly – see the question on if Discovering Math is “mathematically unsound” and (3) sounds like he works for the district.

Here’s one example:

The Discovering books have been criticized by parents, but they’ve been the top pick of a couple of districts in our area, including Seattle and Issaquah. Any thoughts on why the textbooks seem to be more popular with educators than with parents?

Ryan: I think because (parents) lack familiarity — this doesn’t look like what I was taught. I don’t know how you get students to a place where more is required of them by repeating things that have been done in the past. That’s not how we move forward in life.

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

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.

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

The purpose of this report is to describe the recomrnendations in response to the Madison Metropolitan School District Mathematics Task Force Report: Review of Mathematics Curriculum and Related Issues, submitted to the Board of Education June, 2008.

Administrative Recommendations Summary The materials included in this packet update and replace those distributed to the Board of Education in April 2009. Included in the materials is a proposed budget.

Middle School Mathematics Specialists (see Recommendations 1-5)

The Superintendent and UW-Madison Deans of Letters and Sciences and the School of Education commissioned a representative and collaborative group to design a professional development plan for this initiative. The group was convened in June and has since met four times during the summer to research and design a professional development plan to support middle school mathematics teachers.

The Middle School Math Partnership committee has tentatively planned five courses for the professional development proposal. Those courses are Number and Generalization, Rational Number and Proportional Reasoning, Geometry, Measurement and Trigonometry, and Algebra and Functions. The courses would be spread out over two years and be co-facilitated by UW and MMSD staff.

Research, data gathering and design will continue through 2009-2010 with the initial cohort of middle school teachers beginning in summer 2010. Upon completion of an initial draft, the plan will be presented to district teachers for further input and refinement.

In collaboration with the above group, a National Science Foundation Targeted Partnership proposal, Professional Learning Partnership K-20 (PLP K-20), was submitted on August 20, 2009. A UW-Madison and MMSD team of nearly 30 members worked during the summer to craft a proposal focused on systemic and sustainable mathematics professional development. The vision described in the proposal creates “a lasting interface to coordinate material, human, social, and cyber resources” among the UW-Madison and District. The principal investigator of the NSF proposal is Eric Wilcots. Co-Pl’s include Provost Deluca, Superintendent Nerad, Dean Sandefur and Dean Underwood.Background notes and links:

- Math Forum audio & video links.
- West High School Math Teacher letter to Isthmus.
- UW-Madison Math Faculty (35 signatures) open letter to the Madison School District about the Math Coordinator Position.
- Madison School District 8th Grade Math Data.
Again, it will be interesting to see what, if any substantive changes occur in the local math programs.

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“)

withouttextbooks 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?

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation — mathematician — has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.

“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school,” says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. “It’s the science of problem-solving.”

The study, to be released Tuesday from CareerCast.com, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. (CareerCast.com is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)

The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac,” and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz’s own expertise.

According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions — indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise — unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren’t expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching — attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber.

The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160, but Ms. Courter, 38, says her salary exceeds that amount.Related:

- The Madison School District is holding public meetings tonight (LaFollette High School) and tomorrow (Memorial High School) on the recent Math Task Force Report.
- Math Forum audio/video
- West High School Math Teachers Letter to Isthmus
- Madison and Wisconsin Math Data, 8th Grade by Richard Askey
- UW-Madison Math Faculty letter to the Madison School District
- Math report commentary by TJ Mertz, more here
Parents and citizens have another opportunity to provide input on this matter when Brian Sniff, Madison’s Math Coordinator and Lisa Wachtel, Director of Madison’s Teaching & Learning discuss the Math Report at a Cherokee Middle School PTO meeting on January 14, 2009 at 7:00p.m.

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

Students in six major U.S. cities are performing on par or better in mathematics than their peers in other countries in grades 4 and 8, according to a new study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). However, students from five other major cities are not faring as well, and overall, U.S. student performance in mathematics falls off from elementary to middle school grades — and remains behind many industrialized nations, particularly Asian nations.

The AIR study offers the first comparison between students from large U.S. cities and their international peers. The study compares U.S. 4th grade students with their counterparts in 24 countries and 8th grade students with peers in 45 countries.

“Globalization is not something we can hold off or turn off…it is the economic equivalent of a force of nature… like the wind and water” (Bill Clinton)

If you are a student today competing for jobs in a global economy, the good jobs will not go to the best in your graduating class–the jobs will go to the best students in the world. Large urban cities are intimately connected to the nations of the world. Large corporations locate their businesses in U.S. cities; foreign students attend U.S. schools; and U.S. businesses export goods and services to foreign nations. Large urban cities need to know how their students stack up against peers in the nations with which the U.S. does business. This is especially important for students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The students in these fields will allow our future generation to remain technologically innovative and economically competitive.

This report provides a comparison of the number of mathematically Proficient students in Grades 4 and 8 in 11 large cities in the United States with their international peers.

This comparison is made possible by statistically linking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2003 and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 when both assessments were conducted in the United States in the same year and in the same grades.

After the statistical linking was completed, it was possible to compare the most recent NAEP results (from 2007) to the most recent TIMSS results (from 2003). How the United States compares to the overall international average.

At Grade 4, five countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Flemish portion of Belgium) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 39% proficiency) performed better than the international average (27% proficiency) of all 24 countries (Figure 13).

At Grade 8, eight countries (Singapore, Hong Kong SAR, Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium (Flemish), Netherlands, and Hungary) performed significantly better than the United States (Figure 1). However, the United States (at 31% proficiency) performed better than the international average (21% proficiency) of all 44 countries (Figure 14).

….

Because of the persistent requests of urban school districts, the U .S . Congress authorized NAEP to assess, on a trial basis, six large urban school districts beginning in 2002 . Since then, more districts have been added, resulting in 11 school districts in 2007 (and plans are underway to include even more districts in the future) . The urban school chiefs in these 11 large school districts, which voluntarily participated in the 2007 NAEP, recognized the global nature of educational expectations and the importance of having reliable external data against which to judge the performance of their students and to hold themselves accountable . They should be commended for their visionary goal of trying to benchmark their local performance against tough national standards. National standards provide a broad context and an external compass with which to steer educational policy to benefit local systems . The purpose of this report is to further help those systems navigate by providing international benchmarks.Clusty Search: Gary W. Phillips and John A. Dossey.

Greg Toppo has more:

Even if the findings are less-than-stellar, he says, they should help local officials focus on improving results.

“In that sense, I think it could be a very positive thing to use in-house, in the district, to keep their nose to the grindstone,” says Kepner, a former middle- and high-school math teacher in Iowa and Wisconsin.”If they can show they’re improving, they might be able to attract more companies to a system that’s on the move.”

Phillips says the findings prove that in other countries “it is possible to do well and learn considerably under a lot of varied circumstances — in other words, being low-income is not really an excuse when you look around the rest of the world.”

25MB mp3 audio file from the September 8, 2008 meeting.

Links:

The students swapped stories of little sisters, brothers and cousins who were taking above-grade-level math and getting good grades, yet did not seem to have a firm grasp of the material. The curriculum is being “narrowed and shallowed,” Walstein said. “The philosophy is that they squeeze you out the top like a tube of toothpaste. That’s what Montgomery County math is.”

Several students nodded their heads. This thesis has become Walstein’s obsession: In its drive to be the best, please affluent parents and close the achievement gap on standardized tests, the county is accelerating too many students in math, at the expense of the curriculum — and the students. The average accelerated math student “thinks he’s fine. His parents think he’s fine. The school system says he’s fine. But he’s not fine!” Walstein declares on one occasion. On another, Walstein is even less diplomatic. ” ‘We have the best courses and there’s no achievement gap and everything is wonderful,’ ” he says, parroting the message he believes county administrators are trying to project.

“The problem is, they’re lying!”Math Forum audio / video links.

1997 saw the height of the Math Wars in California.

On the one side stood educrats, who advocated mushy math – or new-new math. They sought to de-emphasize math skills, such as multiplication and solving numeric equations, in favor of pushing students to write about math and how they might solve a problem. Their unofficial motto was: There is no right answer. (Even to 2 +2.)

They were clever. They knew how to make it seem as if they were pushing for more rigor, as they dumbed down curricula. For example, they said they wanted to teach children algebra starting in kindergarten, which seemed rigorous, but they had expanded the definition of algebra to the point that it was meaningless.

On the other side were reformers, who wanted the board to push through rigorous and specific standards that raised the bar for all California kids. Miraculously, they succeeded, and they took pride in the state Board of Education’s vote for academic standards that called for all eighth-graders to learn Algebra I.Math Forum Audio, Video and links.

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

Next fall, 26 of the sharpest fifth-grade minds at Potomac Elementary School will study seventh-grade math. The rest of the fifth grade will learn sixth-grade math. Fifth-grade math will be left to the third- and fourth-graders.

Public schools nationwide are working to increase the number of students who study Algebra I, the traditional first-year high school math course, in eighth grade. Many Washington area schools have gone further, pushing large numbers of students two or three years ahead of the grade-level curriculum.

Math study in Montgomery County has evolved from one or two academic paths to many. Acceleration often begins in kindergarten. In a county known for demanding parents, the math push has generated an unexpected backlash. Many parents say children are pushed too far, too fast.

Sixty Montgomery math teachers complained, in a November forum, that students were being led into math classes beyond their abilities.Related links:

- Math Forum Audio, Video and Links.
- West High School Math teachers letter to Isthmus

One train leaves Station A at 6 p.m. traveling at 40 miles per hour toward Station B. A second train leaves Station B at 7 p.m. traveling on parallel tracks at 50 m.p.h. toward Station A. The stations are 400 miles apart. When do the trains pass each other?

Entranced, perhaps, by those infamous hypothetical trains, many educators in recent years have incorporated more and more examples from the real world to teach abstract concepts. The idea is that making math more relevant makes it easier to learn.

That idea may be wrong, if researchers at Ohio State University are correct. An experiment by the researchers suggests that it might be better to let the apples, oranges and locomotives stay in the real world and, in the classroom, to focus on abstract equations, in this case 40 (t + 1) = 400 – 50t, where t is the travel time in hours of the second train. (The answer is below.)

“The motivation behind this research was to examine a very widespread belief about the teaching of mathematics, namely that teaching students multiple concrete examples will benefit learning,” said Jennifer A. Kaminski, a research scientist at the Center for Cognitive Science at Ohio State. “It was really just that, a belief.”

Dr. Kaminski and her colleagues Vladimir M. Sloutsky and Andrew F. Heckler did something relatively rare in education research: they performed a randomized, controlled experiment. Their results appear in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.The Advantage of Abstract Examples in Learning Math by Jennifer A. Kaminski, Vladimir M. Sloutsky, Andrew F. Heckler.

I wonder what has become of the Madison School District’s Math Task Force?

Math Forum audio, video, notes and links.

Talk with Terry Millar long enough and it’s bound to happen: The mathematics professor will begin drilling you in math. He’ll slip in a question such as “What is pi?” and before you know it you’re being coached to a whole new level of mathematical understanding.

Linda McQuillen refers to it as having Millar “attend to her mathematics” and as his long-time collaborator she’s well acquainted with the experience.

“Traveling with him [to meetings] and when we’d do presentations for various audiences, on the cab rides to and from the airport, we were always doing mathematics,” laughs McQuillen, a retired math teacher and a former leader of the Madison school district’s math goals. “The problem is, Terry can do it verbally and I can’t. He’s just amazing.”

If Millar’s enthusiasm for teaching math can be overwhelming, it’s also true he has put the energy to good use. For well over a decade, Millar has worked to improve math and science instruction for students at all levels by bringing together the knowledge of university mathematicians and scientists with the teaching and curricular expertise of educators.Terry Millar and Linda McQuillen participated in the Math Forum. Check out the notes, audio and video here.

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel was convened by President Bush in April 2006 to address concerns that many of today’s students lack the math know-how needed to become tomorrow’s engineers and scientists. The 24-member panel of mathematicians and education experts announced recommendations to improve instruction and make better textbooks and even called on researchers to find ways to combat “mathematics anxiety.”

Larry R. Faulkner, panel chairman and former president of the University of Texas at Austin, said the country needs to make changes to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy. He noted that many U.S. companies draw skilled workers from overseas, a pool he said is drying out as opportunities in other countries improve.

“The question is, are we going to be able to get the talent?” Faulkner said in a briefing before the report’s release. “And it’s not just a question of economic competitiveness. In the end, it’s a question of whether, as a nation, we have enough technical prowess to assure our own security.”Google News. Math Forum audio / video.

Joanne rounds up a few more links.

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.

A group of Prince William County parents is mounting a campaign to repeal a new elementary school math curriculum, using an Internet discussion group and an online petition to gather support and fuel criticism.

The group, whose members include parents from such elementary schools as Westridge, Ashland and Springwoods as well as teachers from various schools, plans to present the Prince William County School Board in February with its petition, which has about 500 names. Parents in the group, whose Web site ( http://www.pwcteachmathright.com) lists several of their complaints, say that the Investigations curriculum is putting their children behind grade level and is too convoluted.

The group’s formation comes right after the school system presented a year-long study of the curriculum that showed 80 percent of second-graders and 70 percent of first-graders are proficient on all 10 subtests of the Stanford Diagnostic Mathematics Test. The school system wants to continue studying the program and incorporate data from student performance on the state Standards of Learning exams.

School Board member Julie C. Lucas (Neabsco) said in an interview that she wants to examine the program inside a classroom to assess its effectiveness. She added that she has been hearing positive reviews from at least one principal in her district but that she wants to withhold making public comments until she visits schools.

The Investigations program has been undergoing a phased-in implementation since the School Board adopted its materials in 2006. In the 2006-07 academic year, kindergarten through second grade started the program; this year, third-graders began it; and next year, fourth-graders will use the material.

Investigations teaches children new ways of learning mathematics and solving problems. For instance, a student may not need to learn how to add 37 and 23 by stacking the figures on top of each other, and carrying the numbers. They may learn to add up the tens and then combine the seven and three to arrive at 60.Related:

- Math Forum Audio / Video
- Madison School District’s Math Task Force
- Clusty Search: Math Investigations
- Teaching Math Right website:

Why this website?

…Because our children – ALL children – deserve a quality mathematics education in PWCS!!

In 2006 PWCS directed mandatory implementation of the elementary school mathematics curriculum TERC – “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space” in all PWCS elementary schools. The traditional, proven, successful mathematics program was abandoned for a “discovery learning” program that has a record of failure across the country.

Of all the VA Department of Education approved elementary math text/materials, “Investigations” least adequately supports the VA Standards of Learning. Yet it was somehow “the right choice” for PWCS children. Parents of 2nd and 3d graders are already realizing the negative impact of this program in only a year and a half’s worth of “Investigations.” Children subjected to this program end up two years behind where they should be in mathematics fluency and competency by the end of 5th grade. PWCS is committed to experimenting with our children’s future. We think our children and our tax dollars deserve better.

Terry Millar: Improvement in math and science education is a priority in Madison, as it is across the nation. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) training is not only of growing importance to our technology-dependent society, these disciplines also represent esthetically compelling advances in human knowledge that all students should have the opportunity to appreciate. […]

Math Excellence in Columbia Missouri Public Schools:

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.

Via a reader.

Joanne Jacobs: KitchenTableMath and Text Savvy aren’t happy with the Education Department’s advice to parents on teaching children math: Try to be aware of how your child is being taught math, and don’t teach strategies and shortcuts that conflict with the approach the teacher is using. There are many reasons parents might be interested in […]

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 […]

Daniel de Vise: It says the typical state math curriculum runs a mile wide and an inch deep, resulting in students being introduced to too many concepts but mastering too few, and urges educators to slim down those lessons. Some scholars say the American approach to math instruction has allowed students to fall behind those […]

Lynn Thompson: 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 […]

David Klein: 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 […]

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, […]

Education Wonks: 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 […]

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 […]

Dane County Public Affairs Council2006 Madison School Board Candidate Forum.View [video] or listen [mp3 audio] to the entire event, or read each question below and view the candidate responses.

Several westside PTO’s hosted a candidate forum Wednesday evening. The candidates discussed a wide variety of questions, including referendums, the budget process, strings, local education media coverage and differences with their opponents. Listen to the entire event (34.6MB mp3 audio file), or click on the links below to review specific questions & answers.

Susan Edelman: Scores on Algebra 1 Regents exam plummeted by 14 percentage points at south Queens schools that used a controversial new curriculum teachers have blasted as “a complete disaster,” a superintendent revealed this week Josephine Van Ess, superintendent of Queens South High Schools, told parent leaders Wednesday that the 29 high schools under her watch, all […]

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 […]

Karen Rivedal: “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 […]

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

Tim Harford: This statistical capitulation was a dismaying read for anyone still wedded to the idea — apparently a quaint one — that gathering statistical information might help us understand and improve our world. But the Guardian’s cynicism can hardly be a surprise. It is a natural response to the rise of “statistical bullshit” — […]

Emily Badger: 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 […]

Philip Greenspun, via a kind reader: Based on what people said at the forum, the core driver of mediocrity seems to be the dual function of the American school. A home-schooled child studies for three hours per day. A Russian child studies for about four hours, from just after breakfast until just before lunch (with […]

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 […]

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 […]

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:

- April 2004 West High School Math Teacher Letter

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

It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined “success” as merely producing “fewer failures.” Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?- 2009: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use
- 2006: Math Forum audio, video and links
- 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
- “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
- 2006: Connected Math
- 2005: English 10
- 2009: Action Needed, Please Sign on…. Math Teacher Hiring in the Madison School District
- Madison will spend $374,700,000 to educate 24,861 students during the 2012-2013 school year. $15,071/student.
- wisconsin2.org.

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:

“Where ignorance is bliss, ignorance of ignorance is sublime.” – Paul Dunham

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

Last week, I went to a Spokane Public Schools math presentation at Indian Trail Elementary School. It was billed as a forum in the school newsletter and on the reader board outside of the school. It was not, in any way, a forum. It was a tightly controlled 20-minute presentation that offered no data, little information, allowed for no parent input and was patronizing in tone.

At one point, parents were asked to define math to the person next to us. (The principal said he would not offer his definition.) We also were told to describe to our neighbor a math experience we’d had. These conversations ended right there, thus being pointless. We watched a video of several small children talking about the importance of math. The kids were cute, but the video was long. It was made clear to us that math is hard, parents don’t get it (see slide 7 of the presentation), “traditional math” is no longer useful, and math is intimidating to all. Printed materials reinforced the idea of parent incompetence, with students supposedly “taking the lead” and teaching their parents.

Parents were warned to stay positive about math, however, despite our supposed fear and lack of skill, and we also were told what a “balanced” program looks like – as if that’s what Spokane actually has.Related: Math Forum audio & video.

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.