Saturday, May 17, 2008

Parent writes to SPS Math Program Manager

Dear Ms. Wise, (Math Program Manager Seattle Public Schools)

I appreciate your explanation below of the lengthy process used to arrive at the Everyday Math curriculum for elementary schools. It sounds like there was quite a bit of controversy, especially since you had to mediate with a Polarity Management Session. The two reform math curricula chosen as finalists are representative of the type of math popular with educators over the last decade. This is the status quo, not progress.

I question your assertion that Everyday Math meets the recommendations from the National Math Panel. The report states on page 21: The Singapore standards provide an established example of curriculum standards, designed to develop proficiency in a relatively small number of important mathematics topics, as validated by a recent analysis. The desirability of emphasizing fewer important mathematics topics in greater depth has been recognized by U.S. educators.

The Everyday Math curriculum has been heavily criticized for introducing too many topics to children, leaving them without proficiency. Although you have provided Singapore supplements, I have heard many schools leave them unopened because the Everyday Math curriculum is so time consuming.

The National Math Panel report states only 23% of our U.S. students are proficient at grade 12, with large disparities by race and income. In his studies of school districts in Calif. that switched from Everyday Math to Saxon math, Dr. William Hook, math researcher from the University of Victoria, noted stunning performance improvements from students switching to Saxon math. Significantly, the teachers needed no special training and it worked as well for economically disadvantaged students as it did for high performing ones. This important research in California was overlooked in the Seattle adoption of Everyday Math textbooks.

The National Math Panel report criticized U.S. textbooks for being extremely long, contributing to a lack of coherence. The curriculum in PreK-8 should be streamlined and emphasize a well-defined set of most critical topics. Everyday Math textbooks are long and complicated compared to Singapore and Saxon textbooks and they jump around many different topics. They also rely on verbal problems, increasing difficulty to students without strong language skills.

The National Math Panel mentioned that the use of calculators is one of the concerns in a survey of the nation’s algebra teachers, and that fluency in computation will be adversely affected. They should not be used in tests designed to assess computational facility. I noticed entire chapters devoted to using calculators in EM textbooks.

On page 26 the National Math Panel report states that few curricula in the U.S. provide sufficient practice to ensure fast and efficient solving of basic fact combinations and execution of the standard algorithms. UW Professor of atmospheric sciences, Cliff Mass, notes the alarming trend over the last decade of students requiring remedial math and he blames reform curricula like Everyday Math for this. Many college math and science professors in Washington who see incoming freshmen should have been consulted before an adoption was made.

I think Everyday Math is an extremely weak foundation for our Seattle students and will not give them the practice and tools they need to become proficient.


Georgi Krom

Seattle, Washington

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