Friday, October 31, 2008

A Message from Ed, Sudhakar, and Dan

Ed writes the following:

> Math Education is only political. We have been formally teaching mathematics since > the temple schools of the First Dynasty, if not before. While I do believe there
> are some issues with learning disabilities, the vast majority of children are
> perfectly normal and we know, and have long known, everything there is to know
> about teaching mathematics to young children.
> Need I add that this long march of history has included a few intellectual
> giants? It is simply laughable to think that some know-nothing at a "school
> of education" has some deep insight that will revolutionize the practice.
> Rather, the Ed School Ayatollahs have something else in mind, some other
> agenda, and effective math instruction plainly is not a part of that. That
> William Ayers surfaces as an ed school professor speaks volumes in this
> regard.
> The only socially relevant education question is, "Who are these
> educationists and how do we get them out of our lives?" And that is an
> entirely political question.
> Ed

As Sudhakar said:

In India they've been teaching math for thosands of years. They use what works and discard what does not in this incremental improvement process.


I sure hope the USA figures out that the Better Idea in Math ED from the ED Schools is not working (a decade of data and TIMSS and PISA results are clear as are math remediation rates after high school graduation) . The National Math Advisory Panel has figured this out, but with Jeanne Century as an Obama education advisor don't expect the obvious to be carried out should Sen. Obama get elected.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NMAP thought - Curriculum Matters !!!

Here is an interesting analysis from the National Math Advisory Panel.

On p.26 of the report:
"Conceptual understanding of mathematical operations, fluent execution of procedures and fast access to number combinations together support effective and efficient problem solving...

Studies of children in the United States, comparisons of these children with children from other nations with higher mathematics achievement and even cross-generational changes within the U.S. indicate that many contemporary U.S. children do not reach the point of fast and efficient solving of single-digit addition, subtraction, mulitiplication, and division with whole numbers, much less fluent execution of more complex algorithms as early as other children in many countries. Surprisingly, many never gain such proficiency.

The reasons for differences in computational fluency of children in the U.S. ... are multifaceted. They include quantity and quality of practice, emphases within curricula, and parental involvement in mathematics learning... Few curricula in the United States provide sufficient practice to ensure fast and efficient solving of basic fact combinations and execution of the standard algorithms."

Clearly Standard Algorithms and a good curriculum matter. Both are of huge importance.
It would be nice if the Seattle Public Schools believed this obvious fact. Seattle has yet to effectively deal with k-8 mathematics.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dunham on the Math Ed Meltdown

Here's a good David Brooks editorial on the financial meltdown that could easily have been written about the math ed meltdown:

It starts out:

Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.

The editorial is an analysis of some quirks of human nature that have helped generate the current financial crisis. The premise is that too much focus has been on the choice between possible courses of action and too little on the perception of the situation. If this first step is botched, the end result will be also. With a few word substitutions, this editorial applies quite well to the situation we face with math ed in America.

Brooks describes a few pertinent human weaknesses. These are, in his words:

"..our tendency to see data that confirm our prejudices more vividly than data that contradict them; our tendency to overvalue recent events when anticipating future possibilities; our tendency to spin concurring facts into a single causal narrative; our tendency to applaud our own supposed skill in circumstances when we've actually benefited from dumb luck."

In other words, we have a tendency to believe things that aren't true. We construct little castles in our minds, and then dig moats of stubbornness around them to protect them from invading ideas.

I'm not saying I'm any different. I'm human too and have held onto bunk ideas somewhat beyond the point at which it had become obvious to others around me. I've learned that the sooner I recognize, acknowledge, and correct my mistakes; the easier it is to recover from them.

Alan Greenspan, in his remarkable testimony last week, said, "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations … were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders." Thanks, Mr. Greenspan. We wish you'd been able to see this a little earlier. But faulty perceptions that become the creed of an organization become even more persistent. Challenge to the creed is heresy. Only in the harsh light of obvious and colossal failure was an admission of this magnitude possible.

The financial meltdown occurred in a dramatic flameout. It isn't going to play out that way in math ed. Instead, we have a slow smoldering flame eating away at our national prowess in mathematics, while those who are feeding oxygen to the embers deny that it's burning. We are sending an entire generation into the global workplace less prepared than other nations, whose perceptions of what constitutes an education clearly differ from ours. The consequences are clear to those who allow themselves to see. At what point will the scale of the meltdown be such that our education establishment adjusts its perception of what the problem is?

by Paul Dunham

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mathematics : The Most Misunderstood Subject

The following link was recommended by Bob McIntosh, the math program manager of the North Thurston School District.

Mathematics : The Most Misunderstood Subject
© Dr. Robert H. Lewis

Professor of Mathematics, Fordham University

For more than two thousand years, mathematics has been a part of the human search for understanding. Mathematical discoveries have come both from the attempt to describe the natural world and from the desire to arrive at a form of inescapable truth from careful reasoning. These remain fruitful and important motivations for mathematical thinking, but in the last century mathematics has been successfully applied to many other aspects of the human world: voting trends in politics, the dating of ancient artifacts, the analysis of automobile traffic patterns, and long-term strategies for the sustainable harvest of deciduous forests, to mention a few. Today, mathematics as a mode of thought and expression is more valuable than ever before. Learning to think in mathematical terms is an essential part of becoming a liberally educated person.
-- Kenyon College Math Department Web Page

"An essential part of becoming a liberally educated person?" Sadly, many people in America, indeed, I would have to say very many people in America, would find that a difficult and puzzling concept. The majority of educated Americans do not think of Mathematics when they think of a liberal education. Mathematics as essential for science, yes, for business and accounting, sure, but for a liberal education?

Why do so many people have such misconceptions about Mathematics?

The great misconception about mathematics -- and it stifles and thwarts more students than any other single thing -- is the notion that mathematics is about formulas and cranking out computations. It is the unconsciously held delusion that mathematics is a set of rules and formulas that have been worked out by God knows who for God knows why, and the student's duty is to memorize all this stuff. Such students seem to feel that sometime in the future their boss will walk into the office and demand "Quick, what's the quadratic formula?" Or, "Hurry, I need to know the derivative of 3x^2 - 6x +1." There are no such employers.

What is mathematics really like?

Mathematics is not about answers, it's about processes. Let me give a series of parables to try to get to the root of the misconceptions and to try to illuminate what mathematics IS all about. None of these analogies is perfect, but all provide insight.


When a new building is made, a skeleton of steel struts called the scaffolding is put up first. The workers walk on the scaffolding and use it to hold equipment as they begin the real task of constructing the building. The scaffolding has no use by itself. It would be absurd to just build the scaffolding and then walk away, thinking that something of value has been accomplished.

Yet this is what seems to occur in all too many mathematics classes in high schools. Students learn formulas and how to plug into them. They learn mechanical techniques for solving certain equations or taking derivatives. But all of these things are just the scaffolding. They are necessary and useful, sure, but by themselves they are useless. Doing only the superficial and then thinking that something important has happened is like building only the scaffolding.

The real "building" in the mathematics sense is the true mathematical understanding, the true ability to think, perceive, and analyze mathematically.

Ready for the big play.

Professional athletes spend hours in gyms working out on equipment of all sorts. Special trainers are hired to advise them on workout schedules. They spend hours running on treadmills. Why do they do that? Are they learning skills necessary for playing their sport, say basketball?

Imagine there're three seconds left in the seventh game of the NBA championship. The score is tied. Time out. The pressure is intense. The coach is huddling with his star players. He says to one, "OK Michael, this is it. You know what to do." And Michael says, "Right coach. Bring in my treadmill!"

Duh! Of course not! But then what was all that treadmill time for? If the treadmill is not seen during the actual game, was it just a waste to use it? Were all those trainers wasting their time? Of course not. It produced (if it was done right!) something of value, namely stamina and aerobic capacity. Those capacities are of enormous value even if they cannot be seen in any immediate sense. So too does mathematics education produce something of value, true mental capacity and the ability to think.

The hostile party goer.

When I was in first grade we read a series of books about Dick and Jane. There were a lot of sentences like "see Dick run" and so forth. Dick and Jane also had a dog called Spot.

What does that have to do with mathematics education? Well, when I occasionally meet people at parties who learn that I am a mathematician and professor, they sometimes show a bit of repressed hostility. One man once said something to me like, "You know, I had to memorize the quadratic formula in school and I've never once done anything with it. I've since forgotten it. What a waste. Have YOU ever had to use it aside from teaching it?"

I was tempted to say, "No, of course not. So what?" Actually though, as a mathematician and computer programmer I do use it, but rarely. Nonetheless the best answer is indeed, "No, of course not. So what?" and that is not a cynical answer.

After all, if I had been the man's first grade teacher, would he have said, "You know, I can't remember anymore what the name of Dick and Jane's dog was. I've never used the fact that their names were Dick and Jane. Therefore you wasted my time when I was six years old."

How absurd! Of course people would never say that. Why? Because they understand intuitively that the details of the story were not the point. The point was to learn to read! Learning to read opens vast new vistas of understanding and leads to all sorts of other competencies. The same thing is true of mathematics. Had the man's mathematics education been a good one he would have seen intuitively what the real point of it all was.

The considerate piano teacher.

Imagine a piano teacher who gets the bright idea that she will make learning the piano "simpler" by plugging up the student's ears with cotton. The student can hear nothing. No distractions that way! The poor student sits down in front of the piano and is told to press certain keys in a certain order. There is endless memorizing of "notes" A, B, C, etc. The student has to memorize strange symbols on paper and rules of writing them. And all the while the students hear nothing! No music! The teacher thinks she is doing the student a favor by eliminating the unnecessary distraction of the sound!

Of course the above scenario is preposterous. Such "instruction" would be torture. No teacher would ever dream of such a thing, of removing the heart and soul of the whole experience, of removing the music. And yet that is exactly what has happened in most high school mathematics classes over the last 25 years. For whatever misguided reason, mathematics students have been deprived of the heart and soul of the course and been left with a torturous outer shell. The prime example is the gutting of geometry courses, where proofs have been removed or deemphasized. Apparently some teachers think that this is "doing the students a favor." Or is it that many teachers do not really understand the mathematics at all?

Step high.

A long time ago when I was in graduate school, the physical fitness craze was starting. A doctor named Cooper wrote a book on Aerobics in which he outlined programs one could follow to build up aerobic capacity, and therefore cardiovascular health. You could do it via running, walking, swimming, stair climbing, or stationary running. In each case, he outlined a week by week schedule. The goal was to work up to what he called 30 "points" per weeks of exercise during a twelve week program.

Since it was winter and I lived in a snowy place, I decided to do stationary running. I built a foam padded platform to jog in place. Day after day I would follow the schedule, jogging in place while watching television. I dreamed of the spring when I would joyfully demonstrate my new health by running a mile in 8 minutes, which was said to be equivalent to 30-points-per-week cardiovascular health.

The great day came. I started running at what I thought was a moderate pace. But within a minute I was feeling winded! The other people with me started getting far ahead. I tried to keep up, but soon I was panting, gasping for breath. I had to give up after half a mile! I was crushed. What could have gone wrong? I cursed that darn Dr. Cooper and his book.

I eventually figured it out. In the description of stationary running, it said that every part of one's foot must be lifted a certain distance from the floor, maybe it was 10 inches. In all those weeks, I never really paid attention to that. Someone then checked me, and I wasn't even close to 10 inches. No wonder it had failed! I was so discouraged, it was years before I tried exercising again.

What does that have to do with mathematics education? Unfortunately a great deal. In the absence of a real test (for me, actually running on a track) it is easy to think one is progressing if one follows well intentioned but basically artificial guidelines. It is all too easy to slip in some way (as I did by not stepping high enough) and be lulled into false confidence. Then when the real test finally comes, and the illusion of competence is painfully shattered, it is all too easy to feel betrayed or to "blame the messenger."

The "real test" I am speaking of is not just what happens to so many high school graduates when they meet freshman mathematics courses. It is that we in the U. S. are falling farther and farther behind most other countries in the world, not just the well known ones like China, India, and Japan. The bar must be raised, yes, but not in artificial ways, in true, authenic ones.

Cargo cult education.

During World War II in the Pacific Ocean American forces hopped from island to island relentlessly pushing westward toward Japan. Many of these islands in the south Pacific were inhabited by people who had never seen Westerners; maybe their ancestors years before had left legends of large wooden ships. We can only imagine their surprise and shock when large naval vessels arrived and troops set up communication bases and runways. Airplanes and those who flew them seemed like gods. It seemed to the natives that the men in the radio buildings, with their microphones, radios and large antennas, had the power to call in the gods. All of the things brought by the navy, radios, buildings, food, weapons, furniture, etc. were collectively referred to as "cargo".

Then suddenly the war ended and the Westerners left. No more ships. No more airplanes. All that was left were some abandoned buildings and rusting furniture. But a curious thing happened. The natives on some islands figured that they, too, could call in the gods. They would simply do what the Americans had done. They entered the abandoned buildings, erected a large bamboo pole to be the "antenna", found some old boxes to be the "radio", used a coconut shell to be the "microphone." They spoke into the "microphone" and implored the airplanes to land. But of course nothing came. (except, eventually, some anthropologists!) The practice came to be known as a "Cargo Cult."

The story may seem sad, amusing, or pathetic, but what does that have to do with mathematics education? Unfortunately a great deal. The south Pacific natives were unable to discern between the superficial outer appearence of what was happening and the deeper reality. They had no understanding that there even exists such a thing as electricity, much less radio waves or aerodynamic theory. They imitated what they saw, and they saw only the superficial.

Sadly, the same thing has happened in far too many high schools in the United States in the last twenty five years or so in mathematics education. Well meaning "educators" who have no conception of the true nature of mathematics see only its outer shell and imitate it. The result is cargo cult mathematics. They call for the gods, but nothing happens. The cure is not louder calling, it is not more bamboo antennas (i.e. glossy ten pound text books and fancy calculators). The only cure is genuine understanding of authenic mathematics.

Confusion of Education with Training.

Training is what you do when you learn to operate a lathe or fill out a tax form. It means you learn how to use or operate some kind of machine or system that was produced by people in order to accomplish specific tasks. People often go to training institutes to become certified to operate a machine or perform certain skills. Then they can get jobs that directly involve those specific skills.

Education is very different. Education is not about any particular machine, system, skill, or job. Education is both broader and deeper than training. An education is a deep, complex, and organic representation of reality in the student's mind. It is an image of reality made of concepts, not facts. Concepts that relate to each other, reinforce each other, and illuminate each other. Yet the education is more even than that because it is organic: it will live, evolve, and adapt throughout life.

Education is built up with facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more an education than a heap of stones is a house.

An educated guess is an accurate conclusion that educated people can often "jump to" by synthesizing and extrapolating from their knowledge base. People who are good at the game "Jeopardy" do it all the time when they come up with the right question by piecing together little clues in the answer. But there is no such thing as a "trained guess."

No subject is more essential nor can contribute more to becoming a liberally educated person than mathematics. Become a math major and find out!

So What Good Is It?

Some people may understand all that I've said above but still feel a bit uneasy. After all, there are bills to pay. If mathematics is as I've described it, then perhaps it is no more helpful in establishing a career then, say, philosophy.

Here we mathematicians have the best of both worlds, as there are many careers that open up to people who have studied mathematics. Real Mathematics, the kind I discussed above. See the Careers web page for a sampling.

That brings up one more misconception and one more parable, which I call:

Computers, mathematics, and the chagrinned diner.

About nineteen years ago when personal computers were becoming more common in small businesses and private homes, I was having lunch with a few people, and it came up that I was a mathematician. One of the other diners got a funny sort of embarrassed look on her face. I steeled myself for that all too common remark, "Oh I was never any good at math." But no, that wasn't it. It turned out that she was thinking that with computers becoming so accurate, fast, and common, there was no longer any need for mathematicians! She was feeling sorry me, as I would soon be unemployed! Apparently she thought that a mathematician's work was to crank out arithmetic computations.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Thinking that computers will obviate the need for mathematicians is like thinking 80 years ago when cars replaced horse drawn wagons, there would be no more need for careful drivers. On the contrary, powerful engines made careful drivers more important than ever.

Today, powerful computers and good software make it possible to use and concretely implement abstract mathematical ideas that have existed for many years. For example, the RSA cryptosystem is widely used on secure internet web pages to encode sensitive information, like credit card numbers. It is based on ideas in algebraic number theory, and its invulnerability to hackers is the result of very advanced ideas in that field.

Finally, here are a few quotes from an essay well worth reading by David R. Garcia on a similar topic:

Americans like technology but seldom have a grasp of the science behind it. And the mathematics that is behind the science is regarded as even more mysterious, like an inner sanctum into which only initiates may gain entry. They see the rich and nourishing technological fruit on this tree of knowledge, but they see no deeper than the surface branches and twigs on which these fruits grow. To them, the region behind this exterior of the tree, where the trunk and limbs grow, is pointless and purposeless. "What's the use of math?" is the common query. "I'll never use it." When a nation's leaders are composed primarily of lawyers, administrators, military men and stars of the entertainment industry rather than statesmen, philosophers, the spiritual, and the men and women of science, then it should be no surprise that there is so little grasp of the simple reality that one cannot dispense with the trunk and limbs and still continue to enjoy the fruit.

..... What is it that would cause us to focus only on this external fruit of material development and play down the antecedent realms of abstraction that lie deeper? It would be good to find a word less condemning than "superficiality", but how else can this tendency be described in a word? Perhaps facing up to the ugly side of this word can stir us into action to remedy what seems to be an extremely grave crisis in Western education.

.... The first step toward [progress in crucial social problems] is to recognize the deceptive illusions bred by seeing only the surface of issues, of seeing only a myriad of small areas to be dealt with by specialists, one for each area. Piecemeal superficiality won't work.

... Teaching is not a matter of pouring knowledge from one mind into another as one pours water from one glass into another. It is more like one candle igniting another. Each candle burns with its own fuel. The true teacher awakens a love for truth and beauty in the heart--not the mind--of a student after which the student moves forward with powerful interest under the gentle guidance of the teacher. (Isn't it interesting how the mention of these two most important goals of learning--truth and beauty--now evokes snickers and ridicule, almost as if by instinct, from those who shrink from all that is not superficial.) These kinds of teachers will inspire love of mathematics, while so many at present diffuse a distaste for it through their own ignorance and clear lack of delight in a very delightful subject.

Bob Brandt's thoughts:

Bob McIntosh,

Thanks for the link to the article by Dr. Lewis. I have a few comments: In his parable of the Scaffolding he doesn't really point out that without the scaffolding, the building would simply fall down, and fall long before it attained the desired height. In his parable of being Ready for the Big Play, he uses an almost disconnected exercise. Let me point to a better one. John Wooden was the coach of the UCLA basketball team for more than a decade. During that time he won more NCAA tournaments than any other coach in history. How did he do it? Often the individual talent on his teams was not nearly as good as competing teams. But together, synergistically, they played better than their opponents. That was because coach Wooden focused on mastering the basics, while teaching love of the game. He taught new players how to put their socks on properly and how to tie their shoes to avoid getting blisters. And he had them practice the fundamentals of the game over and over (no show boating) so that those fundamentals became second nature to each player and could be executed in any situation without thought or pause. So, when it became time for the "big" play, they could focus on it completely, and usually win the game! Finally, in his discussion of the difference between education and training, he makes the following statement: "It (an education) is an image of reality made of concepts, not facts." I submit that an education is an image of reality made of concepts built upon facts! I think Dr. Lewis made some fine points in his article. But the reason we're engaged in this activity in the state of Washington at present is not only due to the superficiality of mathematics education, but also because the response to that problem was to throw away the scaffolding, the building stones, the facts, and the practice entirely.

Regards, Bob Brandt

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The enrollment decline or NOT!!! data???

Can anyone explain the following?

From the OSPI report card total k-12 school enrollment is given for each October:

10/2002 ... 1,015,968
10/2003 ... 1.021,309
10/2004 ... 1,020,959
10/2005 ... 1,013,189
10/2006 ... 1,026,682
10/2007 ...... 972,662

Looks like about 50,000 kids disappeared from the 2006-2007 SY
to the 2007-2008 School Year.

Any thoughts?
Can someone get the data for 10/2008 when it is released?

There was no decrease in the number of kids enrolled in school at WASL test time in the Spring of 2008. Did OSPI have a data foul up?

WASL Spring testing enrollments for 2007 and 2008.

2007 2008
gr 3 76,074 .. 77,079
gr 4 75,835 .. 76,878
gr 5 75,315 .. 76,673
gr 6 76,722 .. 75,878
gr 7 77,310 .. 77,777
gr 8 79,953 .. 78,058

gr 10 82,515 .. 83,667

totals 543,724 .. 546,010

There is an increase in Students enrolled in the Spring
Thus I think that someone had a data flub in 10/2007 enrollment numbers, which showed a decline of about 50,000 kids.

Letter from Spokesman Review in Spokane for Dorn

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Letters to the editor
Dorn the sensible choice for SPI

Rep. Randy Dorn enacted accountability for Washington schools 16 years ago. The goal is ensuring kids receive a good education comparable to their peers around the world.

Sadly, Terry Bergeson has squandered and corrupted Randy's good intent. Bergeson's WASL is a homegrown, $1 billion disaster. Bergeson's baby has received F's in math, English and U.S. history, and a D in world history, from reviews by Fordham Foundation.

Read the rest in the Spokesman Review Here

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Julie Wright's View on votes that will improve Education

Dear Friends,

As you cast your ballots, I encourage you to make your vote count to improve education in WA state! Please vote Randy Dorn for Superintendent of Public Instruction and re-elect Rep. Glenn Anderson if you live in the 5th District. I’m working on both of their campaigns because I know each of them has the expertise, understanding, and commitment needed to make critical improvements in education.

Over the past few years, I’ve been very involved in the efforts to improve math education and the State Assessment. Nearly ½ of WA students fail in math, with minority groups failing at much higher rates (OSPI Report Card). This is due in large measure to the “F” rated math standards that the incumbent, Terry Bergeson, created, and the poor quality curricula she promoted in schools. Even after the Legislature ordered Bergeson to bring WA math standards and curricula up to world class standards, she is still recommending curriculum that lacks critical content and does not develop essential math skills. During Bergeson’s tenure, WA spent over 1 billion dollars and wasted excessive amounts of instruction time on the WASL--which provides NO guidance for improving student performance and NO comparison of performance outside of WA State.

Randy Dorn
Randy Dorn will replace the WASL with a fair and useful exam that is diagnostic, has fast results so student needs can be identified and fixed before they get worse, and provides a national comparison of student achievement. Randy Dorn is also committed to working with experts, parents, and stakeholders to ensure WA has standards and curricula that are competitive with the rest of the nation and world. It’s time for a new leader who has more experience in the schools and is more in-touch with the needs of students. Please vote Randy Dorn for Superintendent of Public Instruction!

Rep. Glenn Anderson
Rep. Glenn Anderson is a well respected education leader in the Legislature. He is the Assistant Ranking Member on the House K -12 Education Committee, the Ranking Member of the Higher Education Committee, and serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education. He also serves on the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance and the Legislature’s WASL Work Group. Glenn’s positions and expertise in education issues provide critical guidance to other policy makers in Olympia as they develop solutions to improve education. Glenn led a statewide bi-partisan coalition that resulted in a comprehensive rewrite of WA math and science standards to bring them up to world-class standards. The 5th District is fortunate to have such a committed advocate for our children in the State Legislature. Please re-elect Rep. Glenn Anderson!

Please pass this message to others who would like to improve education. Thank you.

Julie Wright

"The fate of empires depends on the education of youth." --Aristotle

Math Textbook recommendations for K-5
politics and more politics

Dear Board Members and Math Panelists-

Last week we received the attached letter from the Bridge’s Publishers (The Math Learning Center). I have asked Linda Plattner to address their concerns before she writes her final draft report. In addition, the publishers of Investigations contacted Linda to say that there was part of their curriculum materials that Linda had not reviewed, but OSPI’s reviewers had . This was not Linda’s error, the publisher’s contact did not give these materials to her initially. I asked Linda to please review those pieces too so that she would look at the same materials as OSPI’s reviewers. Below is her update to me on her consideration of the issues from both of these programs. I wanted to make you all aware of these issues. I hope to have Linda’s revised final draft report soon and will send it out to all of you.

Have a great weekend!

(Executive Secretary of WA State Board of Education)

From: Linda Plattner
Sent: Friday, October 24, 2008 1:50 PM
To: Edie Harding
Subject: Update on Investigations and Bridges

Hello Edie,

Here is updated information on two of the mathematics programs ST reviewed: Bridges and Investigations. This information will be fleshed out and included in the Final Report and report to the SBE.


As you know, a few days ago we learned that OSPI included some lessons/activities in their curriculum review that ST did not review. Investigations' publishers specifically crafted and identified lessons for Washington that will be soon available in its online materials (similar to Bridges' Washington Supplemental Curriculum). ST did not understand that Investigations had these extra core materials nor did we receive copies of the lessons until October 13, 2008.

We have now reviewed these materials and will include the results in both the content alignment match and the mathematical analysis of the final report on the Study of the Curriculum Review. The extra materials improve Investigations scores in both cases, but it does not change ST's findings. ST findings continue to support OSPI's recommendation regarding Math Connects and elevates Math Expressions, which we believe is the strongest elementary program.

Bridges in Mathematics fromthe Math Learning Center

The publisher of Bridges has expressed its concerns about the ST's review of its program as it was presented in the Draft Report. ST received a certified copy of an Oct. 21 letter to SBE sent by the publishers. We appreciate both the timeliness and the tone of the letter.

We have now looked at the concerns listed and discuss these briefly here.

Reviewer bias/single mathematician

Bridges' publishers are concerned about ST bias. First, to cover everything. There does not seem to be an issue regarding ST bias related to the scores given during the content alignment process. Preliminary analysis shows no bias on the part of the ST reviewers. The analysis in the report coupled with the noise present in any data set that is this small accounts seems to account for the differences between ST and OSPI scores.

It seems that the publishers are more concerned about ST dependence on only one mathematician. We agree that including the review of a second mathematician would have strengthened ST's work if only because it would reduce the appearance of predisposition. Resources are always limited and choices must be made on how much redundancy to build into a system. We decided on one mathematician because math is what math is and Dr. Wilson is not commenting on pedagogy, but rather on the structure of mathematics. ST stands behind his work.

Overstatement of text error

The publishers are concerned about this statement is in the draft report, “The materials also contain a serious math error in a major example used to illustrate a central point.” (pg. 31-CR)

ST's language here is strong, and we will reconsider it carefully, particularly since Bridges informs us it has now fixed this error. But, Bridges offers only 3 examples to illustrate 3 different kinds of fractions problems and one of these had an error. When explanations and sample problems are scarce, they carry a heavy load.

Misstatement re content alignment

The publishers also note this statement from ST's draft report: “Bridges and Investigations, which were judged to be relatively low on content alignment by both OSPI and ST, were also found to be mathematically problematic.” (pg. 3-CR)

This statement will change--we had already noted it-- it is simply incorrect to say that Bridges is "low on content."

Other issues

We will look carefully to be sure our language does not overstate or dramatize an issue, but after re-examining Bridges, we respectfully stand behind our original statements about derivation of formula of area of parallelogram and common denominators. As is well-explained in the background document on mathematical soundness, these threads are not developed in ways that would prepare the typical student to meet Washington's standards and move forward in mathematics.


Linda Plattner,

Strategic Teaching
1573 Millersville Road
Millersville, MD 21108

It should be noted that only four programs were reviewed by ST.
The top four by content alignment from the OSPI selected Spokane IMR Group led Relevant Strategies were TERC/Investigations, Math Connects, Math Expressions, and Bridges in Mathematics.

Unfortunately the IMR k-8 Math Standards alignment found Singapore Math as the lowest rated program and Saxon Math was not in the top four so neither of these was reviewed by ST.

It is interesting that two programs that have significant evidence of their success in widespread use were not considered as top candidates. Thus ST did not review them.

This situation can be directly traced to OSPI and SBE directly violating the language of SB 6534 in the Standards process mandated by the legislature.

The earlier OSPI selected Dana Center, was still tinkering in the Standards process after ST and the panel had been attempted to correct the Dana Center's Standards work, which was rejected by the legislature.

Here is the TEXT of my lawsuit in that regard.
This will be heard on Friday, January 30, 2009 at 1:30 PM
in Thurston County Superior Court
by Judge Hicks.

The SBE Math Advisory panel will not be meeting again prior to the SBE meeting on November 5 and 6 at which time the SBE will be making curricular recommendations to OSPI as required in SB 6534.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

This state's ability on the part of OSPI to overlook existing relevant data and blatantly disregard the collection of relevant data while spending hundreds of millions on the WASL has placed us in a downward spiral educationally in WA state.

Mathematically it seems hard to envision a scenario over the last decade that could have put k-12 math in a worse place.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is this a Joke from the Seattle Times?

Read a fictional analysis that the Times puts forth as a reason for recommending a vote for Dr Bergeson.

Leave your own comments at the Times.

Pathways to Excellence and Equity in Science, Math and Engineering Learning

From the UW website:

The learning of science and math is a civil rights issue, and schools should give students broad participation in those areas as early as possible, says Philip Bell, a UW associate professor of learning sciences.

Bell will deliver the College of Education's Fall Lecture, titled Pathways to Excellence and Equity in Science, Math and Engineering Learning, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in the UW Tower auditorium. Admission is free, and a post-lecture reception will be held from 8:30 to 9 p.m.

People learn about science and math in a wide range of settings -- classrooms, homes, online communities. As such, Bell says, education needs to be understood as taking place across a wide range of associated institutions -- schools, families and after-school clubs.

Bell directs the ethnographic and design-based research of the Everyday Science and Technology Group. He has a background in human cognition and development, science education, electrical engineering and computer science. He has also developed Web-based learning platforms, designed and studied K-12 science curricula and currently conducts ethnographies of children's learning across social settings.

To register for this event, visit online at or call 206-543-0540.

Bergeson or Dorn

Article by Jessica Blanchard in the PI
On the race for SPI

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

SPS Textbook adoption committee applications

On October 28th applications are due to Bernardo Ruiz of the Family and Community Engagement Department of those that are interested in serving on the High School Math Texbook Adoption Committee.

Mr. Ruiz can be contacted via eamil at

Confusion is supreme the deadline is now November 10
see this page

Check this saga:

Date: Tuesday, October 21, 2008, 7:21 PM

Dear Directors,

I'm concerned that the High School Math Adoption is a repeat of the middle school and elementary school adoption. It is obvious, the district does not want participation from the community and parents.

Just last week, Allen Senear, a parent of 2 from Ingraham sent an e-mail requesting for an application to serve on the high school adoption. Apparently, there were no process in place or applications to fill out. Today, one week later we received an e-mail from Sharon Rodgers dated October 21st that interested parents may apply for this process and applications are due to Bernardo Ruiz the Family and Community Engagement Department on October 24th - 3 days later! This is a joke. There is no information listed on the Seattle SD website on either the Math Adoption link or the Family Engagement link.

It is obvious the process is not transparent or well organized. Dr. Goodloe Johnson's Strategic Plan talks about community engagement, but we see this as another example of empty promises.

I respectfully request that one of the board members oversee this process and bring to it some credibility. We ask that District Staff share their complete process at the November 12 Board Meeting for public review and comments prior to the committee's first meeting on November 20.

This should not just be a timeline, but include information of the number of parent reps, number of teachers and school represented, list of all the programs in consideration, the method used to create the selection criteria and the selection criteria itself.

Linh-Co Nguyen
SBE Math Panel Member
North Beach Teacher
Parent of 3 in Seattle SD

followed by:

Hello Linh-Co,

Thank you for the important feedback about our process. Your concerns about not having the information posted and accessible to families and community members is valid, as is the concern about the short turnaround time. This is entirely my responsibility. I just met with Bernardo Ruiz. Based on his feedback, your thoughts, and feedback from other family/community leaders, we will extend the family/community application deadline to November 10. I am in the process of getting the information, with the detail you requested, on the math website, and will have it posted once it has been approved by the communications department. The application will be posted there as well.

It is very important to me that I operate the math program in a transparent, inclusive manner. I appreciate being held accountable in this case, and will work to ensure that I operate in a manner that makes families and community members feel that their voices are valued and included.

Thank you again, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions or concerns.


C.R. Hoff on November WSSDA conference

In mid November about one half of the school boards of Washington will send at least one member of their board to the Washington State School Directors (WSSDA) meeting in Spokane to learn more about how to be successful school board members, at least in the eyes of WSSDA.

All school districts are required to be members of this “association.” The employees of this “association” are all state employees! Yet this is supposed to be a lobbying organization for school boards! For the Federal Way School Board this is an approximately a $ 20,000/yr hit for “membership.” Attendance at any of the meetings of the “association” costs extra! In the case of the annual meeting attendance varies between $ 420.00 and $ 515.00 plus transportation, some meals, and housing. One could easily figure about $ 1000.00 per board member and, oh I forgot, most of the Superintendents are also in attendance to escort the timid about the various workshops.

With student achievement at what is optimistically referred to as a “plateau,” one would think that such an event would be designed to make school board members aware of situations in education systems elsewhere that were “moving off the plateau.”

Let’s take a look at some of the titles and descriptions of workshops and speeches that you can hear for about $ 1000.00!

There are three “keynote speakers.”

1. “Mark Scharenbroich's “Nice Bike” principle connects management to front line, team member to team member, company to customer and educator to student. Mark tells the story of "Nice Bike" (which involves half-a-million Harley bikers, lots of black leather jackets, one beige rental car, and the sincere acknowledgement of what's really important) to bring home the value of recognizing, validating and making connections that move people.”

2. “Since 1997, Meagan Johnson has entertained and educated hundreds of audience members from all over the globe. She has written a variety of articles about the multiple generations and has been interviewed for many publications and audio programs. She wrote the Generational chapter in the book Success is A Team Effort. As a Gen Xer, Meagan was extremely proud to be one of the youngest recipients of the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association.”

3. “World renowned climber and adventurer Jeff Evans has established himself as one of the country’s most respected mountaineering guides and has now become one of the most sought after adventure based motivational speakers as well. Incorporating many stunning images from his global adventures, Jeff recounts his role as the primary climbing guide for a blind climber and then creating the systems of communication necessary to guide him successfully on mountains all over the world, culminating with the summit of Mt Everest.”

I am struggling to see how these topics are likely to give school board members any particular insights on how to improve achievement.

I might have suggested that they have someone like the Chancellor of Washington (DC) schools speak to them about the wholesale overhaul of one of the worst school systems in the country. Oops! I forget the first step was to eliminate the school board!

Remember that their highest priority, according to the state law, is to “Establish what is expected of students, with standards set at internationally competitive standards.”

Up to this point this priority hasn’t seemed to be doing well.

There many other workshops that the members can attend. A full list is at and I would encourage you to give this a quick scan.

Look for some titles such as:

Analysis of successful educational programs that lead to international standards.

The successes of some school district(s) in actually increasing achievement to international standards.

Knowledge based instructional programs for academic success.

Use of national, or international, assessments to measure true academic competitiveness.

What’s wrong with the way we do things?

If you see any titles that might suggest an attempt to “get off the plateau,” I would be most interested in learning about your observations. A few years ago a school administrator was discussing this with me. We both agreed that this conference seemed to be focusing on “deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Is this worth the approximately $ 25,000/yr investment by our school district?

written by Charles R. Hoff

WASL Work Session #4

The fourth WASL Workgroup Session was held on Monday October 13. This meeting was a devastating setback for those of us believe we have a chance at common sense and cost efficient assessment testing. The session was supposed to discuss how and why some school districts use other assessments such as the ITBS, MAP or other assessments as supplemental assessments to the WASL. The presenters were teachers from the Nooksack Valley School District (NVSD, somewhere around Bellingham), an administrator from the Spokane School District (SSD) and an administrator from the Kent School District (KSD). The NVSD uses District Writing/Oral Math and Ed Data Solutions; the SSD uses a district developed assessment; and the KSD uses both district based assessments and what appears to me to be commercial based assessments in order to determine the abilities of their students. All three of these presenters were very blatantly pro-WASL. So much so that Sen. McAuliffe questioned the organizer of these presentations as why this was so. I never did hear a reason as to why, but then my hearing, just like my math skills are not quite what they used to be. Unfortunately, this is the same strategy that Supt. Bergeson used to sabotage the writing of world class math standards, which prevents our children from receiving a world class education as they are being taught to WASL Standards. Assessment Testing can nullify excellent curricula as teachers are ordered to teach to the test by curriculum directives issued by local school district administrators or OSPI. One of the subjects at the next meeting is why some school districts don't like the WASL. It appears to me that more value is being placed on the assessment of student abilities than on the teaching the student basic fundamental academic skills. At a time when federal, state and local school district budgets are under increasingly tremendous financial pressure, this appears to me to be a waste of valuable and scarce educational resources and time. What happened to the concept of letting the teacher assess the abilities of our children? I would like you to reflect on your parent/teacher conferences for a moment. This is generally how mine go, and I'm sure most of you can relate to this. The first question I ask, is how is xxx doing? What are her strengths and weaknesses? The teacher then explains everything to me. Is there anything that I can do to help her overcome her weakness? The teacher then may make some suggestions. Most parent/teacher conferences last for about 1/2 hour and this time seems to fly and yet it is very informative. The teacher can also assess the student, every time the student incorrectly answers a question. Another setback occurred when Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft made his presentation. He discussed the new End of Course Tests (EOC) that are supposed to replace the Comprehensive WASL. According to Asst. Supt. Wilhoft, a traditional sequence of Math consisting of Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II consist of 119 course specific "Performance Expectations." He explained that the Integrated Math Sequence of I, II, and III contained more, as some were common to more than one course. When I learned math in my day, I never realized that I was supposed to learn this much, but my Math skills are still better than those of most high school seniors, even though I've probably forgotten more than they will ever learn, because much of what I learned is no longer being taught as our children are taught to inferior WASL Standards. Asst. Supt. Wilhoft didn't say if the new EOC exams were going to be commercial, off the shelf tests giving us national percentile rankings or if they were going to be developed specifically for Washington State. If we are going to have customized EOC Assessment Testing, just like the WASL, that means Supt. Bergeson was working for the test writers, large corporations and her campaign supporters as she sabotaged the Math Standards, and in the process have denied our children the learning and application of conventional math skills, thereby providing them an inferior public education. It costs about $15,000 for each question for each grade level test. There are 50 - 55 questions per test, so you can see how beneficial it is to the greedy test writers to have customized tests. Each grade level subject test costs $750,000 or more to write, let alone correct. If the WASL is such a great analytical tool, why are so many students failing it? Our children are not stupid, and our teachers are not incompetent. It is the flawed, fraudulent WASL that makes them appear that way. There is absolutely no excuse for the number of student failures that are occurring. How can 50% of the students fail their Math WASLs and up to 90% their Science WASLs? The WASL has been in effect for 14 years, this is a full K-12 cycle and then some, and teachers have been instructed to teach to the test. There is no excuse for the failure rate the WASL is causing, if the WASL is a fair, curriculum related test, which it isn't. The administrator from the KSD stated that about 150 students have requested school transfers as a result of NCLB. This could be considered a waste of KSD resources, for do we really know if the transfers were the result of student inabilities, or the fraudulent inaccurate scoring of the WASL? Doesn't massive requests of student transfers cause overcrowding at the better schools? Whose going to teach the incoming transfers, and where is the classroom space for them? Probably the same teachers that taught some of them before as they are reassigned. This is bureaucratic lunacy at its best and it is totally ridiculous and a waste of taxpayer monies. An important newcomer attended the session. She introduced herself as a member of either the district or state PTA. She stated that the three major concerns parents have are: 1. School Funding; 2. Math and Science and 3. the WASL. These are my concerns too. Without adequate school funding and the proper funding of unfunded mandates, our public school system is going to cease to exist, and our children are going to pay a terrible price as they are victims of an inferior public education at a time when a quality public education is paramount, if they are going to be given half a chance to suceed against their national and international peers. The WASL, Math and Science can really be combined as far as I'm concerned. Our children need to learn conventional math and science skills. How can 90% of the students at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle, be failing their science WASL.? Are they that stupid? I don't think so. The test is unfair and riddled with both test question and answer scoring errors, yet no one within the Seattle School District is questioning the validity of those scores, except for the Science Teacher at Ecstein Middle School who was suspended for failing to administer this crooked test. His story was never heard as the vicious character assasins of the new media hacked him to pieces and never allowed his story to be heard and told. Teachers are being told to teach to the test by both local curriculum directors and OSPI, and the WASL does not test for basic skills, therefore basic skills are not being taught. Let's take a look at the damage the fraudulent WASL is doing to the Edmonds School District. The Challenge Program at Terrace Park Elementary contains many of the best and brightest students in the ESD. I know because my oldest daughter qualified for the program and entered it for awhile. She was also competitive within it. This program is in step 1 of NCLB, whatever that is. They also did not meet AYP. The students entering this program have to test at the 90th nationwide percentile or better, one year in advance. If students are testing at this level, there is no room for improvement as they are maxed out for all practical purposes. There is little or no room above them for them to improve. How much higher above 90% can you really go? Both of my daughters have attended Beverly Elementary. I've been extremely pleased with both the quality of the students and teachers at this school. I believe that both the inspiration and motivation of the teachers and the challenges that she received from her classsmates have been responsible for the 3.95GPA my oldest daughter has received in the 7th grade All Honors Program at Meadowdale Middle School. I believe that Meadowdale Middle School is a truly outstanding school. The majority of the students in my daughter's Honors classes are not from Beverly, but from Lynndale, Meadowdale and Seaview Elementary Schools. All three of these schools are among the best elementary schools in the district. Yet even with the quality of the students from all of these schools, Meadowdale Middle failed to meet the AYP and In Improvement criteria of No Child Left Behind, because the fraudulent WASL is failing them. They are not failing the WASL. The fraudulent WASL contains both test question errors and scoring errors. My daughters have been victimized by both kind of errors. Here is the stupidity of the situation. As a parent I have the right to review my childrens' WASL Test. In order to view this test, I have to sign a confidentiality agreement that prevents from talking about the test. In order to make sure that I comply with all of the rules, a proctor is asigned to me during my review. My proctor was Dr. Nancy Katims, Director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation. OSPI has a procedure that states that any questions that I have that are unanswered should be forwarded to OSPI. In October 2005, I reviewed my oldest daughter's 4th grade WASL. I discovered what I believed to be a test question error. I asked the learned Dr. Katims about this error and she became as inert and inept as worthless bump on a log. I have no idea if she ever carried out her responsibilities under the OSPI Procedure as I received no answer to my question. She did give me a contact at OSPI and when I tried to call them, those worthless bungling bureaucrats at OSPI refused to talk to me citing the RCW that makes it a crime to talk about the WASL. If a parent has the right to review a WASL, why aren't they entitled to answers about test question errors and scoring errors caused by this fraudulent worthless assessment test? I have given permission to both Rep. Santos and Sen. Oemig to review all of the WASLs that both of my daughters have taken, so that the WWG can see and understand why I am so disgusted with the WASL as it is destroying the quality of public education in this state. I don't know if it will be done. Following is the statement that I presented during the public comment period. It was agreed that since I had written it, it would be better that they read it for themselves and they would question me at the next meeting. I hope they grill me hard and I am able to give as good as I get. I also hope they let Asst. Supt. Joe Wilhoft take a few shots at me too. The decisions that are being made by the WWG are going to be 10 to 15 year decisions and will effect the quality of public education in this state for a long time to come. If we want a quality public school system for our children, then we are going to have to roll up our sleeves, put up our dukes and start fighting for our children by demanding valid assessment testing. The 10th grade WASL costs $50 more per student than the ACT or SAT do. If there are approximately 80,000 students taking this test, there is a potential savings of $4 million/year in just this test alone. I'm afraid this won't happen, because large greedy corporations, powerful lobbyists and overpaid consultants have got their hooks into the leadership of our State Legislature with their campaign contributions and political influence. I'm extremely concerned, because I hear consultants telling the WWG what they should do, and no one is speaking for the parents and teachers, except for me. I'm afraid the quality of our childrens' public education is being sold down the river of corporate greed and profits. If the WASL is so great, why doesn't the State Legislature impose it on the private and parochial schools? Instead they impose it on our children, to the benefit of the private and parochial schools, as public confidence in our public school system is being destroyed. If you share my concerns, or even if you don't, you better let your state legislators know now. Tommorrow may be too late.

reported by Nick Daniggelis

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kane Hall Monday Oct 27 Math Forum (reminder)

Where's the Math?
Kane Hall forum.

We are now able to have both Ross Hunter and Glenn Anderson as guest speakers, so our event will pack a bit more legislative punch right before the election.

The new date: Monday, October 27th
Event time: 7:30-9:00 PM

Be sure to mark your calendars for this date.

The Role of the School -- W.E.B. DuBois (1935)


Although schools have been required to take on many roles, the primary role must always be teaching and learning and the resulting, measurable student achievement. Here is how W.E.B. DuBois described the role of the school in 1935:

"The school has again but one way, and that is, first and last, to teach them to read, write and count. And if the school fails to do that, and tries beyond that to do something for which a school is not adapted, it not only fails in its own function, but it fails in all other attempted functions. Because no school as such can organize industry, or settle the matter of wages and income, can found homes or furnish parents, can establish justice or make a civilized world."

- W.E.B. DuBois, address to Georgia State Teachers Convention, 1935

DuBois, W.E.B. "Curriculum Revision" (April 12, 1935) in DuBois Papers, Park Johnson Archives, Fisk University ; quoted in King, Kenneth James, Pan-Africanism and Education in the Southern States and East Africa. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), p. 257.

No Governor will easily improve schools

In the above article in the Tacoma News Tribune, Callaghan wonders why Gregoire and Rossi have so little to say about education in their campaigns.

Failure to Compute from WA CEO magazine

July 16, 2008

Failure to Compute

Washington falls short in math and science education as the WEA defeats teacher pay reform

By: Aaron Corvin

If the future belongs to our children, then Washington's future has a problem with math and science.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Core-Plus and the one size fits all programs

Paul's thoughts on Core-Plus and the one size fits all programs.

I think you'd have a hard time finding someone with a more profound loathing of Core Plus than myself. But at the same time, I don't think that there exists a high school curriculum that would do a good job of serving the broad spectrum of kids that are headed to "college, the trades, the military – wherever ". One of the main problems with Core is that its proponents tout it as just that; a do all, be all program that can replace all the different choices that used to be available to kids between 7th and 12th grades. It is not. That is a lie that makes administrator's lives easier and helps sell the product up front.

Core cheats many groups of kids, especially those that are (or might otherwise be) college bound. It robs them of three or more years that they might be getting prepared for the math that they'll need to be employees in a technology-based field. We will never know how many kids are forced to bypass careers that require that they take and pass calculus because they never learned to add fractions, etc., and hit a brick wall at the onset of their freshman year in college.

I believe that Core serves many other groups poorly as well, but at the same time, I'd be willing to concede that there are probably kids for whom Core Plus is just fine. It's a fact that a large proportion of adults never need algebra to get a job, earn a living, raise a family, and lead generally productive lives. Finally, our culture instills in kids -across the ability spectrum - the notion that math is uncool regardless of how it's packaged. These kids will go through any math class with a steadfast resolve to merely endure what they must and forget it as soon as possible. The cultural din is so overwhelming that they are deaf to warnings that by doing so they are narrowing their career horizons dramatically. The notion is broadcast trough their gradeschool years and often reinforced by their teachers, who are typically mathophobes. Core is marketed as a solution to this problem, but in my experience it worsens it. The damage has been done. Many of the students I had in the Community College where I taught remedial algebra were returning from the cold cruel world after learning this the hard way. They tended to be my best students. But I digress.

Core Plus is designed by people who are either mathematically ignorant and blissfully unaware of it or contemptuous of authentic mathematics and those who master it, and on a crusade to purge it from our schools in a form of intellectual genocide . Well, OK, maybe this is a crazy hyperbole. At any rate, Core is a blight on the educational landscape.

College bound kids need to have the time-tested sequence of Algebra, Geometry, and another few years of what goes by several different names, such as Algebra II, Math analysis, pre-calc, etc. (I think the class I had in 11th grade was called "Math 4", and what does that mean?). Some are ready for this sequence earlier than others, but eighth grade is not too soon for many, presuming that they have mastered what they need as a foundation (big assumption, nowadays). A major problem lies in just how and where to split the paths to optimize individual outcomes in an environment structured to provide - at best - a homogeneous, mediocre experience for all.

Other math paths to conclude the variety of high school experiences, to suit the variety of people in our society, should include business math, trades-oriented math, and some kind of personal finance class, which, if I were king of the world, would be a graduation requirement. ;-) I imagine that such things used to exist, perhaps they still do somewhere, but have fallen out of favor to make way for the fantasy that all students can and should learn the same thing.


Take a Challenge Exam
from the "Third World"
via Two Million Minutes

Try this:

You can pick from the following subjects:


Thoughts on Education Reform
from Maryland

What is “education reform”, anyway?

The following is an excerpt from a powerpoint presentation (49 slides total) from the group in Frederick MD. It is a great list of ideas and a method for evaluating school board candidates. WOW!!! could Seattle use this or maybe not. School Board candidate campaign treasure chests were in the $100,000 to $167,000 range in the election a year ago. Maybe elections are just bought these days rather than won with ideas.

Education reform can be summarized by six BIG IDEAS:

BIG IDEA #1: Education schools often promote well-intended but misleading myths about teaching and learning.

BIG IDEA #2: Teacher certification, which is based on education schools’ well-intended but misleading ideas, contributes little to teachers’ effectiveness, and perpetuates the teacher shortage.

BIG IDEA #3: Administrators are influenced by the prevailing ideas in education schools; as a result, they often promote academic programs that lack important knowledge and skills.

BIG IDEA #4: Parents and other “outsiders” often have different views of what constitutes a sound education, but have little influence on the content and implementation in the public schools.

BIG IDEA #5: School choice empowers parents to select schools that reflect what they want for their children, and provides teachers with more options for their work environment.

BIG IDEA #6: School choice is necessary but not sufficient to improve public education. Education must also transform itself from a belief-based profession into an evidence-based profession.

Myths Education Schools Promote

Learning Styles – Forty years of research have not found evidence that there are visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners or that teachers can achieve better results by trying appeal to “learning styles”.

Multiple Intelligences – Mainstream psychologists have little regard for the idea that there are seven different kinds of intelligence (or what most people would call talents), and even the theory’s originator said educators have taken it too far.

Rote Memorization – This misleading phrase is employed to argue against any sort of factual knowledge, and used to defend curricula that lack important content. Some rote memorization is required to learn rudimentary knowledge, such as the letters of the alphabet.

Entertainment vs. Learning – The idea that subject matter should be presented as “fun and games”. The reality is that most initial learning is not fun, and a well-intended emphasis on “fun” can waste time and reduce students’ long term interest and motivation because the instruction fails to provide knowledge and skills needed to enjoy lifelong learning.

The Eclectic Teacher – The idea that teachers should string together lessons drawn from multiple sources in an effort to customize learning to students. Large scale research suggests that well-designed, scientifically validated curricula that use the same teaching approach for all students with relatively minor modifications can achieve consistently positive results.

The “Good Teacher” – The idea that teachers personal qualities trump curriculum and methods, and that good teachers are born, not made. However, when curricula and methods are ineffective, it doesn’t matter how smart, dynamic, or committed to students a teacher is.

Brain Compatible Learning – The idea that teaching should reflect our understanding of how the brain works physically. Mainstream neuroscientists regard this as something akin to quackery.

Disabilities – The idea that students’ learning disabilities, poverty, or families explain their lack of achievement. However, 95% of learning disabilities are mild. Personal circumstances can be mitigated through high expectations, solid teaching, and student effort.
Certified Doesn’t Mean Qualified

Teacher Effectiveness

“Even if all of the research on certification is considered uncritically, at best the conclusion is that the traditional certification process may only add some marginal value.”

87% of education schools fail to prepare teachers to teach elementary math.

85% of education schools fail to prepare teachers in scientifically-based reading instruction.

High-achieving graduates without formal education training who worked in low-income schools produced “higher test scores than the other teachers in their schools—not just other novice teachers or uncertified teachers, but also veterans and certified teachers”

Teacher Shortage

The time and expense of traditional certification discourages many applicants from considering joining the profession.

Maryland’s alternative certification intended to attract career changers has only produced 1% of our teachers1; in contrast, New Jersey’s alternative certification produces 20-25% of its teachers.

Non-traditional candidates are often more diverse and bring stronger academic backgrounds than traditional candidates.


Instructional time in High School classes in Seattle

Check out this article in the Seattle Times:

Think about "Two Million Minutes" and the finding that in China students spend about twice as much time studying at the high school level than do USA high school students.

Here is a link to the SPS blog on this topic.

The State of WA supposedly requires 150 hours of instructional time for each high school credit.

Consider half days, assemblies, etc.
Now there are supposedly 150 school days.
If a class is 50 minutes, that is 5/6 hour.
So 180 days of class x 5/6 hour/class = 150 hours.

What is the chance that the class actually runs for 50 minutes per day for 180 days?
This is yet another example of the State Board of Education failing to connect with the reality of the current state law.

It is a bigger example of the failure of this nation to connect with international reality.

Incredible Failing grades return to Seattle High Schools

Here is the article in the Seattle Times:

The amazing statement is a reason for the change (of not more N grades) is this violated school board policy.

WOW!!! what about all the other school board policies that are continually violated.

D44.00 & D45.00 not to mention the Board's own swifty move of introduction item/action item all in one meeting to extend and grant Dr Maria Goodloe-Johnson an additional one year contract extension and a $24,000 raise.

So when has school board policy ever been a concern?
Why on this item and not the others?

From the article:
Since 2000, not a single student has received an E, a mark more commonly known as an F. High schools instead handed out N's for "no credit," which didn't affect a student's grade-point average and took much of the sting out of failure.

But the E is back — effective immediately.

The reason, the district says, is a technical one. In a larger review of high schools, a district committee recently realized that the exclusive use of N's violated School Board policy.

The change, however, has been welcomed by many principals and teachers who believe that students should face more consequences for failure.

Miller Time on the phrase
"Education Reform"

Here are Michael Miller's thoughts on Education Reform given in his letter to the authors of the "Frederick Education Reform" site.

Dear Sirs,

My name is Michael Miller. I am the parent of a 5th grader in Washington State . As many of you, I too have become aware of the horrible damage being done to our children in the name of “education reform.” Education reform is not something that “has occurred” as a result of any particular legislation. Rather, there have been a series of laws enacted (state & national levels) in support of the process of education reform. We must understand and remain cognoscente of the fact that education reform is not an incident that has occurred, but rather a process that is ongoing.

“Change agent” proponents of education reform have injected our schools with all sorts of what some would call “educational fads” that have damaged more than a generation of American children. I do not believe they are random “fads”, but rather are part of a choreographed agenda. They come to us (parents) cloaked in deceptive but attractive euphemisms such as “child-centered”, “group learning”, “higher-order thinking”, “critical thinking”, “tolerance”, “conflict mediation”, “discovery learning”, “constructivism”, “social justice”, “cultural competency”, etcetera; the list goes on and on. None of these euphemisms mean what parents think they mean, and they’ve all been brought to us under the guise of nation-wide “school reform.”

Those of us aware of this agenda have huge challenges to overcome. Perhaps the largest challenge we face is to convince other parents that the “automatic trust” they afford school administrations is misplaced. We have all been conditioned to extend this “automatic trust”, and usually it takes a series of personal experiences or a particular crisis to “open our eyes” to the reality of the situation. Unless we can rally a “critical mass” of the electorate, we stand little chance of reversing this damaging trend.

The language used to navigate any profession can be confusing to new-comers. The nomenclature in education is no different in this regard. It can be confusing and overwhelming to those parents whom we need to rally to our cause. It’s our job to be as clear & honest as possible about what we perceive to be the real meanings behind the afore mentioned euphemisms, and other associated nomenclature unique to our struggles in education. This brings me to the purpose of this note.

I have read much of your web-site, and agree with most all of your goals. We in Washington State are fighting similar to identical battles. I have however, found one area in particular that could cause great confusion in your target audience. Please understand, I am your ally, and I make this critique humbly and with the greatest respect. You seem to be trying to “sell” the positions you’re advocating for as “reform.” Truly, the positions you advocate for do in fact represent reform of the damaging curricula & policies put in place by the previously mentioned nation-wide “education reform.” You see, therein lies the problem. You support “reform” in fighting “education reform.” The problem is simply one of nomenclature, and it has been a source of confusion to many new converts to our cause across the nation. This confusion begins with the name of your site “Frederick Education Reform”, and continues throughout your site. For example, under the link “Election 2008” you provide excellent evaluations of particular candidates as to whether or not they support “education reform.” It took me some time to figure out that the “education reform” you were making reference to was YOUR education reform, as opposed to the nation-wide “education reform” you are fighting. You need to make it clear to your supporters that you are vigorously fighting education reform, not supporting it. Respectfully, you must pick different language to describe your advocacy positions; your opposition already owns “education reform.”

Best regards,

Michael Miller

Calculators ... Warning of Possible Harm - use wisely

Paul Dunham writes:

I've been cleaning up some of my work areas at home, and have come across a few things.
An eon ago (it seems) while preparing a paper during my credential program, I came across this article:

"Impacts of Using Calculators in Learning Mathematics"
by Tingyao Zheng


This paper argues that using calculators in learning mathematics may have negative effects if they are used inappropriately:

1. Students may lack conceptual understanding;
2. The procedural perception of a mathematical problem of those students who did not go through a successful structural development in learning algebra could be reinforced;
3. Sometimes the calculator delivers misleading information;
4. Students may develop undesirable problem solving behavior;
5. Differences from conventional notation and notation used with calculators may confuse students.

Suggestions aimed at reducing those problems are advanced.

from the conclusion:
" The discussion above together with the examples show us that concern for the negative impact of using calculators, especially graphing calculators, is very real. Because calculators are generally numerical in nature, students may not acquire solid conceptual understanding. Their view of mathematics will probably be more procedural and accordingly their problem solving skills may be limited. The development of their structural view about mathematics could also be hindered. Moreover, because of it design, a calculator may deliver misleading information and create confusion in learning notation."

I remember how odd it struck me that this conclusion was in stark opposition to the majority of the other "scholarly" papers I found. It was one of the first glimmers I had of how something was really amiss in the math ed world.


invades Frederick County MD
from the HOT Topic: TERC Math

On April 23, 2008, the Frederick County Public Schools approved TERC Math (now called Pearson Math Investigations), which is one of the worst math programs in the country. They approved this sweeping, controversial change to the elementary grades (K-5) as a part of the consent agenda, with little discussion.

What's wrong with TERC? See below.

* TERC has no interest in giving classroom time to standard arithmetic, and avoids the concepts of carrying, borrowing, and common denominators, and allows calculators in the elementary grades. Watch the video to see TERC in action: Math: An Inconvenient Truth.

* Wilfried Schmid, Ph.D. in Mathematics at Harvard states, "By the end of fifth grade, TERC students have fallen roughly two years behind where they should be." Read more reviews here.

* Bill Quirk, Ph.D. in Mathematics observed, "TERC is totally out of sync with the National Math Panel Recommendations. Furthermore, TERC 2008 Math fails to provide the foundations of algebra." Read the full analysis here.

* Thomas Parker, Ph.D in Mathematics at Michigan State University, "TERC students will hit a wall, probably at the end of middle school. They are not being given the grounding needed to understand the abstractions of high school algebra and geometry. THEIR OPTIONS FOR CAREERS IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING ARE BEING CLOSED OFF BY THEIR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PROGRAM." His summary of concerns is here.

* TERC doesn't even provide students with a textbook. There is a teacher's manual and a box of hands on materials for students. TERC takes hands-on learning to an extreme. See here.

* Dr. W. Stephen Wilson, Ph.D in Mathematics, testified against TERC at the June 11, 2008 Board of Education Meeting: "I am not really here today to talk to the Board, but to the parents. If your child goes to a school that uses TERC Investigations, you should understand that it means your child's school has abdicated its responsibility to teach your child mathematics. By doing so, the responsibility now rests with the parents. Good luck.". Click here for full testimony .pdf file

There is more at the original website linked at the top of this page.


Keep in Mind THAT:

1. Terc/Investigations was a highly recommended choice of OSPI under Dr Terry Bergeson's leadership .... and only about 50% of WA kids can pass the grade 8 or the grade 10 WASL Math test. ( 1/3 of WA kids in TERC, 1/3 in Everyday Math, and at the middle level 80% in Connected Math).

2. Seattle had TERC/Investigations as their #1 choice for adoption until CAO Ms. Santorno forced through Everyday Math, which is also pathetic and expensive in terms of supplemental materials costs, teacher time, student time, and Professional Development costs.

It appears that the voters will hold Dr. Bergeson responsible on Nov 4.

Ms. Santorno, who makes a much higher salary than Dr Bergeson and has clearly engaged in a conspiracy to minimize the 15 minutes of Singapore Math mandated by SPS board decision on May 30, 2007, is not being held responsible for the Singapore conspiracy nor are those who are continuing this fraud, the Superintendent and the Math Program Manger and others. In addition Ms. Santorno, Ms. Wise, Ms. Hoste, Mr. Bernatek suppressed data given to the SPS in April that clearly outlined the failures of Everyday Math in Denver and other locations. The SPS Administration presented misleading presentations in regard to EDM at both the Introductory meeting in mid-May and the action meeting on May 30th. The May 30th meeting was not videoed (amazing that this is the only board meeting out of the last 35 meetings that was not videoed or televised).

Larry Nyland, the Marysville superintendent, said that the selection of an appropriate and highly functioning math curriculum may be a bigger job than most districts can do because of a lack of available resources. I think that Seattle had the resources to make an excellent selection.... however ....

What Seattle lacked and so many other districts apparently lacked was the intelligence to use available data. OSPI certainly lacked this intelligence.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.
--- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

It appears that education administrators and school boards are a lot more interested in playing follow the leader and playing politics than thinking. With the nation's enormous decline in PISA math scores and the high school completion problem, one needs to be exceptionally careful about determining who is a leader that should be followed.

Clearly Dr Bergeson and Ms Santorno have shown an ability to spend large amounts of money and produce little in the way of results. Not the leaders I would be following.

Math Meltdown and Financial Meltdown have a lot in common.
Incompetent leadership .... Who gets to play the part of the politicians Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd et al. and who gets to play the part of the Bush Administration in your local math meltdown?

The question is who financed our math meltdown????
It sure was not political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.

Look at the Federal government again for screwing up the local scene with NSF grants pushing reform math through schools like UW. Follow the money to Book publishers.
Very poor test books require on going professional development which the book publishers will be happy to provide (for $$$). EDM had representatives present at the SLC meeting in early May as well as the May 30, 2007 adoption of EDM.

Then we need half-days for more professional development so our kids receive even less time in school for proper instruction. EDM requires according to Ms. Santorno fidelity of implementation so every teacher must follow the pacing plan to get through these massively bloated books. Seattle has 75 minute daily math classes that have been entirely devoted to EDM (no Singapore Math last year).

Keep in mind we have new State Math Standards for grade level expectations but these are ignored in favor of the SPS sanctioned EDM pacing plan and fidelity of implementation. (There is no time for Singapore because 75 minutes of daily math class still can not get through EDM effectively .... Seattle 4th grade WASL math scores actually declined versus the WA state change despite this enormous increase in class time).

The Seattle School Board swallows this EDM nonsense approach hook line and sinker .... is the math bailout ever going to occur?

Guess not.

SPS is now onto a high school math adoption with no fix slated for the k-8 math mess that Ms. Santorno brought us.

For K-8 math Seattle is in extreme mis-alignment with the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations and k-8 Seattle is ignoring the state math standards choosing instead Fidelity of Implementation to the EDM pacing plan.

No one seems to ever be held accountable. Why not?


{For all the achievement gap talk in Seattle, this district keeps picking math materials hostile to those on the low end of the achievement gap .... (these materials are hostile to almost anyone who has to rely on school without tutoring or parent support for real mathematics instruction)}

In May 2007 at the adoption meetings the Math Program Manager Rosalind Wise actually talked about EDM being selected as an exemplary program by the US Government.
This selection was based on ZERO data and highly prejudiced. It was clearly just another attempt to mislead the public and that recommendation has been rescinded.
Look here:

Friday, October 17, 2008

An Excessive Fondness for Fractions
- by Bill Marsh, Ph.D.

An Excessive Fondness for Fractions

Bill Marsh, Ph.D.
October 16, 2008

“The importance of fractions to mathematics cannot be overstated. ... For middle and high school students, real numbers are mostly taken for granted ... The point is that fractions are an essential intermediary step between whole number and real numbers. ...It is impossible to overstate the importance of fractions. Numbers and geometry are at the heart of mathematics, and fractions are required for both. You can’t do mathematics without an understanding of fractions and their operations.” -- Mathematician W. Stephen Wilson in “Review of Mathematical Soundness”, 2008.

“[D]oes not the difficulty begin with fractions? Should we have such a notion of these numbers if we did not previously know a matter which we conceive of as infinitely divisible – i.e., as a continuum?” -- French mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincare in Science and Hypothesis, 1903.

“The device beyond praise that visualizes magnitudes and at the same time the natural numbers articulating them is the number line, where initially only the natural numbers are individualized and named.” -- German/Dutch mathematician and educator Hans Freudenthal in The Didactical Phenomenology of Mathematical Structures, 1983.

“For students of all ages, definitions of basic mathematical concepts have to be framed with care: not too formal, not too informal. The New Math movement gave rigorous definitions starting with whole numbers, i.e., 5 is the collection of all sets that contain 5 elements, that were out of touch with children’s and parents’ mathematical experience. The common sense notion of a whole number as a counting number, to count how many items are in a collection, provides an adequate informal definition in the early grades. Later, in anticipation of rational and real numbers, whole numbers can be identified with appropriate points on the number line.” -- Mathematician Alan Tucker in “Preparing for Fractions”, 2006 PCMI Workshop.

In his review for the Washington State Board of Education, Professor Wilson says "The importance of fractions to mathematics cannot be overstated." He then proceeds to do what he says is impossible.

He says "The point is that fractions are an essential intermediary step between whole number and real numbers." Some fractions, yes, but not all of them. All you need is a dense subset of the reals. Two such suggest themselves: decimals, whose denominators are powers of ten, and the fractions used by carpenters and computers, those with denominators a power of two.

Following the excellent advice on definitions given by Professor Tucker, first or second graders can define, think of, and use "measuring numbers" as "good names for dots on number lines." To see a six-year-old explain in less than six minutes a "naming trick" that gives a notation system for the non-negative real numbers, go to

Professor Wilson says: "Numbers and geometry are at the heart of mathematics, and fractions are required for both." Fractions are necessary in geometry, but we all know that they are not sufficient. Neither the circumference of the unit circle nor the diagonal of the unit square has a length expressible as a fraction. For geometry and measuring, fractions are too complicated and not good enough. There are both too many of them and too few.

Fifty years after reading Science and Hypothesis what I most remember is the model of non-Euclidean geometry inside Euclidean, which shows that we can deny an axiom. I think that the answers that Poincare expected to the questions above means that we can deny the widely held assumption that fractions are what should come next after the counting numbers as children learn arithmetic. In k-4 arithmetic, we can be natural, get real, not rationalize, and not be negative.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dorn leading in poll for SPI on 10-14-2008

Poll #14594 taken in State of Washington for KING-TV (Seattle)
via SurveyUSA Polls on 10/14/08

Q: Washington voters will also elect a Superintendent of Public Instruction. If you were filling out your ballot right now, would you vote for (choices rotated) Terry Bergeson? Or, Randy Dorn?
A: Bergeson 31% Dorn 43% Undecided 26%

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dr. Wilson says: Math Expressions is the best

Last year The State Board of Education hired the consulting firm, Strategic Teaching Inc, to complete the WA Math Standards revision process after the state legislature grew dissatisfied with the work being done by OSPI. Dr. Stephen Wilson is a math professor at Johns Hopkins University and a consultant for Strategic Teaching. Brief bios can be found at:
and at

Strategic Teaching is also involved in the state’s math Curriculum Review process and Dr. Wilson has recently written an interesting analysis of several math curriculums for elementary and middle school grades. He has taken several key math concept threads and compared their development across several curricula. I find his approach very appealing in that it provides both a meaningful content comparison of the curriculums for these key threads and it makes some significant deficiencies visible. Dr. Wilson’s report can be found at:

While the overall report is 42 pages I would encourage you to read the few pages devoted to describing the math concept threads he has selected for review. For the elementary grades the key math threads he has selected are:

1. Whole Number Multiplication

2. Area of a triangle

3. Fractions and the arithmetic of fractions

After the introduction of each thread he then follows it with a description of how it is handled in each curriculum (TERC Investigations, Math Expressions, Bridges in Mathematics, and Math Connects). Even if you don’t have time to read the details, Dr. Wilson’s conclusions for each curriculum are quite interesting to read.

His overall conclusions (copied directly from his report) are:

Summary Conclusions for Elementary School

TERC Investigations

The necessary components of whole number multiplication are there, but the connecting thread is not. Finally, fluency with the standard algorithm is not developed.

In the area thread, there is no formula for the area of a rectangle although it is computed. Parallelograms and triangles are not considered.

Addition and subtraction of fractions using common denominators is not done.

Math Expressions

The whole number multiplication thread is done extremely well.

The area thread is done extremely well.

The adding and subtracting fractions thread is also done extremely well.

It should be pointed out that almost all of the mathematics in these threads is in the student materials with the exception of the work on common denominators.

Bridges in Mathematics

With the help of the Washington state supplement, this thread is well covered. It suffers somewhat from a lack of coherent goal to reach the standard algorithm. The thread is there, but it branches continuously.

The area thread suffers significantly. The regular program never defines area properly or arrives at formulas. The supplement includes the content, but there are problems. The derivation of the formula for the area of a parallelogram is mathematically incorrect and the derivation of the formula for the area of a triangle is inadequate.

There is a serious mathematical error in a major example used to illustrate a central point about the addition of fractions and common denominators are not developed. The thread is inadequately covered.

Math Connects

The whole number multiplication thread is nicely done. The standard algorithm is more thoroughly dealt with than in the other programs even though the nice numerical model is missing.

The area thread is incomplete, lacking a formula for the area of a parallelogram and lacking any consideration of the area of a triangle.

The adding and subtracting fractions thread is nicely done except that the common denominator, although present, is downplayed.

All of the mathematics is very nicely presented and everything that is done is in the student materials.

Final Conclusions

Judging by the three very important threads evaluated here, Math Expressions is the best program. Math Connects is very well done mathematically but is somewhat incomplete. These two programs are mathematically acceptable. Bridges in Mathematics has mathematical errors and is incomplete. TERC Investigations lacks far too much content. Neither of these programs is mathematically acceptable.

Final Conclusions for Middle School

Overall, Math Connects ranks first, Prentice Hall and Holt tie for the middle place, and Math Thematics is clearly at the bottom.

Fractions are very important. None of these programs does fractions well enough to justify their use in a classroom where students are expected to understand what they are doing instead of just learn by rote. Grade 5 Math Expressions does a better job at multiplication and division of fractions than any of these programs does. It is not that difficult to explain why multiplication and division of fractions is done with the formulas presented in all of these programs, but none of them bothers. Ratios, rates and proportions are completely dependent on a student’s understanding of fractions, so, even if they are done well, if the foundation of fractions isn’t there, it isn’t likely to matter.

---- this article was written by David Orbits
Great Thanks to David