Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reflecting on 11 months ago

Here is an article that appeared in the PI on February 29, 2008

Freshmen's weak math skills worry UW faculty
60 professors write open letter, saying freshmen unprepared


It is interesting how things have changed. Dr Begeson is no longer in office and the Math Educators are now under considerable scrutiny.

From the Article:

None of the instructors from the UW's College of Education, which trains future teachers, signed the letter.

That's not too surprising, UW spokesman Norm Arkans said, because the issue is rather controversial.

"We've got a bunch of different people working on math education, and they don't necessarily agree on what the best approach is," he said.

Even math experts disagree. Ginger Warfield, a senior lecturer in the UW Mathematics Department who served on the committee that helped draft the new math standards, said the "sky is falling" rhetoric is irritating and divisive.

"Washington math isn't a disaster," she said. "By many measures, we're fine, and relative to the rest of the country, we're much better."

Incoming freshmen do need stronger math skills, but the answer isn't to just give up and go back to traditional methods of teaching math -- it doesn't work for everyone, Warfield said.

Mathematicians may mean well, "but they have no clue how to teach math to children," she said. "They know how to teach it at the collegiate level, but it's quite different teaching a first-grader than teaching a freshman."
Little wonder the Dana Center's work on the WA Math Standards was trashed by the legislature with people like Dr. Warfield producing those standards.

If you can not recognize the problem, highly unlikely you will find a solution.

So now it is Randy Dorn's turn to do better.


Anonymous said...

If you can't recognize the problem, then probably you are part of the problem.

The NCTM and MAA should seriously rethink its vision for the country. Stop supporting bad research. 'What works' is not working.

Anonymous said...

I believe OSPI is going to continue down a slippery slope if it continues to support two tracks for mathematics. How is it possible to test fairly and reliably two sophomores studying out of two different curriculums? I cannot wait to see or hear the answer to this questions.


dan dempsey said...


The OSPI plan is to have course ending tests for Algebra and Geometry and also course ending tests for Integrated I and Integrated II.

This seems like a waste of resources as Core-Plus was the top rated integrated program and it is not very good. For contnet alignment C-P places 5th or 6th when compared with the Algebra Geometry Algebra II textbook series.

If Obama wants to go for a productive change he should stop all funding to the NSF HSD. The amount of $$$ wasted in producing the national math disaster is boggling. Equally amazing is how Universities will do most anything for NSF grant dollars ... clearly results and progress are not important.

Anonymous said...

Test reform is very strange. I don't see why one textbook series (Core Plus) should be handled with kid gloves - there are at least three private organizations pushing integrated math - America Diploma Project, Achieve, Inc, and the Governor's Roundtable. I like Gerald Bracey's response (Educator's Roundtable).

dan dempsey said...

I view Singapore as Integrated Math. It is just that the US versions of Integrated Math are much inferior to the rigorous versions of integrated math used internationally.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I understand the two different sets of tests for traditional and integrated curriculums. My point is that it is not fair to test two different sophomores over two different set of standards. Each curriculum presents the standards at different times.


dan dempsey said...


This is public education.
What makes you think you can bring in ideas like fair and reasonable?


Anonymous said...

I only mention this in hopes the logic will be explained so maybe we do not go through the same thing with these new tests that we had to endure with the WASL.


dan dempsey said...

That is a great hope.
Lets see it happen.

Anonymous said...

Dan, integrated math and singapore are not the same. They were developed at about the same time, but the models which created both curriculum are entirely different. Singapore math is integrated because it teaches geometry at an earlier grade level (world class standard).

Integrated as it is used in US reform textbooks describes writing and reading activities embedded into the learning program. US textbooks also emphasize more discrete mathematics and probability. These are some other differences just off the top of my head.
1. Singapore was developed by the Ministry of Education. That would be like the DOE writing EDM, Connected Math, IMP, and national standards.
2. Singapore did not radically alter the algorithms that were being taught to students. The thinking at the time was that non-standard algorithms would be easier to teach students. This idea was used to distinguish reform curriculum from traditional curriculum.
3. The reading level in Singapore was matched to the reading level of their students. US textbooks do not take this difference into account. If anything reform math is anti-constructivist, because students with low reading levels do not understand the contextual clues provided to solve the problem. It is especially embarrassing to have even an average high school student attempt to demonstrate a Core plus problem using a calculator, even after several years of instruction.

There is always more to say, but you get my drift. Singapore is not integrated in the American sense,

d said...

There is always more to say, but you get my drift. Singapore is not integrated in the American sense.

well said...
and Integrated in the American sense has contributed greatly to diminished international ranking in mathematics.