Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How did things get this Bad?
.................Will it ever get Better?

Sandra Stotsky writing


The Negative Influence of Education Schools on the K-12 Curriculum

June 30, 2008 By Sandra Stotsky, University of Arkansas

The article refers to two general theories driving the pedagogy taught in education schools:

o Constructivism;
o Social justice theory
and their effects.

the conclusion is:

We may best interpret the recent mushrooming of both privately and publicly financed tutorial programs (especially in mathematics), the phenomenal growth of home-schooling in the past two decades, and the ever-increasing number of public and private charter schools as forms of parental reaction to the bloated, distorted, or non-existent textbooks that their children now learn from in a haphazard, watered-down, and distorted curriculum. .....

To salvage a failing public school system, we need to remove de facto control of the content of the K-12 curriculum from education schools as soon as possible. We can remove their control over teacher training by transferring control of teacher preparation in core subjects and the content of these subjects to discipline-based experts at non-profit independent centers or institutes with principled intellectual and civic goals. We can also require educational textbook publishers to use these academic experts as senior authors or consultants for all school textbooks. Voices are beginning to call for the dissolution of our public school system—a logical result of the increasingly negative influence of education schools on the quality of the curriculum and instruction in it. That influence will continue until their direct control of educator preparation and indirect control of the content and pedagogy in school textbooks is removed.


I've noticed, amid all the UW guidance for SPS math, a failure of anyone to account for the shortage of positive results. A constantly expanding math achievement gap, the poor Everyday Math results, and horrendous results from UW assisted IMP use at Cleveland has not dampened the SPS Central Administration's preference for Reform Math programs.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Wonder if that will ever happen in Seattle?

I still wonder how the public allowed things to get this bad.
Will the public ever do anything about this?

Maybe I should start work on my Doctorate in Education at UW to see how I can become totally inept at producing any positive results.

Dr. Stotsky has a PhD in education ... so there must be a few good graduate school Education programs out there. http://www.uark.edu/ua/der/People/stotsky.html

She was also a member of the National Math Advisory Panel.

The National Math Advisory Panel was focused on results and reliable studies.
The SPS pays NMAP little attention. The recommendation to prepare students for success in "Authentic Algebra" is ignored. If "Discovering Algebra" is adopted the SPS will not be offering any authentic algebra.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Harium's blog .. progress is being made

Check the most recent posts on Harium's blog at


Harium has figured out what is going on with SPS math.
Now what do the other 6 directors think?

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

Discovering Algebra vs. Prentice Hall

Here is a Power Point presentation.

Seattle Schools Math Program Manager Anna Maria de la Fuente is recommending the "Discovering Series" for adoption. She thinks this series is mathematically sound. She is recommending what I believe are mathematically unsound materials. The State Board of Education found this series mathematically unsound.

So you be the judge on Discovering Algebra.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

SPS presentation 3-25-09

Math Adoption...(.pdf)
Here is the school board work session presentation from 3-25-2009

Educate for a Change

Here are 12 points:


Students don’t just suddenly fail; they don’t just suddenly drop out. Their cumulative records show patterns of failure and under-achievement through years of enrollment.

The last three decades have been filled with innovative interventions for low achieving students, but ultimately, only two options have persisted through years of debate: Retention & Social Promotion.

------from "Educate for a Change" blog

Seattle refuses to offer the effective interventions required to bring about successful schools for all. Until the Seattle School Directors recognized that students are of vastly different abilities and that until effective interventions are in place (as per ignored school board poicies D44.00 and D45.00), there will be little if any improvement no matter how much money is spent.

Read the 12 points and visit reality.

Algebra for all by grade 9 .. ??

As the Seattle Public Schools examine a textbook recommendation for high school math instructional materials that include nothing below algebra, I must ask: "Is this reasonable?"

Rather than relying on the Central Admin Spin Factory, I went for common sense and a bit of research.

Luckily this same folly has already been tried in Chicago and reported on in Education Week.

Published Online: March 6, 2009
Published in Print: March 11, 2009
Algebra-for-All Policy Found to Raise Rates Of Failure in Chicago
By Debra Viadero


This article also includes a link to the actual study:

College-Preparatory Curriculum for All:
The Consequences of Raising Mathematics Graduation Requirements on Students’ Course Taking and Outcomes in Chicago

by Elaine M. Allensworth, Ph.D. and Takako Nomi, Ph.D.,

Consortium on Chicago School Research, University of Chicago

This policy that Chicago tried in 1997 seems to be sweeping the country now and not a lot of thought is being given to how it really affects schools,” Elaine M. Allensworth, the lead researcher on the study, said in an interview.

{ Not a lot of thought .. Not a lot of thought .. Not a lot of thought .. Think SPS Central and Math Admin}

From the paper:
Conclusions: Changing requirements led to more students taking and receiving credit in rigorous-sounding courses, but grades suffered slightly and later course-work were unaffected. Thus, most of the benefits of the “College Prep for All” policy suggested by the extant research were unrealized in Chicago contexts.

Until Seattle School Directors decide that they need to take a decisive role in mathematics direction there will be little if any improvement. Leadership by the Autocracy of "Company Men" continues to produce substandard materials and now over a decade of substandard results.

Until the Directors demand accountability and rational decision making, Seattle will continue to waste dollars by the millions and have nothing to show.

In May 2007, the directors adopted Everyday Math which produced a k-8 Denver known failure combination of Everyday followed by Connected Math Project in Seattle. At the EDM adoption Seattle significantly increased instructional time to 75 minutes per day at each k-5 grade level. Spent a large sum on k-5 teacher professional development. The result was that in 2008 the WASL math passing rate of SPS grade 4 students declined by 5.5% and Hispanic grade four students by 10% and Black grade four students by 4.4%.

In April 2009, Seattle is poised once again to continue and extend this massive math mistake.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. I am still waiting for that to happen. Cherry Picked data to support pre-determined decisions is clearly not working.

When will Seattle change from the inquiry and exploration dedicated mind set to a Core Knowledge mind set and begin teaching our students appropriate Mathematics like the high performing math nations of the world?

Chicago was using Everyday Math and Trail Blazers as their two elementary math programs during this time. Very poor preparation for pursing algebra.
Should the SPS adopt the "Discovering" series, they will have completed the copying of other's k-12 math failures.

Friday, March 27, 2009

SPS Letter Martha McLaren

Dear Director ____________.

I was present on March 25, from 4 PM until 5:40 PM, for the Math Adoption Work session. I found Art Mabbott's lesson on chords to be an excellent example of the failure of the Reform, or constructivist approach, which is the underlying philosophy of the "Discovering" series. In my experience as a middle school math teacher from 2000 through 2004, I made an intensive, good-faith effort to implement the CMP curriculum, with lessons structured similarly to Art's (Mr. Mabbott coached me in this approach). My experience working with definitions, such as the definition of a chord, with problem solving, learning operations, and developing strategies, was that most students simply were not successful in mastering definitions, concepts, and operations
presented this way. Although there were surely many reasons for their lack of success, it was absolutely clear to me that many or most students came through these lessons in a state of confusion.

The lesson taught Wednesday afternoon by Art, based on a text which does not give examples of correct ways to define the term or correct ways to solve a problem, is a perfect example of what is wrong with this approach. Many students need the anchor point of clear and correct definitions, processes, and solutions. Undeniably, it is the job of the teacher to lead students to this clarity by effectively challenging them to think and master the underlying logic. But it is essential to most students to have access to definitions, procedures, and concepts which are clearly explained and laid out.

After 2004, I substituted in math classrooms throughout the Seattle School District for four years; in that time I observed the same phenomenon throughout the district that I had observed in my own classroom: students were confused and demoralized by reform math textbooks, including the Integrated series used in high school.

The demonstration you witnessed on Wednesday will, I passionately hope, motivate you to continue questioning the final choice of the committee. I can only surmise that, by accident or intent, most people admitted to that committee had an allegiance to reform methods.

Yours truly,

Martha McLaren

Your Help Needed .. Write Now

Action Alert
Seattle School District High School Math Adoption

*** Please forward this to others who are passionate about math education ***

WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! The Seattle School District is on the verge of choosing High School math textbooks for the ENTIRE district. These materials will be in place for the next 5-10 years, so the wrong choice will be a backwards step for the next decade of students. Don’t let our district repeat the mistakes they made for Elementary program (Everyday Math), and Middle School (Connected Math Program - CMP2).

It is extremely urgent that you write to all the School Board Directors in the next week requesting that they do not endorse the district math staff’s current recommendation of Key Curriculum Press Discovering Algebra, Discovering Geometry Series. This curricula was found to be “mathematically unsound” by the Washington State Board of Education consultants, and has been removed from the State’s Recommended High School Programs List.

In contrast, the second place Prentice Hall program, which was favored by a minority of the committee (5 to 8 in committee vote), provides a balanced and content-rich resource for teachers, students, and parents to collaboratively support success. Prentice Hall teaches authentic algebra as recommended by the National Math Advisory Panel and does not include excessive calculator exercises.

Our district developed a textbook review process which included no mathematicians, and is relying on the decision of this limited group to choose the best program, even though it conflicts with state recommendations and key ideas presented by the National Math Advisory Panel. This is the same process which selected the current elementary and middle school programs, and they have not helped increase student achievement or reduce the achievement gap. Our school board directors are concerned that the district is headed down the same path that is producing lackluster student achievement, and heightened parent frustration. Help support them in voting down this mistake before it happens.

This will be an important vote even if your children are currently in elementary school. You can all make a difference by writing a short message of support to school board directors asking them to reject the district’s program recommendation. FINAL VOTE will be on April 22nd.

Possible talking points for letters listed below. Please add in your own experience with district math programs at any grade level.

- Prentice-Hall books are solid, well-organized, and mathematically sound. Computational algorithms and formulas are clearly stated and well motivated by examples and hands-on activities. These materials are family and student friendly.
- Discovering Algebra and Discovering Advanced Algebra (Key Curriculum Press) have too much verbiage, too little in the way of clearly stated mathematical principles. Definitions, computational algorithms, and formulas are vaguely stated if they are stated at all. The program does not include enough practice for mastery.
- Local and national mathematicians have expressed their written concerns about the soundness of these programs.
- Our kids should not be subject to this ongoing failed experiment.

Please do the right thing and choose Prentice Hall Mathematics over the Discovery series.

School Board Directors:
Michael DeBell - michael.debell@seattleschools.org
Sherry Carr - sherry.carr@seattleschools.org
Harium Martin-Morris - harium.martin-morris@seattleschools.org
Peter Maier - peter.maier@seattleschools.org
Cheryl Chow - cheryl.chow@seattleschools.org
Steve Sundquist - steve.sundquist@seattleschools.org
Mary Bass - mary.bass@seattleschools.org

Math Underground Blog:

State Board of Education report:

Mathematician Reviews of Mathematics Curricula
http://www.sbe.wa.gov/mathstandards.htm (scroll to bottom of page)

National Math Panel Final Report

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Letter About AERA Study of 3-01-2009

Concerning original post at:

Dear Senator Eric Oemig,

Please count me dumb as a stump because
I've been hearing for years how Reform math programs wind up with more students taking more years of math in high school.
(and apparently from this study that was not true).

The data provided showed 17% of the students were in NSFF programs versus 83% in CD.

Equally as interesting is the percentage of NSFF students in each group who took 3, 4, and 5 years of math in high school.

3 years 26% ...... CD students 74%
4 years 19% ...... CD students 81%
5 years 13% ...... CD students 87%

Clear to me that the CD students are taking more years of math than the NSFF kids.
( or did all the kids who took lots of NSFF math decide not to go to U Minnesota ).

In WA state in a study recently done by OSPI 40% of high schools are using NSFF programs ... if Minnesota is similar in this regard to WA, then should not 40% of the students in this study be from NSFF programs rather than 17%.

That is an enormous difference 40% to 17%.
It makes me think that NSFF use in Minnesota must be closer to 30%.
Can this data be obtained from Minnesota? I do not know.

I would really like to see data from kids that were in NSFF math programs for all of k-12.

CD = Commercially developed programs
NSFF = National Science Foundation funded programs

Dorothy's letter to SPS Directors

As posted on the Seattle Schools Blog:

I guess my summary would be using the anecdote with my son. He now loves math and can tackle harder problems with confidence because he knows that it all ought to fit together logically without guessing or magic. He has had experience seeing teachers and me demonstrating this again and again, and now can build on this strength to understand and work out problems on his own. But students without this core experience from teachers and from their texts do not develop this confidence or skill. That's the irony with "discovery" mathematics.

Dear Directors,

I have a Masters in Mathematics, have taught math to high school and college students and currently privately tutor middle school and high school students in mathematics. I also have a 10th grader at Roosevelt currently taking Honors Precalculus.

Please rethink the High School Math text book adoption recommendation. Good teachers will be able to work around the flaws in the Discovering series, but it will take extra effort and excellent teaching skills and excellent mathematical skills and experience. Not all math teachers have all those qualities, especially experience. New teachers deserve quality materials. Students deserve good tools, they deserve a quality text that they can reference on their own, that their parents can help them with and that supports comprehensive achievement. Additionally, do not be swayed by comments that the reading level of the Prentice Hall text is too hard. A quality math text, you will see that the sample problems to motivate the ideas are clear and mathematical. While good reading comprehension is always ideal, it is not necessary in order to follow a quality math text and learn the math. A teacher can better motivate good mathematical comprehension skills with a quality text.

The middle school students I tutor all have college educated parents, but all of whom concentrated in the humanities and work in non-math fields. The middle school texts are so befuddling that their well-educated parents cannot read them and help them with their homework. They don't see the bigger picture that the text is trying to teach -- because the books do a great job of hiding that goal. That's where I add value. While helping the students with their homework I know what the book is trying to teach, so I can focus. I usually also have to help them correct the erroneous assumptions that they have made from the "self-discovery" curriculum. Plus I take the time to insist on followup and practice with fluency -- that they do not get at school. I get results, but it is with only a few students. It is so frustrating to know that many other kids are in the same boat and do not have access to a parent or tutor like me who can help them overcome their math classes. Someone with limited reading skills would be much better off with a clear and comprehensive math text than one that requires any reading and discovery.

My son had uneven, mostly poor, math education in elementary school (APP). He hated math and was discouraged and confused by it. My solution was to homeschool him part-time for middle school. First he completed a semester of logic, an rigorous on-line course equivalent to a semester of college. Only after that breather from "math" did we pick up an algebra text and he discovered that it made sense. Roosevelt Math department has been terrific for him. But he completely credits my intervention with his love for math. He specifically credits my confidence that mathematics all fits together into a cohesive whole and my iterative examples demonstrating that over the years. That's what is missing from "discovery" math, and ironically, the very principle that "discovery" math purports to teach.

What you need to see is that a "traditional" math classroom actually has a lot of discovery, there is a lot of motivating the next step, clarity of goals and tools for students to make conjectures and synthesize the material. Very clearly paced, very clearly structured to build on previous material and rigorous -- the very qualities we want in a curriculum. I have not seen that at all in the "discovery" materials. Instead, confusion, no summation to ensure knowledge, and way too much bouncing from one topic to the next. It took the best mathematical minds 500 years to develop modern algebra. We now get ordinary kids to learn it in three years. They can, and they can understand it deeply and fluently. But they shouldn't be expected to discover all of it on their own. That's not pedagogically sound, nor practical.

Please do the right thing and choose Prentice Hall Mathematics over the Discovery series.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SPS Adoption 8 questions

Dear Seattle School Director, 3-25-2009

Fundamental questions that must be considered in the math adoption:

1. Are the WA state k-12 math standards the SPS curriculum?

2. Is the SPS interested in involving parents in the educational process of their children's learning of mathematics?

3. What happens to students with below grade level math skills entering high school?

4. Will the board be duped by cherry picked data presented by the Central Administration and promises that will not be fulfilled?

5. Will the board believe statements made by the Central Administration that are incorrect?

6. Is the board interested in improving the focus of the entire k-12 math curriculum or continuing the extended decade of SPS math disaster?

7. Is the board interested in picking materials that will allow top students a better chance for success in STEM fields in college?

8. Does the board intend to further advance inquiry based instruction that supports the SPS math definition or instead provide students with the math skills needed to become carpenters, electricians, accountants, engineers, medical professionals, etc.?


1. Are the WA state k-12 math standards the SPS curriculum?

I believe these should but the curricula but currently this is not the case. Look no further than the Everyday math pacing plan and the neglect of the Math Grade level performance expectations. “Discovering” avoids “Authentic Algebra” and the manipulation skills and associated thinking that will be needed on an End of Course assessment for Algebra that will replace the WASL.

2. Is the SPS interested in involving parents in the educational process of their children’s learning of mathematics?

The Administration talks about the necessity of home involvement in the educational process. Is adopting a book that is unusable by parents as a resource in keeping with the rhetoric? Clear example based instruction has shown its superiority over the NSF funded nonsense that Dr. Bergeson pushed upon us for a decade. Compare Prentice Hall with “Discovering”. If you were a parent or a student who had been absent, which would you choose?

3. What happens to students with below grade level skills entering high school?

Looks like the Administration has ignored this fact that around 50% of students entering grade 9 need extensive remediation. There is no plan with “Discovering”. Perhaps remediation will be conducted by the community colleges four years later. Prentice Hall provides a complete program. The PH materials are recommended by the State as instructional materials for grades 6,7,8. Those grade levels are where about 50% of SPS entering freshmen operate when it comes to math. A PH adoption gives the district a cohesive and coherent program to deal with years of neglect from the failure to implement effective interventions for students not acquiring the grade level necessary skills.

4. Will the board be duped by cherry picked data presented by the Central Administration and promises that will not be fulfilled?

5. Will the board believe statements made by the Central Administration that are incorrect?

At the Everyday math adoption the administration presented data from a regular program using Everyday math and from a district using it with their Special Education students. These were presented in such a way that most board members thought they were observing random samples. In fact these were “Cherry Picked” the regular district program results presented and the special education results were both from among the best that could be found in the state. The Special Education results were from Central Valley in Spokane had the administration presented the regular ed data from CV it would have been a much different picture. I would definitely do research on any data presented by the administration.

On May 16, 2007 Ms. Santorno assured the board that should the WA Math standards change EDM could be easily adapted … but that has yet to happen. We certainly do not need to rehash the Singapore Math fakery from May 2007. Any math statements and promises need to be fully recorded and perhaps everyone could be held accountable.

Take a good look at the talk about professional development and its effectiveness. Look at the spending on Professional Development that went with the EDM adoption. Look at the large increase in instructional time that took place with the EDM implementation. I can find nothing that indicates this professional development was effective. It is time to adopt effective and efficient materials and stop giving credibility to fairytales.

Where is that PSAT data? PSAT given in November and where are the results?

6. Is the board interested in improving the focus of the entire k-12 curriculum or continuing the extended decade of SPS math disaster?

This adoption gives the board an opportunity to shift the program to the NMAP recommended example based instruction by selecting a book series with clear examples and definitions. Please select a mathematically sound text that can easily be used by parents and students. If “Discovering” is adopted it indicates a vote for the same type of ineffective materials that have been in use over the last decade.

A survey of recent high school graduates entering SCCC found 50% unable to place into a math course above the equivalent of 9th grade high school math. For those students a high school experience left them with 8th grade math skills or worse.

7. Is the board interested in picking materials that will allow top students a chance for better success in STEM fields in college?

There is now ample research that demonstrates that Core-Plus and IMP severely limit a student’s opportunity in college to be successful in pursuit of a STEM field degree. You have the opportunity to select PH. A text series much better than most commercially prepared curricula. There is no reason to continue with substandard NSF funded curricula.

8. Does the board intend to further advance inquiry based instruction that supports the SPS math definition or instead provide students with the math skills needed to become carpenters, electricians, accountants, engineers, medical professionals, etc.?

Given current economic conditions it would be incredibly irresponsible to continue with the ineffective and inefficient Exploration and Inquiry model used by the “Discovering Series”. Please adopt Prentice Hall materials.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

A good idea for Seattle's HS math adoption and more

Since many incoming 9th graders have low skill levels, Seattle needs to be looking lower than 9th grade algebra for instructional materials.

The Curriculum should be the WA math standards.

Seattle should be adopting Prentice Hall for High School but not just the high school texts. The WA state instructional materials recommended for middle school include Prentice Hall for grades 6,7,8.

Looking at the mathematical skill level of many incoming 9th graders, it looks like Prentice Hall materials for grades 6 through Advamced Algebra should be the SPS Core Adoption.

So what about the Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and Statistics?

I think the SPS may be able to do better than
Key Curriculum Press texts from Paul Forster.

Lets look at some data ....
Ted Nutting at Ballard HS has a most impressive record for producing AP Calc students that can pass the AP Calc exam. He uses Calculus by Larson.

How about using Calculus by Larson?

Change vs. Improvement

Singapore success and teacher quality
in the Christian Science Monitor


Why Singapore is another model for teaching excellence
It's an honored and very selective profession – and teachers are highly paid.
By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

From the article ...

When he asked a Singapore official about the basis of their math curriculum, she cited a standards framework put out by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics – in the United States. West Virginia's curriculum takes guidance from the same source, Mr. Paine says. "So the question remains, why is it that they lead the world in student achievement? I think it's because of their teacher quality," he says.

West Virginia's curriculum takes guidance from the same source....

Let us look at how that plays out.
Pick up a Singapore Math book from grade 4.
Compare it with any grade 4 USA text produced from NSF reform math dollars.

You sure could fool me that these are both based on guidance from the same source.

A huge variable in all this comparison talk remains instructional materials.
Singapore Math was born out of incremental change that produced fine effective and efficient text books.
NSF dollars produced NSF funded materials that were a change but it is not a change that improved the math instruction of 50 years ago.
Singapore produced a positive change the NSF just produced a change.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

AERA Research Journal findings March 1, 2009

Unfortunately I am not a subscriber but here is the Abstract:


The article is available to non-subscribers for $20.

This version was published on March 1, 2009
American Educational Research Journal, Vol. 46, No. 1, 203-231 (2009)
DOI: 10.3102/0002831208323368

The Preparation of Students From National Science Foundation–Funded and Commercially Developed High School Mathematics Curricula for Their First University Mathematics Course

Michael Harwell, Thomas R. Post and Arnie Cutler ...University of Minnesota

Yukiko Maeda ...Purdue University

Edwin Anderson ...University of Minnesota

Ke Wu Norman ...University of Montana

Amanuel Medhanie ...University of Minnesota

The selection of K–12 mathematics curricula has become a polarizing issue for schools, teachers, parents, and other educators and has raised important questions about the long-term influence of these curricula. This study examined the impact of participation in either a National Science Foundation–funded or commercially developed mathematics curriculum on the difficulty level of the first university mathematics course a student enrolled in and the grade earned in that course. The results provide evidence that National Science Foundation–funded curricula do not prepare students to initially enroll in more difficult university mathematics courses as well as commercially developed curricula, but once enrolled students earn similar grades. These findings have important implications for high school mathematics curriculum selection and for future research in this area.

Looks like Professor Mass knew what he was talking about:
Looks like those UW Professors knew what they were talking about also:

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. The SPS school directors over the last year have shown signs of improvement in their recognition of why the SPS is a model of math failure. H.S. Math adoption takes place in April. We shall see if any intelligent application of relevant data occurs in April.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spokesman Review SBE MAP member writes

Tim Christensen writes:

http://www.spokesmanreview.com/tools/story_ pf.asp?ID= 284133

In the New Jersey News

Here is an article that is extremely well done.

Again it is a real applied math person that is featured in this article about driving math change and not a Central Administration Math Educator.

"As a taxpayer, a citizen and a parent, I am appalled," said Clark, who testified at a state hearing on the draft standards last month. Clark, who has a master's degree in chemical engineering, said New Jersey, which has the second highest per-pupil spending in the country, deserves better than Indiana's "hand-me-downs."


Hopefully Seattle can heed her words:
"It is important to get this right," Davy said. "To change in mid-stream is a small price to pay."

Think back to May 2007 and the EDM adoptions in Seattle, Bethel, & Issaquah with this:
The working draft will change, Davy said, so local school districts were told not to update their math curriculum in the meantime.
More words for Seattle:
"Kids with a weak foundation will never be able to do the math the 21st century will demand of them," Davy said.

New Jersey mirrors Seattle:
They say the state's standards have failed to prepare students for math. They cite statistics that 40 percent of students take remedial courses in their first year at the state's public universities and 80 percent do so at the state's community colleges.

Contrast the following with EDM practice in Seattle:
The draft calls for elementary school students to do basic arithmetic without the use of a calculator.

A question that should arise from this article is what exactly does the NAEP math test measure? given that:

Caldwell and her backers point to New Jersey fourth- and eighth-grade students performing better in math than Indiana's on the so-called nation's report card, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. New Jersey's fourth-graders have the second highest NAEP scores, and eighth-graders the sixth highest. Indiana places sixth and 18th, respectively.

While NJ statistics show that 40 percent of students take remedial courses in their first year at the state's public universities and 80 percent do so at the state's community colleges.

So NJ is highly NAEP ranked in a math pathetic nation. In the PISA test the USA was the worst English speaking nation tested.
It should also be noted that the use of NAEP for state to state comparisons is strongly discouraged because of demographic differences in state populations. If those cited in the article as bringing up this NAEP New Jersey - Indiana comparison are experts .... it must be easy to be an expert in New Jersey.

A comment at the SPS Blog on Math Direction

dan dempsey said...

The contents below are posted as comment #27 on the SPS Blog
at this location:

There are operable links at the above location that are not operable below.
Charlie said that the time for math input has passed. Consider this:

Ms. de la Fuente said there is a difference in the evaluations done on Discovering Algebra etc. She is absolutely correct on that. Dr George Bright with a PhD. in education not math who was hired by Terry Bergeson to push her programs found the "Discovering Series" sound. Dr James King of the UW who spent years trying to push IMP into Seattle and spent lots of NSF funding at Cleveland and still created a debacle (check Cleveland's Math WASL scores here for the two years of IMP

year ... Cleveland....Dist .... State
2004-05 23.2% . 40.8% . 47.5%
2005-06 21.1% . 55.7% . 51.0%
2006-07 17.9%. 50.2% . 50.4%
2007-08 12.2% . 50.4% . 49.6%

That would be the same Dr. King who has published a book through Key Curriculum Press. He finds the Discovering Series from Key Curriculum press sound. So what?
(This is a clear conflict of interest is it not?)

That would be the same UW that influenced OSPI and Seattle to adopt the extremely weak math materials of the last decade. Yes UW helped push Everyday Math into Bethel School District at the same time Seattle adopted EDM. Ms. Santorno knows very little about math and yet she unilaterally pushed EDM into Seattle. When TERC/Investigations was meeting resistance in Bethel and Seattle both districts switched their push from TERC to EDM (with UW guidance I believe).

The difference of opinion is that the State Board of Education contracted with Strategic Teaching and ST paid for an analysis by the Head of the Johns Hopkins University math department W. Stephen Wilson and independently another PhD. mathematician who has had a lot of experience in math education from California Dr. Harel.

Unfortunately our SPS Math Program director was too busy to attend the Strategic Teaching Analysis of high school math materials in Renton. In fact there was no one there from the SPS. So the SPS math program manager with the BA in English and Masters in Education says that there is a difference of opinion.

There has also been a difference of opinion in whether the SPS is following the State Math standards in grades k-5 this year. Clearly anyone following what has happened this year will notice that the Everyday Math pacing guide is being followed which ignores large portions of the WA state Math Grade level expectations.

Ms. de la Fuente tells us that the Immediate Actions specified on pg 17 of the Strategic Plan are being followed.

You be the judge:
Immediate Actions

• Math: A Math Project Team will develop an implementation plan and timeline for action during summer 2008. Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer.

This happened just like Singapore Math has been implemented as a supplement and been in use since fall 2007.

Does the School Board actually believe any of this?

I guess it is just very convenient to hold no one accountable.

Did the Strategic Plan Update include any of this?
The SPS in math is currently way off track from State Math Standards, the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations, as well as Seattle Transition Math Project plans in how to reduce the number of SPS grads needing math remediation when entering local colleges.
If there had been no state math standards, no NMAP, no Seattle TMP what would be different about SPS math?
The Answer is absolutely nothing ... because all of this direction has been ignored by the SPS.

Yes I believe that Ms. de la Fuente is a PhD. candidate at the UW. I thought follow the leader was fun when I was 5 years old. If our leader is UW College of Education or UW math help, I suggest we look for a new direction for SPS math. That is my difference of opinion.

To Improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.
Is anyone looking for improvement?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

How can Discovering Algebra etc. be the SPS High School Math adoption?

Dear Seattle School Directors, 3-21-2009

From School Board policy:

It is the job of the school board to determine curricula and select primary instructional materials to fulfill that curricula.

1. Are the state k-12 Math Standards the SPS math curricula?

2. If so why during 2008-2009 was the EDM pacing plan being followed instead of the Math performance GLEs?

3. If so then how can the clearly defective "Discovering Series" be approved for the Core 9-12 math materials adoption?

SBE approved ST’s report which showed that only Holt met the minimum standard for soundness and that Discovery, Core Plus, and Glencoe did not meet minimum standard, but they won’t finalize the state list until SBE has the next 3 texts on OSPI’s list evaluated. OSPI hopes that at least 2 more will qualify for the state list, but that list may not be finalized until August. The next 2 on the list – Prentice Hall and McDougal Littell, are supposed to be very good.

Randy Dorn said he will re-look at the standards and textbook selection within 24 months.


Dan Dempsey

$9 million for what exactly?

The Seattle Schools Strategic Plan "Excellence for All" states pg 17:
Immediate Actions

• Math: A Math Project Team will develop an implementation plan and timeline for action
during summer 2008. Alignment of the elementary and middle school instructional materials to the new State Performance Expectations will be completed this summer.
This document "Excellence for All" gives the impression that following the State Math Standards is a priority for the SPS.

SPS Math actions over the last year and the most recent recommendation of the "Discovering Series" for high school math certainly are not in following with the state math standards.

The Gates Foundation withdrew support from Seattle once before.

Now it appears that the district has rounded up $9 million to implement the Strategic Plan, but the words of the Strategic Plan in regard to math and the district actions hardly coincide.

I wonder how the School Board Directors view this apparent contradiction?


*** With $9 million you would think a few bucks could go for math programs that follow the state math standards.

From School Beat March 20

Seattle Public Schools received $9 million in grants from local and national foundations to support implementation of the District’s five-year Strategic Plan, Excellence for All. The plan is designed to raise achievement of all students by providing students and teachers with the resources they need to succeed.

Directly from the School Beat March 20th release:

Seattle Public Schools received $9 million in grants from local and national foundations to support implementation of the District’s five-year Strategic Plan, Excellence for All. The plan is designed to raise achievement of all students by providing students and teachers with the resources they need to succeed. The grant funds support:
• expanded college-ready coursework for students;
• real-time student data to drive decision-making; and
• stronger professional development opportunities for teachers, school leaders, and District officials.
The grants come from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ($7.2 million), The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation ($1.2 million), The Boeing Company ($308,00) and The Stuart Foundation ($254,000).
The Alliance for Education worked with the District to secure the grants and will play a lead role in managing the funds; tracking, evaluating and communicating results; and engaging the community.

So how is the Alliance for Education going to communicate the correlation between Excellence for All statements and SPS math actions?


In regard to "• real-time student data to drive decision-making"
Where are those PSAT results from the test given in November?

Perhaps the Alliance for Education can tell us.

I believe those results were available to High Schools in late January.
So where is a public release of PSAT data?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Authentic Algebra needed in Seattle

Dear Director Sherry Carr, 3-19-2009

As you approach a decision on HS math texts it is important to also view the direction of SPS math k-12.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data. Unfortunately the district has still not made available the PSAT results from November 2008. The District would have had these results in January. It is now almost April and I can not find these results.

Please request this data and send me a copy.

As you are well aware we have little in the way of data to evaluate the efficacy of SPS math programs, except for the dismal rates of remediation at college math placement.

What is apparent is that the SPS admin prefers to ignore NMAP recommendations and in 2008-2009 has preferred to follow the EDM pacing guide rather than the WA k-5 math standards.

It is likely that the legislature will authorize an End of Course Assessment for largely Algebra and then one for largely Geometry. I believe that a review of the text "Discovering Algebra" will show that this text is deficient in bringing students to a mastery of "Authentic Algebra" as emphasized in NMAP. This is hardly surprising as the k-12 math plan in Seattle largely avoids both the preparation for and the teaching of "Authentic Algebra".

Those PSAT results would be a useful evaluation tool for a k-12 math program that continues to follow the direction of discovery and inquiry that has seriously failed many students over the last decade. Until the district recognizes past and current errors, and then makes corrections, we are unlikely to see much improvement.

It is bizarre that given NMAP, Seattle TMP direction and the WA Math Standards the SPS is still using the following definition to guide math curriculum and instruction:

Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

Please do not use this definition in attempting to fulfill the board's responsibility to determine both curriculum and appropriate materials for k-12 mathematics.

I've attached a document that takes an entirely different view and outlines particular short comings of the Discovery Inquiry approach. Twelve years of SPS math data should be enough for someone in a decision making capacity to notice the short comings of Discovery Inquiry and make corrections but apparently not.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.

Discovery learning in math: Exercises versus problems
by Barry Garelick



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Excellence for All .... Math update Saturday at 10 AM

Quarterly meetings with the public on Excellence for All are scheduled for March and May. The dates for these meetings are listed below. Locations for May meetings will be determined at a later date.

March - Topics:
Student Assignment and Math Update
ยบ Saturday, March 21, from 10 a.m. to noon
John Stanford Center, Auditorium
2445 3rd Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98134

This is a chance for public engagement.

Heads Up on Seattle Math Adoption
Schedule Change of dates

At a committee meeting it was announced that the Board was likely to move up its consideration of the adoption two weeks. That means that the HS math text adoption issue would come up before a board working group on March 25, be formally introduced at a board meeting on April 8, and have a final vote on April 22. This new schedule has not been confirmed. The reason given was that the board wants to give itself more time to consider the school assignment plan.

The Seattle High School math adoption actions may be moved forward two weeks.

Board work session would on May 25 Wednesday.

Introductory item at School Board meeting April 8

Final Adoption Action at School Board meeting on April 22

End of Course Assessments from the State

With the proposal to replace the High School math WASL comes a recommendation for End Of Course Assessments.

The Legislature is at work on the funding of this idea.

Julie Wright reports:

I gave testimony to the House Education Committee today. I only had 2 minutes to speak, so could only say the most important points. I emphasized that 2 EOC tracks is not in the best interest of our children and that we want all children to be prepared for and have access to ‘authentic algebra’ as recommended by the NMAP. This should be our new motto and repeated everywhere possible. I dropped off copies of my testimony at Sen. McAuliffe, Sen. Oemig, and Sen. King’s offices too.

Alan Burke spoke and said that OSPI recommends only having one EOC track because 80% of the standards are common to both tracks. He suggested a test for Alg 1/Int 1 and the other test for Geo/Int 2. No one spoke against having only one track and Rep. Sullivan reminded me that it will save money too—biggest selling point this session. I think we’ll get it narrowed to one EOC track and it’s likely it will be Alg 1/Geo because of the NMAP recommendation for ‘authentic’ algebra . I bet some of the committee members got a kick that OSPI and WTM were on the same side of EOC’s


It would be a good idea to contact anyone on the house ed committee and let them know your view on End of Course Assessments. I believe that an assessment of Algebra skills one year and Geometry skills the next would be a reasonable undertaking. Given the sorry state of high school math education this will at least give us a baseline for all schools. Then we can start looking at who is doing things well and perhaps profit from them.

At last we may have some testing that has enough math in it to make the data worth collecting, no thanks to Dr. Bergeson.

Exercises versus Problems

I referred to this essay in an earlier posting but is now published online.


Barry Garelick's Essay on Discovery learning in math: Exercises versus problems is available at the above address.

PISA Test considered in Maryland

From the Baltimore Sun:


SPS Math and the Strategic Plan

Following Charlie Mas's model found here:


I crafted this letter:
Dear Ms. Chandler, 3-17-2009

In regard to mathematics page 17 of "Excellence for All" states under "Immediate Actions" several things that in my view did not happen.

When I wrote to the Math Program manager I was told these things did happen.

I find only accidental alignment with the State mathematics standards k-5.

I find a dedicated commitment to "Fidelity of Implementation" in the following of the Everyday Math pacing plan. This is hardly in keeping with the Immediate Actions specified in "Excellence for All".

I find it particularly disturbing that in the Strategic Plan updates, there is never a report on math progress in regard to those Immediate Actions.

I see no evidence that the Math Immediate Actions of page 17 have been implemented.

In future Strategic Plan updates it would be wonderful if the many items in the Strategic Plan that are currently ignored could be included.

The current action by the math adoption committee in recommending "The Discovering Series" as the core math adoption is a continued departure from the National Math Advisory Panel's recommendations as well as the State math standards.

Could the next Strategic Plan update please make reference to this departure?

It would be especially nice if the update also included what was being done to correct this departure.


Danaher M. Dempsey, Jr.
I sent copies to the School Board and the Superintendent.

Here is Ms. Chandler's email should you feel the urge to write:

More on the Strategic Plan can be found here:


Monday, March 16, 2009

A letter from Bill Marsh

This is a letter from Bill Marsh that he wished circulated to the State Board of Education and the SBE Math Advisory Panel.

March 13, 2009
Ladies and gentlemen:

This is an open letter from a mathematician and citizen who has been a math teacher to the people who have to make the decisions about mathematics education for our state. All of you know a lot more about politics than I do, but I know it when I see it, and there has been a lot of it in our state's recent discussions and decisions about K-12 mathematics.

Consider “mathematical soundness.”

Reading dozens of textbooks carefully would be cruel and unusual work. But asking the math chairs at our six public four year colleges and universities to each read through the K-12 benchmarks would have meant at most a day's work for each, work quite relevant to their roles as mathematics education leaders in our state. Independent letters from these six individuals would have produced all information needed to decide whether or not the proposed benchmarks were mathematically sound..

Instead, we spent money outside of state for a review by one highly partisan though entirely honorable and qualified individual. The decision to hire an outside reviewer appears to me to have been almost purely political.
If the reference here is to the mathematical soundness of Math texts at the high school level, then the fact is two mathematicians were hired Dr. Wilson from Johns Hopkins and Dr. Harel from California.

Consider the recent textbook and materials reviews.

I participated in two. I was struck by the integrity of the process, by how careful those running the review were and how hard we all worked to be fair and objective. But we were limited by a kind of self-inflicted intentional ignorance.

For example, I had to mark Algebra II textbooks down if they did not include “coverage” of quadratic inequalities.

I don't recall ever being taught about them or ever using them, though I suppose I have. They are of monumental insignificance compared to either quadratic equations or linear inequalities. We know what they are, just from the words. Any student who knows the two other topics well can figure out, when and if they have to, all they need to know about quadratic inequalities.

But the way our decision was structured, I was forced to rank a text that was merely adequate on quadratic equations and linear inequalities and covered quadratic inequalities as superior to a text that treated quadratic equations and linear inequalities superbly but didn't mention quadratic inequalities. Our students will suffer because of such self inflicted stupidity.

Traditionalists in our state often denigrate pedagogy and push versions of content as a way to get their views accepted. The decisions about the structure of these textbook assessments were partly political.

Consider the National Mathematics Advisory Panel.

Yes, Virginia, there is politics in mathematics education in the other Washington, too. And, again, one aspect of it is a self inflicted ignorance of material that is material to decisions about our children's education in mathematics.

The course I took in psychology as an undergraduate fifty years ago was wall to wall behaviorism. The view presented of what was scientific in psychology would have precluded the kinds of evidence that George Miller, Jerome Bruner, and countless others later used to carry out a “cognitive revolution” in that field. Noam Chomsky similarly expanded the kinds of evidence and ideas considered in linguistics. The social sciences and what came to be called the cognitive sciences advanced by getting over what some had characterized as physics envy. The NMAP appears to me to have suffered from medical science envy.

The problems studied in education seem to me much more like those studied in sociology and psychology and maybe even comparative literature than those studied in biology and medicine. Throwing out most research that didn't fit into a clinical trials template seems stupid to me.

I hope that those of you making decisions about mathematics education for our state will, in addition to considering the ideas and opinions of the NMAP carefully, also consider those of the AERA. { AERA link http://www.aera.net/ }

Bill Marsh, Ph.D.

Creativity ... Singapore and the USA etc.

It seems that the only argument left for our nations poor educational system and below average math scores is that we encourage great creativity in the USA.

Here is an Article from Business Week that shoots that creativity line full of holes.


Global March 16, 2009,

Innovation: Singapore Is No. 1, Well Ahead of the U.S.

Singapore's emphasis on science education and a highly talented workforce puts it well ahead of the U.S. in a new global ranking of innovation leaders.

By Bruce Einhorn

According to a new report by Boston Consulting Group, though, the center of innovation is not in the U.S. BCG, working with the Manufacturing Institute of the Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers, last week released a survey of 110 countries worldwide looking at the ones with government policies and corporate performance most encouraging to innovation. The U.S. came in No. 8, ahead of Japan (No. 9) and Germany (No. 19) but well behind the two leaders, both of them so-called tiger economies from Asia: Singapore at No. 1 and South Korea at No. 2.

........."Are we developing the skills at the high school level?" asks Andrew, explaining the responses researchers often encountered. "Are we making it easy for the best and brightest to study and stay in the U.S.?"


Can we wait any longer for Singapore Math? Dare Seattle continue to ignore preparation for "Authentic Algebra" any longer?

What is the Seattle School District possibly thinking with the extremely flawed "Discovering Series" for possible use in High Schools?

It is time to look at what is actually needed in math classrooms rather than what the UW Math Ed establishment and the publishers would like to force upon us.

Remember the 60 UW profs statement:

Thanks to Sudhakar Kudva for sending the link to Business Week Global.

Here is a link to It's Action Time

Letter to SPS Directors about H.S. Math adoption

Dear Director, 3-16-2009

Having watched the SPS math adoptions in action and having analyzed data from the last 12 years, it is apparent that the math adoption process is extremely flawed.

Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman in 1964 participated in the California Math text adoption. He shared his views on the severe flaws in math textbook adoptions in his autobiography Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman. A friend of mine, Paul Dunham, with two degrees in Engineering has similar opinions to those expressed by Professor Feynman. I think you would benefit from reading his analysis here:



Paul Dunham has a rather unique perspective as he spent 15 months preparing to teach high school math. Upon gaining his teaching certificate he did not seek a high school math position because he observed that most high school math programs in Washington were headed in a futile direction. Paul took a job at Cascadia Community College and referred to himself as an agent of math repair.
The School Board polices in the C and D sections make it very apparent that the Board is to determine the curriculum and adopt the instructional materials to fulfill the standards of the curriculum. It is time for the board to fulfill these board responsibilities. Brita Butler-Wall said she chose to trust the administration’s hired math professionals. Like Paul Dunham I believe such trust is very unwise and there are now 12 years of SPS data to verify this.

As I read the Board Policies and reflect on what has happened and is happening currently, several things spring to mind.

1: SPS administrative actions during 2008-2009 school-year ignored the WA state math standards k-5 in favor of the Everyday Math pacing plan, which misses huge portions of the arithmetic base needed for the preparation to take “Authentic Algebra” later. The Grade level math expectations as posted on the SPS website were ignored. The “Immediate Actions” for math listed on page 17 of the Strategic Plan never happened. The Singapore Math materials that should have been purchased (May 30, 2007 one Singapore Text book and one Singapore Workbook) were not. The Singapore Extra practice is virtually worthless without a Singapore Text book.

2: The folks who actually know lots of mathematics (engineers etc.) have very little if any input into math selections. This defect was very apparent at the EDM adoption (unfortunately the testimony was not recorded in fact the entire board meeting was not recorded) and is even more apparent in the makeup of the HS Core math committee. The UW and the NSF have produced and pushed materials that have produced abysmal results in Seattle. The PD^3 project run through the UW that focused on WSHS, Cleveland and Garfield became a drive to push Interactive Math Program materials into Seattle High Schools. WSHS declined to have a PD^3 sponsored project when Dr James King of UW made it apparent that he would only allow IMP and rejected an informal proposal from WSHS to do intervention of incoming students with Singapore Math materials. Cleveland scores were an absolute disaster despite UW assistance in a variety of ways. Oddly enough the Admin was still pushing an IMP adoption as this disaster was in progress.

3. The selection of the “Discovering” math series for the core adoption is mind boggling. I urge you and other board members to read the NMAP report and look at the emphasis on “Authentic Algebra”. Did these committee members read the analysis of “Discovering” done for the SBE by Drs. Wilson and Harel? Please page through the first six chapters of Discovering Algebra. This is a text on how to use a graphing calculator and any treatment of authentic algebra is minimal. The selection of College Prep Math as a finalist was equally puzzling as it fails to present definitions or a variety of other essentials in a rational way.

4. If the Board adopts the “Discovering” series k-12, math in Seattle will be out of sync with the state standards and the entire program could not be further away from the recommendations of the Seattle Transition Math Project that is attempting to get students better prepared for College math success.
I think that Paul Kurose could provide you with an outline of Seattle TMP’s plans. I urge you to adopt either Prentice Hall or start all over again.


Dan Dempsey

the SPS Board policies referred to can be found here:

Transform Math and Science Teaching and Learning in Washington State

A Proposal to Transform Math and Science Teaching and Learning in Washington State, a Presentation by Caroline King, Partnership for Learning

can be found here:

This is a presentation given to the SBE last week. There seems to be lots of funding to push this agenda, but how much influence do the UW math educators have on this?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Town Hall statement by Paul Dunham

Over the last couple of years this state has re-evaluated it's math standards and arrived at a new set that is a vast improvement. OSPI did not initiate this effort, and if left on its own, is unlikely to have improved what it had created before. The Board of Education had to force them to involve actual mathematicians in the process, because otherwise the effort would have failed.

The simple truth is that most people who actually learn math and learn it well enough to apply it go into industry, not education. That leaves the education community short of expertise. And who winds up in positions of authority on matters of math education? Exactly those same persons who are short on expertise. So to assure success in the standards rewrite and curriculum selection process, the board wisely brought Strategic Teaching in to fill that void.

Now it appears that Strategic Teaching and OSPI disagree on what constitutes “mathematical soundness” in high school curricula. Why is this a surprise to anyone? I understand there is a proposal to establish a third group to “reconcile” their differences. This is a supreme folly, clearly based on a policy of placing the politics of adults over the good of our children's education. If OSPI is allowed to select such a group from their own math-challenged club they are sure to corrupt the entire process. Our state needs to be able to train more math teachers, but it also needs to provide training for new generations of scientists and engineers. If the board allows OSPI to reject or discredits the input of actual mathematicians, this will be as difficult as ever and another generation's opportunities will be lost.

The new math standards are an improvement, but a silly element of politics stands out in the alternate form for “Integrated” high school math. Oddly, the standards are almost entirely the same, the two forms just list them in a different order. Now it's time to establish End of Course Assessments. EOCs are available off the shelf for Algebra and Geometry. But has the board considered what the creation of an EOC for Integrated math will lead to?

I've little against the concept of an integrated curriculum, but it's well known that this simple word describes a very broad landscape. No two integrated curricula are the same, and some that were chosen in haste to get in on the fad are atrocious. Even OSPI's alignment study shows this. So how is it be possible to devise a valid and meaningful EOC for it? Since the new standards and their integrated parallel standards are virtually identical, why is it even necessary? This state has spent a billion dollars on the WASL fiasco, and the math portion is the worst part of it. Is the state anxious to repeat this? Please select existing and proven End of Course assessments to meet the goal of the law and serve the kids, not the adults.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Mathematicians and Math in School

From Paul Dunham, Professional Mechanical Engineer and now certified Math teacher:

Before I headed back to school to re-tool as a math teacher, I wouldn't have considered myself a mathematician. To earn two engineering degrees, though, I studied and mastered more math than the vast bulk of the populace, including most K-12 teachers. It just isn't possible to learn the principles of thermodynamics, solid mechanics, vibrations, circuit theory, or any of a host of other engineering sub-disciplines without having first learned basic number theory, algebra, geometry and calculus as a solid foundation to build on. I consider myself a practitioner of applied math.

I have always known that there were people who worked with mathematics in a purely abstract way, without concern for applications. I have always been interested in applications, though, so I chose the engineering route. I never imagined that there was a third group who focused on math education until I spent a year in a teacher seminary. They don't know the math the way the pure guys do, nor to they appreciate it in the same way that those of us who apply it do. I get the impression that most members of the math-ed based community of mathematicasters would consider Rachel Ray a chemist, or Jesse James of "Monster Garage" an engineer. To be fair, how could they know otherwise? The very real world of applied mathematics is outside of their experience. But if they consider themselves mathematicians, then I certainly will stand up and declare myself one, too.

Key questions are and will remain these: Relevance - Why should people study math? Our culture has become corrupt in this area and teaches many of our kids that they shouldn't bother. That's a larger issue. Content - What math do they need to know to prepare for their future lives and careers? This depends on just what future they imagine for themselves, and where one size will never fit all.

Mastery vs. Appreciation - How well do they need to know it?
Authority - Who are in the best position to offer answers to these questions?

If we are to train people to be pure mathematicians, then the pure mathematicians are in the best position.

If we are to train people to apply math as engineers, scientists, technicians, etc., then people who have trained in and mastered these fields are in the best position.

If we are to train more mathematicasters, then mathematicasters are in the best position.

For all the big talk about the value of collaboration and differentiated instruction, though, the math ed community goes out of it's way to shut out diverse input and narrow the scope of what is taught to what little that their isolated culture of group-thinkers has trained them to appreciate. In essence, they only know how to train more of themselves.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Seattle recommends
the defective "Discovering Series"

On Thursday March 12, 2009 the SPS HS math adoption committee recommended the adoption of the Discovering Math series from Key Curriculum Press.

Now I understand why the district administration did not perform the math immediate actions of the strategic plan. They have no intention of teaching much math k-12 ever.

With the decision today to recommend adoption of the Discovering series, which was found mathematically defective when reviewed by Strategic Teaching, it is perfectly clear that the mathematical skills needed by plumbers, electricians, medical professionals, and engineers will not be taught in Seattle.....
Because for the SPS:
Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.

In other words the SPS has no intention of teaching math because the kids will be discovering it. High School 9th, 10th, & 11th grade kids will Discover Algebra, Discover Geometry, then Discover Advanced Algebra. ... because the SPS won't be teaching it.

I guess when Director Michael DeBell said (at the time of the EDM adoption May 30, 2007) that things in Seattle were likely going to be guided by the state that turned out not to be true. Discovering Algebra is unquestionably the worst Algebra book I have ever used. I piloted it in 2000-2001 for two classes for the full year. Beaverton OR, is now having a high school adoption. I believe they had adopted Discovering but it is not even in the running for this current adoption. Discovering Algebra was released in 2000.

or figure out what to do now that in the SPS there is universal crap for math k-12.

Authentic Algebra and the preparation for it, as emphasized by the National Math Advisory Panel, forget it in Seattle.
This recommendation of the "Discovering" series goes to the Board. The Board is not, however, bound by it. Materials adoption is a Board decision. The Board will vote in May. The board has in the past been unsatisfied with administrative HS math selections.
They need to continue to reject nonsense.

Dumbing down in Palo Alto

On the front page of the Palo Alto Daily News:

Parents frustrated over math texts By Diana Samuels

Palo Alto Daily News
Posted: 03/12/2009 12:59:12 AM PDT

Palo Alto parents came to a meeting about a new math textbook curriculum Wednesday ready to fight, expressing frustration that the district has narrowed its choices down to the two programs it has and at several points asking the superintendent to conduct a poll determining which program parents liked best.

The district is choosing between two curriculums — "Everyday Math" and "enVision Math", with a supplement called "Investigations. " Many Palo Alto parents, on the other hand, say they prefer a third choice, "Singapore Math," which the district removed from consideration a few months ago.

Math teachers, parents and school officials on the Math Textbook Adoption Committee have spent the last several months piloting and evaluating the two programs, and could decide their final pick at a meeting Monday. They're scheduled to present the program to the school board April 14.

"Everyday Math" has been controversial since it teaches the use of algorithms different from the standard multiplication, division and other processes that parents are used to.

"EnVision Math" has been described as a more standard textbook.
About 100 parents, teachers and school officials were at Wednesday's "Parent/Community Information Night" and heard some background information on the textbook adoption process, and then were asked to split into small groups and brainstorm ideas about what they want their children to learn and how math materials could support those goals.

Assistant Superintendent Ginni Davis said they would take "good, concrete suggestions" from parents back to the committee meeting Monday, though she warned parents at the start of the meeting that blanket statements about which programs they like or don't like wouldn't be useful.

"People who thought that we were going to vote, or dissect programs, that wasn't the point of tonight," Davis said after the meeting.

Nevertheless, as the different small groups began reporting back on what they'd discussed, some parents said they felt like they were "discussing this in a vacuum." The meeting didn't allow them a chance to speak directly to the district, and the lofty goals they'd brainstormed — "a good grasp on the fundamentals" or "a good balance between skills and concepts" — could apply to any math curriculum.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he didn't want parents to leave the meeting dissatisfied, and asked if there was a way to get to the heart of the matter while remaining respectful to the teachers and other committee members who'd spent so much time discussing, evaluating and piloting the programs. Parents asked for a poll of which program they preferred. While Skelly came close to calling for a show of hands, he ultimately asked parents to write their thoughts on paper, indicating the strength of their preference or objection to different programs.

"I'd rather hear it now than I would at 11 o'clock on April 14 (during the school board meeting)," Skelly said. Most of the notes expressed frustration with "Everyday Math," ranging from "What is wrong with regular, normal math being taught today? Why do we need 'Everyday Math?'" to, "I will fight 'Everyday Math.'"
Others were less forceful: "I don't know all the ins and outs of the program. I trust the hard work, expertise and knowledge of the committee," read one. "This is a difficult choice, well-meaning parents should not be able to vote based on five minutes of Google research," read another, perhaps referring to the harshly critical reviews of "Everyday Math" circling online.

The district did share some of the reasoning behind their decision at Wednesday's meeting, saying they eliminated "Singapore Math" because they felt it wasn't the best program to teach to a class of students at a range of math levels, and it didn't provide enough support for English Language learners.


My inserted comments here:

So they think that EDM does?
These folks are only spin-meisters.

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

Look at Seattle ... Look at Denver
These folks are aparently the ones that came up with recommendations based on 5 minutes or less of data analysis.

60%+ of Singapore kids come from homes where English is not the principle language, whatever do those kids do to get to be among the top in the world when all math classes are taught in English in Singapore. Thanks to Palo Alto we now know that English language learners are not well served in Singapore .... so the Palo Alto kids may get Everyday Math ... who is kidding who on this one?

Of course great analysis should be undertaken whenever schools proclaim "we have the best interests of the students in mind"....
Usually that is code for we have little to no supporting data for our thoughts.

So where is the data that backs up any of this Palo Alto blah blah?

"The committee felt like there were some really nice things in the program, but when you evaluate it against our criteria, it really didn't meet our needs," teacher Staci Stoveland said.

So Staci what are your needs? Me I would like a country with enough engineers to have a national defense and a functioning economy.


They also passed out a list of pros and cons for both "Everyday Math" and "enVision Math." They said they liked how "Everyday Math" provides a more thorough and in-depth teaching of standards, and is engaging and challenging for students, but worried that the pace could be too fast for "emerging mathematicians."

Whatever kind of standards are being referred to here? How can a text series like EDM which does not even teach long division much less division with a two digit divisor meet standards?
The pace of EDM is not to rapid. It is to jumbled and incoherent for most any kid.
EDM has an enormous number of learning goals that keep getting recycled year after year. According to the National Math Advisoty Panel this approach is a bad idea. Did the committee miss that fact?
I could understand the pace of Singapore as being to rapid for "Emerging Mathematicians" as Singapore teaches and requires mastery of the standard algorithms for multiplication and division. It requires necessary skills needed to lay the foundation for future success in collegiate mathematics.


Evaluating "enVision math," they liked that it focuses more depth on one big idea at a time and said it's a good program for students struggling with math, though they said it might be too easy and that it "treats math as a sequence of little ideas rather than big ideas."

"I was a little bit surprised, at the very end (of the meeting), it seemed like the dialogue and interaction was truncated," said parent Gil Wong, who moved to Palo Alto a few years ago from Rochester, Minn. There, his son learned under the "Everyday Math" curriculum, and they had to supplement his schooling with after-school tutoring. Since the program is different from the standard algorithms parents know, it's also hard for parents to help their children learn, he said.

Teacher and math textbook committee member Lisa Swagerty said it was "unfortunate" that the district and parents seemed to have different views of the purpose behind Wednesday's meeting.

The teacher's view of this meeting sounds like the parents were supposed to buy this nonsense. ( Spin-Master production)
The parent's view that the meeting would allow them to get a worthwhile mathematically rigorous curriculum that actually has a track record of success for their children was apparently in error.


"We have the best interest of kids at heart," she said.

That is what the schools always say when they have no data to support poor ideas.

From Sudhakar

I just finished watching Arne Duncan on the Charlie Rose show.

A conversation with Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education Video may be viewed online at

I had to pinch myself several times during the show, just to make sure I was not dreaming. Here is the nation's highest education official, saying things that I wished every education official had said. Many of these things have been expressed right here in the blog. But there he was, on national TV, saying the right things, popular or not. If a fraction of what he said became reality, we would be in fat city. Here are some highlights of what he articulated:

1. School facilities to be kept open for 12 hours a day or longer.

2. High quality pre school for all

3. Teacher merit pay, and much tougher tenure requirements

4. Removal of ineffective teachers, based on student achievement

5. Higher pay for STEM teachers

6. Start/expand charter schools

7. National standards for core subjects

There is tons more stuff because it is a 1 hour interview with no commercial breaks, but it was a riveting interview. Charlie Rose, the interviewer, is no slouch. He asks very pointed questions, until the guest cries uncle. In other words, you know exactly where the guest stands on every issue. But first, something about Arne Duncan's past, as articulated in the interview, caught my attention. The first thing he has going for him is that he is not an education insider. He was not trained in the education circles to think like a teacher or an administrator. So, he does not have the baggage that comes with someone who is predisposed to defend the status quo. This was quite evident when he unequivocally said the system needs to shed poor teachers, based on student achievement. Second, he said he grew up in a neighborhood where getting to adulthood alive was considered a great accomplishment. His mother ran a tutoring program for disadvantaged kids, and those who stuck with education not only got to live, but some went on to achieve much greater things. Third, he and the president appear to be in lockstep with all the proposals. Lastly, there is an unprecedented amount of money being doled out, $112 billion to be exact, to help implement the ideas. This is the largest spending of our future tax dollars since the GI bill. This is the first instance of such synergy that I have seen, that makes me optimistic.

Do I see pitfalls? Sure. Through the grapevine, I heard the money will be fast-tracked to the state governors, with no rules or accountability clauses spelled out, yet. If the past is any indication, the moment the money hits the states, it gets caught up in local politics, and rarely meets its intended goal. But it is a start. I hope the local citizens will hold their elected representatives accountable for spending that money so it accomplishes its intent.

-- Sudhakar Kudva (It's Action Time blog)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PhD Mathematician's view of middle school math.. Michael Stiber @ UW Bothell


I cannot emphasize this point enough: if a student has not been prepared to succeed in calculus by high school graduation time, it is much less likely that he or she will be able to have some of the most rewarding careers.

Why are students having trouble in calculus? The biggest reason is a lack of facility with algebra, and by this I mean the ability to solve algebraic equations by symbolic manipulation. Let me describe what children are taught instead.

Russian School of Mathematics..Newton, MASS


Likely SBE actions for Thursday

Here are the final recommendations from Strategic Teaching as well as a draft recommendation from Steve Floyd and Edie Harding to the Board for potential action on March 13th.

I. Strategic Teaching Recommendations

After the Math Panel meeting, Strategic Teaching developed recommendations based on its findings:

Recommend Holt because it exceeds the threshold for content alignment and meets the minimum standard for mathematical soundness.

Do not recommend Discovering, which was found to be mathematically compromised within the scope of this project.

Communicate to districts the additional challenges that would come from a Glencoe or, especially, a Core-Plus adoption that were identified within the scope of this project.

Communicate the findings of this report and the more detailed reviewer reports to the publishers. Some publishers may make adjustments that make Washington’s work easier. Hopefully it will strengthen textbooks in the long run.

Expand the examination of mathematical soundness to other programs with strong content matches. Additionally, OSPI should find ways to strengthen the soundness of the programs that are reviewed and meet minimum standards.

Have OSPI consider ways to leverage district work such as a statewide consortium or work groups to share supplements and instructional practices that shore up identified weaknesses.

Track student progress against the curriculum adopted by a district. Over time, Washington can make a signification contribution to what is known about program effectiveness.

Communicate the findings of this report and the more detailed reviewer reports to the publishers. Many will be able to make adjustments to make Washington’s work easier.

Establish a schedule to conduct a complete review of instructional programs every two years. Consider a policy that recommends only and all programs that meet minimum thresholds for both content and soundness.

II. Recommended Board Action

SBE staff recommends that the Board approve the Strategic Teaching report and transmit to OSPI.

The Board believes that the OSPI findings on content alignment were well documented and will be helpful to districts.

There is disagreement between the OSPI mathematical soundness review and that of the SBE consultant. In addition the SBE consultant did not find that any of the programs to be strong in terms of its definition of mathematical soundness. Therefore, the Board recommends that additional work be done to reconcile the two different reviews of mathematical soundness and expand the review of mathematical soundness to all programs that OSPI ranked with a composite score of 0.755, which would require the review of three more programs, plus the four reviewed. The Board suggests that this work be done before OSPI recommends three curricular programs. This work should involve an independent review and not be done by the consultants who did the current work.

Edie Harding
Executive Director
State Board of Education

Bob's thoughts:

The whole purpose for having precise standards and state recommended curricula was to make sure that all Washington students are being taught the same mathematics. That mathematics was supposed to be equivalent to what top international countries are using. The issue isn't about using Integrated curriculum.. .. It's about using integrated curricula that is so misaligned to the state standards that a Core 1 student can't even pass an Algebra I test. In fact, a Core Plus student doesn't learn all of Algebra I until they have taken three years of Core math. There is no international curricula that doesn't teach students the equivalent of Algebra I by the 9th grade. Japanese students are learning Algebra II in the 9th grade (I have their text books). Core Plus not only doesn't align to our standards, it leaves students far behind international standards.

Instead of asking if it is fair that Core Plus students should have to take the same test as Algebra I students.... we should be asking is it fair that students are taking Core Plus at all? Watering down the standards should not be the solution. Core Plus students from Bellevue averaged 42% on the achieve Algebra II test.... Do we call that preparing students to compete in a global economy?

Discovery Learning

Discovery learning in mathematics: Exercises vs. Problems
by Barry Garelick



Will Seattle be Discovering Algebra, Discovering Geometry, Discovering Advanced Algebra?
or teaching some algebra and some geometry?

Find out at Thursday's meeting.

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

I fully expected the same for my daughter, but after seeing what passed for mathematics in her elementary school, I became increasingly distressed over how math is currently taught in many schools. Optimistically believing that I could make a difference in at least a few students’ lives, I decided to teach math when I retire. I enrolled in education school about two years ago, and have one class and a 15-week student teaching requirement to go. Although I had a fairly good idea of what I was in for with respect to educational theories, I was still dismayed at what I found in my mathematics education courses.

Utah Desert News report on Singapore Math


Seattle and SBE Math decisions on Thursday

The State Board of Education HS text recommendations will be coming on Thursday.

Here is the agenda. The HS Math action is from 3:00 to 4:30 on 3-12-2009



In Seattle a math text selection is also happening:
March 12 (8:00 AM – 3:00 PM) @ JS Center Rm. 2778
Committee Meeting #7: CORE only
Final recommendation for grades 9 – 11

March 17 (8:00 AM – 3:00 PM)@ JS Center Rm. 2772
Committee Meeting #7: ADVANCED only
Final recommendation for Pre-Calculus and AP courses

March 18 – 31 IMC reviews final recommendations; assuming approval, forwards recommendations to Chief Academic Officer and Superintendent for approval

April 8 School Board Work Session
Mid-April School Board sub-committee (if needed by policy)

April 22 School Board Meeting Introduction of recommended adoption selection

May 6 School Board Meeting School Board vote

May 7 Books ordered; assuming School Board approval

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Washington Post on PWCS and Investigations

Here is the Post story on the PWCS decision to continue not giving parents a choice for a traditional math program.


Do these people ever pick up the textbook and notice that grade 5 work in TERC/Invstigations resembles grade 3 work?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Conclusion of Report 3-11-2009 ST to SBE

Here is the conclusion from Strategic Teachings report of 3-11-09 to the SBE:



Holt was


Core­Plus and
 Glencoe were

 resources are scarce now, there are other programs available
 Washington to investigate with respect to their mathematical soundness 


The next two highest ranked programs from OSPI are Prentice Hall and McDougall-Littell
The SBE will use this report at their meeting toward the end of this week in Tumwater.


Strategic Teaching's report on high school texts:


For a math soundness review of the 4 high school programs:

Stephen Wilson's review:


Guershon Harel's review of the same: