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


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The heads at SPS are playing possum! An intractable pod of dolts. We're waiting to take aim.