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.


HiDefMathFan said...

This is a really depressing development. With this action, SPS is thumbing its nose at the people it is supposed to serve. It's time for parents to rise up and make an unprecedented stink over this.
Will it happen? What do you say, parents? Still feeling complacent about leaving your child's education in the hands of people who never learned math, don't regard it as important, and are hell-bent to see that your children grow up to feel the same way?
Never mind technical careers, they'll all go to education school and join the ranks of dreamers who think that we can all subsist on pure self-esteem. Happy thoughts will become our primary export as we drift into further dependence on China, India, and other less delusional nations to be our doctors, architects, product designers and manufacturers, you name it. Seattle is leading the march to mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Would love to hear why the district is adopting this inferior curriculum? WOW!


Anonymous said...

Can I have the kids take Kumon math and write a letter to the principal and teacher to request my kids do their Kumon during math period at school.
Would they have to honor that?
Is there an official policy for covering part time home schoolers or something. The letter could state my religious objection to fuzzy math. My kids are lost most of the time since they got these books.

concerned said...

This is very unfortunate, but don't be discouraged!

Avoid the mathematical ignorance of district administrators and focus solely on educating the school board. Let them hear directly from parents on the inadequacies of these programs.

Even if you have the option of pulling your child out for math, PLEASE EDUCATE THE BOARD on behalf of other children who will be afflicted with these mediocre programs.

Fight the Good Fight!

Anonymous said...

We learned long ago, pull the kids out and fight from the outside. We chose Catholic schools, but also considered home-schooling. Keep writing the blog, letters to the editor, and fighting this at the local and state level.

Anonymous said...

Please actually look at the books in question before you continue to propagate untrue rumors. As a former math teacher for 13 years who used a number of different curricula, I always had the most student success with approaches that actively engaged them.

I never taught out of the Discovering series, but I've reviewed the books and they appear to be very rigorous, including good examples and exercises, while they honor the student need to make sense of what they are learning. Without that, students don't retain the concepts and, more importantly, many become disinterested in math altogether. Talk to most adults today... the pervasive hatred for math is the direct result of traditional approaches to teaching mathematics.

The Discovering series is also the only curricula I've seen that makes working with real-world data an integral part of their approach, rather than an occasional extension in the exercise set. This is particularly important in this information age. And yes, real data is "fuzzy," but the mathematical models used to model data in the Discovering series are mathematically sound.

It seems to me that this recommendation will improve the learning experience and academic success of students in Seattle.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Anon at 11:24,

I agree that Discovering has some excellent real world applications. Unfortunately it does not do an adequate job of giving students the skills they need to have a sound mathematical foundation for collegiate success in the mathematics needed for Engineering etc.

Although NMAP spoke of the primary need for Authentic Algebra and the preparation for it, the SPS seems to be moving as far away from that as possible.

In EDM standard algorthms for mult and division are not used.

CMP2 fails to develop the rational number skills in students to succceed in an Authentic Algebra class.

Discovering does not do much with algebraic manipulations and fails to develop the accompanying algebraic fluency.

I agree that Algebra is more than manipulations ... but Discovering Algebra is greatly deficient.

This again seems to be the convenient choice for a district that socially promotes mathematically unskilled students rather than providing the necessary interventions and instruction that are needed to produce competent students.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous former math teacher 11:24 am. Please enlighten us frustrated parents.

What "untrue rumors" are spread here. The report published by Strategic Teaching upon request of Washington State Board of Education notes that the Discovering textbook series "was found to be inadequate in all topic areas." Their document is available to download from Washington State Board of Education website, before YOU jump to conclusions you might want to read it. Then educate us parents here by stating exactly what is incorrect in their report.

When you claim that your students had "more success" with one textbook series than another, how do you know this? Were the SAT scores higher? Did you stay in contact with a representative sample of these students through college math?

Can you please elaborate why you believe that students can "make sense" of math concepts better with "Discovering" than they would with the superior "Prentice Hall" books, which were also being considered for adoption.

Anonymous said...

The main point of my daily, 16 years long commentary (5 'love' notes per day) is that there are better problems available for 'all' students.

There are many criticisms with using 'real' world problems - one, problems have to be continuously updated to remain current. second, concepts are shown in a disconnected manner. third, the methods used frequently invoke non-standard methods of problem-solving. fourth, non-traditional algorithms are taught since they require less time to teach, but can only be applied to positive whole numbers, they have absolutely no application in math beyond fifth grade. fifth, algebraic concepts are not embedded with geometry. sixth,

The textbooks written by ed departments in the US are seriously flawed. Primarily it is the evaluation process that gets used to evaluate the problems in the textbooks. The authors do not think about the types of real mistakes that students make. In a sense, their philosophy of education runs counter to what we know about constructivism.

Furthermore, the data that has been purposely overlooked leads many to reason these persons have a social agenda that is racist. Books do not necessarily make people smarter. They have to make sense too.

Reform math is an empty cup. There is no water in the glass, and it doesn't matter how many times you wash it out, it still tastes bad.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous at 12:28,

First, let me retract the phrase "untrue rumors." In all fairness, you are correct that this is the conclusion from the Strategic Teaching report, and therefore I should not discredit it out of hand. It's a valid position, even if I disagree with it.

As to your other questions, there were many significant indicators of increased student achievement. In the 12 years I taught at one school, we went from 0 Calculus and 2 Precalculus classes to 4 Calculus and 9 Precalculus classes. Our SAT scores increased even while the number of students taking the exam increased (ie. more than just the cream of the crop). And in a survey of our freshman, math received the most votes for "my favorite class."

As for why I think the Discovering series is better than Prentice Hall in helping students "make sense" of math, it's the conscious development over concepts over time and the grounding of these concepts first in concrete situations familiar to students and then moving to the abstract that I think is the most effective way for students to internalize new ideas and skills. Meeting the kids were they are at and moving them forward from there is the fundamental skill of a good teacher. It's nice to have a curriculum that supports that.

dan dempsey said...

Meeting the kids were they are at and moving them forward from there is the fundamental skill of a good teacher. It's nice to have a curriculum that supports that.

Amen to that...

Some pre-requisites are also nice.
In the SPS it would be nice if students were required to learn some arithmetic before being promoted to high school.

If those Math Grade Level performance expectations actually happen next year that will be a major change, especially if accompanied by effective interventions as mandated but ignored. So much for school board policies... maybe next year.

Anonymous said...

Here's a link for interested persons to Discovering Algebra.

And without more information, I can't believe what you say. For one, the reading level is beyond my own students. Is your school a Title I school?

You are teaching ninth grade with a curriculum that is supposed to be used with eighth graders. Which elementary curriculum have your students been tuaght with - Math Investigations or Everyday Math or....

Recursive routines are common exercises in Core Plus - Are you sure that it is necessary for teaching students linear equations or have you considered how you might use recursion for describing a parabola.

This is from chapter 3:

a. Write a recursive routine that gives the height above
ground level for each of the first 86 f loors. Tell what the
starting value and the rule mean in terms of the building.
b. Write a recursive routine that gives the heights of f loors
86 through 102. Tell what the starting value and the rule
mean in this routine.
c. When you are 531 ft above ground level, what f loor
are you on?
d. When you are on the 90th f loor, how high up are you? When
you are 1137 ft above ground level, what f loor are you on?

This is not in the Washington state standards or the WASL - Why are you teaching it?

At this point in the school year, what chapter are you on and what topics are you teaching?

Anonymous said...

"Talk to most adults today... the pervasive hatred for math is the direct result of traditional approaches to teaching mathematics."

The pervasive hatred I hear about today is anger toward the racist attitudes of some educators. The system is rigged for failing students. You will see more of that anger soon if you don't start educating children. Schools don't educate by building expectations with unreadable textbooks and then fail children because they happen to be illiterate. Don't be Cretans.

Signed Potomac

Anonymous said...

anon at 5:26

"In the 12 years I taught at one school, we went from 0 Calculus and 2 Precalculus classes to 4 Calculus and 9 Precalculus classes."

In my 4 years of teaching I've taught a year of Alg2 in an IB program and I've taught a year of a pre-calc, AND, with the poor poor poor basic 'skills' of the kids in these classes, the name applied only from a self - esteem boosting perspective.

I have worked with a few very discovery oriented teachers, and, while they are certainly nice people who mean well, I really don't think they have a clue about how crippled their kids are or will be when their kids get out into the work world and have to survive, never mind make things better for the 7 billion of us on this galactic piece of dust.

I'm glad the rate of participation increased, I wonder how well the kids who participated could compete outside the happy happy reform bubble.

You mentioned earlier about a pervasive hatred of math due to 'traditional' instruction. You are correct on some levels. However, what you're talking about are just social attitudes that are a function of American affluence.

There is a LOT of BORING BORING work making cars for hundreds of millions of people, making electrical wire for billions of people, making clothes for billions of people, planting and tending and harvesting food crops for billions of people, processing these products and shipping these products and maintaining these products ... there is a lot of boring work, and unless we're willing to breed a worker bee and feed them soma - TOUGH SHIT.

In the u.s., for the 80 million households living on under 75 grand a year, those 80 million servicing the 30 million living on more than 75 grand a year*, little I've said would require an academic study for those bottom 80 million to believe me.

For those upper 30 million, living in a Seasame Street / Mr. Rogers / Barney / Teletubby happy happy world, math can be boring and work can be boring and ... yawn ... let's get our ipod twitter faces and let's go to the cafe, and read the latest version of 'what color is my parachute', and have lattes paid for by mummy, daddy and granny!

I'm sure your heart is in the right place, I really think you don't notice the RELATIVE affluence of the people making these happy happy reform math phantasy claims.

Sat Anon.

Anonymous said...

Anon526: I am the frustrated parent from 12:28.

I think you are a fake. Not a "former math teacher" but an employee of the book publishing company who is posting here to gain acceptance of your shoddy products.

It's impossible for any thinking person to believe your claims that students in your unidentified school and district improved their SAT scores with books like these which have no algebra or geometry in them.

If you are who you say you are, please provide factual evidence that won't betray your identity. Name the school and years you are talking about. Which book series, which district.