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

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