After a long wait, I finally got Dinner Discussions launched today with the help of a friend. Please check it out and see what you think. It’s a site where you can grab short table topics that are ideal for discussing with your family at the dinner table. It’s perfect for all ages (though not every card is going to be simplified for little children, but most cards can have their involvement just fine). There’s about 30 topic categories right now and more are coming. We’re also assembling a team of writers to keep the content flowing. If you have suggestions, please send them along. I hope you’ll try it out and see what you think.

Someone sent me a link to this graph which comes from pg. 74 of a PARCC document and shows exactly what’s happening in public education. 89% of high school math instructors believe their students are ready for college level work, yet only 26% of college instructors think they are ready. What’s the disconnect here? Are high school math teachers in a bubble thinking they’ve imparted “higher order thinking skills” through constructivism but reality is otherwise?

Most universities have remedial math courses for students who have had difficulty getting to university math levels. However, few universities have remedial math DEPARTMENTS. UVU is one such university that has been forced to do this because of the low quality math skills of students who arrive at the university.

For years the Utah State Department of Education has maintained that the high remedial math class percentage at UVU is the result of returning missionaries who haven’t had math for a period of 2-3 years and then need help getting back up to speed. This is a myth which can now be fully corrected.

UVU generated the following information after a request by Dr. David Wright, math professor at BYU, and Senator Margaret Dayton.

Click to enlarge

This chart shows that these remediation rates (as high as 72% in the past few years) are for first time college students. Many people who go on missions squeeze in a semester or two before they leave, and when they return from their mission they are no longer counted as a first time college student. The percentage of students prepared for college level algebra, is a pitiful 16-24%. How can this be? Constructivist math promoted by BYU’s Math Education department has made the rounds of all the surrounding school districts and it’s killing us. There has not been a single study showing constructivist math programs as effective. Yet we continue doing this injustice to our children making them non-competitive with the rest of the world. When will our schools change? They won’t until school board members quit listening to the so-called “expert” educators within their districts and from schools of education. It’s obvious these folks don’t value actual scientific facts or else they would drop these programs and just use something that works like Singapore math.

This past week I received a couple of troubling emails from parents in Alpine School District. Here’s the first:

Last night my daughter was at a youth activity when a 12 year old girl from her church class mentioned some fun creative writing assignments she was given at the public junior high school in our neighborhood. In the first assignment, the students had to write a fictitious story about a woman who planned the murder of her husband. They had to write how and why she did it and how she got away with the murder. The other assignment was to tell a detailed story about a girl that had murdered her best friend and how she was beaten by her father so badly that she almost died. My daughter was shocked and told her friend that she thought it was an awful and evil assignment and that she would never write such a thing. My daughter told her that assignments like that are given to desensitize students into “believing that killing is a natural thing which isn’t bad”. Another young girl listening in agreed and said that her charter school would never assign a paper like that because it would be “highly inappropriate” and she would have to agree with her school. Unfortunately, the sweet young girl who had to write these two papers disagreed and said it was fun to write thriller stories and they were, after all, just stories. Are they? What was the purpose? After spending hours plotting and writing about how to murder a friend and family member, what kind of memory does that instill in a child? Couldn’t there be other appropriate character-building writing assignments given to 7th graders?

All three of these girls come from great families and they are all very sweet, smart girls. However, only two of them were able to discern how inappropriate this assignment was and to stand up courageously, expressing to their peer why they would never agree to such an awful assignment. These assignments are coming at an accelerated rate to younger and younger children.Parents need to talk to their children constantly about what they are learning in school and to give their children the tools they need to stand up for what is right.

I really don’t think I need to add anything to this story about how inappropriate this is. Here’s the second comment regarding math.

 

Oak,

I thought you might be interested in my latest experience with Mountain Ridge Junior High.

When we received [daughter’s] schedule and teachers I knew right away that I would be requesting a teacher change for Algebra I. She was given the same math teacher that [son] was given last year. If you recall, I transferred him out of the Algebra I class when he brought home his “Connected Math” book that looked like a 1st grade lesson book. My teacher request was denied and the response email is below.

Greetings:
Your teacher change request has been denied.  According to our records, [daughter] has not had this teacher.  It is not our procedure to make teacher changes when students have not had an opportunity to learn from the assigned teacher.  It is the practice of our math department to teach a balanced math approach, there are no “traditional” teachers anymore.
We are happy to resolve concerns that exist when the need arises.
If you wish to discuss this further, please see administration rather than counseling.

Regards,
[name], Counselor

 

Of course, it was my decision to take this up with the principal, but in all “fairness” I thought that perhaps this teacher had changed the way she was teaching as so far [daughter] had been coming home with math worksheets that looked okay to me. I emailed her to set an appointment so that she could show me her curriculum for the entire year (I did not want to see only the semester and then the Investigations come into play the second semester). Because of scheduling, mostly on my part, I was never able to meet with her, but she did explain to me through email what books and so forth she would be using. This Connected Math curriculum was listed.

I went into the school and was able to speak with the Vice-Principal, explaining to him that I was not happy about the math teacher and the curriculum she would be using and that I would be pulling [daughter]out of Algebra I and teaching her at home using Saxon Math as my teacher request change was denied. He informed me that all of the teachers at the junior high are now teaching a “balanced” math using traditional and Investigation methods. For the next couple of minutes, he commenced to convince me that I should give Investigations math a chance as his kids have done very well with it. I explained that my kids have not done well, and I will not risk the best education of my kids on a math program that in studies and tests, and in my own experiences, has not proven to be the best math we can be teaching, and in most cases detrimental. The conversation ended as I firmly informed him that I would indeed be pulling her out and teaching her at home for that period.

After a week and a half, she was able to add another elective and she now does Saxon Math at home after school. Was it worth it? Of course! After just the first lesson, [daughter] said, “Wow, Mom, I finally understand how to do these problems.” She enjoys working at her own pace, being challenged, and having me as her teacher (of course, I think that is the best perk). Within the first few lessons she was learning/understanding things that she was not before, like how to find a common denominator. What?! :)

I hope other parents are speaking out about the education their children are receiving. So far we have had a great time home schooling and have now pulled [another daughter] out of the school.

This parent’s story illustrates the problem within ASD now where they tell parents that they use a “balanced” approach to math but everything they do in teacher training is geared toward the constructivist approach which is an unproven method of teaching. Actually, it is proven as a failure. Project Follow Through proved that, and the school district has been forced to admit they have no studies that support the use of Investigations, Connected, and Interactive math. These programs are utter failures. If you would like more information illustrating this, I’ve posted my letter to the School Board President in State College, PA on why to avoid Investigations math, and then another letter I sent the ASD board showing a government study that shows Connected Math actually produced a negative effect on learning.

You need to know that the schools DO have teachers who prefer and favor a traditional method and this counselor knows this. There are teachers that lean in both directions and you may have to speak with some of them to find out who is who. The problem exists at the high school level as well. Find out from your child’s teacher if the class will use Interactive math or a real math program.

Here’s where you can learn about dual enrolling your child to teach math at home but take other classes at school.

Some local folks and I are working on a website for people who aren’t familiar with LDS/Mormon beliefs. It’s called Meet Some Mormons and it will grow with time to include more information regarding practices and beliefs, but there is already a bit of content out there if you want to take a look. The latest post is called, “What Mormons believe in” and it’s just a short summary if you want to take a look at it. There’s also some great video clips on the site with members sharing their conversion stories. My parents are converts to the LDS church and their short story is on the site. However, there’s a really great story I encourage everyone to watch. It’s the video clip from Marty Curtis and I think it’s a powerful story about the conversion that can take place within someone when they are born again and experience their own “mighty change of heart.” Marty is a great guy and his story is great. I hope you’ll watch it. No matter your beliefs, you can’t help but feel the power of Marty’s message.

I’ve long been fascinated by the Hebrew language and found this to be pretty interesting.

***This post is not to create panic or worry, I’m just offering a reminder that these things are coming, and even if you don’t believe in prophesy, it’s not a bad idea to have some food and water and supplies stored up just in case of a natural disaster.***

Are you a member of the camp that reads the scriptures and thinks, “yep, that’ll happen someday” or are you actively preparing for the things that the scriptures have said would come to pass? If you’re in the first camp, please start preparing. The rest of us can’t carry all of you in spite of our desire to not see anyone suffer. It’s not like we haven’t been warned what is coming. We need to get our homes in order and be ready for these events that will come to pass. For the benefit of the readers who may not have studied scriptural prophesy, here’s a few things that are coming our way.

-Wars and rumors of wars (Matt 24:6)
-Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places (Matt 24:7)
-A hailstorm with hailstones that weigh 75 pounds (Rev. 16:21)
-The hailstorm will destroy the crops of the earth (D&C 29:16)
-A plague of flesh-eating flies & flesh falling from people’s bones (D&C 29:19) (ala Raiders of the Lost Ark?)
-An overflowing scourge and desolating sickness shall cover the land (D&C 45:31)
-The earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man (D&C 88:87)

I believe these things are real but whether or not you do, the rate of disasters in the world has increased and it would just be a good idea for everyone to prepare for any disaster that might impact you.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon something that mentioned a Twilight Zone episode called “The Shelter.” I never watched the show when I was a youth because I thought it would freak me out, not really knowing what the show was about. So I watched this episode with my wife and oldest children and it was a look at the panic that ensues when a disaster is about to strike and people are not prepared. You can watch it in 3 parts here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aSXDxB3EdY (part 1)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV8LpfQHOhA (part 2)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LXShL69Li4 (part 3)

The main impetus for this post is that some time ago, someone sent me this video and I’ve been toying with posting it because I’m not trying to create a panic, or shout the sky is falling, but just trying to share a warning with people that prophecy is real and will come to pass. I also don’t know if this video is accurate in what it predicts for a massive earthquake this September and possibly November, but I did vet the information in this video about the tool being on NASA’s website and the dates of the major earthquakes in the last year and a half and it checks out. This makes me sufficiently intrigued to forward this on as an FYI in case you decide that now is a good time to stock up on a few extra supplies.

Earthquake dates (http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/world/historical.php/)

JPL tool shown in the video (http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=elenin&orb=1).

On the other side of this coin is this post by a senior researcher at JPL saying nothing is happening. However, it was posted in November 2009 so this “comet” entering our solar system would have been farther away and perhaps not on anyone’s mind the way it is now that this video has pointed out three major earthquakes tied into conjunctions with it since this researcher’s post.

http://blogs.jpl.nasa.gov/2009/11/2012-%E2%80%93-a-scientific-realty-check/

Some LDS people ask, “why isn’t the church talking about this if stuff like this is about to happen?” The answer is simple. They’ve been saying it for decades, warning people to prepare a year’s supply of food, water, and fuel where possible. I recently received an email from a friend that pointed out an important fact related to this. I will end with this email and my hope that you will take seriously the need to prepare for those things needed in this time of trial that lies ahead. Our preparation must be both temporal and spiritual. I don’t know when these events will take place, whether it’s this year or 50 years from now, but they will happen. This is not a cause for fear (unless you haven’t prepared), but for greater faith because as these things happen, so also can we take confidence that the great promises of the Lord will also be fulfilled.

Subject: Fw: Why the Church Leaders are talking about Faith, Hope, and Charity

Dear friends:  (be sure to watch the 4 min. youtube clip at the bottom)

General Conference continues to resonate through my heart and mind as I ponder the whisperings of the Spirit that accompanied the music, talks and testimonies.

For the past couple of years, I have wondered why in General Conference, the Brethren have been relatively silent in warning, giving counsel in preparing for the last days etc. I have prayed and yearned for Samuel the Lamanite-like talks, or President Benson’s or Bruce R. McConkie’s talks… yet instead we have been getting talks on Faith, on Hope.. on Charity/Service etc.. Every conference that we have we seem to hear more on hope, on charity. President Monson’s talk on the mother that needed hope despite having to bury her children in frozen ground with a spoon was almost more than I could bare. Why these talks on the big 3 (Faith, Hope, and Charity) instead of one year’s supply of food, emergency preparedness, preparing for eminent catastrophes?

On my knees asking my Father [:] here  the world is crumbling, disasters are eminent, people are not prepared and need to be. I was very frustrated and wondered WHY ARE WE NOT GETTING THE WARNINGS…

Well ask and you shall receive.

I then had a wonderful phone conversation with my mother-in-law, and she felt impressed to tell me one thing in particular. She said things are so very close to all of the “prophesied” things to begin happening. We talked about the “cycle” (talked about in the Boyd K Packer’s Priesthood Talk in given in conference in April 2009) .We noticed that just before things completely fall apart and collapse with utter destruction, the Lord’s anointed stop warning, and start speaking about faith, hope and charity. IT IS THE LAST STAGE IN THE CYCLE.

Then it hit me… The Book of Mormon is a template for this as well. Case in point. We read in Ether… we get all the warnings about secret combinations etc. and how the wickedness is abounding and that the people will be destroyed if they don’t repent.. then just before the entire civilization gets destroyed we get the 12th chapter on FAITH, HOPE and CHARITY.. then the destructions in the following chapter to the complete destruction of that civilization.

Another example we find in Moroni chapter 8 just before telling us that the people will perish and the prophecies will be fulfilled, Mormon teaches his son Moroni (and us), about Faith, Hope and Charity.
(Note also, the Apostle Paul speaking to the Early Christian in I Corinthians 13 on Faith, Hope and Charity before the fall of Roman and the Christian persecution)

Okay… fast forward to [recent] conferences.. what messages are we hearing… FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY!!!!!

WOW.. it hit me like a ton of bricks.. It was the answer that I needed to hear about why we aren’t receiving the voice of warning like I wanted.

Here is how I see the cycle now: As a people we move from being Humble to Obedient to Blessed. to Living Righteously. to Ease to Laziness to Prideful. to Selfishness to Immorality/Sin. to Having the prophets warn us to repent.. to Wickedness. to Ripening to the Point of no return.. to No more on Warnings, but teaching the humble followers to have Faith, Hope, and Charity.. -THEN DESTRUCTION, CALAMITIES for the wicked, etc.- and purifying the righteous and unfortunately compelling us back to being HUMBLE…..

So, we probably won’t see the prophets speaking to us to warn us.. we are past that time, we are in the final stage. This is the Lord’s way, just as He has done with the 2 prior civilizations (Jaredites, and the Nephites).. It is my opinion, the more we hear about HOPE, don’t DESPAIR, etc. .. THE CLOSER WE ARE!

Just as a side note that just hit me, In one of my last videos, “Great
Trials Lie Ahead”.. Please watch if you haven’t already. Here is the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTVECvTYpN0

I started out with all of the warnings of  Elder McConkie, President Benson, President Eyring…. and felt very strongly to end the video with the statements of HOPE by President Uchtdorf… This is a pattern, it is pattern seen in the Book of  Mormon and we are following that same pattern today… NEXT STEP for ALL OF US: The Destruction of the Wicked and the Saints being Humbled.. Which especially here in Salt Lake is needed. and by the way….the Book of Mormon is true.

One more time…I don’t know when things are going to happen or if this video is accurate, but I do know the prophecies contained in scripture are real and they will happen and we’ve been warned to prepare for a long time so we have no excuse if we are caught unprepared.

If you assumed this was Alpine School District in Utah, it’s not, but it’s the same old story. We’ve just saved $26,000 by not having the study done.  This news report is about Anchorage School District in Alaska which has jumped into constructivist math with the “Everyday Math” program (named thus because it was designed to frustrate parents and children every day). The “A-ha” moment of this article is right here. In all my years of studying this issue, I never saw this insidious angle.

Both Comeau and Nees say that they’ve heard complaints about the “Everyday Math” program from parents, who say that the method is so different from what they learned in school, that some parents aren’t able to help their children with their homework.

“When you have [the traditional method] on the board, and [the “everyday math” method] on the board, and the parent’s trying to do it the traditional way, [the student] is going to stop listening to Mom and Dad, and Mom and Dad can’t help them,” Nees said.

“Mom and Dad don’t know how to do it this way, so I will only listen to my teachers from now on.” Hmmm, where have I heard something like that before? Oh, that’s right, BYU’s Education department national consultant, John Goodlad.

Public education has served as a check on the power of parents, and this is another powerful reason for maintaining it.”
– John Goodlad, Developing Democratic Character in the Young, pg. 165

“Most youth still hold the same values of their parents… if we do not alter this pattern, if we don’t resocialize, our system will decay.”
– John Goodlad, Schooling for the Future, Issue #9, 1971

Parents do not own their children. They have no ‘natural right’ to control their education fully.”
– John Goodlad / Developing Democratic Character in the Young, pg. 164

Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.
-Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Harvard Professor of Education and Psychiatry, in an address to the Childhood International Education Seminar in 1973

It is a very real possibility that Mr. Goodlad and all these other educators have embraced constructivist math not only for the social engineering aspects, but because it’s another barrier between parent and child. Parents don’t know how to do this method of math, so they may figure that it will serve to separate the parents a little further from their children and get children to believe that their teacher at school is the source of knowledge they should turn to. Why? Here’s what other prominent national educators have taught.

Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.
-Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Harvard Professor of Education and Psychiatry, in an address to the Childhood International Education Seminar in 1973

Education should aim at destroying free will so that after pupils are thus schooled they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than as their school masters would have wished …
-Bertrand Russell, quoting Gottlieb Fichte the head of psychology that influenced Hegel and others.

I have never before understood this issue in this way. If you are new to fuzzy math, or even for a quick refresher, I strongly encourage you to watch these videos and read my comments below. (Update, looks like the video on the news report has been taken down now. You can still read the story though.)

http://www.ktuu.com/news/ktuu-report-suggests-improvements-for-anchorage-school-district-math-program-20110620,0,7214623.story

[VIDEO REMOVED]

One final note, when the lady in the video above says that when students learn this way studies show they do better, that is utterly false. There are no studies that support constructivist math as a superior method of teaching. To the contrary, they have been shown as failures.

Here’s meteorologist M.J. McDermott to explain this bizarre lattice method along with a stinging rebuke of Everyday math and Investigations math (the parental-separator of choice for Alpine School District). This video is 15 minutes, but she explains the lattice method after a couple minutes. I strongly encourage you to keep watching though, as she will explain fuzzy division, and then share an astounding quote at the 10 minute mark from the Everyday Math textbook telling teachers that mastery isn’t important.

At the end she holds up a couple of Singapore math workbooks to help your children learn math and I also endorse the Singapore Primary math workbooks which you can get at www.SingaporeMath.com.

Post note: Just to be clear, this is not an endorsement of Jump math. I think the jury is out on it and things I’ve read since this post indicate it may have some issues to resolve, but it does appear to be worth looking into.

I received an email Wednesday concerning an article appearing in the New York Times blog (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/a-better-way-to-teach-math/) on a program called JUMP Math asking what I thought about it. In reading the article, I came away very impressed but naturally skeptical. As a critic of bad math programs for some time I thought “is this some dumb fad claiming success off bad studies or what?” Then Thursday I got 2 more emails from people asking about JUMP math and one of them referencing the article. I decided to look up the company online and see what they were about. (be sure to read that article)

JUMP stands for “Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigy” and if the article above proves correct, may replace Singapore math as my favorite math program. After browsing around for a bit and looking at some of their curriculum materials online, I had a couple questions and thought I’d call the company. The curriculum people weren’t picking up so I dialed the CEO directly. I was surprised he answered and we had a very pleasant chat. After we agreed that the constructivist approach to teaching math didn’t work, I obtained my first level of comfort with him and their product. I mentioned that I didn’t see the times tables being introduced in their 2nd grade materials (though the samples online weren’t by any means comprehensive) and so he asked their curriculum folks about it and they said they do skip counting and arrays in grade 2 and then are deeply involved in multiplication in grade 3.

What attracts me to their material is that they break down all the steps of solving a problem to minute levels and practice individual concepts to mastery. There’s no lame spiraling where “if you don’t get a concept now, don’t worry, we’ll cover it again later” nonsense. They teach for mastery and they seem to succeed at it pretty well based on the studies and evidence they have. One study is under peer review right now and sounds like when it’s released will show a big improvement over whatever it was compared to (though I wouldn’t be as impressed if it’s being contrasted to TERC because then the improvement would be a given – http://jumpmath.org/research.htm). That will lend more credibility to it on a scientific basis, but they do have a number of testimonials on their site and video stories from teachers. Funny enough, this one caught my eye…

“JUMP math is pedagogically sound and ensures success in all students. I finally see the ‘aha’ when students to this program. They find it motivating, beg to do more math and are challenged without being frustrated. [It] is the antithesis of ‘fuzzy math’.”
- Vancouver Teacher

All I needed was that last sentence.

So here’s another interesting thing. The company is a charity. The founder was a mathematician, playwright, and author, and he designed this program after tutoring children in math and being frustrated with the way math was being taught. His belief (and mine as well) is that everyone can learn math if it’s taught properly. JUMP was designed as a remedial product to break down math to each individual fragment of a problem to help students who were struggling understand why each tiny step worked. In the process, he created a program that appears to really level the playing field between the top and bottom levels of math ability and bring them all up to speed on doing math well. He authored the book, “The Myth of Ability.”

This sounds very promising. They are a charity instead of a for-profit publisher so materials are quite cheap and hopefully there is no “must publish something new” cycle of insanity. There isn’t a textbook for students, but just workbooks they take home and they run about $11 and if you purchase 20 or more, you get a 40% discount. That’s dirt cheap. The teacher guide is either a free pdf book to download, or can be purchased for about $80 or 90 if you want a hard copy.

The workbooks, which you can see samples from online, are very visual, which is another parallel to Singapore math (http://www.jumpmath.org/w.htm). I’ve been a fan of Singapore math for a long time and for good reason. They have the top results in the world from their Primary Math series, and their workbooks are fun and engaging. They also arguably have the world’s best word problems for children to wrestle with. I don’t know what JUMP math has in that area at this point.

They don’t have a Kindergarten series because this was designed as a remediation program so a kindergarten series was not needed, but they are considering a senior Kindergarten program. I’d be in favor of dropping Kindergarten to save money and then using a program like this to start students out with a good foundation in grade 1, and let parents teach children what they need to know for Kindergarten.

If you are with a school and want to get a set of all their books, you can order a special sample pack of 16 books for just $100 (2 workbooks for each grade 1-8). See here for details:

http://www.jumpmath.org/prices-and-discounts.htm

They do have books available for sale on Amazon to check it out but just realize they are in Canada and use the metric system and haven’t converted to U.S. coins and measures, though that’s easily supplemented.

This appears to have the possibility of being a breakthrough program. They are working on expanding their grade offerings though at the moment they are working on an adult remediation program to help adults that are looking to return to school but need some extra help in math. Then they will probably be doing grades 9-12 as high school teachers are asking for those resources to round out the entire curriculum.

With these kinds of prices (under $14 for the 2 student workbooks for the year after discounts for a classroom) and a free pdf teacher’s guide, I think a lot of schools would be interested in checking this out. When they receive funding they are planning to do a U.S. edition that matches the Common Core standards, though if their current program was sufficiently close, we should definitely be investigating it for what areas it would need supplementation and then pilot it in a couple areas. They do have training available to use the program and they are looking at doing it online for teachers so that’s another cost saving benefit. All in all, I’m impressed with what I see so far and will definitely be interested in further news out of this organization.

This is the story of how my parents came to join the LDS church. That act naturally was the greatest effect on my life and I am eternally grateful they joined. If you are not LDS and you have questions about the faith, feel free to email me for a friendly and non-pushy answer to your question, or get more information about the church at www.mormon.org.