Archive for September, 2011

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.