Posts Tagged ‘TERC’

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.

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.

In the August 2004 issue of Teaching Children Mathematics, 5 co-authors from Alpine School District and BYU’s mathematics education department (Scott Hendrickson, Daniel Siebert, Stephanie Z. Smith, Heidi Kunzler, and Sharon Christensen) collaborated on an article entitled “Addressing Parents’ Concerns about Mathematics Reform.” This article appeared over a year before I entered the “math war” and was a result of hundreds of parents before me making the effort to get rid of fuzzy math in ASD. This publication by the NCTM went out to teachers all across the country in an effort to support “reform” math programs being implemented and contains ASD’s strategy for dealing with parents (aside from the one that has district administrators tell multiple parents “you’re the only one that’s complained about this program” when they come in for a visit).

In the article, this is how they describe dealing with vocal parents.

During the first few meetings, we encountered a small but vocal group of parents (Oak: boy does that line sound familiar) who opposed the reform curriculum. These parents often asked so many questions during the general presentation that we were unable to offer a coherent overview of the new curriculum…

To address this issue, we decided to accept parent questions only after we had completed our initial forty-five-minute presentation. Furthermore, we attempted to anticipate the common questions that parents had and to address these questions systematically and coherently in the presentation and the handout on homework. We found that most parents were satisfied by the presentation and were eager to either visit the classrooms or go home. We therefore created a ten-minute intermission immediately following the general presentation. We invited parents to go directly to the classrooms or stay for a question-and-answer period. Usually, 90 percent of the parents left immediately after the general presentation. Some parents used the intermission to approach district and school leaders to ask questions. These information conversations seemed particularly productive in addressing parents’ concerns. After all the parents who wanted to visit the classrooms had left, we held our question-and-answer session and stayed as long as there were questions. This left the vocal parents with a much smaller audience and prevented many of the antagonistic feelings that had been unexpectedly generated during the first few meetings.

Translating Eduspeak to English: isolate, let them vent, don’t let their message spread

Further down the article we read some of the nonsense about reform math.

Students are given fewer problems so that they have time to reason, build and test conjectures, try multiple solution strategies, and make connections between what they are learning and experiencing and what they already know. Because learning with understanding is now more important than speed of computation, students do not need as much practice as in traditional instruction. Furthermore, to help ensure that students are learning with understanding, a significant amount of instructional time focuses on sharing solution methods, both orally and in writing, so that students can organize their thinking through expression, receive helpful feedback, and be exposed to new ideas. This process of allowing students to work for longer periods of time on context-rich problems and to communicate their solutions enables them to develop many different solution methods they can use efficiently and flexibly.

Context rich problems like “describe a Yekte, what it eats and where it lives.” “What color is the number 5?” “Using a bottle of glue, paste cotton balls on this picture everywhere there is a bird’s nest.” Oh, you can just feel the deep rich learning taking place from these problems. Having fewer problems without any rigor and spending more time sharing solutions means kids don’t learn. How these educators can look parents in the face without a shred of common sense and say, “don’t teach your children the times tables at home or you will mess them up” is just stunning. It’s no wonder ASD can’t produce a single study that supports reform math. The only studies out there show how badly it performs. Here’s one What Works Clearinghouse study that should just be entitled, “How to set your child back with Investigations or Scott Foresman Addison Wesley math.”

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/publications/quickreviews/qrreport.aspx?qrid=117

  • Student math achievement was significantly higher in schools assigned to Math Expressions and Saxon, than in schools assigned to Investigations and SFAW. Average HLM-adjusted spring math achievement of Math Expressions and Saxon students was 0.30 standard deviations higher than Investigations students, and 0.24 standard deviations higher than SFAW students. For a student at the 50th percentile in math achievement, these effects mean that the student’s percentile rank would be 9 to 12 points higher if the school used Math Expressions or Saxon, instead of Investigations or SFAW.
  • …There were no subgroups for which Investigations or SFAW showed a statistically significant advantage.

Thank you ASD for steering the district from Investigations into SFAW. Glad someone did their homework on that program.

Those of you outside ASD are not isolated from these programs. Pay attention to the work your children bring home and find out what they are using in their classrooms. Be involved in your children’s education.

Confused? Not if you like reform math. Found on the TERC website comes this nonsense:

http://investigations.terc.edu/library/bookpapers/constructivist_learning.cfm

“In reality, no one can teach mathematics. Effective teachers are those who can stimulate students to learn mathematics. Educational research offers compelling evidence that students learn mathematics well only when they construct their own mathematical understanding (MSEB and National Research Council 1989, 58).”

An excellent new site has popped up recently that is a great resource for those fighting Investigations math. Check it out here:

http://www.stopterc.com/

Loads of resources in one giant white paper.  Produced by people in Frederick County, Maryland, this site is a great topical view of the problems with TERC.

This is a copy of the letter I sent to the school board president in State College, PA on 5-12-09.

Dear Mr. Madore,
Steve Piazza forwarded me your email asking for research regarding Investigations math. You mentioned that you had seen a number of biased sites on the web and you wanted something objective.  Let me assure you that my website at www.oaknorton.com is 100% biased. However, 4 years ago, it was completely neutral. It was only over time that I came to realize the damage being done by these programs and the lies being put out by the publishers to sell books. I apologize for the length of this email but I think this is not a simple problem and requires a little background to understand my “credentials” to be able to send you this email and a bit of information to specifically address your concerns.

A few years ago I was asked by the Utah State Director of Curriculum how he could get more parents involved in their children’s math education.  I replied, “easy, just implement Investigations math.”

I got started here in Utah (I’m a SCAHS ’87 alum) when my 3rd grader wasn’t being taught the times tables and I was told it wasn’t part of the Investigations math curriculum and that “all the research showed this was the best way to teach kids”. I was also told that even though this was different from how I was taught as a child, the kids turned out just fine.  I can without reservation assure you this is not the case as the local community college now has a remedial math *department* (not just classes) for the over 40% of incoming freshmen that require basic math at pre-college levels.

When I got started, I did a non-scientific poll to ask parents (and even a school board member) what they thought about the math. You can see the questions and results starting here if you’re interested:
http://www.oaknorton.com/imathresults.cfm

Over time, I had many discussions with this school board member and I think she grew quite weary of me, until one day her child’s teacher broke her leg and was out of school for a while and a substitute came in and started doing straight Investigations.  Previously the older teacher had not followed the district plan to teach straight Investigations math. She called me after a few weeks and said, “now I know why so many people don’t like this program.” This is the crux of the problem. Investigations version 1 and 2 have such a lack of content that unless you have highly trained math teachers, it will be a complete failure. These students will then be pushed up through the system into algebra classes where they will become very frustrated and exhibit more behavioral issues and eventually in high school your true math teachers (majored in math) will pull their hair out that they have to spend so much time retraining students they are prevented from covering their material.  Right now in our district (Alpine, Utah) the middle schools spend the first 10 minutes of class reviewing basic math facts before diving into pre-algebra and algebra classes and this is deemed acceptable by our board.  It’s nothing less than insane, if I may show my bias clearly. 🙂

Now before I get into research, I’d like to ask you a question.  Do you really want to implement a program that is among the most controversial programs, which cause so much community contention, and leave you with parents so mad they start putting their children into private schools, charter schools, and home schools, just to avoid it?  You’d better have some extremely strong and compelling evidence from the other side (pro-Investigations) that this really produces results on par with Singapore and the best to move forward with such a plan.  My district in Utah has a dozen charter schools now with applications for more.  It has the highest number of charters per capita of any district in the state.

RESEARCH
This is where things get interesting. If you are an objective individual, and I have no reason to doubt it based on your email to Steve, then I think this will be a compelling argument.

Last year the national math panel released their first report on the early grades and a secondary grades report is due out this year (I think). The conclusion of the report was that there wasn’t a lot of good and proper scientific studies available about specific curricula. That said, there is strong and compelling evidence about the types of programs that are effective vs. what aren’t, and there is a newly released study that was absolutely scientific that should provide you what you need.

First, Project-Follow Through.  This is the largest scale federal study ever performed that has been completely ignored by educators.  The study showed conclusive evidence after tracking 180 schools’ students (79,000 of them) for over 3 decades into college. The results are astoundingly clear as you can see on the graph on this page of my website. (I’m actually attaching it but there are more comments and background on this page about the study should you want to read it)
http://www.oaknorton.com/imathresults34.cfm
Note the comments from a researcher at the Fordham Foundation concerning Project Follow-Through:

Until education becomes the kind of profession that reveres evidence, we should not be surprised to find its experts dispensing unproven methods, endlessly flitting from one fad to another. The greatest victims of these fads are the very students who are most at risk.”
…”This is a classic case of an immature profession, one that lacks a solid scientific base and has less respect for evidence than for opinion and ideology.”
…<snip>
Education has not yet developed into a mature profession. What might cause it to? Based on the experience of other fields, it seems likely that intense and sustained outside pressure will be needed. Dogma does not destroy itself, nor does an immature profession drive out dogma.
The metamorphosis is often triggered by a catalyst, such as pressure from groups that are adversely affected by the poor quality of service provided by a profession.”

If educators were truly concerned about education, they would look for what works and improve on that.  Direct instruction programs were shown to conclusively work far better than constructivism and all other fads.

Next, just recently the federal government completed a fantastic research project of first graders in a number of schools. They will be continuing to follow the study in subsequent years, but they showed with statistical significance that Investigations math students were a full letter grade below Saxon and Math Expressions.  You can read the study here:

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20094052/pdf/20094053.pdf

Here is one paragraph from the conclusion:

“Student math achievement was significantly higher in schools assigned to Math Expressions and Saxon, than in schools assigned to Investigations and SFAW. Average HLM-adjusted spring math achievement of Math Expressions and Saxon students was 0.30 standard deviations higher than Investigations students, and 0.24 standard deviations higher than SFAW students. For a student at the 50th percentile in math achievement, these effects mean that the student’s percentile rank would be 9 to 12 points higher if the school used Math Expressions or Saxon, instead of Investigations or SFAW.”

On a side note, one of my co-workers who thought I was nuts, but just a little concerned took his daughter to a Sylvan center for testing.  She was in the middle of her 2nd grade year and had a 94% A on her report card (Investigations math classroom).  Sylvan tested her and said she had a Kindergarten level of calculation skills and a mid-1st grade level of comprehension skills.  Needless to say, he was most upset at the grade inflation and the lack of any real comprehensive teaching going on.

Last study: This is the ultimate study of all studies concerning constructivism.  For years I had my district telling me “all the studies show this is the new sliced bread” this and that, and I finally got fed up with it and called their bluff by filing a GRAMA to see what studies they had to support their math programs.  They couldn’t give me a single study.  Then I found this gem.

http://www.cogtech.usc.edu/publications/kirschner_Sweller_Clark.pdf

Now I know I’m giving you a lot to read and digest, but this above link contains some great information by the author detailing how the learning process of both instructivism and constructivism work and then he searched the literature to find valid studies supporting constructivism and couldn’t.  There are none.  In fact the only studies that exist he documents as showing CAUSE HARM to children.  If you want to just read the conclusion of this study, go to this page of my website.  It’s an impressive conclusion.

http://www.oaknorton.com/mathupdates/20080903.cfm

The only other thing you might look at is something I noticed on Steve’s site just yesterday which is the number of school districts that adopted Investigations but have now abandoned it.  You can find it at this link and scroll to the bottom to see the school administrator comments.

http://parents-for-quality-math-education.googlegroups.com/web/Investigations_Success_Stories_Debunked.pdf

Now for the other side of research that is pro-Investigations…

To begin, as stated above, I can quite honestly tell you there are no studies that support it (you are welcome to ask your district people to find you a study and if they are able to produce one, I am quite confident it can be shot down as these next examples will show).  What I have seen touted in support of Investigations is disturbing and inaccurate.

First, a few years ago one of my local board members sent me an email saying, “Oak, if you ever get open minded you should go read the ARC study that showed conclusively that Investigations math works.”  I replied, I’d be happy to read it since I’d been asking for a study for anything that would show our children would turn out OK.  This was the best they could come up with, rather, the only thing they could come up with.

I went to the ARC website and was amazed to see the most comprehensive blanket endorsement ever given regarding Investigations math, Everyday math, and Trailblazers (all NSF funded programs).

“…The principal finding of the study is that the students in the NSF-funded reform curricula consistently outperformed the comparison students: All significant differences favored the reform students; no significant difference favored the comparison students. This result held across all tests, all grade levels, and all strands, regardless of SES and racial/ethnic identity. The data from this study show that these curricula improve student performance in all areas of elementary mathematics, including both basic skills and higher-level processes. Use of these curricula results in higher test scores.”

WOW I thought. That’s amazing. In no circumstance was this not the very best program. Then I started digging.  Dr. Jim Milgram at Stanford (an expert in international math standards and familiar with this research) pointed out to me that this center was founded, funded, and operated by TERC, the publisher of Investigations math (whoops). Then I contacted Sandra Stotsky, the Asst. Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts when this study was done and she gave me these details:

“I am aware of several major problems with the MA part of the study. (1) As the Executive Summary admits, mostly high–income “white” schools were using the “reform” programs in the MA grade 4 sample, (2) no information is given on the supplemental tutoring that exists in these suburban communities (a hard factor to get information on without labor-intensive exploration at each school), (3) no information is given about supplemental curriculum materials the teachers themselves may have used–all we are told is that the schools that were contacted said they fully used the reform program.  I know that many teachers in these high-income schools use supplemental materials to make up for the “reform” programs deficiencies, (4) no information is given on the amount of professional development the “reform” teachers had (a huge amount in all probability) in comparison to the teachers in the comparison group (if no new math program, no professional development), (5) no information is given on the amount of time spent on math in the reform schools compared to the comparison group (the “reform” programs require a lot more time per week than most schools had been allotting math for many years.  For example, I discovered that one Newton elementary school with top scores was considered a model because it taught math one hour each day!), and probably most important and relevant (6) the MCAS grade 4 math test was originally designed with a great deal of advice from TERC.  TERC also shaped the math standards in the 1995 standards document that were being assessed by this test in 2000 (it is acknowledged in the intro to this document).  TERC’s supporters (and EM supporters) were on the assessment advisory committees that made judgments about the test items and their weights for the math tests.  It is well-known that the grade 4 test reflects “constructivist” teaching of math.  In other words, the grade 4 test in MA in 2000 favored students using a “reform” program.

Dr. Milgram at Stanford is the only educator to sit on NASA’s advisory panel. He is there specifically to work at increasing the number of students capable of doing NASA level math work and to raise this level of top performers around the nation. He told me in an email that if these reform programs really worked, NASA, IBM, and others would be looking for students that went through these programs K-12.  He also said it is generally acknowledged that no valid study has ever been performed to show these programs work.  I would be happy to put you in touch with Dr. Milgram if you would like to speak with him. He has helped write standards for many of the top rated states and has vast knowledge about what works.

One other study that was touted by a BYU math ed professor was the Noyce study. It also showed how great constructivism worked, but in the end Noyce refused to reveal what schools they tested in their study so the results could be verified.  Hardly an objective study.

CURRICULA

A few years ago when I was curious to know what really worked, I asked my national contacts this question.  “If someone held a gun to your head and made you state what the 3 best math programs in the world were, what you you say?”  Amazingly, all of them responded the same for 1 & 2.  Singapore math is #1, Saxon is #2, unless you have weak math teachers in which case Saxon is #1.  Their #3 pick varied between a few other programs, but it was significant they all said Singapore math #1 and Saxon math #2.  In Utah, 8 out of the 10 top scoring schools are using Saxon.  In Arizona, the top school in the state for several years was a Saxon school until a couple years ago when they were displaced by Benchmark elementary using Singapore.  Benchmark also polls the students each year as to their favorite classes.  94% of ALL the students say math is their favorite subject.  How would you like to have that kind of result in the SCASD?  Can you imagine how parents would love you instead of cursing everytime they see the words “Investigations math”?  Believe me, it happens. I have 1,000 families on a petition and most of the district doesn’t even know this exists.  One town in our district actually tossed a question on a study they were doing of their citizens and 50% said they hated the program.  That’s significant when you’ve got a portion of the population without kids in school that don’t even know what it is.

Ask yourself if you want a constant thorn in your side from parents like Steve and I?  Do you want upset parents? No parent complains about the program when their child brings home solid math assignments and struggles with them.  That’s normal education.  But as my children constantly brought home games to cut out and play with and do the stupidest assignments imaginable, it was more than I could handle and this is what happens with your highly educated parents.  They will take matters into their own hands, rebel against the district, and find alternative sources for their children to learn from.  In our school district, this means the most involved parents pull their children out of the system, and the charter and private schools far outperform the local district because they get the children from the most involved educated parents.  Here’s some graphs I did a couple years ago that illustrate this:

http://www.oaknorton.com/imathresults29.cfm

VISION

Now for a totally separate plug… 🙂  There is nothing in any state law that says you can’t achieve more than what the current state standards require. There are better standards than what Pennsylvania is using.  States in our country typify the mile wide inch deep problem because we have so many things we try to cover during a school year, whereas a country like Singapore limits its standards to 15-20 items during the year and spends the time to deeply master them.  You may have a couple alternatives. You may be able to petition your state board to adopt Singapore’s standards and curriculum in your district as a pilot plan.  If not, you could still use it coupled with PA’s standards and the students would still perform just fine on the state tests and probably outperform the other schools anyway.  In our state there’s only a few things that would have to be supplemented during the year and they aren’t significant.  I really would love to see SCASD become one of the premier places in the country for math education.  You are in the shadow of Penn State, an engineering powerhouse.  Your opportunity is to either set the bar high, or risk everything on a totally unproven but philosopically attractive program that has consistently enraged parents and hurt the poorer students who do not have the resources to supplement the program at home.

If you wish to contact me about anything, I am happy to discuss this with you except not tonight as I will be attending the new Star Trek movie. It never would have taken this long to see a new Trek movie after opening when I was younger and had lesser demons to battle than Investigations math. 🙂

Biased by information,

Oak Norton

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Project Follow-Through Results