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Tragic Parent Story

Although it is tragic when I get stories like this expressing the frustration of a parent over how constructivism has destroyed a child’s love for math, it is not unexpected.  I have received many of these over the years but I believe this is a good time for middle and upper math constructivism to get the boot.

“Mr. [name removed]–I know that my son [name] has already spoken to you regarding
his grade.  Now I am coming to you as a parent.  Perhaps if you were able to
show us why he lost so many points on the “student taught” assignment or if
you had given him some way to make up for the lost points…I am so
frustrated as a parent.  I watched him put in many hours on your class.  I
watched as he and my husband had to go online to find out how to do things
because my son hadn’t been TAUGHT how to do them and had no textbook.  I
know the frustration that both my husband (a PhD and also an educator like
yourself) and my son felt over the lack of basic instruction that occurred
in the classroom.  I watched as my own father, also a PhD and a math
teacher, struggled to help [son] with assignments.  His assessment was
always that [son] has not been TAUGHT basic fundamentals.  I suppose that
you have to give him the grade that his points equal, but I assure you that
this is not over.  I am tired of watching the math program at Lone Peak High School, and all of Alpine
School District, be a joke.  And I guess you have lit a fire in me that has
long been waiting for a match.  I am sure we will meet as some future point.
A crusade has begun…”

Donna C.

Follow-up email about how this teacher “teaches”.

“My understanding is that he gives the assignment, without instruction and without a textbook to give any guidance.  Then the student is supposed to “figure it out”….the intention is to “go over it in class” but my son says they usually don’t have time.  What are they doing with their time?  I have no idea. “

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Connected Math letter to Alpine School District Board

The following letter was sent to the Alpine School District School Board on 5/27/09.

Dear School Board,

Can one of you tell me why our district continues to use Connected Math when the state has declared it is an unacceptable program?  The state office has removed it from their approved program list and yet it continues to be used in ASD middle schools. What is your plan to remove it from the schools for next year?  I am well aware that some of your teachers and administrators love the program, but the utter lack of content in the program is really hurting our students.

Not only that, but here are the results of real studies from the government run “What Works Clearinghouse” website and you can see CMP is a failure compared to other programs.  It’s a 10 point downward swing from Saxon and actually produces negative achievement in students.

Effectiveness Ratings For Middle School Math: Mathematics achievement

Intervention Sort Icon Improvement Index Descending Order Evidence Rating Sort Icon Extent Of Evidence Sort Icon
The Expert Mathematician Improvement Index 14 Potentially positive effects Small
Cognitive Tutor Improvement Index 8 Potentially positive effects Medium to Large
Saxon Middle School Math Improvement Index 8 Positive effects Medium to Large
I CAN Learn® Pre-Algebra and Algebra Improvement Index 5 Positive effects Medium to Large
Accelerated Math Improvement Index 4 No discernible effects Medium to Large
Transition Mathematics Improvement Index 0 Mixed effects Medium to Large
Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) Improvement Index -2 Mixed effects Medium to Large
University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) Algebra Improvement Index -6 No discernible effects Small

A couple years ago, Chrissy asked me what curriculum would provide one solid K-12 experience for children.  I didn’t really have a sure-fire K-12 solution at the time and still don’t.  In fact, I’m convinced there is no K-12 solution that is absolutely best.  What I do know, is that K-8 ought to have a cohesive, solid foundation so that all upper grade math is then more understandable (and that upper math 9-12 should be top notch books to prepare kids for a rigorous study of the sciences).  Two of the very best programs for this are Singapore and Saxon math.

Regarding Singapore math, nothing else can touch it.  Please look at the attached pdf (link below) provided by Dr. Richard Bisk from Massachusetts. I encourage you to review the entire document, but especially page 21 and the last page.  Page 21 shows a contrast between Singapore math and Scott Foresman and Everyday Math.  It’s a stark difference which goes right to your “mile wide inch deep” phrase you all like to use. You traded in Investigations math (sort of) to get SFAW that has similar problems.

Now on the last page of the pdf is perhaps the very best information you could possibly see.  In 1998, Massachusetts raised state standards and the North Middlesex Regional School District adopted Singapore math.  Over the course of a few years all scores improved because the state raised its standards, but NMRSD had much better changes than the rest of the state.  Look at the advanced category where NMRSD had a 2 point advantage over the state, and after 7 years had a 22 point advantage.  However, the most impressive thing is the failure rate. It’s obvious NMRSD had fewer students in the failure category to begin with but after this span of time, they reduced their failure rate from 39% to 2%.  Only 2% of students were in the failing category while advanced went from 9 to 57%.  Astounding, and certainly caused by Singapore math’s amazing program.

MA still has a long way to go and if you didn’t see it, a week ago, results were released where they tested the teachers in the state on math and only 27% of them passed the test. Our teachers would do no better.  Too many don’t understand math because they keep getting indoctrinated in pedagogy instead of content so they have no clue where math leads.

Have any of you looked into Project Follow Through?  For 3 decades the government tracked students that went through K-16 education to see what really worked. They watched 180 schools and 79,000 children. The graph on this page of my site says it all. Constructivism is a proven failure.  The graph above also shows that CMP actually damages children’s progress in math.

Please drop CMP and IMP. The state office has dropped TERC and CMP and I have asked that they review IMP, all because these programs are among the very worst available.  How do you justify using these programs when you know for a fact the district has no studies to support using them?  I filed a GRAMA months ago and they couldn’t produce one single study to support them and to the contrary, you have hundreds of mathematicians who have testified these programs are utterly devoid of content so they are not preparing students for collegiate level math work.  Please address this important issue soon.  I would like a response as to what your plan is–to stay with them, or to replace them with something more “balanced”. 🙂


Oak Norton

Bisk Presentation