kitchen table math, the sequel: turning lead into gold

Saturday, March 15, 2008

turning lead into gold

Well, at least the Wright Group/McGraw Hill, publisher of Everyday Math, is attempting to clean up their own mess. On the same day the National Math Advisory Panel was busy making their report available to the public, Wright Group was introducing Pinpoint Math.


CHICAGO, March 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Wright Group/McGraw-Hill (News) has published a new math intervention curriculum, Pinpoint Math. The supplemental program, with both online and print components, was designed for students in Grades 1-7 who are one to two grade levels behind in mathematics.

Pinpoint Math can be used successfully with any basal mathematics program. It incorporates the three essential elements necessary for improvement of mathematics performance among struggling students:

-- Diagnostic Assessment: Identify areas of weakness for individual students.
-- Targeted Instruction: Provides content in an individual Student Action Plan that meets the needs of the student with both print and animated tutorials.
-- Progress Monitoring: For ongoing assessment of students' advancement on individual topics in both formal and informal formats.
Of course, it will come at a pretty penny to districts who buy the supplemental program. The Wright Group has a nice customer base to tap into considering the 175,000 classrooms they've wriggled their way into. That's a whole lot of potential sales.

Conveniently, Pinpoint Math "can be used successfully with any basal mathematics program." That way, schools can help those struggling students "who are one to two grade levels behind in mathematics."

So first you sell schools a math curriculum that results in a significant population of struggling students, and then you sell them a scaffolding tool to remediate the problem you created in the first place. Nice job Wright Group/McGraw-Hill. Way to keep the stockholders happy.

That's just wrong on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin.

17 comments:

SteveH said...

"-- Diagnostic Assessment: Identify areas of weakness for individual students."

This must never happen in Everyday Math. Otherwise, they would use these techniques to catch the students before they get "one to two grade levels behind". But in EM, there is no need for mastery at any one time, so how do they determine if there is a problem in the first place? EM bases everything on the idea that mastery problems will magically fix themselves over time if you do enough Math Boxes. Apparently not.

Pinhead Math.

concerned said...

ConcernedCTParent, I am also extremely concerned!!

This seems to be a trend with "reform" materials. And yes, it unfortunately appears to be driven by the dollar.

Parents everywhere need to just start saying "NO" to this stuff. There wouldn't be such a need for remediation and intervention if the teachers were equipped with appropriate teaching materials in the first place!

Why in the world would we expect our children to "discover" mathematics that they should be effectively taught, enabling them to move forward?!?!?

It just doesn't add up!!

VickyS said...

Like the McDonald's signs, the number just keeps going up: 3 million students served in 185,000 classrooms. From "How Everyday Mathematics Offers a Better Approach to Mathematics Mastery" (seriously).

J.D.Fisher said...

Have you seen the product yet?

concernedCTparent said...

Bottom line is that publishers should own up to the messes they've created. They need to do their part to fix things and if that means taking a hit and subdizing effective scaffolding programs, then that's what they should do.

Pinpoint Math will be released summer 2008. I haven't seen Pinpoint Math, have no idea if it is effective scaffolding, but whatever the case, The Wright Group shouldn't be making money fixing problems they created.

Districts that have purchased Everyday Math should get it for FREE. It should also be a free with your purchase of Everyday Math promotional item.

J.D.Fisher said...

"I haven't seen Pinpoint Math, have no idea if it is effective scaffolding . . ."

I know where you're coming from, but I have to say it anyway . . .

Behold the rigorous thought that goes into the reader-posts at KTM!

Tex said...

I think the point is that this new program is being marketed to remediate deficiencies created by a math program previously sold by this same publisher. Pinpoint Math may be a great program, but that is irrelevant to this post.

SteveH said...

"Behold the rigorous thought that goes into the reader-posts at KTM!"

And this broad-brush statement qualifies as rigorous thought?

You might be better off just saying that publishers are only a reflection of the market. Or, maybe, do publishers really think they drive the market? Which is it?


"The instructional model includes:

-- Pretest: Pretest for the first volume is given to all students, either online or by paper and pencil."


Pinpoint Math could be wonderful, but that's not the point here. The point is that it's offered by the same company that provides Everyday Math, the curriculum that says that it's OK to be behind one or two years.

SteveH said...

The Wright Group is also the company that brought us MathLand, the curriculum they were so proud of and which the government labeled as "promising", but now has been completely wiped off of their web site.

SteveH said...

The information on Pinpoint Math is very general and high-level.


"Pinpoint Math can be used successfully with any basal mathematics program. It incorporates the three essential elements necessary for improvement of mathematics performance among struggling students:

-- Diagnostic Assessment: Identify areas of weakness for individual students.


-- Targeted Instruction: Provides content in an individual Student Action Plan that meets the needs of the student with both print and animated tutorials.

-- Progress Monitoring: For ongoing assessment of students' advancement on individual topics in both formal and informal formats."


These things are needed by all students!!!

It reminds me of what our schools are doing. You get phonics in fourth grade only if the fuzzy stuff fails and parents don't fix the problems.

Pinpoint Math does pre- and post-testing, and generates an individual instruction plan based on those results. What it doesn't explain are the content and mastery targets. However, it seems pretty low looking at the examples.


From their "Basic Principles of Algebra" pre-test, you see the following sorts of problems:

1. Fill in the blank:

___ X 7 = 21


2. Use the Distributive Property to solve:

8X(6+5) =


3. 5 hundreds + 4 ones =


4. Ingrid says that 23 is a multiple of 3. Is she correct? Why or why not?


So, what happens if the kids fail the post-test? I suppose that if the kids are behind in 3rd grade, then it's OK to be behind in 4th grade. So, it's not clear that pre-testing and post-testing imply anything different than what they do with Everyday Math.

In EM, they tested my son before, during, and after. That didn't stop the school from shipping kids along to the next grade. In EM, they assume that kids will magically catch up using the Math Boxes they see in the following grades.

Pinpont Math appears to (at least) base the follow-on instruction in part on the results of the testing. EM just has everyone do the same Math Boxes whether or not they have mastered the material.

Even with formative assessment, there is no guarantee that learning will happen or that the kids will get to algebra in 8th grade.

So many products and curricula dance all around the process of education without tackling the difficult goal of making sure that kids learn what they are supposed to learn.

SteveH said...

The Wright Group could add in pre-tests for Everyday Math that diagnose student problems and mark which Math Boxes they had to do that year. That would eliminate a lot of unnecessary work for students who have mastered the material already. It would also prevent them from tapping into a remedial market that blames the kids.

concernedCTparent said...

Tex and Steve understand my point well. This post isn't about the faults or virtues of Pinpoint Math, it's about irresponsible publishers. It's even about irresponsible school districts that fall for the slick promotional materials without considering the damage they inflict along the way.

Clearly, I see the market forces at work here. Create a need. Create a product to fill that need. In most circumstances, I would applaud this as good business. Publishers have the objective of making money. It's how they've gone about it in this instance that frustrates me beyond words.

These are not just any products they are peddling. These are tools that should have the explicit purpose of educating children. These products have significant impact on the very future of the end-user. "The National Science Board indicates that the growth of jobs in the mathematics-intensive science and engineering workforce is outpacing overall growth 3:1." (National Math Panel report) There has to be some higher moral ground than this.

Just as pharmaceutical companies may be held liable for side-effects, so should publishers. How scandalous would it be for a pharmaceutical company to develop a product that induces a condition, make money hand-over-fist for that product, and then turn around and introduce another product to the market that claims to address the side-effects they themselves created so that they can make even more money? How is this any different?

VickyS said...

Speaking of slick promotional materials, I had a post all ready to go on this but it disappeared into the ether, and I'm too lazy to recreate it, but check out this link to Everyday Math promotional materials with titles that include:

How Everyday Mathematics® Uses Multiple Algorithms to Help Students Learn More Meaningful Math

How Everyday Mathematics® Differentiates Instruction to Meet the Needs of All Students

How Everyday Mathematics® Offers a Better Approach to Mathematics Mastery

How Everyday Mathematics® Performs Better Than the "Blended Math" Approach (that one is my personal favorite)

and

How Everyday Mathematics® Teaches Computational Fluency

This link also has the Price List for Pinpoint Math.

concernedCTparent said...

Vicky... it's in draft form. You should be able to publish it. If not, Catherine surely can.

Catherine Johnson said...

It reminds me of what our schools are doing. You get phonics in fourth grade only if the fuzzy stuff fails and parents don't fix the problems.

Boy, the Math Panel report concerned me on this front.

I've only skimmed, but they seem to be saying that explicit instruction is only for (or primarily for) kids who are "struggling."

As far as I can tell, the question of how they came to be struggling in the first place isn't addressed, apart from a great deal of attention given to math anxiety, which seems to be laid at the door of families.

If families had more math confidence then kids would have math confidence, too, and would therefore be more motivated to learn math in school.

That seems to be the jist.

Will report back when I figure it out.

concerned said...

I'm wondering how parents and school districts would respond if they didn't have to rely on these large publishers to provide inadequate materials.

Why can't the panel's recommended Major Topics be brought to the public FOR FREE on the internet? How would the public respond? Would they want to use it?

If it's all about money, could it be less expensive to equip every family of school age children with internet access rather than fund the production of this (stuff).

SteveH said...

"Pinpoint Math can be used successfully with any basal mathematics program."

It strikes me that all of these supplemental or remedial programs assume that the regular curriculum has all sorts of extra time. My son's fifth grade EM class didn't get to 35% of the material and they didn't supplement.