kitchen table math, the sequel: 3/15/09 - 3/22/09

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Educating Teachers: Science or Belief?

This is from Children of the Code (I've added some paragraphing)-- the whole interview is called "How Reading Works and What It Does for the Mind".

David Boulton: In particular, what I'm referring to is the way that we educate teachers. We don't take them into a first-person, grounded understanding of this challenge from which to become scientist-learners in their own right, in their practice of it, and they end up subscribing to belief mechanisms.

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Yes.

David Boulton: And in that sense, it's like competing religions.

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Yes, very much so. They respond to the charismatic people they had in teacher education school and they're not given what I would call discipline-based knowledge.

Actually it's not just reading I have an interest in, my other research area is critical thinking. Similar things go on there.

You have teachers picking up knowledge from in-service gurus and teaching reading without a knowledge of phonology or orthography or the history of linguistic change, which I see is one of your interests, and what I would call information processing, cognitive psychology, for that matter, relevant issues and cognitive development. This is what I call the discipline-based knowledge that surrounds reading. Very little of it penetrates into reading education.

The point I make is that this is an unfortunately replicable phenomena. It happens in the area of critical thinking as well. Schools have programs they get, again, from commercial packages, in-service gurus, with no grounding in discipline-based knowledge in thinking and reasoning; and I mean discipline-based knowledge in philosophy, decision science, decision theory, cognitive science - where principles of rational thought are being studied empirically and theoretically by philosophers. None of this penetrates education. So, I think it's a recurring problem.

David Boulton: And the biggest danger that I see as I bump into what you're talking about is that teachers are trained out of being learners. There’s such a difference between belief based on somebody else's knowledge...

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Right.

David Boulton: And actually having an appetite to understand something for yourself, striving into your own learning, and then having access to the kind of resources that will support your learning and keeping it going right through your practice in school with kids.

Dr. Keith Stanovich: Well said. Every component of what you've listed is missing from the educational culture. I couldn't agree more.

Go read the whole interview.

Stanovich's home page

Friday, March 20, 2009

concerned parent on language & "memory tags"

I checked out Spanish by Association and I can see why you're liking it.

I was raised in a bi-lingual home and so, never experienced learning another language from scratch until I studied German and Italian (but mostly German because it's not Latin-based). I'm not sure if I ever took the time to consider how I organize language until more recently.

Anyway, I had a funny experience where I consciously realized that when I hear a word, particularly Eng/Span, I have an image, a sound (music, voice), or a feeling, etc. running through my mind. These references are tagged with words in the languages I speak and in the case of Spanish I can recall them just as easily as I can in English. These associations are what allow me to be fluent which I am less so in Italian, and even less than that in German. In Spanish the associations are on par with the English while the other are weaker. It only makes sense that finding an efficient way to tag or associate concepts would improve your ability to speak and understand another language, or anything for that matter.

Strangely enough, I recently picked up a couple of mnemonic books (Thirty Days Hath September, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge) as a result of this feeling that I should be helping my children associate many of the concepts they've been learning so they can more easily retrieve the ideas when they need them.

and see: It's on the Tip of the Tongue by Charles Zanor WAPO March 11, 2008


anonymous left a link to a third article on the situation in Palo Alto, a news story containing this passage:
At Monday's meeting they also discussed how to improve communication with parents, Davis said. One critique of Everyday Math claimed parents might have a difficult time helping their children with Everyday Math's less traditional methods.

"Do we need to do a better job of enlightenment, do we need to do a better job of parent education?" Davis said. "Absolutely."

Palo Alto teachers pick controversial Everyday Math curriculum
So....Palo Alto parents.
Here's a thought experiment.
You are an assistant superintendent. Your parent population hails from Stanford University and Silicon Valley, and you are employed by the school district that was Ground Zero of the Math Wars.
You have two choices.
a) adopt a world-class math curriculum
b) adopt Everyday Math and do a better job of parent education

ignoring parents in Palo Alto
welcome to the Grand Canyon
a teacher-mom on Everyday Math
the plot thickens
Steven H on Everyday Math in Palo Alto

where parents get their information
"reality" in Palo Alto

Parents frustrated over math textsTeacher committee recommends new math textEd Week on the ed wars
interview with my cousin re: her experience with EM

cranberry on advisories in private schools (& building good habits)

In my other child's private school, the advisor is a great system. It's one of your child's teachers. If you think your child is developing a social or academic problem, you raise the issue with your child's advisor. This is marvelous, because it provides a listener for the parent, who may very well have a legitimate complaint about the other teacher. Let's say, a child feels that the homework is assigned, but not collected, by a new teacher. The child's advisor can speak with the new teacher, encouraging him to collect the homework. The parent is not left in the position of having to complain either to the teacher, or to the principal, neither good options. As a parent, I don't want to make a stink about a small problem. In the public school, though, I've seen small problems balloon into huge problems, because there are no avenues for parents to provide rational feedback on their child's academic experience.

Hogwarts has "mentor group," which is similar -- although they don't seem to invite parents to talk to mentors, particularly.

C's mentor keeps track of the kids' grades and intervenes if grades start to slip. She also is a bear (that's a good thing) on the issue of kids using their planners. She checks their planners every day to see if they've written down their assignments; if they haven't, she has them do so.

She is building a habit. She isn't just haranguing the kids on the importance of being organized (which is what public schools do & what I've often done myself), she is teaching them how to be organized, and she is giving them practice each and every day until using the planner becomes automatic.

We have only recently realized our job as parents isn't just to produce a "good kid" and a good student, our job is also to build good habits. In the past couple of years, as C. has gotten older and more responsible, Ed and I have both taken to scolding him about his messy ways. We find his stuff all over the house, we get mad, we remonstrate.

That's not the way to do it.

We need to set a time each and every day when we have him do a quick clean-up of his room and his desk, and we need to keep doing this until it becomes second nature for C. to do a quick clean-up of his room and his desk.

Speaking of building habits, a commenter recommended Glenn Latham's The Power of Positive Parenting awhile back. I've only dipped into it, and don't know what he has to say on the subject of teaching kids to clean up their rooms and use their planners, but it is a fantastic book.


middle school advisory

middle school advisory

Seeing as how CT has apparently mandated advisories in middle school, it's time to post this article by Daniel Deitte (pdf file):
When I was first hired as a middle school sixth grade teacher, I was thrilled. This was a position I had coveted for over four years....Soon after I started, however, I realized that one piece was missing; we did not have a strong advisory program. Yes, we had a structured advisory period for 29 minutes at the end of every day, but there was very little focus to our advisory. Something needed to be done about the lack of interest and focus during that time.


As I spoke about this with several of my colleagues, something else became very apparent to me …none of us had a clear picture of what was supposed to happen in a true advisory program.
Good reason to institute an advisory program and pay teachers a stipend to advise!

The worst part about running the advisory I described above was that I found myself dreading the last 29 minutes of each day. Inevitably, I had students who did not want to participate in S.Q.U.I.R.T [Super Quiet Uninterrupted Reading Time], or who never had any homework to do. Additionally, somewhere, early in my first year of teaching, I had decided that my advisory time would be a quiet time with the students needing permission to speak.
"A quiet time with the students needing permission to speak" is not an advisory.

In order to achieve this, I found myself yelling and constantly getting frustrated with the students.
Definitely not an advisory.

My first plan of action in making my change was to do some heavy research over the summer. I did not have a clear understanding of what an advisor’s role was. The Internet provided me with resources that would help me move toward this goal.
Taxpayers, take note.

We are paying certified teachers to assume roles that have not been defined by their superiors or the school board and for which they have no training. No one in this woman's school knows what an advisor or an advisory is and yet they've got advisors and advisories up the ying-yang because the middle school model includes advisories.

I found this definition to be the following: “An organizational structure in which one small group of students identifies with and belongs to one educator, who nurtures, advocates for, and shepherds through school the individual in that group” (Cole, 1992, p. 5).
Bingo. That is what takes place inside an actual advisory group headed by a teacher in a private or parochial school. One educator nurtures, advocates for, and shepherds through school the individuals in that group.

Furthermore, I found that, “Advisories should help students develop meaningful interpersonal relationships” (Dale, 1995, p. 3). Lastly, “Activities should be provided … that lead to the development of positive attitudes, values, and emotional control” (Connors, 1990, p. 165).

That's not an advisory.

An advisory (called a mentor group at Hogwarts) is focused on school first, relationships and attitudes second & then primarily as they relate to school. The mentor follows the kids' grades and steps in if grades start to slip. Since Hogwarts is a Catholic school, charity activities take place inside the mentor group, too, but the focus is academics and the kids' progress in their studies.

It bears repeating that the mentor advocates for the student. If the student is having a problem with another teacher, the advisor straightens things out. When we toured Rye Country Day, the student showing us around actually called the person heading advisory "your mom at school." Those were her words.

These definitions clicked immediately with me. It was that affective domain that seemed to need the most work with middle school students. It did not take me long to realize that my focus for advisory would be character education, teamwork, and community building.
Not an advisory.

Not worth the stipend taxpayers are shelling out.

As I delved deeper into my research, I found that out of 9,000 letters sent from middle school students to their U.S. Representatives, “Over 15% were concerned about their home and school environments” (Hoversten, Doda, & Lounsbury, 1991, p. 9). The question I formulated from all of my research, which would be the root of my year-long inquiry, was, “Will the development of character education, in the sixth grade advisory, create a strong sense of community, nurture teamwork, and help develop a sense of pride between each student and his/her fellow advisees?” This became my focus for the 2000-2001 school year.
The advisory is not a research project.

[M]y next task was to figure out how I would go about facilitating the implementation of character education into this advisory. I knew I did not want it to be in a lecture format. The last thing I wanted was to conduct lectures, and then to require them to take notes. My feelings were that I would quickly lose the kids if I tried this type of structure. Then I found a book written by Tom Jackson that discussed the importance of “Active Learning.”
Saw that one coming a mile away.

“Active Learning has people participate in their own learning process by involving them in some type of activity where they physically become a part of the lesson” (Jackson, 1995, p. 2). I knew I had what I wanted; I would use Active Learning to foster character, teamwork, and community building. I remember feeling the excitement building inside of me after having found a place to begin.

Character Education Provides Focus for Advisory by Danielle Deitte (pdf file)

There's plenty more where that comes from, none of it having to do with academics or responsible adults advocating for the students in their charge.

bonus points: Advocacy for Children by Siegfried Engelmann

group home, part 2

Jimmy is moving to a group home on Monday, and I am so sad.

Christian and C. keep saying, "It's like going to college."

Sort of, I say.

It's like going to college except he's 21 and it's a group home.

Not that shipping C. off to college is going to be any better. Last summer my brother's eldest was leaving for college and his parents were awfully stressed. They're both solid Midwestern types, so they weren't saying they were stressed; it was just there, hanging over us. I felt majorly stressed on their behalf, for pete's sake.

At one point I said to my brother, "Well, at least you have two more kids at home," and he said, "Oh, great. I can just keep going through wave after wave of this."

If you knew my brother, you'd understand just how horrifying an image that is: this big, solid, kind Midwestern guy -- a rock -- talking about waves upon waves.

Maybe I'll keep Andrew with me for all time.

group home

Mrs. H on using gestures to teach algebra

I've been using gestures for many years in my algebra classes, but I had no idea there was research backing them up. I only knew that gestures AND mnemonics help me learn things. I even teach a workshop every summer at our state's math conference called Crazy Antics and Gestures for Hard to Remember Math Facts

Just yesterday we were doing quadratic calisthenics where the students act out transformations of the quadratic parent function while I call out different functions.

Individual Learning Plans

My son told me yesterday that in "Advisory" they had to fill out a form about their learning styles, along with answering many other questions that even the kids thought were inappropriate. This, apparently, is part of a new state-mandated Individual Learning Plan (ILP) process, which is part of the bigger high school graduation standards that include a big portfolio (spanning years) and a senior project/presentation. This all boils down to how they can expect more without really expecting better grades.

This doesn't bother me too much because the better students can meet the requirements without a lot of effort and the senior project can be about almost anything. What I don't like is the spread to middle school and the emphasis on areas that fall outside of education. The following is from the regulations:

"All middle level schools and high schools shall implement strategies for creating more personalized learning environments, including the provision of a structure by which every student is assigned a responsible adult, in addition to a school counselor, who is knowledgeable about that student’s academic, career, and social/personal goals."

"social/personal goals"

In other words, the school selected someone to act as an educational and social development mentor for my son. (This is a person who doesn't even like to have the kids say the word "war" near her.) They have him answer questions that I can't see or evaluate. Apparently, I can't opt-out.

I would like to hear about what's happening in other in other places. I told my son that when he fills out these forms, he has to be very careful about what he says. He doesn't know who will read them and what they might do. Apparently, counseling is trying to carve out a bigger, socially active niche in schools, and it's not opt-in.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Gesturing Gives Children New Ideas About Math"

Anonymous left a link to this new study by Susan Goldin-Meadow and her colleagues:
ABSTRACT—How does gesturing help children learn? Gesturing might encourage children to extract meaning implicit in their hand movements. If so, children should be sensitive to the particular movements they produce and learn accordingly. Alternatively, all that may matter is that children move their hands. If so, they should learn regardless of which movements they produce. To investigate these alternatives,we manipulated gesturing during a math lesson. We found that children required to produce correct gestures learned more than children required to produce partially correct gestures, who learned more than children required to produce no gestures. This effect was mediated by whether children took information conveyed solely in their gestures and added it to their speech. The findings suggest that body movements are involved not only in processing old ideas, but also in creating new ones. We may be able to lay foundations for new knowledge simply by telling learners how to move their hands.

Psychological Science - March 2009
Volume 20—Number 3 p. 267 - 272
I'm keenly interested in this work, and in fact taught one set of gestures to the kids in my afterschool Singapore Math class.

I'm wondering whether this phenomenon is related to mnemonic devices. I've been thinking about this subject lately because I've been making my way through an amazing book: Spanish by Association, which deserves every one of the 5 stars Amazon reviewers have bestowed upon it.

I need to learn more about mnemonics. From what I gather thus far, mnemonic devices work for a different reason than I had thought. More anon.

I'll try to steal a moment to read the Goldin-Meadow study, too. If you'd like a copy, send me an email. cijohn @

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Schmidt on the elite kids

This system of ours has failed the elite kids, too. This is a little known fact because it wasn’t emphasized very much, but in the early TIMSS study there was a high school specialist exam for those kids that were the AP physics kids and those that were the AP calculus kids. Those kids were last among their counterparts in the rest of the world. That is, if you took the elite track in the French system that was leading to math and science, these [American] kids were at the bottom. So we’re failing those kids just as much as we’re failing the kids on the other spectrum.

William Schmidt, Michigan State University
U.S. TIMSS National Research Coordinator
Baltimore Curriculum Project/Leading Minds

the trouble with curriculum directors

from Concerned:
I've been on a few textbook selection committees over the years. In the last 10-12 years, there's been a real push to force the selection of certain texts.

Why? I honestly don't know, but I believe that it is a very concerted effort.

Typically teachers are invited to evaluate the texts, but most likely the documents used to collect and organize the information are so skewed, that a text lacking conten will surely win out.

During the last text adoption, I decided which text was best first, then I filled in the scoring guide so it had the highest possibe marks in all categories and all the other texts ranked extremely low.

I just refused to rate them according to the "criteria" listed because it was so bizarre!

Content and coherence were only part of a very small category that was weighted lightly overall. There was no way the evaluation sheet could bring a text with quality content to the forefront.

It was totally ridiculous!

I'm sure that these teachers are going through a similar experience.

This is how curriculum leaders, who typically don't know the subject, drive the selection process - they place the focus on all the other "stuff"

The parents and the school board members should just ask individual teachers DIRECTLY which text/program they believe is best for the students.

This is another example of the anti-knowledge character of public schools: one curriculum director, certified to teach one subject & one subject only, is deemed competent to choose curricula in every subject taught.

Private & parochial schools & universities don't function this way. Authority over curricular choices belongs to departments.


My impression is that the position of "curriculum director" is a growing specialty in K-12.

Is that right?

Is this a change?

Independent George on learning the martial arts

I started taking martial arts classes over the summer. Before doing anything fun, we spent the first couple weeks entirely on footwork. Two weeks teaching educated adults how to walk. It was not only boring as heck, it was sometimes painful and exhausting.

Nevertheless, everyone stuck it out because it was well understood that we had to master these basics - how to advance, retreat, and sidestep without falling on your face - before we could get to the fun stuff. Moreover, we kept practicing footwork drills even as we moved to the more advanced techniques - because it wasn't enough to simply know how to move, it needs to be automatic.

Even after it's automatic, you continue to practice the fundamentals constantly because it's really easy to get lazy. When you get good at throwing punches, you tend to think only about the punch, and not about returning to your guard position afterwards. You learn to guard against a takedown, and you forget to protect your head.

The importance of fundamentals became obvious when my work schedule eventually prevented me from attending class regularly - and my performance dropped precipitously. The things which had once been automatic now required my conscious attention. Instead of learning new skills - or applying them in new combinations - I had to spend twice as much time re-learning the old ones that I "understood", but clearly hadn't mastered.

But, of course, all of this is totally different from academic subjects.

I began tennis lessons last summer, and did not have my first "fun" lesson until just a few weeks ago. That's around 7 months of distinctly not-fun weekly lessons and practice before I experienced the slightest feeling of fluidity and simple enjoyment. Up to that point it was a challenge keeping myself going to lessons, in fact. I felt trepidatious before each one.

Knowing what I do now, I'm happy we had the wit to force C. to carry on with his tennis lessons. He's now quite a good player, and has tremendous fun playing with friends and classmates. That has happened only because we forced him to keep going to lessons during periods when he would have preferred to stay home and pursue the sport he's (apparently) great at: video games.

I wish to heck I'd figured this out where music lessons are concerned.

Somehow I thought it was right to be your child's frontal lobes for academics but not for hobbies and leisure activities. I didn't think it through. Not sure why I managed to put my foot down on sticking with tennis. It just came to me one summer day, picking C. up from the local tennis camp, that this was it: he liked tennis, he was capable of playing tennis, so tennis it was going to be.

the plot thickens

Following the Palo Alto, I find this comment from "5th grade teachers":

At the 1st Committee meeting: 5th grade teachers preferred SRA and Harcourt over the others (neither book was selected for piloting)

2nd Committee meeting: 5th grade teachers still preferred SRA and had nothing positive to say about Everyday Math ("lacking depth" "hard to figure out" "illogical connection to resources" "disconnect between teaching concepts and student practice")

4th Committee meeting (after piloting): 5th grade teachers continued to dislike Everyday Math by a wide margin grading EDM inferior in all categories (long list of reasons including "not much practice," "extremely hard to navigate," "has a lot of stuff that is not addressed in our standards," "teacher-unfriendly," "hard transition to 6th grade," and "spiraling was too broad and too much for kids.")

And here is a later comment by "reality":

[T]he teachers didn't vote overwhelmingly for EDM in a vacuum. They voted overwhelmingly for EDM instead of EnVisions, which is the TERC offering, isn't it? So given those two choices, and not being allowed to vote for the programs they asked for that were cut out for some reason, they voted for EDM. Not really much of a choice, if you think about it.

Could we please just step back and get some answers about why the fifth grade teachers' input was so resoundingly ignored when the committee narrowed down the choices to a vote? This is not disrespect for teachers. This is asking to be given a rational explanation (and one may exist for all we know) for why those two were the curricula in the final cut.

ignoring parents in Palo Alto
welcome to the Grand Canyon
a teacher-mom on Everyday Math
the plot thickens
Steven H on Everyday Math in Palo Alto

where parents get their information
"reality" in Palo Alto

Parents frustrated over math texts
Teacher committee recommends new math text
Ed Week on the ed wars

interview with my cousin re: her experience with EM

Steve H on the perils of eyeballing Everyday Math

Unfortunately, parents won't really understand until they see the work coming home. At my son's previous school one parent (with a major in applied math) loved the idea of Everyday Math. By the end of the year he changed his tune. Too late.

I'm putting words in Barry's mouth (& will edit if I've missed his point), but Barry has said something very similar. When you look at individual pages, the math isn't bad. It's the hopscotching amongst topics and lack of mastery that are the problems.

Ed Week on the ed wars

A blog post on Palo Alto.

ignoring parents in Palo Alto
welcome to the Grand Canyon
a teacher-mom on Everyday Math
the plot thickens
Steven H on Everyday Math in Palo Alto

where parents get their information
"reality" in Palo Alto

Parents frustrated over math texts
Teacher committee recommends new math text
Ed Week on the ed wars

interview with my cousin re: her experience with EM

a teacher - mom on Everyday Math

Posted by RWD, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, 10 hours ago
To me, the ignorant statements are the ones made by math committee members who suggested that parents obtained their information on the two math programs under consideration by "googling" it. An incredibly high number of parents in this district have graduate degrees; we might actually know something or have something to offer this process. While I appreciate that three parents (and more -- some teachers are also district parents) sat on the selection committee, no one put out a poll to the community to see who of us might have experience with these programs beyond a brief trial period. As a new member of the community, I couldn't have sat on the formal committee, but I have some feedback on Everyday Math that I'd like to feel was heard and respected.

I am an educator (my graduate degree is from Columbia's Teachers College) and a mother who suffered -- and I do mean to say suffered -- through Everyday Math with my daughter for three years prior to moving to Palo Alto. I chose where to live because of the excellence of the school districts, but I verified their excellence by making sure that they did not teach Everyday Math. Obviously, I feel strongly about this program in a negative way. I know that I will have to return to the days of homeschooling my very intelligent daughter in math -- something I have not had to do at all this year. Neither of us enjoyed that supplementation, but it was necessary -- as our teachers admit it will be necessary for our students. (That's a problem, don't you think -- the suggestion that "gaps will be filled" -- ?)

Our specific problems with Everyday Math far exceed the different language -- the whole "spiraling" approach to learning, where components of the curriculum are not mastered before moving on, is problematic; it has come under scrutiny in the education community for its inefficiency, especially because students need to re-learn concepts before advancing again on the spiral. I can't see how "mastery of concepts" is a high priority in Everyday Math, yet it was on many of the parents' priority lists at the community meeting. And that is just one example.

At the end of the day, not enough parents know enough about this program and just how funky it is -- and I think that if they did, there would be even greater concern. If parents can't make it to the PAUSD offices to review the materials like I did, what can they do? (Google it! Or nothing.) And for those of us who actually attended the meeting, what information did we get about the two programs? (Little.)

Look, all things considered, I am really happy with our teachers and the school district, but I think the superintendent is right on the money in expecting trouble over this decision. I know that our teachers will "fill in the gaps," but, quite frankly, I'd rather NEVER hear those words in terms of my kids' education. Shouldn't we be reaching rather than bending, here?

ignoring parents in Palo Alto
welcome to the Grand Canyon
a teacher-mom on Everyday Math
the plot thickens
Steven H on Everyday Math in Palo Alto

where parents get their information
"reality" in Palo Alto

Parents frustrated over math texts
Teacher committee recommends new math text
Ed Week on the ed wars

interview with my cousin re: her experience with EM

welcome to the Grand Canyon

The Palo Alto textbook selection committee has voted for Everyday Math.
Before the secret ballot was taken, committee members summarized the pros and cons of the two finalists and also tried to address parent complaints against Everyday Mathematics that were raised in a community meeting last week.

Positives of Everyday Mathematics included depth, quality of conceptual lessons, a high-quality teachers' manual and strong electronic resources. Concerns included a plethora of components, occasional assumptions that students have mastered concepts they might not have mastered and a problematic transition from fifth grade to what students will need for middle-school math.

"There's a huge gap between what they get in fifth grade and what they need is sixth grade," one fifth-grade teacher said. "The hole is as huge as the Grand Canyon. So we're going to have to address that problem as a district."

This is the kind of thing that makes me think parents need the right to sue their school districts.

It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds. Assuming the quotations in the article are correct, the superintendent does not appear to be enthusiastic about the committee's recommendation, which means the board will receive mixed signals. If I were a parent in the district I would, at a minimum, urge the board to delay its decision until the district has a plan in place to remediate Everyday Math's deficiency where the transition to sixth grade math is concerned.

Are people familiar with enVisions?

ignoring parents in Palo Alto
welcome to the Grand Canyon
a teacher-mom on Everyday Math
the plot thickens
Steven H on Everyday Math in Palo Alto

where parents get their information
"reality" in Palo Alto

Parents frustrated over math texts
Teacher committee recommends new math text
Ed Week on the ed wars

interview with my cousin re: her experience with EM

Monday, March 16, 2009

retired high school teacher on ed school

comment left by anonymous:
I know a recently retired high-school teacher with 40 years of experience and an excellent reputation among both colleagues and students (those who are willing to do the work). His opinion is that teachers should major in academic subjects in the College of Arts and Sciences. They can then take the only 3 ed courses (both subject-specific & level-specific) they need, FROM A TEACHER WHO HAS RECENTLY TAUGHT THAT SUBJECT AT THAT LEVEL: (1) basic methods (2) tests and measurements (3) practice teaching.

This one's going into Greatest Hits.

welcome Susan!

Susan Godsland is a new member of kitchen table math. I had discovered her terrific web site -- -- two months ago and now here she is!

Steve H: mastery and understanding are tightly linked

[U]nderstanding and mastery are tightly linked. Curricula like Everyday Math try their best to unlink them. They think that understanding concepts with just a little bit of practice is all that you need. This conveniently fits their dislike of drill and kill and how they believe that there is no one way to solve a problem.

Mastery is not just about speed. It's directly related to understanding.

My friend K. came up with an apt definition just the other day.

She said that understanding without mastery is a case of "That makes sense."

It's grasping the logic.

Being able to grasp the logic in a number of different realms is an important goal of a liberal education; it's my liberal education that allows me to read articles about the economic crisis and follow the argument reasonably well.

But following the logic of an article about the economy is completely different from understanding economics with any degree of sophistication.

It was for this reason that, a few years ago, I stopped reading books explaining "math for non-mathematicians" and started working my way through math textbooks.

a math "skirmish"

at Ed Week

I left a comment that doesn't seem to want to post:

Parents can find information about why other parents -- many of whom are themselves mathematicians or are employed in math-related professions -- object to constructivist math curricula at kitchen table math, the sequel, which I cofounded with Carolyn Johnston, a mathematician who was struggling to
remediate Everyday Math
at home.

And here is an interview with my cousin who sent her child to private school because of severe problems with Everyday Math.

My position in the math wars (and in the reading wars & the liberal arts wars) is simple:

Parents need a vote and a veto.

I am not a mathematician.

But when I see real mathematicians rejecting this curriculum, I want school districts to do likewise.

At the same time, I am willing to fund Everyday Math for those parents who freely choose Everyday Math for their children's education. I support the choices of others, and I ask that they support the choices I make.

The curriculum wars will end when parents and taxpayers have a place at the table.

interview with my cousin - July 2005

I did this interview with my cousin in summer 2005 & posted it to the original kitchen table math on July 11,2005.

part 1: how Everyday Math came to my cousin's town

The 2nd grade teachers had a grant and were very excited. I think the teachers were turned on by the program. So they started introducing it in the 1st grade.

Nobody else liked it. I hated it, and many parents complained.

Teachers in the upper grades didn't like it, either. The district was always having these huge teacher-board meetings to convince the other teachers that they had to adopt it, too.

Eventually, when the grade school kids got to high school, the high school teachers were in horror because the kids coming in couldn't calculate. They complained that the Chicago Math students had to spend all this time guesstimating and figuring out what the answer was to one small step inside a complex problem. The students were too slow; they were hung up on the basics.

This war went on for a decade. I don't know how it came out. I do know that for at least the first couple of years after Chicago Math came in they were not getting lots of kids proficient on the state tests. I'll ask my friend who teaches at the high school whether they're still using the books. She had 3 kids who went through the system, and she hated Chicago Math.*

part 2: easier for mathematically talented kids?

One of my daughter's friends had a very easy time with it, and was successful at it. She really soaked it up. Someone told me that kids who are chronologically older and have math talent, maybe they respond to it better. My daughter was the youngest in the class.

My older daughter, though, had a babysitter who had Chicago Math at New Trier when we were living on the North Shore. She said it was a failure. The New Trier students were the first guinea pigs, because it was Chicago Math. She said Chicago Math came from a bunch of ivory tower people figuring the whole thing out and then trying to disseminate it to all these little children.

part 3: developmentally inappropriate

I once told the assistant principal that in the Saxon book, when you've done something wrong you go back. You can't advance until you get it right. I said that's what I like about the Saxon program.

He said, "Well children can do that with Chicago Math, too.' He was suggesting that my daughter had the ability to assess herself in Chicago Math, and that's what she should have done. She was a little adult who could self-assess.

But she couldn't. She was too young, and she didn't know enough about math to be able to assess how much she knew about math.

It's like driving. When you know how to drive, driving is built into your thinking process.

If you don't know how to drive, you're not going to have the confidence to figure out what your problem is. If you can't get from one corner to the next, you're not in a position to assess why not.

part 4: spiraling

Chicago Math gives you advanced math problems sprinkled in with the elementary math your child is learning. They slip it in.

They would have you guess at the answers for the advanced problems, but then they never gave you the answers so you didn't know if you guessed right or not. You're always a work in progress with Chicago Math. So you never get a definite answer. And you never had a sense of completion or success on a day-to-day basis.

But my pet peeve was that it sped you along at a rapid pace and you never mastered the material that you left the page before. When my daughter was in the 2nd grade one work page would be coins; the next day you'd be dealing with weather; the next day you'd be dealing with problem solving. My daughter had no sense of what a quarter or a dime was.

When I was taught math, each day you built on what you knew. When you did the coins you learned a penny, a nickel, a quarter. You kept going. Telling time, same thing. You work on time until you get it. You don't just have a flash of it one day.

In Chicago Math you had one page on one topic, then you went on to something completely different on the next page. There was no repetition. It was irresponsible, very ungrounded.

part 5: frustrating

They would want my daughter to guesstimate whether something was 50 or not, or 100 or not. And they wanted her to do that before she knew 25 and 25 was 50, before she knew what the building blocks that made a number were. It's hard to estimate something before you know that numbers are created.

To guesstimate is so frustrating. Math has a yes or no answer. And with math, when you go 5 x 7, it's 35. That's the answer. Children at a young age want to have something concrete. They learn from 'This is wrong' and 'This is right.' They like getting the right answer.

In Chicago Math, children don't get that reward.

part 6: demoralizing

First they give you an intuitive flash that of material that is above your level, that you aren't successful at. It's like a prelude.

The thinking is that when you get to the material for real, you've had a prelude. But on a day-to-day basis if you're always getting preludes, the child never has a sense of completion or success.

There was never a sense of mastery; there was never a sense of completing a task successfully before moving on to the new material that you were supposed to pick up intuitively.

Chicago Math was like trying to learn a foreign language by hearing tapes every day and intuiting what the words mean. Then 3 months later you're supposed to know what the tapes are saying.

Part 7: boring

It was too abstract and theoretical and boring. It's boring when you don't have the light bulb go off in your mind because, 'Oh! I got it right!'

The best you could think was, 'Well, maybe I got it right.

I think it's crippling.

Part 8: Saxon Math

I moved my daughter to private school after 4th grade. She's worked with the Saxon Math books ever since.

It took her awhile to get to a stable place in math because she had gaps in her knowledge, and because she didn't have confidence in the basics. She learned new concepts; she could understand them. But under testing she would crumble, because she didn't have confidence.

In Chicago Math, computation doesn't become second nature. I guess in new math they teach you all these steps you have to take. They make multiplication into 5 steps. Chicago Math makes learning to multiply real slow, and so damn confusing.

So she was bogged down in trying to do it in the new math way. It took her several years to overcome that, to get solid in the basics.

She improved greatly with the Saxon book. She's doing fine at the high school level. She just finished 9th grade, and she does well in math now.

*Everyday Math was developed by the University of Chicago. Everyone in my cousin's town in MA called it 'Chicago Math.'

The Museum of Educational Fads

Have stumbled upon a 5-star resource for edu-drollery: Chronicle Forums.

The Forums are so droll that I have just spent half an hour reading the entire Museum of Educational Fads thread. It was time well spent.

opening gambit:

My wife was a classroom teacher and I work a lot with teachers. Every single year there is some new nonsense, with a catchy title and some sketchy research and snake oil salesperson with an EdD and a sales pitch.

Fad might not be the right word, these things are an industry. There is a book, an inspiring talk (given for free at educational conferences or for $5-20,000 at school districts), a workshop, licensed workshop facilitators, pricey workbooks, assessment plans, etc. Superintendents and curriculum specialists hear the talk at an educational conference then come home and make everyone jump on the new fad for a year or two.

Anyway, I thought we could do a thread on this topic. What other silly educational fads have come our way over the years?

Reply #8:
The fad du jour on my campus that is currently driving me crazy is the use of classroom clickers, explained here. While proponents claim they can be used to take the "pulse" of a classroom and to quickly assess student learning, I simply am not persuaded by all the buzz. I see it as a lazy form of assessment and an excuse for large class sizes.

Reply #14:
Writing across the curriculum gave me headaches.

We've gone to the clickers all over campus. Many times they are used to take attendance, and students can get participation credit for answering questions. They were being tested the one semester I used them. I don't know how widespread they are now.

Reply #20:
Powerpoint. I mean, I am not opposed to it in principle, but I am opposed to requiring it in principle. I have at various times been evaluated poorly for not using Powerpoint. Since I do use Powerpoint, but judiciously, it is invariably at the schools that put me in a 8am class without a computer or visual system that I am criticised for not using Powerpoint.

Blackboard--in classroom-based courses. Again, I am not opposed to Blackboard; in fact, about 1/3 of my teaching is online. But I do not see the point in requiring all classes to have a Blackboard site in addition to regularly meeting. Sometimes it works, but not always.

I guess that I am opposed to any pedagogical tool--technological or methodological--being seen as THE way to teach. A good teacher is conversant in various methods and techniques, and can draw upon them depending on the particular class and the particular group of students.

It is also useful for students to be able to adapt to different teaching methods, since THE REAL WORLD (aka work) is also a mishmash of styles. (I supposes management fads are as annoying as teaching fads, though.)

Reply #26:
On the first day of my college physics, which was a large lecture course, my professor passed out two pieces of paper to each of us. One was bright green, the other bright red. We were expected to bring them to class with us. If he covered a particularly difficult topic, he would ask us if we were understanding, telling us to hold up the green paper if we understood, the red if we did not. Sometimes he had us vote/pick between two possible answers the same way.

Clickers are pretty much the same thing, but far more expensive. Oh, and they can take attendance, which the paper could not.

Reply #27:
I am going to bring a remote control to my next class. When a student misbehaves I will point it at him and click the buttons.

Reply #31:
My university keeps saying they want more classroom technology, but my proposal for training collars has not been funded despite my explaining that it's a gentle, effective correction.

Reply #33:
I attended an audio conference last week (did anyone else "go" to the Liberal Education for Everyone audio conference last Thursday?) that emphasized "knowledge economy," "high impact practice" and "global competence." I was relieved that no one said anything about "best practices," a term that means whatever the speaker says it means based on her professed expertise.

Apparently we're supposed to be providing students with a well-rounded education. Who would have thought this to be true?

Reply #61:
I absolutely agree with you. I hate the idea from some that "technology in the classroom" = Powerpoint.

And add me to another hater of "learning outcomes" and the assessment craze. I thought I "assessed student learning" whenever I gave an exam. Silly, Evil, no sharks for you.

Reply #75:
How about:

(1) Inventive spelling (formerly known as "misspelling")?

(2) Rubrics? Templates? Ed.D.s (at least the ones I must deal with) often forget that content-area knowledge transcends formats and other surface characteristics. As a result, they want things standardized in the classroom (through rubrics, templates, formats, and so on). Yet, for some reason, they are the first ones to complain about standardized testing... Odd.

Reply #77:
My current gig is rife with rubrics and templates for scoring assignments. The students have gotten so used to them that there is a great cry of despair if profs don't use them. And since my institution is all about "serving the customers" and keeping enrollment high (and I'm untenured), I have sucked it up and started using them. Rubrics DO cut out most of the grade whining at least. However, the cost (critical thinking) is high.

Reply 83#:
Wow, I am sort of proud that my small part in the original exchange has led to this outpouring of invective (I mean, criticism) of bu11$it edu-fads. What's fascinating about all these is the extent to which the cr@p that passes for pedagogical theory-to-practice in the K-12 world has infected (with no obvious cure) higher education as well. This thread is fascinating.

I suppose we should "take ownership" (arghhh) of our own pathologies as well--Powerpoint overuse, the very idea of Blackboard in "traditional classes" (Bb does nothing I can't do with an HTML editor and an FTP client), various forms of "literacy," etc.

But for those of us who are blessed with not having to live in close proximity to yet another Ed.D., I think we spend more time undoing the harm done by faddism in the K-12, and particularly 9-12, system than we do with the nonsense that every once in a while grabs some assistant dean's attention. I constantly have to get students to stop "writing colorfully" (because they don't know what the "colorful" words mean), writing five paragraph essays (even if the essay is 15 pp long), confusing the notion of opinion or even dogma with theory, etc. etc.

The ultimate insult (and we return to the thread from which this thread branched) is that all these Ed.D.s with their 50 page, atheoretical, nonempirical, entirely normative "dissertations" or "theses" are running around telling us how to teach--and some on this forum have been teaching longer than these edubureaucrats have been alive. And they make us call them "Doctor." (Insert derisive laughter here.)

Of course, as a social scientist I am more fascinated than appalled by this--some very interesting ideas here on the diffusion of innovations (even stupid ones, like the yearly edufad or the DARE program), on the social construction of the subjects and objects of learning, and on notions of authority (who knows more about teaching? Ed.Ds? Or people who actually teach?). Fortunately, I have the luxury of working at an R1 where the bu11sh!t is dispensed in wholesale quantities from the "teaching and learning" experts, but where we can simply rewrite, as others have noted, our syllabi as a compliance exercise. I really feel for our colleagues at SLACs and CCs who actually have to pretend to take this nonsense seriously.

Reply #92:
Learning styles. Multiple intelligences. The ideas themselves might have a smidgen of utility--though both strike me as edubabble academese for "talent" or "knack"--but some fool leaked them to students, who quickly turned the concepts into excuses.

Student: "But Mr. Eumaios, I'm an auditory learner."
Translation: "I didn't do the reading and I'm not going to do the reading because I don't like reading. Now, are you going to excuse me from all reading or do I have to run crying to the department head?"

Peer editing in composition class. It's ineptitude critiquing incompetence.

Reply #97:
Many campuses now have a thing called the center for teaching and learning. Think about that. Someone decided that there would be a "teaching center" on campus (in grad school, ours basically doled out the projectors and vcrs). Then someone else said, "It's not just about teaching! It's about teaching . . . and learning!" Another group of people decided that this was a brilliant insight and so a center was born. And after that came workshops.

What drives educational fads? That's like asking "What motivates those space monsters in Alien?" You don't need to understand the motivation. Just destroy the eggs before they hatch.

Reply #131:
[from Mandy] Disclaimer: As I have stated previously, I don't hate Education Schools/Departments. I only hate people with Ph.D.s/Ed.D.s. in Education. To continue our earlier discussion on education people and their "research..."

I have been reading an Ed.D. dissertation in science ed (I am an external reader). Here are some of the errors in her dissertation:

a. She wrote "research proves that..." many times (e.g., "Research proves that girls are as smart as, if not smarter than, boys"). Ouch! Intro to Research Methods (undergrad), please!

b. Better yet, for many monumental issues, she doesn't even bother to say "research proves" them. She simply says, "eveyone knows that..." (e.g., "Everyone knows that we can be whatever we want to be.")

c. She actually cites the (English-language) dictionary in defining some relevant terms (e.g., reinforcement; sexism; and stereotypes).

d. Her "research" was her own friggin autobiography. I looked really hard to make sure that I wasn't missing her method/data/data analyses/results sections, but she is getting her doctorate by telling us about her own tough-luck story as a girl who has been interested in science.

Personally, I blame her advisor because he should realize that this paper would be questionable, even as an undergrad thesis, and there is no research involved whatsoever. However, there must also be something about the field itself because I don't encounter such papers in other fields. This was 50 pages of nonsense, and I cannot, in good conscience, pass her...

Reply #132:
Wait a minute...this is a dissertation?!?!?!!

I dropped out of grad school, and therefore will not be able to earn a PhD in my chosen field, because I ran afoul problems with my research and ran out of money to keep forking over to my university for tuition. And this fool will be awarded a terminal degree?!?!!?!? For this crap?!?!?!?

Now I'm really depressed.

Reply #143:
I earn a few bucks on the side editing dissertations for an Education department. Much of that is working with Ed.D dissertations. Mandy is spot on, and, I'm afraid, her example isn't even that bad. Many of the dissertations I read show no knowledge of APA formatting (and I'm talking about proper in-text citations, nothing "complicated"). The majority of the work I proof wouldn't pass muster in my undergrad research writing English course, let alone a master's or doctorate program.

Reply #162:
...I am asked to serve as an outside reader for the ed grad program and they always bring me in AFTER the topic has been chosen and method (if you can call it that) has been decided. The work is inevitably sub-standard and I end up on the short end of a lot of 2-1 and 3-1 votes. I am not sure why I still do agree to be on these committees. If I thought my point would eventually sink in amongst those the ed school it might be worth it, but this is starting to feel like beating my head against a brick wall.

So, here is a fad to hate--who decided we should encourage K-12 administrators to get advanced degrees? I would guess 95% of my experiences with these committees is with returning students working in K-12 that want an advanced degree either for promotion and/or for more $$, NOT due to any significant level of intellectual curiosity.... and their work clearly reflects both aspects of why they are in the program.

Reply #165:
I don't think anyone will tell us that we have to use clickers. ("Dear Colleague: We have your children. For now, they are safe and well. Are you using the clickers yet?") Experience tells me to expect a lot of hoopla about improving student engagement by using the new gadget or technology, which engagement, the hoopla-spouters will assure us, cannot fail to improve learning, success, and retention (the hoopla-spouters cite evidence provided by the people who sold us the new gadgets or technology, because one can always rely on a saleman's claims); then some not-so-subtle hints that unchanged rates of success and retention shall be interpreted to mean that instructors are stubbornly choosing not to engage their students (because, you know, we like having silent, bored students almost as much as we enjoy entering F's in grade books); then attempts, some sincere and some perfunctory, to use the new gadget or technology to help students learn; then frustration and confusion as the new gadget or technology proves defective or unreliable; then more frustration and disillusionment as we compile evidence that the new gadget or technology has made no difference in the students' learning (and that students hate it, as anyone who actually asked the students has learned); then the abandonment, sometimes rapid and sometimes gradual, of the new gadget or technology, which joins its predecessors on the expensive and ever-growing pedagogical scrap heap in our little corner of academia; and then a brief respite before the next fanfare announcing the arrival of another new gadget or technology.

But maybe this time will be different. I cling to optimism. As Crosby, Stills, and Nash sing, "Rejoice, rejoice: We have no choice, but to carry on."

Reply #168:
If someone told me I had to use clickers, I would click like mad.

Reply #170:
You know, I'm really sick of all of the above crap. Part of the thing that's great about college is the idiosyncracy of professors. Different approaches to the same or different things. Different teaching styles. Some doubtlessly boring. Some engaging. Some mixed. Some good for one type of student; some for another.

Some people lecture well. Some use cooperative learning well. Some don't do either, but do something else well or poorly. Face it, we're professionals. Teaching is an individual, professional praxis, and we evaluate and change it based on our perceptions of how we're doing, not on whether someone else sees that we're using the latest bell or whistle.

I find the bureaucracies pushing this stuff extremely troubling. People on our campus, mainly young faculty, have bought into much of this crapola, and are actually the ones pushing it. I think that they're sincere. But it doesn't change my view that much of this stuff strikes against the root of professional college teaching. I heard one of these young happy-talky folks say that anyone who lectures is wasting the student's time.

Well, nonsense. As a student, I much preferred a good lecture to wasting 45 minutes on a single point, discussing in groups what the "medicalization of deviance," is, for example, then reporting to the larger group. You can get the picture in about five minutes in a lecture or from readings. Ask a few questions and have a general discussion. Discuss it with friends after class, too. That's what you should be doing as a student.

Part of the problem is, of course, (if there is in fact one) that we're letting non-college type students into college. Part of it is TV culture. I really don't care. I do a good job with the substandard students anyway, and I don't use any of the K-12 junk that's being foisted on us. My hunch is that K-12 shouldn't be using a lot of it. I suspect that any research that shows it "working" is pretty much due to the Hawthorne Effect anyway.

I have no idea if they're internalizing the standard bits in my classes. I teach some of them. The students take tests and pass them. Who cares? The students, I believe, are learning to think-- hopefully in non-standard ways unique to each student.

Reply #176:
I know of an education professor who gives talks at conferences seriously suggesting that instructors who favor lectures need to go through a 12-step group for lectureholics similar to AA. It's the most absurd thing I've ever heard.

While I do try to incorporate small group activities and discussion into my classes, I don't see anything wrong with lecturing as a teaching method, as long as it's done effectively. And I agree with OAP that it's more useful for imparting specific information to students than discussions or group work.

Reply #180:
Actually, now that I think about it, the forcing probably comes out of a need to justify the expense. If there are 10 faculty who really, really want clickers, the school probably has to show that the clickers can be used in 150 classes (for grants and whatnot), and once the students buy the clickers, they can only sell them back at 1/2 price so they will want to use the clickers in all their classes too.

I've seen the clickers turn profs evals around from "hate it" to love it" so they're not all bad. But like anything, I think the utility of clickers is discipline- and professor-specific.

Ding! Ding! Ding! And we have a winner!

I've also had enough of this garbage forced on me to know that if we ever go this way, then we'll all be using them, regardless of their pointlessness in a number of my classes. My syllabi and assignments already bear the scars of eduspeak; I don't to waste weekends trying to figure out how to fit clickers, for example, into my curriculum.

But hey, they could be used in a Classroom Gong Show. "That scene sucks. Next! CLICK!" That's pedagogically useful, no? So how do we balance clickers with the need to not crush the snowflakes' spirits? Do you get a blue ribbon or a "B" even when you do get clicked off stage?

Reply #181:
Actually, that's really funny because I often hear the clickers explained in game show terms i.e. it's like the audience voting on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."

Apparently, comparisons to "Love Connection" are outdated and/or gauche (silly me).

Reply 185:
In a few years we will be looking back at today's stress on "collaborative learning" as one of those fads.

Reply 186:
Yes, but we'll all look back together, because we learned the value of collaboration. And we'll learn from our collective looking back, just as we learned by collaborating to look ahead back when the past was still the future.

Reply #208:
Pro: People who study education seem to like them.

Con: People who educate hate them.

Reply #209:
I think the clickers should give the students little shocks when they get the wrong answers.

Reply #221:
Good one, lukeurig! Oh, I have a similar one... How about "learning by doing?"

Sure, that's great--for 2nd graders. But how about "learning by READING," "learning by THINKING," or "learning by PAYING ATTENTION," now that they are in college?

An advanced thinker should be able to learn without having a concrete, hands-on experience with everything. In other words, why does everything have to have real-life relevance in order for some students to comprehend simple concepts?

Reply #201:
I've already made a thread about this, but some students seem to think you can get partial credit for a math problem on an exam by writing down a bunch of nonsense and getting a made-up answer. [ed. note: students think this because in K-12 you can get partial credit for a math problem on an exam by writing down a bunch of nonsense and getting a made-up answer]

#27 is my favorite.

I may give it a go at the dinner table.

Classroom 'clickers' catching on as instant assessment tool

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Education Equality Project

I left a comment on the Education Equality Project blog this morning. I didn't think to keep a copy, but the point of the post was that we need to eliminate mediocre NSF math programs if we ever hope to move this country forward in math and science education. These programs create inequities because students are not taught real math at school. It's wrong, in my opinion, to think that some students need an inferior math curriculum.

The comment appeared for a while, but then it was removed. In fact, NO comments have been keepers yet!

If you give it a try, please save it to copy as a comment here.

first, blow up the ed schools

a comment from anonymous:
For at least 40 years, teacher preparation has focused on ed courses (process-oriented) instead of content courses. At my state university, secondary-ed majors and minors required exactly HALF of the subject-specific credit hours required by the College of Arts and sciences. Also, the ed school was widely regarded as having the worst teachers in the whole university. Strong students rarely survived the four years of edu-babble. I doubt that things have changed much.

Reid Lyon:
You know, if there was any piece of legislation that I could pass, it would be to blow up colleges of education.

I know that's not politically correct. Those are some of the most resistant, recalcitrant places you will ever get to. And I'm not sure it's going to get a heck of a lot better, because again philosophy and belief drive how their folks are taught and how their folks come out and teach others.

Rigorous Evidence: The Key to Progress in Education? Lessons from Medicine, Welfare, and Other Fields (pdf file)

parents need a union, part 2

YouTube reactions to Everyday Math

This curricula and others like it are in most school districts. No child will be left behind in math because no child will ever move off the starting line.

Another reason to get you[r] child out of the government schools.


I received that garbage, but why is it my job as a parent to relearn math, UNPAID, to teach my son? If I'm going to teach him, I'll teach him the proper way to learn which he does wonderfully with. Let him flunk the No Child Left Untested tests. I want him to actually MASTER MATH and he does it using traditional methods, just like Mom and Dad.


when I see this video, I'm so happy that my children live in Europe and don't need to grow up in America...

By the way... WHY IN HELL is there a chapter on how to use a calculator in the "everyday math"-book? 38 pages??? At least in Sweden, students are not even aloud to TOUCH a calculater before 8 grade!


i hate this math! my son is "learning" this in his 5th grade class, and it's just garbage!! what ever happened to bringing home a math book with 10-20 problems for homework?! the students move on to something new every day (hence the "every day" part) and they don't review enough to retain the lesson. now i have to learn this craziness so i can help him come test's like i'm in grade school all over again! balony!!!!


I dont like my school! They teach this in my 5th grade class :(


What the bloody hell was that latticed matrix nonsense in the second part?


We teach this way because under education reform, everything has to be done differently than the old evil way. The district gets federal money if it picks any of the NSF funded no-math math books. Look up outcome based education reform if you want to see the entire reform beast and how it links up to standards based testing like WASL and a bunch of other bad ideas. The only thing standard about standards-based is that standard methods are not allowed.


What the ever-loving f***?!?

No wonder our school kids fail at everything; that is not math.


I don't doubt that a properly administered EDM program can be effective but you should see the mess when it is not. PARENTS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT SUPPLEMENT and more often than not they are left in the dark.


Everyday Math is HORRIBLE! I have an elementary education degree, and honestly think that this is the most AWFUL math curriculum I've ever seen. My stepdaughter has been subjected to it throughout her elementary years, and we are going to pull her out of school and homeschool her to get away from this and other "progressive" educational methods that lead to disaster.


My sister uses Everyday Mathematics in school [elementary] and she hates it. She hates math, but enjoys dividing the simple way. She gets her answers wrong trying the EM way. But she is getting better at it, but she does NOT enjoy EM. Not even her teacher likes it! She has been doing EM since 3rd grade. She enjoys the old Mcgraw hill stuff. But...I go over her homework, and I was like 'What the heck is this stuff?'


We are starting Everyday Math at our school this year, after having Investigations.
The teachers will be baffled by lattice multiplication, and the kids will, as well.
That means more math teaching for this parent.


this one may be my personal favorite:

I don't blame you for being angry! Your school district has definitely been neglectful if you didn't receive the 4 page Family Letter that precedes every unit, explaining the concepts and algorithms in the unit, as well as the answers to every Home Link on the last page. It's also disappointing to hear your district didn't purchase the required Student Reference Book that your child could bring home and use as additional support for the new concepts.


no, wait, 5 stars to this one:

Speaking as a maths teacher, this is bollocks.


This video shows everything I wrote to the Everyday Math people. I did get a response from them.Their letter supported their program saying it does work. What did I expect them to say? I have a 3rd grader. We have not reached this level of Everyday Math torture. It must be hell in homes where no one knows what a partial sum is or the "lattice" method.Or for the children who come from homes where all of the tools needed for this program are unavailable. It is just ridiculous!


This video shows everything I wrote to the Everyday Math people. I did get a response from them.Their letter supported their program saying it does work. What did I expect them to say? I have a 3rd grader. We have not reached this level of Everyday Math torture. It must be hell in homes where no one knows what a partial sum is or the "lattice" method.Or for the children who come from homes where all of the tools needed for this program are unavailable. It is just ridiculous!


my son's school uses this idiot program and as a result i am putting him in private school next year, where they teach math the correct way.

help desk - getting parents involved

Jenny asks:

I want to know how to get parents involved. I found out that our district is considering Everyday Math. I've talked with parents and most people just don't care. I was one of two parents who showed up to look over the materials. Our district obviously doesn't want parent input in the matter and it seems other parents are happy to oblige them. It's mind boggling to me!

I might start by asking a couple of parents to watch this video:

Then I might send this interview I did with my cousin to parents and suggest they forward.

has it been 30 years?

Fifty per cent of DISD teachers fail to pass test, said the headline in the Dallas Times Herald last summer, and the wire services relayed the news to much of the civilized world. Poor Dallas. Twenty years in court over desegregation and busing, and now this. Actually, the Wesman Personnel Classification Test was given not to all Dallas teachers but to 535 first-year teachers. Half fell below the score considered acceptable by the DISD—and that standard itself was far from rigorous. The teachers were considerably outperformed on the same test by a volunteer group of juniors and seniors from Jesuit College Preparatory School, a private high school in North Dallas.

Why Teachers Can’t Teach
by Gene Lyons
Texas Monthly
September 1979