The Menlo Park City School District is going ahead with plans to roll out new math textbooks in the fall, despite the vocal opposition of a group of parents. School board members appeared surprised by the controversy, and said they would do more to explain their decision to use "Everyday Mathematics" and dispel parents' "misconceptions" about the program.=====
The board approved the adoption of the textbooks in December, on the recommendation of a committee made up of teachers and administrators. At the board's March 24 meeting, a number of parents complained that they had just heard about the adoption of "Everyday Mathematics" and that the adoption decision was poorly publicized.
"I don't appreciate a process in which the community was almost totally shut out," said parent Perla Ni. "The choice of a math curriculum needs to be a total community process."
Several people said they'd done Google searches and found scathing indictments of the textbooks -- that kindergarteners learn to use calculators instead of learning basic math, that strange alternative algorithms like the "lattice method" are taught in place of traditional ones, and that students are left frustrated and unprepared for future math classes.
David Ackerman, the principal of Oak Knoll school, said those accusations simply are not true, and warned people that just because there's a lot of criticism on the Web doesn't mean it's valid. Try Googling "creation science" he said, and you'll find a lot of hits, but it doesn't mean that creation science is valid or meaningful.
"I have the third-grade textbook. Nowhere does it say to use calculators for learning basic math," Mr. Ackerman told the board. "Out of 600 pages, there are three pages on the lattice method. It's optional."
Superintendent Ken Ranella said that Menlo Park's math scores on the state STAR tests are very high. "A lot of districts would die for 80-85 percent of their kids (testing at) proficient or advanced. I don't think we're going to do something to go back on that."
"I have confidence and faith in the teachers and administrators who looked at (Everyday Mathematics)," said board member Mark Box. "It's not replacing basic and computational (skills) but enriching them with a deeper understanding of mathematics."
The "Everyday Mathematics" textbooks are being used in the nearby Woodside and Portola Valley school districts, but the recent recommendation to adopt them in the Palo Alto Unified School District has stirred up a great deal of controversy.
"If Palo Alto wasn't buzzing about this, there probably would not be a buzz (about it) here," said board member Jeff Child.
Backstory from the local weekly's discussion area:
Hearing on EveryDay Math for MP Schools
Menlo Park, posted by Perla Ni, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm
Controversial new math curriculum focus on calculators, estimations rather than teaching traditional math
There’s significant controversy about the school district's decision to use Everyday Math starting in Sept. See the Palo Alto Weekly online and several thousand angry parent comments. This affects kids starting September 09 through the next 7 years.
The basic issue is that the new curriculum:
1. Ignores traditional multiplication and division and instead only teaches inefficient, contorted methods that cause confusion and math-avoidance among students. It teaches “partial-products method”, “Egyptian multiplication”, “Lattice multiplication”, etc. Mathematicians and parents have almost universally criticized these methods for teaching math.
3. Instructs kids to estimate rather than actually doing the math to get an exact answer.
2. Instructs kids to use calculators rather than calculating math themselves. Here's the manifesto from the teacher's manual: "The authors of Everyday Mathematics do not believe it is worth students’ time and effort to fully develop highly efficient paper and pencil algorithms for all possible whole-number, fraction and decimal division problems. Mastery of the intricacies of such algorithms is a huge endeavor, one that experience tells us is doomed to failure for many students. It is simply counter-productive to invest many hours of precious class time on such algorithms. The mathematical payoff is not worth the cost, particularly because quotients can be found quickly and accurately with a calculator."
See samples yourself here: Web Link
There's a school board meeting and parent attendance is encouraged:
March 24, 6pm, MP School District Office, 181 Encinal Ave, Atherton
Join the googlegroups parent group on this topic:
AND come out on March 24th!