kitchen table math, the sequel: 4/12/09 - 4/19/09

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sadly, Job Security for Me: Everyday Math Marches On

Job security as in academic remedation in the Palo Alto/Portola Valley/Woodside area -- all school districts having adopted Everyday Math.

Here's a snippet from Old Math, New Math : Everyday Math, aka Chicago Math by Roxane Dover at Silicon Valley Moms' Blog (who also blogs at Rox and Roll)

I had seen firsthand the effects of a problematic math curriculum on otherwise motivated kids. My daughter is a keen student who is interested in math and science to a surprising level. We want to encourage our daughter to stay her course – and hopefully, one day, she will be among those solving the energy crisis, curing cancer or healing the environment. Mastery of math is key to success in science. What I saw when my daughter experienced Everyday Math for three years in K-2 was a rejection of math out of frustration and a related inability to master basic mathematical concepts because of the Everyday Math approach of teaching every concept in too many different ways. This approach gives students a cursory understanding of several ways of addressing concepts at the expense of mastery.

Specifically, mastery falls victim to a concept called “spiraling.” Spiraling means that concepts are introduced but not necessarily mastered before new concepts are introduced, then the previously introduced concepts are revisited and built upon before something else new comes along, repeat. Mathematics learning, which should be progressive and built on a solid foundation, is replaced in this curriculum by a method of throwing a multitude of ideas at the kids without giving the kids time to properly internalize them to create that solid groundwork. It’s like cooking spaghetti and testing it by throwing a handful of noodles at the wall to see what sticks. Everyday Math doesn’t want it all to stick; it’s just concerned that some of it does. And that’s not good enough to build the solid mathematical groundwork that our children require.

From the San Jose Mercury News:

Critics, however, say the curriculum and its nontraditional algorithms are confusing. "Everyday Math" follows a "spiraling" method, where students move quickly through new concepts and may not necessarily learn them the first time around, but they revisit them over and over again in different formats or applications. They also say it encourages students to use calculators too often.

They never develop mastery, said R. James Milgram, a Stanford University math professor who sat on a state curriculum review committee in 2000 when the state rejected "Everyday Math."

"The mathematics these kids are seeing is hardly mathematics at all," Milgram said. "They learn a mush of things, most of which are just wrong."

Milgram said that while the program at its core makes sense, there are only 500 or 600 elementary teachers in the state with the expertise to teach it properly. He said he has seen enrollment in "Everyday Math" districts contract as parents pull out their students and send them to private schools, and said that could happen in Palo Alto.

One local preK-5 private school saw a 28% jump in admissions applications. This when local unemployment is at 11%.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Starfish Advocacy Association

I'm back!

Have yet to catch my breath (or read the comments thread sparked by Independent George) - but have just read a rave review of Starfish Advocacy & wanted to get it posted pronto.

Here's the review.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Challenging Word Problems to be discontinued

A bit off the latest controversial topics, but I thought readers of this board would want to know that the Singapore Math series: Primary Mathematics Challenging Word Problem from EPB Pan Pacific is being discontinued. According to the publisher, these books are:
"Highly recommended for capable students as a source of interesting review and challenging word problems"
If you've ever used the books, you know what a loss this will be to future users. While the books may be relics compared to the current Singapore Syllabus, one can't help wonder if the changes in the "Teach Less, Learn More" syllabus in Singapore haven't contributed to the country's ever so slight drop on the most recent TIMSS. may have most books in the series available through summer, although it sounds like Primary 3 is in short supply.

For your problem-solving enjoyment, here's a sample from the end of the Primary 6 book - Challenging level:
Cindy had four times as many postcards as Annie. After Cindy gave 20% of her postcards to Jane and Annie gave 10% of her postcards to Jane, the number of Jane's postcards increased by 75%. If Jane had 252 postcards in the end, how many postcards did Cindy have at first?
Have fun!