As it turns out, our school district is using a controversial math curriculum called Everyday Mathematics, also known as "Reform Math." EM, as Everyday Mathematics is referred to by teachers, was developed by the University of Chicago, and according to their website, it is in use by about three million students nationwide. Here is one example of how simple addition "can" be performed using EM:
An example of what EM calls the "lattice method" for performing multiplication:
What becomes immediately clear is that several extra steps are now necessary to accomplish simple beeline computations. More steps will result in more errors -- only an idiot would claim otherwise. Eventually, EM students are taught four ways to add, five ways to subtract, four ways to multiply, and two ways to divide (traditional long division has been eschewed completely). Rote memorization is de-emphasized, and calculators (as well as estimating) are introduced in grade two.
Here is the basic rationale behind EM, directly from the University of Chicago website:
Research has shown that teaching the standard U.S. algorithms fails with large numbers of children, and that alternative algorithms are often easier for children to understand and learn. For this reason, Everyday Mathematics introduces children to a variety of alternative procedures in addition to the customary algorithms.
Links to or excerpts of said research are not provided -- we are to simply take these statements as fact. EM further claims to "make mathematics accessible to all students" by:
Incorporating individual, partner, and small group activities that make it possible for teachers to provide individualized feedback and assistance.
Encouraging risk-taking by establishing a learning environment that respects multiple problem solving strategies.
This couple is politically conservative, and as a result, the one thing they've got wrong is the idea that liberal parents like this stuff when they don't. Not for the most part.
This passage took me aback:
What's worse, the methods purportedly being used to convince school boards to adopt EM reek suspiciously of Rules for Radicals: *Never thought of these tactics in terms of Saul Alinsky.
State that the traditional approach hasn't worked
Disparage testimony from those against the adoption as ideological and politically-motivated arguments
State that the success of any program depends on the teacher
Bring in teachers from affluent school districts as witnesses
Bring in a witness from a university
* Barry's article!