Saturday, September 13, 2008

There's No Good Day for Everyday Math

Among Superintendent O’Malley’s fans, I take a certain pride in being his biggest critic. The most recent disagreement arose over the new math program. The superintendent has accelerated the high school math program by introducing algebra in 7th grade and, beginning next year, geometry in 8th grade. He is working on implementing Singapore Math to 6th graders. And Dr. O’Malley has introduced the NWEA program to track each student’s progression through the early years. For a school district where a third of seniors are taking remedial math courses to achieve 50% on the state Math HSPA exams, these are major advances. The problem is Everyday Math in the elementary schools.

This week, I received an anonymous email regarding a YouTube video on Everyday Math. The video features M J McDermott, a meteorologist associated with a grassroots organization that promotes a rigorous math curriculum (www.WheresTheMath.com). The video’s description of Everyday Math is shocking.

Everyday Math is far more than simply asking conceptual questions such as “Judy has $25. A $30 dress is discounted 20%. Can she afford the dress?” It also teaches math in a fashion that enables weaker students to do math at their current proficiency level rather than build upon their strengths.

Imagine you were training a bricklayer. Rather than have him use standard size bricks, which are heavy and tiresome, you have him train solely on smaller bricks. Sure, he’ll get the job done, but he’ll never be as proficient as the person who trained with standard size bricks and he likely won’t be able to do those jobs that require standard sized bricks. Everyday Math only uses small bricks.

For example, the program uses two methods to do multiplication – Partial Products Method (PPM) and the Lattice Method.

Take the following question – 22 X 33. In standard math, you’d line them up and do
3 X 22 = 66
30 X 22 = 660
66 + 660 = 726

In PPM, you’d do the same problem as follows:
3 X 2 = 6
3 X 20 = 60
30 X 2 = 60
30 X 20 = 600
6 + 60 + 60 + 600 = 726

Sure, it’s easier that way but the number of rows necessary is squared. If you have to multiply 3-digit numbers, you’d need 9 rows versus 3 using standard math. For 4-digit numbers, you’d need 16 rows versus 4. The Partial Products Method is slow, sloppy, and error prone.

The Lattice Method has the student performing the calculations inside a 4-quadrant square with each section cut by a diagonal line. The problem here is that the process is non-intuitive, time consuming, and doesn’t easily lend itself to more difficult problems.

As for the “tough” questions, calculators are not only recommended by Everyday Math, they’re required. In my day, calculators were forbidden. Did math get harder or have the courses been dumbed-down?

As for division, the Everyday Math Teacher’s Reference states the following:

The authors of Everyday Math 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 destined 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.
To summarize – Why have your not-too-smart students struggle with division when they can just use a calculator?

The other problem with Everyday Math is that it uses a “spiral” curriculum. Rather than focus on one area until the students master the material, it teaches “age-appropriate” material in a variety of areas. Then, in the following year, it backtracks and overlaps the prior year’s subjects, reviewing what was taught before, and then moving along to the next level.

Contrast this with Singapore Math which uses drills of increasing complexity in a single subject area before moving to the next discipline. Rather than be exposed to a smorgasbord of mathematical topics, students first master the basics and use that foundation for higher level math.

Why would Dr. O’Malley introduce Everyday Math, which caters to students’ weaknesses, rather than Singapore Math, which builds upon their strengths? The answer is politics.

The “now” controlling wing of the Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education took a public stance against Dr. O’Malley’s appointment. Just like Superintendent Quinn was pushed out the door when the “standards” wing had control last year, Dr. O’Malley’s tenure may be short lived as well.

One of Dr. O’Malley’s qualifications was that he was a complete outsider with no connections to this district, its politics, or its patronage game. Yet, after seven months on the job, he’s only been able to hire one outsider, a CPA to assist Sue Irons, the business administrator, and only after sacrificing his own secretary and enduring a bruising battle with the school board. To BOE President Demarest’s credit, he would have lost that fight without her support.

Considering the situation, Everyday Math has a number of advantages over Singapore Math. First, the curriculum hews very closely to the state’s standardized math tests. New Jersey’s state exams cover several areas at each grade level while Singapore Math focuses on a few areas in any year. Secondly, like the bricklayer working with small bricks, Everyday Math prepares students for the types of basic questions they’ll face on the state exams even though it doesn’t provide a foundation for technically advanced coursework. Lastly, the school district will have an easier time training elementary teachers for Everyday Math since the material remains the same even if the teaching methods have changed.

In short, Dr. O’Malley will be able to demonstrate immediate progress on the state math exams despite the long term consequences.

In fairness to Dr. O’Malley, from a political standpoint, he’s correct. Rather than risk being replaced by a superintendent who’s more concerned with empire building and patronage, Dr. O’Malley is seeking to build political support for his drive to raise educational standards across all levels throughout the district. Furthermore, he always has the option of introducing Singapore Math to the elementary grades in the future.

As he sees it, he’s moving the district ahead, step-by-step, without taking unnecessary risks.

In my opinion, Everyday Math is a terrible program that both cheats and demeans our students by assuming they’re incapable of handling challenging mathematics. Regardless of what we do in the future, our students today are being shortchanged and are more likely to lack the analytical skills they’ll need.

The situation reminds me of Coventry in World War II. According to several historical accounts, Churchill knew in advance, from his code breakers at Bletchley Park, the Germans were planning a massive bombing raid on Coventry. However, any defense or evacuation of the city would have tipped the Germans that their code had been broken. Instead, Churchill let the city burn to preserve a critical source of intelligence as Great Britain fought for its survival.

But the story is a myth. Churchill never knew Coventry would be attacked. He never chose to let a British city burn for the greater good.

I recognize we live in an imperfect world and that concessions often need to be made but this isn’t one of them. I would never choose to put students into a bad program to score political points for the greater good. I would never sacrifice one student today to save a hundred students tomorrow. Each student means the world and each student deserves the best we can give them.

In the world of public education, all eyes are on Washington, DC. Mayor Fenty recruited Michelle Rhee to be chancellor with a promise of unwavering political support and she has challenged the status quo more than anyone else.

Imagine what Dr. O’Malley could do with the full backing of the board. He should never have to choose between politics and our students’ welfare. >>> Read more!

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Different strokes for different folks..... I say. Some people tie their shoes with a double bow, some with one bow and a twist.... whatever works. I was always taught math with a calculator as a last resort. Make sure we know ALL of the parameters of this math concept before we kill it.

It is a shame though that people feel the need to appease. My question then is that he got a 4 year contract. He is not going anywhere for now. MAYBE he believes in this math. I dont know. But a change was made and people are still not happy.......

I agree with someone who wrote on here last month...... do not integrate high taxes with high scores... it does not work and it wont in this town...... Look at high taxes and what the people in the administration are making over there.........

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Aberden!!

Anonymous said...

These same small bricks can be the building blocks that instill the confidence a child may need to learn more challenging work. I firmly believe a majority of kids have probably had trouble in math for so long that they have tuned out. If everyday math can pull them up and out, we can then use regular bricks...Signed a parent with hope

NsectionJoe said...

Computer is back. I cannot believe how dependent we are on all of these devices. Two weeks plus seems like years when you want to be involved or merely write a report or letter. One virus can wreak total havoc.

As for Dr. O'Malley sure he has upset some people and to not have done so would have meant that the status quo of leadership had won. That status quo has cost us immensely in the not so recent past and change while not readily accepted is good in any form.

We should all step back and give this man a chance to try something new as you can always go back from whence we came. You can go home again. I mean look at all Quinn and Klavon did and not much was voiced against their far more detrimental decisions, unchecked budgets, construction costs and more, which failed to bring test scores up even the slightest bit, but raised taxes a monumental amount.

Certainly education is very expensive but the costs of not trying to change the status quo can be far more damaging.

The phrase of thinking outside the box while often overused as of late. is something that may be needed as the recent and beyond the recent past has showed us, Things need to change immensely.

This district decisions, changes in teaching and course selection has allowed for little positive results for far too long. Change is good but we should of course monitor same very closely.

I will give you one recent example that I do not understand at all that comes from our district.

How many high schools with such a robust music and theatrical department would not of course be required to have a high school music teacher to be required to play the piano? What happened in this district? This district did not hire an experienced music teacher who could play the piano. They obviously thought outside of the box and hired someone who could not play the piano at all.

Maybe things are changing? Maybe it is me? While I find that to be completely laughable, perhaps we should give such a decision a chance. I mean several highly paid people, administrators, School Board members, and more were probably involved in such a decision and one would think that someone in the room must have said "but should you not have someone who can play the piano" in a music class. Did one of them ask "Is the piano not a basic need and requirement to teach music? Maybe it is me? Maybe I was wrong and every music teacher I have ever met in my life, did not know how to play the piano in order to conduct a music program effectively. I mean what is next they hire a math teacher who never took a math course. We shall see.

I mean it is not as if we had some exceptionally talented music director last year who made things happen, who interacted with the students and went far and above his normal duties, every single day. One who could in fact play the piano. Is it me?

Wait a minute. We did have such a teacher and he was tossed aside as my daughter and her friends still point out constantly. What lesson in life did that teach my daughter and her friends?

That one example did not come under the topic of everyday math but it did show something about everyday decisions by this district.

Once again change is good. But change should be watched very closely.

Anonymous said...

When I first started to read nsectionjoe I said where is he going with this. It took a little time but he go there. Math, Music and more must start and end with the instructor in all cases.

This math program may be new and controversial and may end up like a little man in a laboratory many years ago, who was asked about the light bulb he was inventing. Why are you trying to do that? He may have responded "it might work and it might change the world". It is worth the shot this new math, who knows it might change one students world.

Anonymous said...

I agree whole heartedly with nsection as decisions that he used to show our problems are not ours alone and are an every day occurrence in school districts and municipal offices everywhere.

It is simply called governing bodies make boneheaded decisions and make people scratch their heads in disbelief.

It has been said before and unfortunately far too often. Welcome to the Matawan-Aberdeen School District.

Nice job Aberdeener. Once again.

Anonymous said...

What a lot of residents missed was the removal of yet another school custodian. The administation resolve to ammend for this lack of staffing is to have the day time head custodians in Cliffwood,Ravine,and Strathmore work alone from 6:30am untill 1:00pm. The persons that normally work from 10:00am untill 6:30pm now start at 1:00pm. This means that if a teacher or nurse needs a cleanup in a classroom or restroom during lunchtime when custodian duties are needed in the cafeteria it cannot be done. What happens when a truck delivery comes during lunch? When does the day custodian gets to eat lunch? At 1:00 pm or a little later cleanup has to start in the room so to be prepared for Y time or assembly. Do you add on to your house and clean less???
We have added to our buildings and fields and reduced our staff, how does this work for the health of our children?

NsectionJoe said...

Once again we must ask ourselves why is this district taking such actions and cutting integral staff, obviously needed throughout the day, when other staff who seem to be highly paid, yet minimally used or some might say "are just kept around for some unknown reason", are not used effectively.

If one person responds and says that is not the case try explaining the salaries for numerous staff that are in excess of $120,000.00, with little if any real instructional time.

While administration is very important in a district this size, we have far too many administrators making over $120,000.00, which leaves many questions at a time when secretarial staff and custodians are taking the brunt of the reductions.

Try cutting an administrator salary or two or perhaps a cut of 20% of the athletic department funding, which could keep the staffing at a safe and effective level.

Why not try a review on manpower levels matched up with school requirements before making cuts to the front line people who do the work and keep this districts facilities running.

Who is next to be cut nurses or crossing guards?

Anonymous said...

That sounds great! Looks like O"mally is getting rid of the Barza dead wood!

U C Brother said...

BARZA MUST GO. BARZA MUST GO.

But it needs to start at the top. Do not think that Dr. O'Malley will make a big impact if he is merely cutting buildings and grounds staff, when high salary administrators, who do little, remain somehow UNTOUCHABLE.

I will agree that BARZA gave away many jobs to their friends, family and of course the councilman and councilwomen on both town councils. Doubt it, just check the names on the school system employee rosters, which we all should remember also takes these councilman and women out of any votes related to the school system or its funding. Why? Because the council members now have family working in the school system, which causes a conflict of interest. Was it not a conflict of interest when they put pressure on those doing the hiring in the school system in the first place. Coincidental? Not likely.

Our supposed leaders sell us out so cheaply. Do they not? So much for avoiding conflicts of interest or maintaining high ethical standards.

Just check the employee rosters.

Have a good week.

Anonymous said...

Once again Joe we do not need to ask ourselves anything. Ask O'Malley. These decisions are his. Cut administrators and athletics? Yeah, thats going to happen. If he made cuts where you suggest then he deserves some praise. But he has done nothing even close and I don't believe he ever will. Until some tangible improvements and cost cutting measures are put in place, it is still status quo.

KennyCB said...

I would have to agree with Joe since O'Malley has obviously upset some *too long in place* administrators, employees and school board members at least he is pissing the Barbato and Zavorskas crew off.

Progress is achieved little by little. But as long as he pisses those two off in the process that will be real progress . I myself will be very glad since that will mean they will finally be getting some of their own medicine.

MRHSalumni said...

I have tried to watch from the sidelines and not get involved, but nsection is right. Did you see the recent APP article on salaries for upper level administrative staff in our school district? One person and salary listed in the article still amazes me. That would be the too high salary number for someone who needs to be replaced, as well as the fact that he is still even employed in this district still amazes me. That which upset me was the salary and benefits package of $150,000.00 + we are paying Joel Glastien. $150,000.00 + to do what? Somebody tell me what he does for such a salary. Personally I find him to be a rude snake of a man who cannot be trusted. What does he have on these people that keeps him here and paid so much? For some reason yet to be explained we are cutting maintenance and administrative assistant staff but paying Joel $150,000.00 +. Go figure. Let O'Malley explain that.

Aberdeener said...

Joel Glastein has tenure as an instructor and an administrator. During the interim period when there was no superintendent, Glastein was given a raise (rather than a one-time bonus) to compensate him. He's now received a raise on top of the raise.

Glastein began teaching in this district 35 years ago when Dr. O'Malley was only 3 years old. During the superintendent search, the current board leadership supported his bid to become superintendent.

Cliffy said...

Aberdeener,
Don't be fooled, Demarest doesn't do anything without Barbato's approval. For reasons known only to him, he has not decided to challenge O'Malley yet. Demarest is simply a mouthpiece for Barbato; she is being allowed to look independent.

Anonymous said...

Where's the big mystery?

Barbato and Demarest are up for re-election. They're going to hang low and pretend they support O'Mally. Then after they are in for another 3 years... business as usual.

Aberdeener said...

Sadly, though I still respect her, I have not had a private conversation with Pat Demarest since the Zavorskas episode.

Regarding the upcoming election, I don't believe we'll see any public controversies except those we bring to light. The assumption is that the board won't overtly interfere with Dr. O'Malley until after the election.

One more point to remember - even though we don't have a signed contract, yet, we'll be negotiating the new teachers contract immediately after next year's election.

As for the old music teacher referenced by NsectionJoe, by now it's an open secret why his contract was not renewed and it had nothing to do with his teaching ability. By all accounts, he was a fine teacher and will be missed.

Anonymous said...

When does a person have to register to run against Barbato and Demarest for the school board.

Let us know.

Aberdeener said...

I believe the registration date is in February though I don't think the actual date has been set, yet.

To register is remarkably easy - you can get a form at the administration's office or even just make up your own (though that's not advisable).

All you need is to have been a resident for one year, be allowed to vote, be able to read and write, and have the petition signed by 10 registered voters in your district. That 10 includes your name and your spouse's. To be safe, get twenty so that no one tries to challenge you.

On the actual ballot, the names are listed randomly. The candidates at the top of the list normally do better since uninformed voters just pick the names at the top and then vote on the budget.

U C Brother said...

Aberdeener for school board? Think about it.

You got my vote and more I can assure you. People just need to know the truth about Barza and their individual failures and idiocincracies.

And of course THE TRUTH.

They hate those two words as that is what they will not be able to hide from.

G. Klein said...

Whatever works?

I find it shocking that they are pushing calculator use in Kindergarten. These are the formative years, instead of making the connects these kids will need to embrace more abstract ideas we give the answers and tell them it's okay - because math isn't fun and it's too hard anyway.

Bridgewater & Ridgewood are just two NJ municipalities that are having issues with it. California and Texas have basically banned it from the classroom.

Am I that smug to think that math has changed in the past 30 years? That my kid's brain is "wired" differently - c'mon folks. If you believe all that then I got a bridge to sell you.

Anonymous said...

Barza buys bridges. Oh wait I mean Barza buys votes. Sorry.

mrhsalumni said...

Much like the $600,000.00 spent on that cockamamy education voodoo courses while Quinn was here. This one has a national track record that is to say the least questionable.

Much like the history of the world. History always repeats itself.

History also repeats itself in this school district as well. Everyday math will probably just mean another everyday historic failure.

Anonymous said...

Aberdeener,

Since we are talking about money, add up what the super, asst. super, director of testing, 3 directors of accoutability, and BA make.......... it is astonishing to say the least.....

Anonymous said...

You must mean the RTI program. Where is the data to substantiate this Bruce Quinn last ditch effort. By now there has to be some hard data.

Anonymous said...

Hard data for RTI results? You may as well be looking for the results on whatever the hell Wayne Spells does for his salary on a daily basis. Both are_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ .

Fill in the blanks as you need to for that answer.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Aberdeener has the info on what that salary total for those positions cost us. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

While I wait for the coffee pot I would ask this question.

Is anyone accountable for anything?

Have great day.

Anonymous said...

Aberdeener,
I remember hearing about a controversary about a music teacher being fired, but I am not that familiar with the situation since my children don't participate in band/music. What is the "open secret" reason for the firing you are referring to?

Anonymous said...

As far as I know there was no open secret. The principal did not like him and as they say that is all.

Sure he may have been a far superior music teacher than a teacher in regards to the grading and paperwork type. But this man was music! We needed him and we lost him for BS reasons as usual.

That should not surprise any of us as this district has a history of losing highly qualified instructors and principals and assistant principals for many years. Somehow other useless and ineffective personnel still remain who should have been gone long ago. Barza again? You bet.

The music program needed him and the students learned through his instruction and dedication. That was all thrown away I understand for very petty and shall I understand "PRINCIPAL" reasons.

You can also be sure BARZA had their grubby sweaty hands in that as well.

Anonymous said...

Very petty? You better get the facts. I would not want him around my child.

mrhsalumni said...

Once again a BARZA representative has thrown information around that would have without question required police involvement or more.

What you suggest and claim to have occurred (hiding behind) ANONYMOUS comes without one simple thing, any PROOF.

As far as your children do you really think as you have suggested that children were somehow in jeopardy. Had that been the case he would have not made it through the entire school year. You idiot.

More BARZA bullshit. These people just throw false, unreliable and veiled suggestions, without one spec of proof.

Good luck with that and your BS phobias.

Mr. Anonymous said...

I really hope someone gets on tonight and gives us an update on the Aberdeen Council meeting.

At least an update would be nice on Janice Gallo. I wonder if Tom Perry will be there to defend her right to ask a question or two against the wishes of...I almost said HIS NAME. We have finally been on a subject for almost a week and that various responses and input on this subject has not once included HIS NAME. Nor has anyone used used HIS NAME.

We can do it. Do not use HIS NAME, PLEASE. I beg you. Just one topic of conversation without HIS NAME. PLEASE.

I thank you all.

KimsMomsHusband said...

I agree with MRHSALUMNI for one simple *despite anonymous and his or her BS* the same music teacher was immediately hired by another district.

So as far as the suggestions from the so so brave anonymous I would ask one question.

How was he hired almsot immediately if as you suggest children were in jeopardy? Answer that pinhead.

The rest of us may have to wait a while for his or her answer, as I am sure the answer will only be forthcoming as soon as his or her BARZA handler, calls and tells him or her what to they are to say next.

Closed minded idiots. BARZA sucks!

KennyCB said...

Please someone update me on what is going on at the council meeting tonight. I am out of town but I will check in.

Thank you

Aberdeener said...

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the music teacher ever engaged in any misconduct whatsoever. Whoever suggests otherwise should be ashamed of himself.

I also wonder who's spreading the rumor and why.

Anonymous said...

At the town council meeting a total of 4 residents showed up, two of which are the older guys who are there every week.
Gallo voted no on anything and everything. Nothing happened at all, there was talk about the rec center that some people want. Talk about "rehabing" the First Aid center in Cliffwood Beach and that maybe that could be used for some rec type program. No left turn on Lloyd Rd. and an executive session.

Brian in Aberdeen

MRHSalumni said...

Thanks Brian.

Did anyone ask any of the questions suggested on this site or ask the new manager anything? Brian did you ask any questions yourself?

Anonymous said...

Last nights council meeting sounded like

Blah** Blah **Blah **Blah

They love that. It just means they can get away with more week after week after week.

Anonymous said...

No, nothing asked.

Brian

Anonymous said...

What I take that back Vito asked about the Sea Wall and the Cliffwood Beach area.

Brian

J Section Ken said...

I am sorry that I was not able to be at the council meeting last night. I could have been the fifth citizen!

"Back to School" night was scheduled for the same time. I wanted to be able to meet my child's teacher.

I will be at the next meeting. I am willing to ask questions, but they are not going to care unless we can get 20+ people to attend every meeting.

Anonymous said...

Ken I agree, it doesn't help when people are not there. There are going to be times when we can't make it for whatever the reason, but we do need to see better turnout's in general. Keep asking questions, Gallo is still voting "no" on everything, see wouldn't even read the minutes last night and had Raymond read it because she wanted to discuss the item before it was read.

Brian in Aberdeen

Catherine Cullen said...

I have to point out that you didn't do a totally accurate job of describing how "standard math" solves a problem. For 22x33, a standard math student actually does these steps:

2x3, put a 6 in the ones column.
2x3, put a 6 in the tens column (without articulating why).
place a zero in the ones column.
3x2, put a 6 in the tens column.
3x2, put a 6 in the hundreds column.

Partial Products involves the same number of steps, but it forces students to be aware of which 2 represents 2 and which 20, and it avoids the "put a zero" problem. It also lays an important foundation for using the associative and distributive properties later in algebra.

I'd also point out that Everyday Math teaches traditional algorithms, too. After they've mastered each, they can generally choose to use the traditional algorithm, partial products or lattice to solve multiplication problems.

I think those sorts of poor examples smear the name of Everyday Math without cause.

Anonymous said...

Before we kill why a person was let go..... make sure we have an accurate account of why. I know that we are sour about our BOE and such, but from what I heard, there was reason.

I will not say what, that is not my business, and nothing horrifying in the least. But someone above said he was not a paper pusher or whatever - ummmmm, school is school and that is what teachers get paid for. But, it would not be right for us to guestimate why he was let go, and the BOE will not say aloud, and rightfully so without permission, I just think the district acted in the right manner on this one.

Here we go........... I am not BARZA or affiliated.......


Aberdeener, any word on those salaries the posters above asked for?

Aberdeener said...

Ms. Cullen,

Though I disagree, I'd like to thank you for articulating your position and sharing your expertise as an elementary teacher.

You are correct in that the mathematical computations are ultimately the same regardless of which process is used. However, I stand by my assertion that the Partial Products Method and the Lattice Method do not lend themselves towards multi-digit calculations. Furthermore, Everyday Math concedes as much by encouraging the use of a calculator.

The use of a calculator for elementary math is like offering driving instructions during gym class and then extolling the virtues of being able to achieve long distances. As you note, students aren't only learning math, they're developing analytical skills as well.

Lastly, the spiral method is inferior to teaching students to master each subject area before moving on to the next.

Thanks again for your input. I'm always thrilled to see teachers joining the conversation.

Regarding the salaries, I don't yet have the 2008 salaries. The 2007 salaries are posted at www.DataUniverse.com. However, to give the salaries meaning, we need to compare them to districts in our DFG, match their scores against ours, and then see if we're getting our money's worth.

Anonymous said...

I was informed at Back to school night that it is no longer a requirement in this district for children to learn cursive writing, so it will not be taught anymore. I understand the Math lesson has been extended, but I am unsure whether learning script has been sacrificed for this, and whether there is more to come? I am extremely disappointed.

Catherine Cullen said...

Thanks Aberdeener, and you're not alone in your distrust of Everyday Math. It meets resistance everywhere it goes.

But I'd encourage you to think of algorithms in another way. Our traditional algorithms are, essentially, calculators. They are designed to do simple arithmetic calculations as quickly as possible. They're not designed to promote good mathematical thinking. In fact, they often force us to do things that don't make mathematical sense (like treating a 20 like a 2, in our original example). But as technology advances and the economy changes, our ability to do basic calculations quickly and accurately by hand is less important. Everyday Math's alternative algorithms may sacrifice some speed, but they support the thinking and number sense that kids need to develop to be prepared for higher math.


As far as the spiral, I'd encourage you to take a closer look at it. In EM, concrete skills ARE mastered before moving on. The spiral simply acknowledges that math skills relate to each other (multiplication relates to division, to take a simple example)and makes it easier for teachers and students to make those connections and lay the foundation for future understanding.

Everyday Math is a paradigm shift, not just a program, and if you're not willing to buy into it, it probably won't work for you. But as for its efficacy, I'd point out that it's the only math curriculum to meet the exacting standards of the Department of Education's "What Works Clearing House." There's a lot of research and cognitive science backing up this program. It's less fun to look at than a YouTube video, but perhaps it's a little more credible.

Catherine Cullen said...

I also have to point out (and then I promise to go away)that you couldn't be more wrong about these two points:

"Secondly, like the bricklayer working with small bricks, Everyday Math prepares students for the types of basic questions they’ll face on the state exams even though it doesn’t provide a foundation for technically advanced coursework. Lastly, the school district will have an easier time training elementary teachers for Everyday Math since the material remains the same even if the teaching methods have changed."

First, Everyday Math most definitely prepares children for higher level math. In fact, it does a much better job preparing them for higher math than short sighted, drill based arithmetic that is designed to answer basic test questions.

Second, Everyday Math requires significant professional development and training, because it's usually different from the way teachers learned math themselves. The material, in fact, HAS changed. Everyday Math demands a lot from teachers, and its successful implementation requires MORE buy-in and effort than a traditional program, not less.

Aberdeener said...

Ms. Cullen,

Once again, thanks for sharing your expertise and time but, please, don't go away; I have very few opportunities to discuss curriculums with classroom teachers.

I'd be very interested in your opinion on two related topics. First, what is your opinion of Singapore Math? Second, how do we determine which is the better curriculum? Or are different curriculums better suited to different students?

I was unaware the DOE's WWC had posted research on Everyday Math but I'll be sure to check it out.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I am happy that the district has adopted the Everyday Math Program. Having relatives in other areas whose schools and children use Everyday Math, they are very happy with the program, (although they too were skeptical at the start). It simply allows students to learn math many different ways, all of which arrive at the same and correct answer. It also allows children to better understand mentally the process. They are better able to manipulate numbers in their minds, which encourages a higher level of thinking.

Not only are the students in these schools taking Algebra and Geometry in Middle School, they are also taking High Honor courses in these subjects. (As well as much higher science courses.)

Lastly, I'd like to note, the district I'm refereing is in a similiar DFG as ours. I am very hopeful.

Aberdeener said...

According to the DOE's What Works Clearinghouse, Everyday Math has "potentially positive effects".

Only four studies met the WWC evidence standards "with reservations". Of the four, the only study that was statistically significant had an Improvement Index of NA. The only test I recognize is the IOWA Test and the students displayed a negative improvement index on that one.

Catherine Cullen said...

The What Works Clearinghouse has very strict standards (some would argue too strict) for studies that pass muster. There's lots of good research behind the development of EM.

I'm not familiar with Singapore Math, but I don't think it's as different from EM as you think. A good curriculum is a good curriculum. I'm sure that your school district went through a process to choose EM for their elementary schools. Maybe the office of curriculum and instruction could tell you?

I hope you'll at least give EM a chance!

Aberdeener said...

Ms. Cullen,

If you're that fervent a believer in EM, I'm willing to give it a chance. But I don't think I could ever agree to using a calculator for elementary math.

In the end, I want their math skills to be at least as strong as mine. Ideally, I'd prefer allowing parents to choose which curriculum they want for their kids.

Aberdeener said...

Cursive writing is still part of the curriculum.

Barry Garelick said...

On the issue of What Works Clearinghouse, I note that there was a big dialogue about EM on Eduwonk about the same time as these comments were filed. Someone wrote about the What Works Clearinghouse "research" on EM:

Let’s have a look. The Deparment’s “What Works Clearinghouse” which evaluates research on the various math programs, reviewed 61 Everyday Math studies. The findings: Of those 61 studies, none met evidence standards, 4 met evidence standards with reservations and 57 did not meet evidence screens. The WWC found Everyday Mathematics to have potentially positive effects on math achievement based on one study alone: the 2001 Riordan & Noyce study. Just so everyone is on the same page, Pendred Noyce has a vested interest in Everyday Math in that she has formed associations with several reform math initiatives, at least one dedicated to implementation of Everyday Math: COMAP, for which she serves on the Board of Directors.