Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mindless Math Mutterings: A Lesson in Collaboration

Mindless Math Mutterings: A Lesson in Collaboration

New Milford has decided to use a hybrid of math programs. See Mindless Math Mutterings for details, but I did want to comment on one thing I read in the final recommendation, posted at the district website.

By the end of second grade, students should have many of their basic skills in addition and subtraction firmly set, and it is at this point that we feel the pace of Saxon can present a problem. Students ready to “rocket forward” are sometimes kept in “lock step”. Parents remarked about that as well.

Therefore, beginning grade three we recommend a hybrid of both EDM and Saxon materials be given teachers. Teachers would, within their classes or working in tandem with another teacher’s class, group and regroup students throughout the year to provide practice where it is needed here and enrichment where it needed there.
Translation: Saxon mathematics was so effective that students were ready to move at a faster pace than we really want them to. To counter this, we will place them into Everyday Mathematics, which will distract them with alternate algorithms, word problems and silly games, and prevent the higher ability kids from getting to far ahead.

You notice it never occurred to them to just move through the Saxon material faster. Die acceleration, die! Enrichment wins again ->[insert evil maniacal laugh here]


CrypticLife said...

There are some real stunners in there, though I'll give New Milford in that they seem to be looking, at least.

On Saxon:

"The fact that anyone can pretty much present the program is, in a curious way, a weakness; the scripting makes it easy, but also requires less depth of understanding on the teacher's part."

WTF??? A weakness of the program is that it's harder to screw up the presentation? Someone who writes that does NOT have their priorities straight. It's like saying having a good, clear recipe for chili is a weakness because the cook doesn't need to invent it on the fly.

On Singapore:

"The pace of the program is quicker than anything we do and quicker even than
our curriculum calls for. As a result, some sped students actually perform
AHEAD of their non-special education peers in successfully handling content almost
by definition becoming non-sped students!"


"Teachers report that it has been "labor intensive" to prepare lessons, often
taking longer to prepare the lesson than to teach it."

Oh, okay. So now the weakness of Saxon being to easy and clear to present and requiring too little understanding has been transferred to the weakness of Singapore requiring too much sophistication.

"The "change in landscape" image sounds exciting, but presents real practical
problems. Can we train 6th grade teachers to teach Algebra I well? Can we
recruit grade 7 teachers who are comfortable presenting lots of Geometry and
Algebra II? If not, do we have a sense we could train them and, if so, at what
costs? If we went down this road, it would become necessary to redesign the
scope and sequence of high school math sequences. Does the system have the
funds to do that and the staff to deliver the change? We would have almost all
students taking Calculus by junior year, if not before then. That means the
academic levels expected of all our staff would be raised in math."

Oh, please, no raising of standards here.

There is precious little on the value of Everyday Math, other than it "works well" (unsupported) and "has wonderful activities and exercises that stimulate
enthusiasm for mathematics in many students" (unsupported). Presumably they didn't feel EM was really being evaluated.

concernedCTparent said...

Bottom line is Everyday Math is still there because it aligns with the state standardized exam and they are afraid of a drop in scores, not because it's better.

I was blown away by the comment about special ed kids becoming "almost by definition non sped" in the Singapore group. That's just to groundbreaking to casually dismiss. I really hope someone looks into that aspect further.

As I said, the outcome is not ideal but they uncovered lots of nuggets of truth in the process, and at least there was a process. Wish I could say the same for my own district.