NYC HOLD NATIONAL Honest Open Logical Decisions on Mathematics Education Reform www.nychold.com
Contact and cc's of letters to email@example.com
Letters in response to these press articles:
Sat, 1 Dec 2007
Subject: Everyday Math
Great column on fuzzy math. As a parent who went through this nightmare in 1997 I can tell you it was eye opening to deal with school administrators. Take a look at Everyday Mathematics links on NYCHOLD.com. It links to my Concerned Parents of Reading, MA web site which includes all our dealings with our school administrators.
The parent group had to fight the school administrators at every turn, and many parents were intimidated by the administration, and just gave up. Standardized testing proved our point that the new program was inferior to our older traditional math program. I pulled both my kids from the school system and sent them to parochial school. My current elementary school child is home school with the Calvert program.
Thank you for your opinion piece. It is a great service to parents everywhere.
Robert L. Mandell DMD,MMSc.
December 02, 2007
Subject: Fuzzy Math a Nationwide Epidemic
Thank you for that well-informed column in connection with the Texas SBOE decision to reject Everyday Math for 3rd grade. I appreciated to see the link to my Spiraling Through Everyday Mathematics article on the nychold.com web pages. For your information, here is what I wrote to the members of the SBOE, with cc to their Commissioner of Education, congratulating them on their decision. I don't know the details of the process, and in particular I don't know why 3rd grade was singled out. Certainly EM should be rejected with similar justification for the higher grades. I paid special attention to 4th grade in my piece.
(Letter to Texas SBOE:)
Dear members of the Texas SBOE,
You have made an important decision to disallow the use of public funds for the Everyday Mathematics program for 3rd grade, and I heartily applaud your action. During the time that I was at the department of mathematics and computer science of New York University I studied the Everyday Mathematics program carefully in connection with its uniform adoption for the NYC schools. In several articles I analyzed aspects of the program, and not necessarily in order to criticize it. For example, if you are interested to see just what are the various algorithms of arithmetic that pupils are encouraged to explore in Everyday Mathematics then you may find my web article The Many Ways of Arithmetic in Everyday Mathematics  useful; in it I describe the methods suggested in EM for the four basic operations.
An important feature of Everyday Mathematics that sets it apart, I think, from programs that you deemed acceptable is its reliance on *rapid spiraling*, an approach in which topics are visited many times, but only briefly at any time and without a focus on mastery. In my web article Spiraling Through Everyday Mathematics  I describe the rapid spiraling procedure as it is applied to the teaching of multiplication and division in fourth grade.
I would like to add a few words to that Spiraling article, because I believe that the issue addressed there offers a strong case in support of your decision. You evaluated EM for 3rd grade and found it much wanting; my article takes it up at the start of 4th grade. For the purpose of that article I had obtained the teacher guides for EM (2nd edition; 4th grade), and this is essential for a meaningful review. The topical coverage in the student materials jumps around a lot, but for that reason it is hard to recognize what is missing. In the teacher materials one recognizes more clearly where students are expected to be at a particular point in time (in this case, at the start of fourth grade they are expected to be not familiar with multi-digit multiplication) and one can assess the effort that is made in the EM program to help them along. They race through it at a speed that has to be seen to be believed. It starts with one lesson on the extended multiplication facts (single-digit number times single-digit times power of ten), one lesson on single-digit times multi-digit number, and then they move right on to multi-digit times multi-digit multiplication, for which they immediately present two different algorithms. And the amount of accompanying practice material is so small that, again, it has to be seen to be believed. As I wrote elsewhere, this coverage in Everyday Mathematics simply does not constitute a sincere effort to teach these basic arithmetic skills.
You were right to reject EM for 3rd grade. My closest analysis was focused on 4th grade, but I'm familiar with the materials for the other grades as well. The popularity of the program is entirely undeserved; it reflects, I think, a widespread negative attitude towards the teaching of content and skills. The failures of Everyday Mathematics that I think you identified in the 3rd grade component are endemic throughout the program and it is to be hoped that schools and school districts in Texas will follow your lead and reject the Everyday Mathematics program for all grades.
Department of Chemistry and Emerson Center for Scientific Computation
Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Date: Dec 7, 2007
Subject: Everyday Math
Thank you for brining national attention to the math wars. It has been over 3 years since I started my advocacy work against the use of the Everyday Math program in the Conejo Valley Unified School District here in Thousand Oaks, CA. We have had little response from district officials other than to hear them report to parents how great the EM program is.
In the spring of 2005 the school board asked the curriculum director to prepare a presentation regarding the EM program. Parents asked for a choice to use a more traditional math program but were told that it would cost too much money to change programs.
CVUSD's enrollment in the fall of 2005 dropped 500 students in the K-6 grades where EM is used. The following fall of 2006 saw another 400 or more elementary students leave our district. By the fall of 2007 the school board voted to close 2 elementary schools due to declining enrollment, but not a single teacher or administrator will be cut from the payroll. The school closures are conveniently scheduled to occur AFTER the November 2008 school board election is over, so as not to be fresh in voters minds.
Rather than improve academic programs, the school district continues to provide poorly rated experimental curricula many parents do not want for their children. The school board has instead chosen to close schools and inconvenience taxpayers and parents and to continue to spend money unwisely on programs with questionable results.
The Conejo Valley District is currently in the process of reviewing math textbooks that will be used for the next 7 years, and Everyday math is among the final group of 3 being considered according to informed sources. It is unlikely CVUSD will choose a different text.
I will be home schooling my son next year for 5th grade as the private school he attends also falls short of providing the best math instruction possible.
Thank you again for bringing national attention to the deficit of instruction that students face when schools choose to use Everyday Math or other similar NCTM standards based reform math programs.
Jo Anne Cobasko
Save Our Children from Mediocre Math (SOCMM)
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
I had the following letter to the editor published by the Thousand Oaks Acorn Thursday Dec. 6, 2007
Everyday Math doesn't add up to good program
CVUSD school board members should vote no when the Everyday Math (EM) curriculum comes up for renewal this year. The California State Board of Education has rejected Everyday Math twice for failing to meet California's Key Math standards, and the state of Texas recently rejected Everyday Math for use in third-grade classrooms. Save Our Children from Mediocre Math would like to remind the community that it is time to inform the school board what you think about the EM program.
The following link will take you to a report prepared for use in the 2007 math adoption process in the state of Texas. This detailed evaluation of specific content criteria for numerous third grade math texts clearly illustrates the weakness of the NCTM standards-based Everyday Math text. The report rates this curriculum as being grossly inferior, thereby providing solid evidence that this program should not be approved for use in any school district. An unwise decision by the school board could saddle our children with the mediocre EM program for another seven years. CVUSD will close two elementary schools due to declining enrollment. Many families are sending students out of our district rather than endure the failure of the EM program to teach mathematics to mastery.
Parents are spending a great deal of time and money to remediate the failure of CVUSD public schools to adequately teach math in the classroom.
SOCMM urges the CVUSD school board to vote no on the very expensive and poorly rated Everyday Math curriculum. Please, save our children from mediocre math.
Jo Anne Cobasko, Thousand Oaks, CA
Save Our Children from Mediocre Math
This is a letter SOCMM received from a retired 40 yr veteran teacher and her response to CVUSD trustee Mike Dunn's request for community input on Everyday Math
Jo Ann--This is my response to M. Dunn's Acorn letter for input on EM. Did you see that Michelle Malkin wrote a column about it. It is on Townhall.com.
So CA Retired teacher
I have contacted you a few times and am responding to your letter in the Acorn soliciting opinions on Everyday Math. While I don't have children in the program, as a teacher for 40 years, I taught elementary school math and am completely familiar with programs of this type and the philosophy that under girds them. I have followed various articles in the Acorn discussing the pros and cons of this program and receive the mailings from Jo Ann Cobasko, although I have never had the pleasure of meeting her. These articles contain informative links to actual mathematicians, as opposed to math educators and I tend to put more weight on the opinions of the former.
However, I felt it was necessary for me to examine the EM materials for myself in order to form an unbiased opinion. Accordingly I contacted CVUSD Curriculum Dept. during the summer of 2006 and made an appointment to do so. They graciously provided me with teachers manuals, which I chose because the philosophy and modus operandi of the program are featured within, and I spent about 2 1/2 hours perusing the manuals, a task I had performed on many occasions throughout my teaching career for math and other subjects.
I won't spend a lot of time on the publication standards, manipulatives, etc.--only to say that they were within the range of acceptability. At any rate I haven't found from the discussions I've read that the major complaints had anything to do with the above. There were pictures and graphs and other doo-dads that most of today's textbooks contain and which often drive the costs up but that publishers feel they must incorporate to be competitive.
Up front I will admit I am no fan of teaching math with a spiral approach--that is, initiating a mathematical concept, going only so far with it and then leaving it to be further explored way later or at the next level. It inhibits mastery of a concept. EM is a spiral program.
Other elements that bothered me:
The emphasis on home assignments involving parent participation was overdone. Call me old fashioned but I have heard from more than one younger friend of ours that they would appreciate it if fewer of these home activities were required and the bulk of the teaching was done in the classroom. I(I realize the rejoinder to that is that teachers have to spend too much time preparing students for standardized tests to which I can only say "Hogwash.)
Not enough emphasis on direct teaching. A lot of game playing, group activity, etc. Now don't get me wrong. Some of these elements should occur in math to add change of pace and maintain interest and a form of practice but it should not be the main focus.
Students should master the times tables in 3rd grade and I did not note an emphasis on this in that manual. 5th grade is also crucial for mastering the multi-digit multiplication process and long division. EM does not emphasize the algorithm for division and instead employs a cumbersome process.
To sum up, I don't think EM should be the math program in our district. Having endured the original "New Math" and the outcry from parents that it elicited, I would hope to see the Board cut its losses by making some face-saving noise about giving parents what they want (a novel concept, by the way), throwing some money at the teachers union to shut them up, but whatever sleight of hand it takes, getting rid of EM.
What you need to beware of should EM be tossed is that it is not replaced by "Son of EM." There are many other programs that mimic this one as the vague math folks are numerous, vocal and productive.
My own preference would be a rigorous program like Singapore Math, which I have also examined but not as much as I would like to have done. That is the type of program our CVUSD students need and deserve. There are, however, some obstacles to be overcome if such a program is to be successful. They are as follows:
You need the cooperation and enthusiasm of the teachers to make any program successful. If they do not buy into it, they will undermine it by complaining and sabotaging. I have heard that most of the teachers actually like EM. That is too bad but it does not surprise me. I had the opportunity to train a lot of student teachers and I observed most of them, having majored in education or psychology, did not have a good math background either in high school or college. They learned most of their math from how-to-teach courses from the education dept. which espouses the focus and philosophy of EM rather than calculus from the math dept. They also tend to take a summer camp activity centered approach to teaching which results in certain amount of superficiality in the learning process.
It would be difficult to implement a rigorous program at higher than the second grade level without playing catch-up for missed concepts. It could be done but it would take the above teacher enthusiasm to accomplish it. Therefore, it would probably have to be implemented at primary grades and then gradually to upper.
It would be expensive and in this time of closing schools, you might get lots of pushback from parents who care more about their neighborhood school than their kids' math education.
Despite the poor reviews from mathematicians and now the recent rejection by the state of Texas of EM, the fact is that the 4 board members who are supported by the teachers union have defended this program and so has the administration of the district. These folks tend to stick together especially when they could look pretty negligent by getting rid of a program that they had trumpeted.
In short you need a lot of parent input as to the negative aspects of EM plus a willingness on the board's part to get rid of it. It seems like a long shot but it could happen. Meanwhile math tutors will be happy because they are getting work.
So CA retired teacher
Date: December 03, 2007
Subject:"Fuzzy Math: A Nationwide Epidemic"
To the Editor of the New York Post:
Many thanks for publishing the wonderful column by Michelle Malkin, "Fuzzy Math: A Nationwide Epidemic." I am a third grade teacher in Maywood (Los Angeles), CA. The CA Board of Education just approved Everyday Math, and I await with dread the Los Angeles Unified School District choosing that program as the fuzzy replacement for our current Math program in the upcoming 2008/09 school year. I have fought hard to uphold systematic, explicit standards-based instruction for my students, and the approval of Everyday Math is a defeat for clear-thinking teachers and parents nationwide. Having to use this appalling, harmful, constructivist program will be a horrible way to end the last few years of my career as a classroom teacher.
I also owe thanks to NYC HOLD for keeping many of us abreast of columns like this one. Unfortunately, there are not enough columns or articles like this. Once again thank you, and please continue to publish more like it.
Patrice Abarca, Teacher
"There are only two creatures of value on the face of the earth, those with a commitment, and those who require the commitment of others"
Date 02, Dec 2007
Subj fuzzy math
Dear Ms Malkin,
Thanks for bringing attention to Everyday Math in your column, "Fuzzy math: A nationwide epidemic." Your criticisms are right on the mark. I described EM similarly in:
School math books, nonsense, and the National Science Foundation , (preprint of the published version) American Journal of Physics, Vol. 75, No. 2, p. 101-102, 2007, which includes this statement:
"Because I have written and spoken publicly about issues in math education, I regularly receive emails and phone calls from parents across the country asking for help and advice on how best to avoid the negative effects of NSF-funded math programs in their children's schools. I receive more complaints about Everyday Mathematics than all of the other NSF-funded programs combined. And the complaints are legitimate. Like TERC, Everyday Mathematics eschews the standard algorithms and does not develop fluency in basic arithmetic."
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, Northridge
Date: Thu, 06 Dec 2007
Subject: Fuzzy Math Isn't Cuddly
Dear Ms. Malkin,
Thank you very much for your article, "Fuzzy Math Isn't Cuddly. "Misguided progressive, constructivist education is ideologically noble, but pragmatically a disaster. Of course, we want all children to achieve, and we want to close the racial achievement gap.
But programs such as Everyday Math are like marsh-mallow fluff. Pleasant to swallow, but no realnutrient value. Children raised on this diet are stunted and over the long haul become disabled.
I formerly taught physics at the college level. I left because I got tired of inheriting the finalend results of fuzzy math.
My husband is an engineering physicist. His employer sees the situation for what it is. Rather thanrecruit locally, the company must often recruit out of state, or tap the "Third World Brain Drain."Los Angeles, where we live, has a very high minority population.
If our schools were not permeated with fuzzy math, could some of those positions be instead filled bylocally schooled minority people?
I also want to thank NYC HOLD www.nychold.com for their efforts combating fuzzy math nonsense.
Akemi Kayleng Knight
Los Angeles, California
Date: Thu, 06 Dec 2007 20:41:55 -0800
Subject: minority education issues
To the Los Angeles Times:
Los Angeles has a large minority population, and we are all painfully aware of the achievement gap.
I speak as the grand daughter of illiterate immigrants, whose lack of education consigned them to degrading and dangerous physical labor jobs.
Today I've been married to a mainstream Caucasian for over 30 years. I live a very comfortable, middle class professional life. What separates me from my grandparents, is my education. Therefore, I am appalled at misguided "fuzzy ed."
Please take a look at this article: Fuzzy Math a Nationwide Epidemic. Our minority youth needs solid, marketable job skills. As Michelle Malkin explains so well, fuzzy math makes students incompetent.
Please consider publishing more articles on education, especially as it affects minorities here in Los Angeles.
I have a friend in New York, Elizabeth Carson, who runs NYC HOLD www.nychold.com. She has been active working against "fuzzy math." She's receiving a cc of this correspondence.
Akemi Kayleng Knight
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2007)
Subject: Fuzzy Math
I enjoy watching you on the "Factor" and as a former junior and senior high school teacher, I wish that my math students knew what a factor was. I began teaching in East LA in 1980 and our junior high students were one of the reasons Jaime Escalante was able to establish a calculus class at Garfield HS; we sent him students who were ready and able to do math. Over the years, district administrators followed the NCTM's misguided charge that, with calculators, the need to know arithmetic was dismissed as "horse and buggy" math in the 21st century. Mathematics became a political fight and policies that required students to pass algebra in order to graduate were established. But, these same students couldn't pass a fourth grade arithmetic test. I taught classes on Saturday and we gave a pretest with two-digit long division and I can say without hesitation that fewer than 5% of the 9th students ever answered correctly. And 1/2 + 1/3 was 2/5 on nearly every paper. I was in a meeting with other math teachers, and a teacher who I had previously respected told me, "Traditional math is so boring." I challenged her right there to a competition; she could teach her wacky integrated math and I would teach traditional topics and we would see who was boring. Needless to say, she backed off. The damage of these user-friendly, math-lite elementary programs becomes glaringly obvious when the students enter high school. What the fuzzy experts ignore is that they all were taught traditional mathematics and some how they chose to forget the connection between arithmetic and algebra. In fact, at its most basic definition, algebra is symbolic arithmetic. If students have not mastered basic arithmetic operations, asking them to perform these same operations symbolically is like asking them to fly! They may be able to flap and stay aloft for a while, but ultimately, they fall with a resounding thud. My algebra 2 students couldn't simplify x^1/2 times x^1/3 because they couldn't add the fractions! Sorry, this is so long, but after butting my head in LAUSD for 20 years, it's hard to hold back!
Thanks for your article,
LAUSD -Retired after 25 years!
Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2007
Subject: THANK YOU, MICHELLE, FOR YOUR ARTICLE ON EVERYDAY MATH -- 12.1.07
Thank you, Michelle, for your wonderful article about the math derelicts who are being produced through Everyday Math. NYC HOLD has been warning the public for years, and your article has elevated the debate to an all new level. The Texas State Board of Education has lit a fire; and hopefully with everyone working together to get rid of new, new math, we can bring about true education reform.
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2007
Subject: Fuzzy Math Column
Dear Ms. Malkin,
Thank you so much for your column on November 28, 2007 about the Fuzzy Math Epidemic. I came upon your column while searching the Internet for others who feel the way I do about the state of our math education. Your column made me realize just how prevalent the problem is and that I am not alone in my concern.
I am a concerned first grade teacher and parent of school aged children. I have taught for over sixteen years. Recently my school district Clear Creek I.S.D. adopted a new math program called TERC (Investigations). It is basically a discovery type program. We received flashcards with dots that students can count. We also received unifix cubes that students can use to make animals and compare amounts. Teachers were instructed to walk around the room and watch students discover math.
My first graders already know their math facts, addition, subtraction, fractions, etc. By the end of first grade my students can do three digit addition/subtraction with carrying/borrowing. During the math training I told them what my students were already doing, but was told I needed to do the counting dots to help ensure they understood number concepts. I think this would be a tragic leap back for my students. My students are already asking me if they can learn their multiplication facts. If this program stays in my school district they will never learn their multiplication facts.
I also mentioned during the training that Singapore math and Saxon math are top rated programs and that TERC is rated F by the Mathematically Correct organization. I was told that C.C.I.S.D . will never adopt those programs.
I want to know why a school district would not want the best for their students. What is going on? Do teachers have the right to go ahead and teach what they know is best for their students? The answer is, no. Do parents have rights to get rid of programs that have been proven to be harmful to their child's academic performance? The answer is, yes. But it is a long hard battle. Some parents have been successful in getting the TERC program out of their schools. Parents need to be informed about the detrimental effects that this math program will have on their child. Many will have to take remedial math courses in college, if they can get into a college. Please, help spread the word about the facts, tells us what the research says, inform us of the best educational practices that should be in our schools. We are 29th in education at this point, how much further down do you want us to go? Discovery learning is not working. I want to teach not watch children play all day. I want my sons to learn at school and I will watch them play when they get home.
Concerned Teacher and Parent
Sent: Sunday, December 02, 2007 8:19 PM
Subject: [NYCMATHFORUM] Fuzzy Math
You are one of the few nationally-recognized individuals to offer commentary on the debacle of mathematics education in our country. Thank you for that insight and the expressed frustration that so many of us feel.
I cannot tell you the battles I fought as a math educator to maintain traditional approaches to learning mathematics. What I know firsthand is the disaster of "the real world" of math education is destroying our future as a society. Meanwhile, adult egos and greed are increasing as authors sell their fuzzy-dominated publications with the help of government offices, such as the National Science Foundation. Easily-persuaded school district administrators fall for the authors' academic credentials and government sponsorship, and they buy the sales pitches and then the products.
Two outstanding organizations are available, however, to help in the battle for our children's (and our own) future: ww.nychold.com and wheresthemath.com. One is in New York City and is the "godmother" (Elizabeth Carson) for the rest of us. The other is in Washington state. There are other groups all over these United States who are trying to resist the encroachment of fuzzy math products into their schools. It's a daunting task because they have the money and thus the power.
Your article will be an asset that can support our efforts. Thank you again for publicizing this "sleeper issue" in our country.
Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
Hewitt, TX 76643
Date: December 03, 2007
Subject: 'Fuzzy Math' Isn't Cuddly real voice of America on Fuzzy Math Coast to Coast
To The Editor:
Thank you for publishing Michelle Malkin's column, "'Fuzzy Math' Isn't Cuddly." I live in an Everyday Math district in Pennsylvania. While scores on our state test, the PSSA, are rising, our SAT scores are dropping. Our state standards and the PSSA are aligned with constructivist programs like Everyday Math. Even a perfect score on the PSSA does not ensure that a student knows the math that he should at his grade level. A child could be getting straight A's in Everyday Math and still be counting on his fingers.
I have heard Everyday Math referred to as "Every Night Math." This is because every night parents are teaching their children the math they should be learning in school or driving them to tutoring centers to supplement their math education.
Date: Dec 5, 2007 7:39 PM
Subject: Fuzzy math
Thank you for the article about fuzzy math. As a mother of three in an affluent school district, and a licensed math educator myself, I was shocked two years ago to discover where our hard-earned taxes are going. I first discovered a problem when my then 5 th grader couldn't figure out how much I owed her for shoveling snow. Around the same time, my then 7th grader campaigned hard for her next cell phone to have a tip calculator. I found both of these appalling. For nearly two years since then, I have taught three of my kids math at home. They are now in 9 th, 7th, and 4th. I've used a complete replacement curriculum, and considered both TERC Investigations and Connected Math 2 to be supplemental.
The math curriculum appears to be an attempt to achieve a few things, including:
1. Drive home the point to kids that math is relevant, but it does this with convoluted word problems that appear less relevant to kids than plain number-crunching, and are not, in the end, relevant to the real world. They amount to brain-teasers.
2. Validate and extend the use of constructivism, what was once a valid teaching method among a pastiche of many, and used to be called "discovery." Sadly, constructivism is now myopically dominating pedagogy, as if it were some great answer to teaching's limitations. Constructivism, in its place, such as in the language arts, has advanced the teaching and learning of language arts, but is inappropriate for math.
3. "Level the playing field" so that white boys don't dominate math and sciences. By saturating math with language, educators are deliberately slightly impairing boys, and giving girls an advantage. This is not just my opinion. See this publication written by the publishers of TERC Investigations Math materials: http://wge.terc.edu/equitysession.pdf (page 2). Unfortunately, the net result is that math is dumbed down for everyone.
4. Emphasis on reasoning (dogmatic adherence to ignoring all but the "highest" thinking skills) which leads to omissions in teaching some of the steps. Instead, the ideology requires that "the kids should make leaps, using their critical thinking."
5. Calculation should be taught incidental to solving real-world problems, rather than as a body of knowledge in its own right. This belief, along with the omission of steps described above, results in sloppy teaching and frustrated, disjointed learning.
The increase in the use of relevant word problems is a net plus over what was done in math education a generation ago. But the remaining excesses of reform math are just that-excesses. But worse, they're time-wasters, and they force parents to provide outside math education for their kids, thus leading to a serious inequity due to differences across families in affordability. Moreover, those parents who lack math education themselves are unlikely to notice the problem in time. Savvy parents today start their kids in tutoring in first grade or even kindergarten. In my district, our administrators and board of ed seem to turn a deaf ear to the cry of parents over the cost and time of tutoring. When asked to survey the cost to parents, they say "We can't possibly measure that."
I've been to my board of education many times, and have written letters to newspapers trying to get the attention of the administration. But they are unresponsive, and worse, they outright lie.
It seems to me there's something more going on here than just a change in pedagogy and methodology. I'm hoping someone will want to dig and find out. Or are our government funded schools somehow exempt from being investigated?
Sent: Sunday, December 02, 2007
Subject: thank you
Dear Michelle Malkin,
Indeed "fuzzy" math is a nationwide epidemic and parents are fighting mad. How can any intelligent adult believe that drawing 43 ducks to cross off 13 ducks to then count how many remain is teaching math to a first grader! Yes, that was my experience in Ridgewood NJ where courtesy of public school segregation, my children attend the elementary school with Investigations in Numbers, Data, & Space (TERC fuzzy math) while children on the other side of town are entitled to an honest math education with AddisoWesley. I am indebted to the advisors and contributors from NYCHOLD (www.nychold.com). Their work led to my creation of a local Ridgewood website (www.vormath.info) to inform parents of the grave disservice being imposed by ideologists (fuzzy math, constructivism) in my town.
But as I stated to the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, I will deliver to this great nation three mathematically capable children and their success will be in spite of reform math.
Date: Jan 3, 2008 1:45 PM
Cc: MARTIN.FACKLER@times.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
It is not only the Japanese suffering a crisis (re: "Losing an Edge, Japanese Envy India's Schools" by Martin Fackler Jan 2, 2007 ) and concerned about their children's ability to compete globally. Far too many parents across our own nation, including my own affluent town of Ridgewood NJ, have the exact same worry for their kids.
The public educational system woes of Ridgewood were reported upon by Winnie Hu of the New York Times. I and other parents desire and are enthusiastic for rigorous academic standards and true educational leadership in academia. It is disconcerting to read that five year olds at Little Angels are learning to multiple while here in Ridgewood, 9 year olds are just memorizing their multiplication facts and that is only due to teachers attempting to patch their Swiss cheese, mathematically illiterate reform math curriculum of TERC Investigations in Number, Data, & Space or Everyday Mathematics.
According to TERC teacher materials (pg 7 Implementing the Investigations in Number, Data, and Space Curriculum Grades 3,4 and 5) "focus on memorization of definitions and algorithms undermines students' learning". With material like that, if the Japanese are in crisis, then here in America we are on life support and in need of a transplant. Or as Michelle Malkin so eloquently put in her article, fuzzy math is a national (U.S.) epidemic.
Ridgewood NJ 07450
Founder, www.vormath.info, concerned parent website fighting fuzzy math, and in association with NYCHOLD.COM
Date Wed, 5 Dec 2007
Subj: Excellent Article - Fuzzy Math Doesn't Add Up
Dear Ms. Malkin,
Thank you for your excellent article about fuzzy math in the New York City schools. A group of fellow parents and I are currently lobbying against this type of math in our very tony suburb of Ridgewood, New Jersey. We have had no luck with our current Interim Superintendent and Board of Education, but we will continue this fight until the infamous "TERC Investigations" is removed from our district.
Today I read that the latest PISA test results were release and again the US students scores were behind other nations in math and science. This being an election year I wonder when our candidates will realize that spending more money on fuzzy math isn't the solution. Perhaps Mr. Giuliani, who was Mayor of New York when this "fuzzy math" was introduced into NYC schools, should state his position on reform math?
We need to change the way we structure our educational community to be more accountable for content and seriously re-evaluate the use of "discovery" programs in our public schools. There is not enough time in a public school teacher's day to wait until a child discovers how to add two numbers. It still baffles me why the suggestion of "direct instruction" has become a radical thought. Teachers should teach children, and then let students practice their skills until they've master them.
Thanks again for your insightful article.
Joan O'Keefe Ridgewood, New Jersey
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2007
Subject: Fuzzy Math
I applaud your recent article on the nationwide epidemic of fuzzy math. I have been voicing my concerns to my school district (Ridgewood, NJ) for over eight months regarding its use of reformed math programs. It is saddening to learn of the many parental groups joining forces to bring real math back into our schools with little or no success. To witness the indignant response from our educrats is exasperating. However, your national exposure to this outrage is encouraging.
As a veteran teacher myself, I am currently supplementing my fourth grader and kindergartner's math education. I strongly believe that our public schools' choice in implementing Everyday Math, TERC Investigations, CMP2, and the like is failing our children and our country's future. Math is an essential component to becoming an effective global citizen, without it, we will plunge into the abyss of inferiority and ineptness.
Thank you and I hope you will continue on your crusade to help stop wacky math.
date Dec 14, 2007
subject Everyday Matt
Dear Ms. Malkin,
Thank you for your article exposing the flaws in the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. This program is very weak on basic arithmetic, forcing parents to supplement at home or send their kids to tutoring centers. It also jumps around rapidly from topic to topic, making it difficult for many children to master the material.
Math professors throughout the nation have denounced this program because of the many gaps it leaves in children's skills. It's time to start listening to the experts.
Date: Fri Dec 7, 2007 5:28 pm
Subject: Fuzzy Math Isn't Fuzzy
Dear Ms. Malkin:
Thank you for having the courage to point out that the emperor is not wearing any clothes in your article Fuzzy Math Isn't Fuzzy.
The issues with math education in our country are of tantamount importance to the very future of nation. We need to prepare our children to succeed in engineering, science and technology and clearly, math is the key that opens those doors.
Nevertheless, school districts across the nation with the suport of the publishers of programs such as Everyday Mathematics and with grant money from the NSF, have become quite skilled in sweeping this controversy under the rug. Parents who speak out are quickly labeled old-fashioned and accused of not understanding what it takes to succeed in a global economy. The irony is that there are many things our students will need to succeed in the global economy, and Everyday Mathematics is certainly not one of them. The other irony is that so many of those parents speaking out are mathematicians, scientists and engineers themselves.
Now is the time to take a long, hard look at what is going on in our children's classrooms and ask ourselves if they are progressing in a logical manner towards the goal of success in college and career, or if instead they are stuck on a never-ending merry-go-round of the constructivist math spiral. Unfortunately for those stuck on the "spiral" it's a long way to the top, and too many of students fall off along the way. Most will simply never arrive at their destination.
Please continue to follow this story and urge your colleagues to do the same. Your advice to parents to look into their children's math curriculum couldn't be more important or more timely. Parents have good instincts when it comes to their children. They just need to learn to trust them more often.
L. Lopez (CT)
Date: Dec 13, 2007
Subject: fuzzy math (Michelle Malkin column)
Three and a half years ago, when I discovered that algebra in the 8th grade is the international norm, I set out to accelerate my son's math learning. The placement test for Singapore's math textbooks was available online, so I printed one out and gave it to my 9 year old son.
He tested into the middle of 3rd grade in Singapore. Going into the fifth grade in a high-performing Westchester school district ($22,000/yr funding) he was already 1 1/2 years behind children in Singapore.
That fall the district adopted Math Trailblazers, another of the constructivist curricula, at a cost of who knows how many thousands. Trailblazers moves even more slowly than the curriculum my son had used. Where my own son learned to do subtraction with regrouping in 2nd grade, Math Trailblazers delays instruction in the standard algorithm until third grade. The first edition of the Trailblazers series didn't teach the standard algorithm for long division at all, nor did it include the topic of dividing a fraction by a fraction.
Constructivist math takes more time to teach less content.
Date: Mon, Dec 3, 2007
Dear Ms. Malkin,
Thank you so much for your recent article on fuzzy math. I'm a teacher and a parent who has decided to stay home and go back to school, in part, just to address this issue in our local district.
The field of education needs to step up and critically examine what's going on, and then accept responsibility . Until that happens, however, parents will have to stand up and advocate for the best interests of their children. With articles like yours and the great websites available to parents (including those you mentioned as well as nychold.com and illinoisloop.org ), maybe more parents will become aware of the need to do something!
Thanks, and please keep this dialogue going if possible!
St. Louis, MO
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 9:14 PM
Subject: Your coverage of "fuzzy math"
I want to thank you for publishing Michelle Malkin's recent article, "Fuzzy Math Isn't Cuddly." I was delighted to read it first in the Nov. 28 on-line edition of the NY POST.
It is important that people all over the US know about the Texas State School Board's veto of the 3rd grade edition of Everyday Math. Parents, teachers, professors and employers across the nation are concerned about the low level of mastery of math basics by too many of our graduates. Ms. Malkins's column is proving to be very helpful in informing the American public about one of the major reasons for this failure: "constructivist" or "fuzzy" textbooks.
As a state school board member who does not have a math degree (mine is in accounting), I must rely on those with more mathematical expertise.. Of the many groups so helpful to parents, educators, school board members and journalists, my favorite is located in your own state: NYCHOLD. Their website, www.nychold.com, is loaded with information aimed at a wide audience, from professors to concerned parents. NYCHOLD has served as a "truth detector" for me on many occasions as I have researched various math issues.
Sent Sunday, December 02, 2007
Subject: Fuzzy Math article
I've been a fan of your writings for years, but this is the first time I've felt compelled to write to you.
My kids' school started with Everyday Math when my daughter was in 4th grade and my son in 1st. The 4th grade "Family Letter" said, among other things, that kids would "play games instead of doing tedious drills." Despite raising questions and concerns at all levels of the school, I was assured the program was researched based, taught critical thinking skills, etc.
A year later, I read a book where Everyday Math was referenced, found the link to Mathematically Correct and NYC HOLD, and the rest is history. It was a total "Ah Hah!" moment. I tried to fight the program at the school and district level. During my son's third grade year, I wrote the teacher and principal and told them he was not to use the lattice method of multiplication unless they could provide me with compelling evidence of its usefulness in higher level math. I ended up pulling him out of school and teaching him at home for 4 th and 5th grade through an online charter school using Bill Bennett's K12 Curriculum, and which included a traditional math textbook which required no use of calculators except, as I recall, one section dealing with square roots. He's in 7 th grade now, and scores significantly above classmates who were subjected to Everyday Math.
I suspect there are parents out there who have been questioning Everyday Math, and who will read your article and have the same "Ah Hah" moment I did years ago. Thank you for getting the word out on this program.
Colorado Springs, CO
Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2007 1:34 PM
Subject: Letter to the editor
Lawrence Krauss's 12-6-07 op-ed, "Science and the Candidates," is good to the extent that it identifies the growing problem of "science illiteracy." However, Professor Krauss might be wise to examine the role of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in dumbing down math and other technical areas for decades now, which is precisely why we see rampant science, math and technical illiteracy among many high school graduates.
In 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) promulgated standards relative to math education. The panel which wrote these standards did not include one practicing mathematician, so perhaps it is no surprise that the standards recommended decreased attention to pencil and paper calculations, memorization of basic facts, use of standard algorithms, and teacher directed instruction. An underlying premise of these standards was that such things did not promote "real world" or "relevant" mathematics, that computing by pencil and paper was akin to transportation by horse and buggy, and that "tedious drills" would stifle the creativity of the students. The NSF got into the act by encouraging states to align their math standards to the 1989 NCTM standards, and in addition, it started awarding millions of dollars in grants to those willing to develop curricula based on these standards.
The adherents of "reform" math missed the boat. By encouraging early calculator use (sometimes in kindergarten), by encouraging kids to develop their own algorithms and procedures, and by minimizing basic arithmetic, the result is a generation of kids, many of whom cannot divide .6 by .5 without a calculator. Mathematics, like music, has form and foundation. By way of analogy, if you apply the rational for reform math to music, you would likely say that the study and practice of scales will destroy the "creative processes" of the budding musician. However, musicians know that if you cannot play a scale, you cannot play a symphony. Once you set the foundation, you can branch off into real music. Similarly, the foundation of math is absent from the new programs and the end result is that kids cannot do math, they do not pursue math, and they do not pursue classes in the sciences.
Informed leadership at the highest levels would indeed be welcome, and I hope Professor Krauss's work will bring this issue to the forefront. Concerned politicians, as well as parents who are concerned about what their kids are or are not learning, can educate themselves at websites such as www.nychold.com, a comprehensive, non-partisan, educational website.
Colorado Springs, CO 80919
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007
Subject: Fuzzy Math
Thank you for your wonderful article about the epidemic of fuzzy math. You were right on!
I am currently homeschooling my children. I would like to share with you an event that took place a few years ago, precipitating the removal of our children from the public school. Mitchell, my then second-grader, brought home a worksheet from "Everyday Math." The assignment had been to estimate multiplication products. Mitchell had "estimated" that the product of 9 times 9 was 81, and the teacher marked it wrong. I went to meet with the teacher and defend my child's answer. The teacher opened up her book and showed me that the purpose of the exercise was not to get the right answer. The children were supposed to round each 9 up to a 10, and the "correct" answer was 100. (I am not sure the teacher even knew that 9 x 9 = 81, as it was not written in her book).
Marjorie in Maple Grove, MN
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007
Subject: Thank you for your column
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your powerful column "Fuzzy math: A nationwide epidemic"! Your timely column and the unwavering support provided by NYCHOLD (www.nychold.com) have given me even more reasons to be thankful this holiday season.
I urge you to continue to cover this important issue. As an engineer who worked in the Defense industry, I can tell you that our nation's future is at stake. There are many governmental agencies and companies that must have highly educated scientists and engineers who are American citizens. Due to national security, these jobs cannot be outsourced, nor can non-citizens in the US be hired. We must supply homegrown talent to continue the important work that safeguards this great nation. Our children will not develop the math skills required for these jobs if they continue to be "educated" with Everyday Math, TERC, Connected Math, and their ilk.
As a parent who has been fighting fuzzy math for over 2 years, it is heartening to see someone of your stature covering this issue. Your column gives me hope that together we can overturn the tidal wave of inferior math education that threatens to drown our children's future.
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Subject: Letter to Editor
As a founder of Where's the Math? in Washington State, I want to thank Michelle Malkin for shedding light on a national education crisis with her column entitled, "Fuzzy Math: A Nationwide Epidemic." If her school district is like many in this country, teachers have already been using some form of fuzzy math curriculum for years. Long enough that we can clearly see the results: students are not learning the most basic math functions. Parents that are paying attention to the homework their kids bring home, or the math book they use, recognize the deficiencies and are making their voices heard.
But the fuzzy math advocates are slick salesmen, riding in to bail out schools with more of the same failed curricula, like Everyday Math, claiming they can right the wrong they created in the first place! And, this is a lucrative activity; billions of dollars are lavished upon educators and Universities to promote these failed programs.
Close research of the claims made by proponents of programs like Everyday Math uncovers no valid scientific or controlled studies proving their effectiveness. There are plenty of slogans and suspect anecdotal information, but no hard evidence. They promise to close the achievement gap and get more kids to college. But instead we are seeing one of the greatest achievements gaps in history, and math remedial rates have soared.
More and more parents, mathematicians, and educators are waking up to these awful math programs, thanks in part to organizations like NYC HOLD If you want better math instruction for your kids, tell your school boards, your state education leaders, and your legislators that this nonsense must end.
Date: Dec 5, 2007
Subj: Everyday Math article
Dear Ms. Malkin,
I'd like to thank you for your recent article lambasting constructivist math. I'm a founding member of Where's The Math in the state of Washington, and it has been an uphill battle trying to restore some common sense to math education in our state. We've had school districts proudly proclaim that they no longer require students to memorize math facts because it interferes with their critical thinking skills. Those same districts eschew the standard American algorithms, as well as teaching by example. They push discovery and teacher as coach as the new and acceptable model of education. Meanwhile, every student that I tutor, whether in pre algebra or calculus, doesn't know his or her math facts, is unable to do simple calculations with fractions, can't read a math book, doesn't know how to take notes and can't work independently. If you dare to suggest to curriculum types that although flawed, the old system of example-based instruction, with books that actually had practice problems and some answers (in the back of the book) put men on the moon, and made us the world leaders in technology development, they'll more likely than not screech at you that that's an elitist point of view. So apparently their answer is to turn us into a third world country in a generation.
Washington State Office of Public Instruction has recently hired the Dana Center headed by Uri Treisman, to revise our state math standards. Unfortunately, the Dana Center has no experience writing world class standards (they worked on the Texas standards rated C by the Fordham Foundation). Needless to say we are most concerned that the same results will occur here.
Fortunately people like you with a national voice are beginning to realize the sheer folly of what educrats have been feeding us. Again, thank you for your article. I look forward to more from you on this issue.
Where's The Math
Date: Tue, 04 Dec 2007 12:23:10 -0800
Subject: Fuzzy Math by Michelle Malkin- letter to editor
Michelle Malkin is right about a nationwide fuzzy math epidemic. Our district, just outside of Seattle uses TERC Investigations which is even worse than Everyday Math. And teachers are told they can't teach in any other way, can't supplement, can't teach multiplication tables or long division, or any standard algorithms for that matter. I attended a district sponsored parent math meeting last year in which Ruth Parker, a guru of fuzzy math stated that children lose their ability to deeply comprehend math if they are taught standard algorithms. Thanks to this very damaging movement in education, our children are falling farther and farther behind their international peers.
We as parents must not allow this to continue in our public schools. We pay the bills and our children are the clients. We should all be writing our state representatives and school board members demanding that reform math (aka: fuzzy) be thrown out. Our children need to be taught real math to international standards or they will not be able to compete for the jobs of tomorrow. Already we are bringing in thousands of people from foreign countries to do jobs that require math proficiency -- because our kids aren't educated well enough to do them. This is bound to get worse if we don't act now. Thanks to organizations such as NYC HOLD and Where's the Math? for taking the lead in turning this crisis around.
Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2007
Subject: Michelle Malkin Fuzzy Math article
Thank you for printing Michelle Malkin's article "Fuzzy Math: A Nationwide Epidemic". You have done a great service to your readership by doing this.
I am a member of Where's the Math? in Washington State and can attest to the fact that the use of programs that avoid basic math skills and standard computation methods is truly insidious. How many kids can make change these days? Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars go into grants to Universities and textbook developers in an attempt to make these failed math programs succeed. They claim to teach "higher order thinking" but what we have gotten is soaring remedial math rates, and no valid evidence that these programs work.
The math portion of the Washington State assessment (WASL) is closely aligned with these programs, with predictable disastrous outcomes. These math scores are so drastically lower than the reading and writing scores that our state legislature was forced to delay passing the math WASL as a graduation requirement.
It's time for this nonsense to stop. Parents must demand of their school boards, legislators and their state boards of education that these programs be removed from the schools. They can visit www.nychold.com for information.
Richland, WA 99354
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2007 19:05:03 -0800
Subject: Copy of letter to Malkin
Thank you for your excellent fuzzy math article. About 10 years ago NSF money made it possible to push fuzzy math into the Shoreline school system. The results of that effort are now showing up at local colleges and universities. Between April 2006 and April 2007 a local community college tested 3,000 entering students. They found that 83% of the students had to take remedial math before taking a college level math course. If enough articles like yours are published maybe the public will get the message and demand substantive change. Keep up the good work
Where's The Math
Lake Forest Park, WA
Date: Dec 5, 2007
Subj: 'Fuzzy Math' Isn't Cuddly
Bravo for printing Michelle Malkin's column "Fuzzy Math' Isn't Cuddly in the November 28, 2007 NY Post. This dirty little educational secret deserves the attention as only your paper can dish it out.
Constructivist and discovery-based programs like Everyday Math and Investigations use unrecognizable and confusing methods and have damaged the foundations of elementary math, leaving students years behind peers learning math with more traditionally based programs like Singapore and Saxon math. State proficiency exams of fundamental concepts become demanding and challenging since children are ill-prepared to perform simple functions like addition and multiplication, let alone division and subtraction.
Parents in Plainview-Old Bethpage, Long Island said no more to fuzzy math last year. Our district was using Investigations, a program with no textbook and little actual math. Tired of grappling with McMath homework assignments and paying tutors to teach kids recognizable and basic math skills, things hit rock bottom when our state math test scores put our middle/upper middle class community at the bottom of the barrel county-wide while we are quite close to the top for school taxes and per-pupil spending.
A renegade parent-run insurgency formed, circulated an internet petition which quickly garnered almost 1000 signatures (there are only about 5000 kids in our schools) and used email blasts, local Pennysaver ads and media to rally the cause. We were supported by the local teacher's union (www.pobct.org) and national advocacy group NYC HOLD, www.nychold.com . We attended Board of Ed (BOE) meetings and questioned the Investigations math program and the constructivist leadership of our then superintendent, Dr. Martin Brooks. Math became the central issue of a contentious BOE election and three incumbents were replaced with traditional math supporters. Thankfully the BOE and new leadership in the administration positions of superintendent and curriculum superintendent have supported our return to recognizable, usable math skills.
Our math curriculum was overhauled over the summer and this fall a return to real math began. We will soon be piloting various traditional-based math programs. Please visit www.pobmath.com for more details and feel free to contract me with any questions you may have.
Plainview, New York
Sent: Saturday, December 01, 2007
Subject: 'Fuzzy Math'...
Michelle, p> I want to thank you for your article, Fuzzy Math Isn't Cuddly. It was candy to my heart and soul. It appears you have your finger on the pulse of this fuzzy fiasco.
You wrote about Matthew Clavel's article from City Journal and his frustration about the poor preparation of students' basic math facts, which is a monumental issue to many educators. The fuzzies never mention the good feeling (earned pride!) students have when they master these basic facts. These are those little achievements that cause a student to say, "I did it!"
I have been so fortunate to have tapped into an amazing network of concerned parents and teachers who have been waiting for this day, when someone finally stands up and shouts from the rafters, "The Emperor has no clothes! Reform Math is a fraud!" I didn't realize there were so many others who felt like me.. I've learned so much through the networking of NYCHOLD. When I first found their website, I thought I died and went to math heaven.
The following is an email I sent to Chancellor Klein in December of 2004.
"In March or April of 2004, we were advised that Chancellor Klein mandated every elementary school in NYC (even those who were exempt), to use Everyday Mathematics by September, 2004. And so, we are now using Everyday Mathematics in grades k - 3. It appears to have many flaws and we are keeping track of them.
"A colleague of mine brought the following Math Message for grade 3 to my attention. Math Messages are to be used as a warm-up, prompt, or a "Do Now" everyday!):
" 'Suppose you and your classmates are going to have a watermelon seed-spitting contest. How would you measure the distance the seeds travel? How would you pick the winner? Discuss with a partner.'
YOU begin accountable talk regarding seed-spitting?
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING WHEN THEY WROTE THIS??
I am keeping a log of all of this."
I received a "mechanical" response from the Chancellor's office that said ... nothing.
That year, I gave each of the 3rd Grade teachers a packet of watermelon seeds. No one planted them but we all had a good laugh.
The following September, 2005, EM was introduced to the 4th grade in my school. The teachers rolled up their sleeves and eagerly, began using the program as was directed. There was much information, but very little computation. The program was choppy. There were no student texts, only workbooks and reference books. Even the supplemental materials were not enough. By the middle of December, the teachers realized that what they were teaching (?) would not prepare their students for the NYS Mathematics Test. As I am a 4th grade math teacher, they kept telling me that they needed much more "teaching" time as the students were not being taught the necessary curriculum. We went to the principal and the teachers spoke. They were given permission to teach "what must be covered" as they saw fit.
These were not teachers who didn't want the program, they just recognized there was too much of fluff; not enough meat.
Please don't misunderstand. Teachers need to cover a certain curriculum by testing time. After the test, teachers teach students the math they will need to be prepared for the next grade...and life.
That spring, we invited several book publishers, to demonstrate their books. Everyday Math was kept in K-2 that year and this school year, Everyday Math is only used in K-1. The principal retired this past July 31st. We now have an IA Principal. I'll keep you posted.
Thank you, again for seeing and telling.
Grade 4 Mathematics Teacher
Brooklyn, New York
Dear Ms Malkin,
I was glad to see your article about the *Everyday Mathematics* program and its absurdities. There is nothing absurd about the ultimate effect of such programs, and now that they have been going on for ten or fifteen years those effects are being seen, and cannot be ignored. Parents with pitchforks are hounding school boards and curriculum committees all across the country, and several national web pages have reviews of the programs and accounts of the struggle.
Your article mentioned some of these, but omitted an important one, organized by "NYC HOLD" in New York City: http://nychold.com, a group of which I have long been a member. Alas, NYCHOLD has not been able to persuade successive New York City curriculum choices, and Everyday Math has been imposed on the children there ever since the present Mayor took office -- not that it was any better off under the prior administrations, when other fuzzy programs were in general use. Much of the blame for this degradation of school mathematics must be placed on the educational establishment itself, represented by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in this country. NCTM, with its so-called Standards, has long ago invaded and captured the "Education and Human Resources" division of the National Science Foundation (NSF-EHR for short) for projects totaling hundreds of millions of dollars in support for the creation of these substitutes for mathematics in the schools. Everyday Math is only one of several of these anti-math programs; others are called Mathland, the TERC *Ivestigations*, the Connected Mathematics Program ("CMP"), the College Preparatory Math program ("CPM"), Core-Plus, "MMOW" (Mathematics Modeling Our World), and IMP (Interactive Mathematics Program).
Bad as they are, if these books were merely on sale in the public market place the damage would be much less than it is, were not for our Congress donating millions "for education" every year to NSF-EHR to pass out to school districts pressing these programs on their students, with personnel from local schools of education around the country paid for coaching the teachers how to use them, in the schools that have been conned into adopting them.
That part is called "professional development" for the teachers, and it is a brainwashing operation, preparing a generation of teachers for degraded low-level math into the indefinite future. In a few years the replacement of these books alone will not be sufficient to turn us around, for the corps of teachers will itself have been levelled down to that of the programs approved by the authorities. Our teachers would have to be taught math all over again, to be able to teach the content of books with real math in them.
I do hope that for future columns you will look into this "federal-educationist" complex, and write about it so that the public will be able to see that the debate on an intellectual plane will not win without some really heavy political effort.
Ralph A. Raimi, Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Mathematics, Univ.of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627
Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2007 09:53:57 -0500
Subject: Fuzzy math
Dynamite article, Michelle. I'm not a regular reader of your column, but I heard about it through NYC-HOLD (http://www.nychold.com/).
In Montgomery County, Maryland, we fought a proposal to bring in Connected Math, a middle school program that is worse than Everyday Math. And we won, when a new superintendent arrived and killed the proposal. Unfortunately, his motivation was to quell the distraction from his own "reform" plans, which turned out to include aligning every subject of our K-8 curriculum to the fuzzy Maryland standards.
In particular, our algebra course is now aligned to Maryland's "pretend algebra" exit exam, which requires math skills at a 5th or 6th grade level. State educators admit this isn't real algebra, but defend it because "not every child needs real algebra."
I think it's worth trying to understand the motivations of educators. By and large, they are intelligent adults who care deeply about children. So why does fuzzy math hold such a tenacious appeal?
I think there are two principal motivations, one ideological and the other political:
Ideological motivation: Public education should strive for a community of learners, where all children are engaged in a common learning activity. To accomplish this, the curriculum is designed around engaging activities that require very little prior knowledge or skill. (Leading examples: statistics that emphasizes collecting data to make a bar graph, geometry that emphasizes vocabulary and exploring shapes rather than problem solving.)
Political motivation: Public education should (appear to) close the racial achievement gap. This is much easier if the curriculum objectives require very little prior knowledge or skill, and if they are the same year after year.
I think the ideological motivation is pervasive among educators, and the political motivation is pervasive among educator-politicians (school board members, superintendents, top administrators in school districts).
I'm taking the liberty of attaching an article I co-authored on Singapore Math for the current issue of Educational Leadership. http://www.nychold.com/art-hoven-el-0711.pdf
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 3:06 PM
TO Jewish World Review and Michelle Malkin:
Michelle Malkin has done a national service by discussing Everyday Math textbooks.
There is a trail from Everyday Math and similar books to remedial math in college: 1. Textbooks, like Everyday Math and state exams marginalize Arithmetic. About 45 states, have adopted and adapted the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' (NCTM) curriculum, which marginalizes arithmetic 2. Students do not learn enough Arithmetic, so they do not have the background to learn high school Algebra I properly. 3. They arrive in college, are relegated to remedial Arithmetic and Algebra. Some never make it past remedial Arithmetic and Algebra.
Consider these excerpts from: "Gains in Houston Schools: How Real Are They?" NY Times December 3, 2003:
"? Rosa Arevelo seemed the "Texas miracle" in motion. ? she passed the high school exam required for graduation on her first try. A program of college prep courses earned her the designation "Texas scholar."
"Rosa Arevelo graduated from Davis High with a B average."
"At the University of Houston, though, Ms. Arevelo discovered the distance between what Texas public schools called success and what she needed to know. ... She failed the college entrance exam in math twice, even with a year of remedial algebra. At 19, she gave up and went to trade school."
Similar stories are told in "At 2-Year Colleges, Students Eager but Unready" in The New York Times, September 2, 2006.
This trail exists in my state of Maryland. Students are Not Learning Arithmetic and Algebra and it is Getting worse.
The following data describes students who entered college at least minimally prepared in Math -- not requiring remedial Algebra or Arithmetic -- vs. those who needed remedial Arithmetic or remedial Algebra before being allowed to take college level math courses. In reviewing the numbers, they reveal that the situation went from bad in 1998 to worse in 2005 for all ethnic groups, but there were more dramatic downturns for African-American and Hispanic students.
Caveat. This particular data counted only students who graduated from Maryland high schools in 1998 and 2005 and then entered a college in Maryland (MD) the same year. (Not counted were graduates who went to college outside MD or did not go to college the same year.)
Drop in Percent of MD HS Graduates Minimally Ready for College Math when they entered a college in MD.
African-Americans 44% (1998) to 33% (2005)
Asian-Americans 79% (1998) to 74% (2005)
Hispanics 56% (1998) to 42% (2005)
Whites 67% (1998) to 60% (2005)
Analysis based on data by Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) Student Outcome and Achievement Report (SOAR).
These dramatic downturns were predicted by the College Professors' Petition to Upgrade Maryland's Mathematics Standards at www.math.umd.edu/~jnd/subhome/petition_w_sign.htm.
A likely Cause for the downturn: Under the specter of the MD School Assessments (MSAs) and High School Assessments (HSAs), school administrators have been organizing the instructional programs around the MSAs and MD (HSAs), that is, bending the instructional programs out of shape to order to teach to the state tests. But, the MD Math exams emphasize superficial statistics and has students rely on calculators. It avoids the arithmetic and arithmetic-based Algebra, like knowing that 3x + 2x = 5x, that students will need in college,.
High school Algebra I used to be quite similar to college Algebra. No more! As Dr. Ronald Williams, (a vice president of the College Board and past President, Prince George's Community College, (in MD)) noted: There is a chasm between what students are learning in high school math and what colleges demand (arithmetic and arithmetic-based Algebra).
Having students rely on calculators is a very good strategy if the only goal is to have students pass the MD HSA on [calculator-based and Arithmetic avoidance] Algebra. But this is setting-up graduates to take remedial arithmetic and remedial arithmetic-based Algebra I in college.
"It's the math that's killing us,'' noted Donna McKusik, the senior director of remedial education at the Community College of Baltimore County. More than one in four college remedial students work on elementary and middle school arithmetic. (The New York Times, September 2, 2006) It is this necessary Arithmetic, which has been downplayed by the MD MSAs on Math and which is neither reviewed nor reinforced by the MD HSA on Algebra. Math is where students often lose confidence and give up on Community College.
College math professors are distressed by the low level of understanding of arithmetic and arithmetic-based Algebra by masses of college students. This is why the MD/DC/VA SECTION of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) has broken tradition by issuing its first statement ever on the College Professors' Concerns on Mathematical Preparedness of Incoming College Freshmen. I paraphrase its key recommendation as: Students should be able to perform basic calculations in Arithmetic and in Algebra, without the assistance of calculators. Thus, the Algebra I, needed for college, is largely excluded from the MD HSA on Algebra.
Related Data from MD. These is a bigger crisis for African-American and Hispanics male students. In 2005, for each 100 African-American female graduates, there were only 67 African-American male graduates and for each 100 Hispanics female graduates, there were only 83 Hispanics male graduates In 1998, among African-American graduates, there were 1586 females, but only 1110 males who were minimally ready for college Math. Both these numbers went down in spite of increased college enrollments of females by 21% and males by 31%. In 2005, among African-American graduates, there were 1444 females, and only 1075 males who were minimally ready for college Math.
Notes: "College Professors' Concerns on Mathematical Preparedness of Incoming College Freshmen" is accessible by clicking on a left sidebar at http://mddcvamaa.org. The MAA is the Mathematical Association of America, the professional association for college math instruction, of college and community college professors of mathematics. Also see my COMMENTS ON STATEMENT ON MATHEMATICS PREPAREDNESS at www.math.umd.edu/~jnd/On.MD.MAA%20.htm
The 2006 SOAR report (2004 data) may be accessed at
www.mhec.state.md.us/publications/research/index.asp. Scroll down to
annual reports/SOAR reports. The principal author is Mike Keller,
Also see my report, "Notes on Remedial Math Problem" on my Math Education Website:
Jerome Dancis, Ph.D. (math)
Math Education Website: www.math.umd.edu\~jnd
Date:1:07 pm Wed, 5 Dec 2007
Congratulations for summarizing so well the frustrations many of us
have experienced with reform math programs. It is articles such as
yours and the perseverance of organizations like NYC HOLD that call
attention to this national education crisis. Five years ago, my
suburban school district in Dublin, Ohio bucked the trend of using
Everyday Mathematics like the majority of Ohio schools and instead
implemented TERC's Investigations, a curriculum considered by some to
be worse than Everyday Mathematics. For example, my son needed to
know what I was afraid of for a math assignment. His class graphed
their fears and compared them with the fears of parents when they were
young. What am I afraid of? I am afraid that my children are not
learning math, and when they go to college they will not be able to
become the engineers and scientists they want to be. The title of
Fuseli's painting, The Nightmare, would properly describe my
experience with constructivist math. If our country wants to compete
in a global world, our children need to learn real math, not the
"pseudo variety", which emphasizes writing, drawing and philosophy
more than numbers.
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2007
Subject: Regarding Andy Isaacs' letter to the editor, published Dec. 9, 2007
To the editor:
Regarding Andy Isaacs letter concerning Everyday Mathematics (Dec. 9,
2007: "It Adds Up"): Mr. Isaacs claims EM uses "the most effective
research-based methods from around the world" and that the "U.S.
Department of Education has rated EM higher than any other elementary
Excuse me? What body of research is Mr. Isaacs talking about? Is he
talking about the research that the National Research Council reviewed
in its study "On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness"? (Sept 2004) For
that study, NRC reviewed hundreds of research studies associated with
the NSF-funded math programs, including EM and concluded that "the
corpus of evaluation studies as a whole across the 19 programs studied
does not permit one to determine the effectiveness of individual
programs with a high degree of certainty, due to the restricted number
of studies for any particular curriculum, limitations in the array of
methods used, and the uneven quality of the studies. ? Inconclusive
findings such as these do not permit one to determine conclusively
whether the programs overall are effective or ineffective."
Or perhaps Mr. Isaacs meant the U.S. Department of Education's
findings in its "What Works Clearinghouse" (WWC)? Let's have a look.
The WWC evaluates research on the various math programs, and 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. According to Elizabeth
Carson, Director of NYC HOLD, the non-partisan advocacy organization
devoted to math education: "Pendred Noyce has a vested interest in
Everyday Math in that she has formed associations with several reform
math initiatives including COMAP for which she serves on the Board of
Directors and which is dedicated to implementation of Everyday Math."
As for the data in New York City showing improvements, recent news
stories have disclosed how New York State has given accommodations to
more fourth-graders than any other state in the nation for the NAEP
exam. And for the ten other major cities participating in NAEP, New
York City gave more help than any of these other cities.
Notwithstanding these details, it is fairly well-known that it is
impossible to tease out of NAEP and other test data whether and to
what extent test scores are a measure of the effectiveness of learning
centers such as Sylvan, Huntington, Kumon and others to which parents
are flocking. Nor is it possible to tease out the extent of the
effectiveness of supplementary materials that teachers may use on the
sly. And of course, we don't know how the test scores reflect the
teaching that parents do every night to keep their kids one step ahead
of the impending train wreck known as Everyday Math.
To Steve Giegerich
Congratulations, your article made the education underground. I
happen to be a fairly knowledgeable and strong supporter of Singapore
Math. My concern is that the description summarized by the photograph
and the quote, "The Singapore program encourages students, working in
teams of two, to formulate and then answer problems of their own
making," is unrecognizable from my perspective of the Singapore
materials. Since the students of the picture are 8 and 9 and the
article talks about third grade, one would assume that they would be
following the content of the Singapore 3A book. That's a real book
and available from the linked SingaporeMath.com. Not close to, "not a
math book in sight."
Although my copies are unavailable at the moment, I do not remember
seeing anything close to the described development of division.
Moreover, calculating 3,589 divided by two by "beads carefully
separated and counted" is beyond ridiculous - pure time wasting - and
nothing close to anything that I've seen in the Singapore curriculum.
Obviously, I do not know what a combination of "the Singapore program
with a Japanese method of teaching math" means but I have seen
Japanese math curricula and find this unrecognizable there as well.
It appears to be much closer to the "reform math" philosophy that's
been being pushed decade after decade, not the Asian math it is
purported to be. I can only think, "bait and switch."
I hope that I'm wrong, of course, but I invite you to take another
look at this class of this school. This time, don't be content with
the absence of a Singapore book but ask to see them. Specifically ask
to see the four booklets for the grade level that, I assume, should be
the two content booklets 3A and 3B and accompanying work booklets.
The year should be about halfway through and that should give you some
guidance as to where they should be working so compare the problems,
especially the word problems, and have the students show you their
work. My guess is that you'll get a second story out of this and one
that is far more informative about the school than the one you wrote.
I'd be delighted to eat some humble pie if that turns out to be
appropriate but my educated guess is that you will be shocked as you
become better educated.
Wayne Bishop, Ph.D.
December 7, 2007 -- THE ISSUE: Whether new methods of teaching math
provide sufficient education.
Congratulations to The Post for running Michelle Malkin's "Fuzzy Math
Isn't Cuddly" (PostOpinion, Nov. 28).
It is a pleasure to read a description of the problems with fuzzy math
written by someone who actually understands. I wish there were more
written on the subject from Malkins's accurate perspective.
Many readers are interested in this issue, and many of them are
parents who are afraid to speak up to their school boards to protest
the bad math programs being implemented for fear of retribution.
Columns such as Malkin's help give people courage to fight this
epidemic. Thanks to The Post for its coverage - and courage.
As a math teacher, I am deeply offended by educrats who use the word
"math" to push a non-math curriculum.
The use of "new math" is nothing more than the politically correct
practice of dumbing-down the curriculum, mostly to provide the
illusion of success to parents and to make schools look good.
The "new math" lacks math. Neither my colleagues nor myself have seen
these students obtain a deep understanding of mathematics.
Students who are exposed to the new math have an uphill battle when
they reach high school, especially when they take the SATs.
The old computer term GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is perfectly
I live in an Everyday Math district in Pennsylvania, and while scores
on our state test, the PSSA, are rising, our SAT scores are dropping.
Our state standards and the PSSA are aligned with constructivist
programs like Everyday Math. Even a perfect score on the PSSA does
not ensure that a student knows the math that he should at his grade
A child could be getting straight As in Everyday Math and still be
counting on his fingers.
I have heard Everyday Math referred to as "Every Night Math" because
every night parents are teaching their children the math they should
be learning in school or driving them to tutoring centers to
supplement their education.
Ridgewood NJ: George Hadjoglou ("Stop slamming NY's math curriculum -
it works for us" Op-Ed, Dec 26) highlights the major problem with
public education: Administrators don't listen to the valid concerns of
parents and experts. Everyday Mathematics prepares children only for
dependence on calculators and for remediation in college. How many
parents send their children for math tutoring? How many teachers
quietly supplement Everday Math? On these subjects, Hadjoglou's words
Whitestone: Everyday Mathematics is ridiculous and has been from the
start. My son's teacher had to dig up 1980s math workbooks that were
on their way into garbage, because his class started the year knowing
nothing about basic math skills.
Return to the NYC HOLD main page or to the News page or to the Letters and Testimony page.
Associate Professor Emeritus
Department of Mathematics,
Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-4015
National Advisor, NYC HOLD
McLean, VA 22101
Sent: Friday, January 04, 2008 11:48 PM
Subject: Re: [NYCMATHFORUM] Singapore Math in St. Louis school
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, LA
Published Letters to the Editor
The New York Post
Math = Junk, Letters to the Editor.
The New York Daily News
just ... ... doesn't add up, Letters, Saturday, December 29,
Also see my report, "Notes on Remedial Math Problem" on my Math Education Website: www.math.umd.edu\~jnd
Jerome Dancis, Ph.D. (math)
Math Education Website: www.math.umd.edu\~jnd
Date:1:07 pm Wed, 5 Dec 2007
Congratulations for summarizing so well the frustrations many of us have experienced with reform math programs. It is articles such as yours and the perseverance of organizations like NYC HOLD that call attention to this national education crisis. Five years ago, my suburban school district in Dublin, Ohio bucked the trend of using Everyday Mathematics like the majority of Ohio schools and instead implemented TERC's Investigations, a curriculum considered by some to be worse than Everyday Mathematics. For example, my son needed to know what I was afraid of for a math assignment. His class graphed their fears and compared them with the fears of parents when they were young. What am I afraid of? I am afraid that my children are not learning math, and when they go to college they will not be able to become the engineers and scientists they want to be. The title of Fuseli's painting, The Nightmare, would properly describe my experience with constructivist math. If our country wants to compete in a global world, our children need to learn real math, not the "pseudo variety", which emphasizes writing, drawing and philosophy more than numbers.
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2007 Subject: Regarding Andy Isaacs' letter to the editor, published Dec. 9, 2007
To the editor:
Regarding Andy Isaacs letter concerning Everyday Mathematics (Dec. 9, 2007: "It Adds Up"): Mr. Isaacs claims EM uses "the most effective research-based methods from around the world" and that the "U.S. Department of Education has rated EM higher than any other elementary mathematics program".
Excuse me? What body of research is Mr. Isaacs talking about? Is he talking about the research that the National Research Council reviewed in its study "On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness"? (Sept 2004) For that study, NRC reviewed hundreds of research studies associated with the NSF-funded math programs, including EM and concluded that "the corpus of evaluation studies as a whole across the 19 programs studied does not permit one to determine the effectiveness of individual programs with a high degree of certainty, due to the restricted number of studies for any particular curriculum, limitations in the array of methods used, and the uneven quality of the studies. ? Inconclusive findings such as these do not permit one to determine conclusively whether the programs overall are effective or ineffective."
Or perhaps Mr. Isaacs meant the U.S. Department of Education's findings in its "What Works Clearinghouse" (WWC)? Let's have a look. The WWC evaluates research on the various math programs, and 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. According to Elizabeth Carson, Director of NYC HOLD, the non-partisan advocacy organization devoted to math education: "Pendred Noyce has a vested interest in Everyday Math in that she has formed associations with several reform math initiatives including COMAP for which she serves on the Board of Directors and which is dedicated to implementation of Everyday Math."
As for the data in New York City showing improvements, recent news stories have disclosed how New York State has given accommodations to more fourth-graders than any other state in the nation for the NAEP exam. And for the ten other major cities participating in NAEP, New York City gave more help than any of these other cities. Notwithstanding these details, it is fairly well-known that it is impossible to tease out of NAEP and other test data whether and to what extent test scores are a measure of the effectiveness of learning centers such as Sylvan, Huntington, Kumon and others to which parents are flocking. Nor is it possible to tease out the extent of the effectiveness of supplementary materials that teachers may use on the sly. And of course, we don't know how the test scores reflect the teaching that parents do every night to keep their kids one step ahead of the impending train wreck known as Everyday Math.
To Steve Giegerich
(STLToday article here)
Congratulations, your article made the education underground. I happen to be a fairly knowledgeable and strong supporter of Singapore Math. My concern is that the description summarized by the photograph and the quote, "The Singapore program encourages students, working in teams of two, to formulate and then answer problems of their own making," is unrecognizable from my perspective of the Singapore materials. Since the students of the picture are 8 and 9 and the article talks about third grade, one would assume that they would be following the content of the Singapore 3A book. That's a real book and available from the linked SingaporeMath.com. Not close to, "not a math book in sight."
Although my copies are unavailable at the moment, I do not remember seeing anything close to the described development of division. Moreover, calculating 3,589 divided by two by "beads carefully separated and counted" is beyond ridiculous - pure time wasting - and nothing close to anything that I've seen in the Singapore curriculum. Obviously, I do not know what a combination of "the Singapore program with a Japanese method of teaching math" means but I have seen Japanese math curricula and find this unrecognizable there as well. It appears to be much closer to the "reform math" philosophy that's been being pushed decade after decade, not the Asian math it is purported to be. I can only think, "bait and switch."
I hope that I'm wrong, of course, but I invite you to take another look at this class of this school. This time, don't be content with the absence of a Singapore book but ask to see them. Specifically ask to see the four booklets for the grade level that, I assume, should be the two content booklets 3A and 3B and accompanying work booklets. The year should be about halfway through and that should give you some guidance as to where they should be working so compare the problems, especially the word problems, and have the students show you their work. My guess is that you'll get a second story out of this and one that is far more informative about the school than the one you wrote. I'd be delighted to eat some humble pie if that turns out to be appropriate but my educated guess is that you will be shocked as you become better educated.
Wayne Bishop, Ph.D.
December 7, 2007 -- THE ISSUE: Whether new methods of teaching math provide sufficient education.
Congratulations to The Post for running Michelle Malkin's "Fuzzy Math Isn't Cuddly" (PostOpinion, Nov. 28).
It is a pleasure to read a description of the problems with fuzzy math written by someone who actually understands. I wish there were more written on the subject from Malkins's accurate perspective.
Many readers are interested in this issue, and many of them are parents who are afraid to speak up to their school boards to protest the bad math programs being implemented for fear of retribution.
Columns such as Malkin's help give people courage to fight this epidemic. Thanks to The Post for its coverage - and courage.
As a math teacher, I am deeply offended by educrats who use the word "math" to push a non-math curriculum.
The use of "new math" is nothing more than the politically correct practice of dumbing-down the curriculum, mostly to provide the illusion of success to parents and to make schools look good.
The "new math" lacks math. Neither my colleagues nor myself have seen these students obtain a deep understanding of mathematics.
Students who are exposed to the new math have an uphill battle when they reach high school, especially when they take the SATs.
The old computer term GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) is perfectly applicable.
I live in an Everyday Math district in Pennsylvania, and while scores on our state test, the PSSA, are rising, our SAT scores are dropping.
Our state standards and the PSSA are aligned with constructivist programs like Everyday Math. Even a perfect score on the PSSA does not ensure that a student knows the math that he should at his grade level.
A child could be getting straight As in Everyday Math and still be counting on his fingers.
I have heard Everyday Math referred to as "Every Night Math" because every night parents are teaching their children the math they should be learning in school or driving them to tutoring centers to supplement their education.
Ridgewood NJ: George Hadjoglou ("Stop slamming NY's math curriculum - it works for us" Op-Ed, Dec 26) highlights the major problem with public education: Administrators don't listen to the valid concerns of parents and experts. Everyday Mathematics prepares children only for dependence on calculators and for remediation in college. How many parents send their children for math tutoring? How many teachers quietly supplement Everday Math? On these subjects, Hadjoglou's words fall short.
Whitestone: Everyday Mathematics is ridiculous and has been from the start. My son's teacher had to dig up 1980s math workbooks that were on their way into garbage, because his class started the year knowing nothing about basic math skills.
Return to the NYC HOLD main page or to the News page or to the Letters and Testimony page.