Testimony of Ginny Donnelly , parent ECC and JHS 104
I'm speaking as a District 2 parent and as a classroom volunteer. For the
past 8 years, I've spent one day a week in the classroom, coming to focus on
For the first 3 years, there was a wonderful math program at ECC. It
combined Miquon math workbooks with manipulatives, word problems and various
worksheets. My daughter's favorite was the workbooks. I thought that was a
bit strange till I started observing that between a third and half of the
kids in every class felt the same. Contrary to popular belief, many kids
enjoy working with numbers. This curriculum provided a real conceptual
understanding of math. I saw most of the first and second graders exhibit a
clearer understanding of fractions, for example, than I now see in most 6th
graders who are using CMP.
Then came TERC. My daughter found 95% of her math classes boring, 5%
frustrating because she was asked to figure out problems for which she had
not been given the proper groundwork. And the endless writing that makes math
harder for kids with language issues, and that kids who love math hate! Last
year a group of 6th graders were discussing writing to the district to
complain that math had been turned into Language Arts 2.
But my daughter, and the comparatively few other kids who love math and will
learn no matter how it's taught, will be okay. Bored, not working up to
their potential, but okay. I know of two kids, based on my observation and
parents' reports, who've really benefited from TERC & CMP. My heart breaks
for the hundreds of other kids who fall farther behind each year. The kids
who, in the words of a student teacher, "can explain anything to death, but
can't get the right answer." The kids who make mistakes because of how
they're taught: the second grader who used "friendly numbers" to subtract 13
from 31 and got 24.* Her teacher knew that answer was wrong but couldn't
figure out why. The dozen 6th graders who insisted that you find the median
of any data by folding the graph because the hands-on activity they did was
writing numbers on a strip of paper and folding it in half.
Some teachers don't like TERC & CMP but teach them because they have to.
Others say they like the programs, but after a few enthusiastic sentences
start mentioning how they need to be supplemented. The only people I know
who completely support these programs are staff developers whose professional
pride is at stake.
Over and over I've seen that the kids who can't calculate are the ones who
don't get the concepts either. They don't know which operations to use; they
don't know what numbers to punch into the calculator. The ones who know
enough math to calculate the right answer are the ones who understand the
Keith Devlin, mathematician and senior researcher at
Stanford, writes in his
book The Math Gene, published in 2000, that mathematicians don't have to be
experts at calculating. But he adds, "What…we know about the way the brain
works…suggests…drill is probably not a dispensable component of mathematical
education. Repetitive practice is as important in learning how to do
mathematics as it is in learning how to play tennis or to play the guitar."
For the sake of our children, please let District 2 use math curricula that
teach them math!
*I didn't have time to explain how. She took 1 from the 31 and 3 from the
13, then subtracted the "friendly numbers": 30 - 10 = 20. She knew she had
to put back the 4 she'd taken out, so 20 + 1 + 3 = 24. Neither she nor the
teacher understood that in taking the 3 from the 13 she was subtracting a
negative number, which is the same as adding a positive number. To put the 3
back in, she'd have to subtract 3: 20 + 1 - 3 = 18, the correct answer. I
think regrouping, as borrowing is now called, might be easier to explain to a