Press Release, April 26, 2005
On Tuesday, April 26th, the parent group "Parents Concerned with Penfield's Math Programs" will present a petition to the Penfield Board of Education requesting that all students in Penfield Public Schools have the choice of a traditional math program. The meeting will be held at Penfield High School at 7 PM in Room G-018.
This parent group, consisting of 70 active members, was formed in January 2005 in response to changes in the math program that started in Penfield in 1999. The new math programs, sometimes referred to as "reformed math", are called TERC Investigations in the elementary schools, Connected Math in the middle school, and Core Plus in the High School.
More than 600 residents (18 years of age or older) have signed the petition. The Penfield Math petition states:
"We, the undersigned, state that the Investigations, Connected Math, and Core Plus Math programs, recently implemented in the Penfield School District, do not teach the fundamental math skills that children must know to succeed in furthering their education. We therefore ask that a traditional math program be offered as a choice for all Penfield students."
Traditional math refers to teaching methods in which concepts are taught, examples are given, then students would be asked to work on sample problems. Supplemental information regarding this issue has been attached.
Contact: Bill Munch
Founder, "Parents Concerned with Penfield's Math Programs"
1 Peabody Circle
Penfield, NY 14526
The new "reformed" math program is based on a philosophy of teaching referred to as "constructivism." The basic idea is that you do not teach students basic skills, but rather have students figure out how to do the math on their own. The reformed math programs starts in elementary school, and continues through pre-Calculus in High School. As parents, our experiences tell us that students learn more slowly and learn less material with the new math program. A real limitation of this method of teaching is not only are basic concepts not taught, but there is almost no reference material if you do get stuck.
The problem with this method of teaching is that students never master the basic skills such as multiplication in elementary school, since the reformed math methods have such a strong dependence on calculators. Memorization of multiplication tables, parents are told, is called "drill and kill" and will make students lose interest in mathematics. What actually happens, though, is that once students get into middle school, they don't have the basic number sense needed to understand algebra and geometry. Then, by high school with weak algebra and geometry skills, students are lost and not prepared for college math.
A big problem is that this new reformed math program that is being pushed by Penfield School administrators, yet many Penfield Parents have a real problem with this method of teaching. In many cases, to make up for what is missing, Penfield parents are tutoring at home, paying for tutoring, or in the most severe cases, they have put their students into private schools. Also, this issue is so severe that many Penfield parents when asked by potential homebuyers are saying that they should buy homes in districts that don't have this reformed math program.
The protest of these reformed math programs, sometimes referred to as "Math Wars", is going on across the United States in city after city, typically because parents see their students not learning basic math skills.
Here are some example comments that Penfield parents have said about this program:
My 5th grade daughter cannot divide 2 numbers to save her life. I spend part of the summer teaching her math methods that are not learned in school.
Investigations was an immediate disaster for my 3rd grade daughter. She is now in 7th grade and relies primarily on home tutoring to learn the concepts.
It was disturbing to us that both children received high grades on math report cards, yet they knew absolutely nothing about the fundamentals.
The new math doesn't make sense, and it isn't practical in the "real" world.
I have tried to address the math issue several times with teachers and administration but without any luck. PCS needs to answer to all of the parents (and taxpayers). It's about time!
I do not like the new math - I have never liked the new math - my son did average work in math until 5th grade when he started the new math - ever since then it has been one disappointment after another.
Our son has had an ongoing battle trying to get a grasp on the "new math" with no success.
We have felt the intimidation - by teachers towards us when we have confronted them about the new math and also teachers who were afraid to voice their opinions on the "new math".
Critical thinking is important but knowing the basics of math should be at the top of the priority list when teaching math.
We have had many a frustrated, tearful night over homework, tests, and grades as a result of this math. Our son's self-confidence with math has been marred and it is something a parent does not want to see in their son or daughter.
It turns our stomach to think of what we have to pay for school taxes, and our children are not getting the appropriate instruction, and thus we as parents are desperate for help, as such we need to pay extra for it (through tutors).
My kid's experience with this has been awful!
When I first started researching Connected Math with teachers, I found them not responsive. I later was told that they were admonished by the school system not to talk to parents about Connected Math. It seems that the school system does not know, or forgot, who the customers are.
Core plus might work for some kids, but not for mine. I have felt that Core Plus was especially devastating to my daughter's original affinity to math. Not only did she not get the concepts any longer, she hated the process. Within two years, she went from an A+ math student to a C- math student. Her confidence and problem solving ability have been shaken which are the components Core Plus uses as strengths.
The current math program is lacking, and we have spent over $100 per month per child for tutoring - a total of over $25,000!
My daughters have had much difficulty learning math through the "Connected Math" program that is being used in Penfield. Our oldest daughter has suffered the most; her years at Bay Trail served only to confuse her and left many gaps. Her resource teachers had to try to re-teach what the math classroom was presenting and, in addition, provide compensatory instruction and alternative strategies. She understood very little, and remembers less of the "connected math" lessons and concepts.
All of this supplemental material and instruction has been extremely costly in time and money to our family. Is there any way to hold Penfield Schools accountable for the lack of appropriate and adequate instruction? We don't seem to be getting a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in Penfield.
I absolutely do not believe that Connected Math is beneficial to our children's education, just the opposite.
The rhetoric being preached about teaching kids "to think" is not giving them enough core foundation and repetitive practice that makes math second nature. I find it hard to believe anyone thinks the current programs are making our kids better at math. Too many parents figure they just don't understand the "new math" and just give in.
As parents with engineering degrees, we are concerned about the "Connected Math" approach which attempt to teach kids how to solve complex problems before giving them the tools with which to work.
Although our children are grown and had to go to private schools in order to receive exceptional high level math instruction they needed, I have never given up the advocacy. All of our neighbors throughout our lives in Penfield on two different streets sent their children to private schools for the same reasons.
* I have written a letter of dissatisfaction with Penfield's math program, but I did not get a response.
BILL MUNCH Founder, "Parents Concerned with Penfield's Math Programs"
[Please see also Presentation of a Mathematics Petition to Penfield Board of Education, by Bill Munch. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org]
For more about the Penfield, NY, Mathematics curriculum controversy please visit Parents Concerned With Penfield's Math Programs and see the NYC HOLD summary page Controversy over Mathematics in Penfield, NY, Public Schools.
Return to the New York City HOLD main page, the NYC HOLD News page, or the NYC HOLD Letters and Testimony page.