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the second link isn’t correct.

I’ve come across this blog before. It appears she wrote about Everyday Math being used in DC.

It’s located here.

She appears to think Everyday Math is just fine. So does a commenter named Tom who is an engineer. Tom doesn’t tell us how much he teaches his daughters at home. Perhaps if he’s reading this, he will do us that favor.

The blog author also says “There’s also a rumor that EDM is being phased out in DCPS. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I hope not. EDM teaches children to think and reason, and they won’t learn that from traditional math programs.”

It’s fun to blog when you can make such pronouncements, isn’t it? I’ve worked with students who were casualties of EDM. One girl said she wasn’t very smart because she didn’t know which multiplication procedure to use for particular problems. (EDM teaches four or five, and though the blog author states that partial products is the main one, it is not the standard one which is the most efficient, nor is much emphasis placed on learning it.) The spiral approach assumes if kids don’t learn it now they’ll learn it later, and so moves on to the next topic before some students have mastered the topic. When they see it again the following year, there is rarely a connection with its initial presentation and now they have the extra added bonus of seeing the same concept presented in yet another way. The thinking and reasoning that dcteacherchic thinks is happening is not. It was in the traditional math approach which she decries and which was how I imagine that Tom the engineer with two daughters learned his math. There is a belief, propagated through ed schools and other channels that there is a difference between “doing exercises” and “solving problems”. Traditional math is viewed as providing students with the former. In fact, the procedural fluency that develops as a result of “mere exercises” allows for the “critical thinking” skills to emerge. Traditional math is more than simple memorization and rote, and certainly did not skimp on explaining what multiplication is, and what types of problems can be solved using it–somethig dcteacherchic and other like her seems to think is lacking in the traditional approach.

Singapore’s math textbooks, which are available over the internet have been used by many homeschoolers in the US with great success. They have even been used in some schools in the US. For a time they were used in grades K-3 in the Powell Elementary School in DC. Perhaps dcteacherchic can ask Michelle Rhee about that. Singapore’s students, as has been documented many times in the press, score in the top on the international TIMSS exam given every three years. Naysayers pooh pooh such results as saying that the TIMSS exam tests the ability to do “mere exercises” but not creative problem solving. For some reason, however, US students cannot even do the “mere exercises”.

While this bothers many parents, it doesn’t seem to bother the decision makers on school boards who swallow hook, line, and sinker the marketing and hype used to sell the snake-oil that passes for mathematics in this country. I know it bothers some teachers who are stuck with such curricula.

Kudos to Broad and Dr. Fryer. It is about time that the education space starts rigorously testing intervnetions.

What is it with the Singapore Math Posse bashing Everyday Math? I don’t have anything against SM per se, and I suspect it’s not as different from EM as the blogosphere seems to think it is. I just blogged about EM here: http://tinyurl.com/4x4ybt and tried to convince another Singapore Math advocate to give EM a chance here: http://tinyurl.com/49ggcg , but let me plug it again.

Just like Teacher Chic, I taught EM in DC. And just like her, my students greatly improved their number sense and ability to solve problems. Don’t believe me? I’d also point out that EM is the only math curriculum to meet the standards of the What Works Clearinghouse. Check out Chad’s post about that over on http://www.quickanded.com.

While I hope that “Mr. Dewey” will consider giving EM a fair trial, I suspect his anonymity hides one of two things: a lack of practical experience teaching these curricula, or a hidden interest in the expanded adoption of Singapore Math.

Everyday Math is very difficult for students who transfer into a school system from one that doesn’t use it.

I don’t doubt that it’s tricky to transfer into an Everyday Math classroom. But I don’t think it would be hard for an EM student to switch to any other curriculum. So which do we prefer? Teaching math in a way that ties children to archaic algorithms, or teaching mathematical thinking that’s applicable to any situation or method?

To my ardent fans and paparrazi:

My anonymity is to prevent retribution from school administrators who may not like what I have to say about the programs they have adopted. I have a daughter in school and do not want her to bear the burden of angry administrators. I also have been taking classes in ed school and do not want my opinions to taint my grades and/or standing.

As for hiding behind anonymity because of a “hidden interest” to expand Singapore Math, my interest in seeing good and proven math texts used in public schools has been far from hidden. I am not wedded only to Singapore Math but to any text that presents math in a clear, logically sequential and coherent fashion. These would include but are not necessarily limited to Saxon Math and Sadlier Oxford’s series. Addison Wesley’s math series is fairly good as well.

Regarding practical experience, while I do not yet teach in a classroom, I have tutored many young students and have seen the casualty cases left in the wake of Everyday Math. I have seen bright students confused about “which algorithm” to use for multiplication, thinking that the choices that EM offers are for a reason. Their number sense is generally poor and they are rather dependent on calculators. I have tutored my own daughter using Singapore Math, and saw its effectiveness first hand. EM’s lack of a textbook makes it difficult for parents to follow what their kids are learning. Parents struggling to help their kids do the assignment in their workbook/journals will frequently ask “What did the teacher say about how to solve these problems?” When their child says “I don’t know”, there is no textbook to look at to see what instruction has actually been given. And very little instruction is in fact given, since the desired conduct of such classes is to divide the class into the ubiquitous “small groups” which the education field is so fond of, group slow learners with faster learners to make up for dumping kids of various abilities all in one classroom, and hope that the kids who are either getting it on their own, or through the benefit of help from parents, tutors or Kumon/Sylvan/Huntington can explain it to the strugglers.

A casual glance at a workbook page of EM will not disclose the problem of this curriculum. In fact, the approach to multiplying fractions by fractions is to have students fold paper in halves, say, open them up and fold in the other direction in thirds to see how 1/2 x 2/3 = 2/6 (or 1/3). Singapore Math uses the same technique, and uses the rectangle area model as the means to explain multiplication by fractions. The difference is that Singapore advances towards this lesson in a single unit on fractions that builds upon skills learned in previous lessons, stays on topic and does not diverge into a lesson on how to measure angles in the middle of the unit on fractions. Also, it builds upon skills and concepts mastered in previous grades, while EM’s spiral approach starts from scratch and first principles almost each and every time. This results in a confusion/haze of “I’ve seen this before, why am I getting this again?”

Furthermore, back to the example of paper folding, Singapore spends two examples using paper folding, as opposed to a full class time of ten such exercises, advances quickly to using diagrams to explain what’s going on, and actually leads the student through examples to see how multiplication of fractions work. It gets to the heart of it more quickly–and yes, the teacher has a big role in guiding the students through it. There are also many more problems that students must solve, thus building up proficiency. Though the cherished belief in ed school is that problem solving leads to mind numbing and is “rote” and “drill”, procedural efficiency actually leads to understanding. I can refer you to papers on the subject if you wish.

While Everyday Math uses a form of the bar model that Singapore is famous for, they do so only once, never to be heard from again. They use it to explain how to multiply a whole number by a fraction. Singapore starts with bar modeling from as early as 3rd grade and uses it in a consistent approach throughout all six grades, to integrate the understanding of part/whole relationships in whole numbers and eventually the part/whole relationships in fractions. This systematic and sequential approach has worked well, and results in students being able to solve rather complex multi-step problems in fifth and sixth grade, and providing a firm background for algebra later.

Regarding the What Works Clearinghouse, I am no stranger to that outfit and what they said about Everyday Math. Let’s have a look. The Deparment’s “What Works Clearinghouse” which evaluates research on the various math programs, reviewed 61 Everyday Math studies. The findings: Of those 61 studies, none met evidence standards, 4 met evidence standards with reservations and 57 did not meet evidence screens. The WWC found Everyday Mathematics to have potentially positive effects on math achievement based on one study alone: the 2001 Riordan & Noyce study. Just so everyone is on the same page, Pendred Noyce has a vested interest in Everyday Math in that she has formed associations with several reform math initiatives, at least one dedicated to implementation of Everyday Math: COMAP, for which she serves on the Board of Directors.

While there may be some improvement of students in DC, I do not believe the improvement is as big as it could have been had a better textbook/curriculum been chosen.

“…and I suspect it’s not as different from EM as the blogosphere seems to think it is.”

Then you need to do your homework.

My son had Everyday Math for 5 years and I had to supplement with Singapore Math just to make sure he was not left behind his international peers. Put the two side-by-side and compare them yourself. I did, daily, for years.

“…my students greatly improved their number sense and ability to solve problems.”

This is all relative, not absolute. Our schools improved their test scores using EM, but that’s only because they were using the pathetic (and thankfully gone) MathLand. Relative improvement is not the goal. “School” algebra in 8th grade is the goal.

“I’d also point out that EM is the only math curriculum to meet the standards of the What Works Clearinghouse.”

WWC does not have enough data to make any sort of conclusions about anything. Unfortunately, they don’t want to portray themselves as being unimportant.

The idea that EM teaches understanding is preposterous. There are many levels of understanding and the only level that EM deals with is conceptual. Higher (abstract) levels of understanding (for algebra and beyond) require mastery of the basics. Apparently most teachers come out of Ed schools thinking that mastery is just about rote or speed and has little to do with understanding. The only way one would believe this is if he/she did not take any higher level math in college. The Ed school understandng of math, engineering, and science is quite simplistic.

The biggest problem with EM is their core belief that students do not have to master the material at “any one time”. Kids slide from grade to grade without being forced to master anything, not even the Lattice technique. In fifth grade, my son’s teacher had to form an after-school club to try to get the kids to master the times table. What does understanding mean when you can’t do the calculations with any method?

When EM finally gets to 6th grade, the workbooks are loaded with Math Boxes. Each lesson is interrupted by a set of mixed-up problems from past years in the hope that the kids will finally master the material. On their own.

So, kids get to sixth grade and haven’t mastered a whole variety of skills. The teacher can’t possibly analyze and address each of these problems. The kids get math boxes and the expectation is that the nth time through the spiral is the charm. With EM, every day is the first day of September. It’s repeated partial learning.

Smart schools supplement EM with more homework and don’t allow kids to proceed without mastery. But this goes against the fundamental view and basis of EM. You’re better off selecting a different curriculum. The academic head at my son’s old school used the patronizing statement that “Singapore Math looks good”, but “Everyday Math is better for our mix of kids”. In other words, it expects less. It allows the schools to put the onus on the kids for learning. EM allows schools to do fun things and push back the hard work long enough until you can put all of the blame on the kids. it works. By seventh grade, kids will say that they are just not good in math.

Many like the idea that math should be a pump and not a filter, but there is no easy path. If you don’t correct problems early enough, the kids will hit the big math filter in middle school or high school and there will be no easy solution. It doesn’t matter how much they like JASON or PLTW, it will be all over.

“But I don’t think it would be hard for an EM student to switch to any other curriculum.”

You can’t just say things like this without any kind of justification and little knowledge of Singapore Math. Why is Kumon so popular? Parents don’t pay money to get less than EM.

“Teaching math in a way that ties children to archaic algorithms, or teaching mathematical thinking that’s applicable to any situation or method?”

This is not even wrong. It shows a complete lack of background knowledge and skills in math. It is a typical rote Ed school regurgitation. Apparently, Ed schools don’t practice what they teach when it comes to their ideas on rote learning.

Again, I’m not against Singapore Math. But I am fascinated by how many people love to bash Everyday Math and by how inaccurately they portray it.

I’m also not sure why its assumed that I come from a dreaded Ed School of Doom. I don’t, incidentally (I don’t think).

Let me quickly correct two major misconceptions about EM from the comments above.

First of all, let’s address the spiral and the “they never master anything” myth. For each unit of EM, a number of topics and skills may be covered. Some of those skills are “secure” skills. That means you don’t move on from that unit without mastery. Other skills are developing, but that doesn’t mean children aren’t expected to master certain skills at certain times. They are. (To expand on the 5th grade example, multiplication facts are a secure skill in the first unit. Mastered.)

I have no idea why “Mr. Dewey” thinks that there is no textbook for EM. Each student has a Student Journal (like a workbook) and a Student Reference Book. It’s true that the Student Reference Book is organized by topic, not sequentially. But if you don’t want to use the table of contents, the relevant SRB page is usually referenced on the Student Journal page (or in the Math Box).

I don’t mind if you think Singapore Math is a better choice for schools. You may even be right. But let’s not perpetuate the false myths about EM that seem so prevalent in the Blogosphere.

While Everyday Math is not as bad as other NSF-sponsored atrocities such as Investigations in Number, Data and Space, I don’t thnk I’m too far afield in saying that their spiral approach results in confusion more than it does mastery. Also, the reason I say there is no textbook is because there is none. The Student Reference Manual is just that, and does not offer sequential development of topics. The workbook is just that, a workbook which sometimes contains an explanation or two, but generally does not. In fact, sometimes the problems in the workbook are meant to foster “discovery” and the skills and concepts needed to solve them are in a subsequent unit. Students are encouraged to find “patterns” in order to solve a problem. Thus, well before fractional or decimal division is encountered, a workbook with exercises in division will through in a problem like 8/0.5. If the workbook pages stipulates that no calculators are to be used, the Student Reference Manual is the only other recourse, but be of little help. Should the student find an explanation in the manual, he or she will wonder about it, because it will be using skills and concepts that have not yet been presented to them.

There has been much written about Everyday Math, so I do not think it is accurate to say that the criticims that I and others have levied about it are myths. You may wish to read Bas Braams’ review of the spiral approach in EM, which is located here:

http://www.nychold.com/em-spiral.html

I don’t doubt that convincing arguments can be made against the pacing of the spiral. But it is not true that “EM’s spiral approach starts from scratch and first principles almost each and every time” as “Mr. Dewey” says, or that “EM has a core belief that students do not have to master the material at ‘any one time'” as SteveH says.

In fact, the whole point of the spiral is to build upon past lessons and understanding (to take an example from your linked piece, Mr. Dewey, partial products builds directly upon Multiplication Wrestling, which builds directly upon Beat the Calculator). And, again, Everyday Math DOES require that students master certain skills at certain times. No ifs, ands, or buts.

“they never master anything”

Strawman. Nobody said this.

It is not a myth that EM is based on delayed mastery. It is not a myth that EM spirals through partial learning many times before they begin to expect mastery. Waiting for “secure” mastery of the times table until fifth grade is a joke. In all of the years my son had EM, no one ever said anything about “secure skills”. I want to see a link where I can review their secure skill timeline. It’s not a myth that there is so much “stuff” in EM that it’s almost impossible to finish the workbooks by the end of the school year, especially if the teacher has to spend time securing skills at some late date. My son’s fifth grade teacher didn’t get to 35% of the material in the course. When the end of the year came, she stopped. She was too busy securing skills, apparently.

The Student Reference Journal is a joke. The Study Links and Student Math Journal have little or no explanations. It wouldn’t help much because EM jumps from quickly from one topic to the next. The Glencoe Algebra I text my son now has is like a breath of fresh air. When he works on problems in the text, they refer back just a few pages to the full explanatiton and a sample calculation. It’s in a form that is much easier for students and parents to follow. It expects mastery right away, not years later. EM does not have anything that anyone would ever call a textbook.

“And, again, Everyday Math DOES require that students master certain skills at certain times. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

Show me the timeline.

I couldn’t find the wall chart I like best quickly (it lists each skill for a particular unit and designates it as Beginning, Developing and Secure), but the overall scope and sequencing charts are available here:

http://www.wrightgroup.com/index.php/home/everydaymathematics/emsecondedition/scopeandsequence/82

and show which skills are secure, when.

To clarify, I didn’t mean that multiplication facts weren’t a secure skill until 5th grade. They are. Everyday Math requires students to have mastered basic multiplication facts long before 5th grade. I felt your story implied that the EM curriculum didn’t expect that, and I wanted to clarify.

Until people have had to try and teach high school students who have come from the EM or similar reform programs, and whose parents expect them to go to college without having to take remedial math (up to 70% do in community colleges and 40% in 4-year colleges), they are spitting in the wind about the efficacy of EM. As a retired middle school and high school math teacher and elementary principal, I can tell you much of the argument for reform math programs and its subsequent implementation at the elementary and middle school levels have caused our nation to sink drastically in mathematical understanding, proficiency, and international ranking. Slick sales pitches that appeal to parents and educators about making learning “more fun” and “relevant” don’t help our children or our nation. Again, data is bearing this out. Shocked parents and students learn about this problem only when math entrance exams are taken for college placement. Those public school “A’s” and “B’s,” given largely for “effort”, become “fuzzy” grades that match “fuzzy” math learning.

Lastly, to say WhatWorksClearinghouse reports EM is the only curriculum that meets its standards is a lie. The truth is the WWC report says EM has “potential” for effecting student learning. Further research will also show that of 61 studies submitted by EM for review, only three met the WWC standards for actual consideration.

“(To expand on the 5th grade example, multiplication facts are a secure skill in the first unit. Mastered.)”

I don’t see that. What is it called? All I see is “Practice multiplication/division facts”, which is marked as secure in grade 4, unit 3. How do you secure “practice”? I don’t see any entry for “know your multiplication table”. The chart has many words like “practice” and “investigate”. How do you secure these skills?

“Everyday Math requires students to have mastered basic multiplication facts long before 5th grade.”

How is this done? Is this different than “secure”? I never saw anything like this for my son going through EM. Is this something in the new edition? All I saw was the new edition for sixth grade, and there was nothing in there about enforcing mastery, just a whole lot of math boxes that would be a big waste of time if the kids had really secured the skills previously.

This is important. Does EM have a way to enforce mastery of specific skills? How do they define the level of mastery that is required? How is it tested and when? What are the consequences if kids don’t achieve mastery? How does a teacher fix the problems? How does a teacher move on to new material if kids have problems that go back months or years? What do the other kids do?

The EM “secure” chart is just too much and quite silly in many respects. I would expect that most teachers would ignore it and just go with the flow.

I just had a look at the “secure” chart myself. For multiplying fractions there are three units in grade 5, but the “secure” status is not achieved until grade 6. As I mentioned before, the approach to multiplying fractions was not done efficiently and much time was spent with a paper folding exercise that eats up class time.

Singapore’s approach, also in 5th grade, covers it in two sessions, gets to the point quickly, and requires many problems to be solved, including word problems. I point this out because Singapore also uses a spiral method in that they revisit concepts that have been mastered previously, but they don’t spend much time in review as EM does. They build on it substantially, and the concept is integrated in other units.

My question is the same as Steve H’s; how do you measure the mastery? Another question is why is mastery of fraction multiplication “secured” in 6th? Shouldn’t it be secured in 5th so they have a good foundation to understand fractional division which is presented in 6th grade?

Another question. In schools that go from K-5, with middle school comprising 6-8, as in DC, what do you do with the 6th graders who have not “mastered” multiplication of fractions? Don’t bother answering. DC uses the Connected Math Program (CMP), another NSR-sponsored program that in my estimation and others I know (including teachers with the practical experience you seek, as well as mathematicians who seem to have a feel for what content should be mastered) does not adequately prepare students for what they will need for algebra.

My son’s school (thankfully) replaced CMP with Glencoe Pre-Algebra and Algebra I. With CMP, kids headed to high school completely unprepared for a rigorous math track. There was a clearly defined curriculum gap. Now that our middle school offers the same algebra book in 8th grade as the 9th grade course in high school, the gap (filter) has shifted down to the jump from EM in 6th grade to Pre-Algebra in 7th. Most kids are filtered out of the 8th grade algebra track.

EM can say whatever they want and they can add whatever they want to the curriculum, but that doesn’t make it happen in real classrooms. It’s a common rationalization that all EM needs is better teacher training. it’s much more than that.

“John Says:

September 25th, 2008 at 9:27 am

the second link isn’t correct.”

All links are working perfectly.

“…Singapore also uses a spiral method in that they revisit concepts that have been mastered previously, but they don’t spend much time in review as EM does. They build on it substantially, and the concept is integrated in other units.”

EM needs to waste time reviewing because they don’t even attempt mastery each time a topic is introduced. Open the workbook to any page and the topic might look fine, but count the few problems that the student has to do. Then look ahead a few pages and you will see that the kids are off to another topic. Count the number of pages in the workbooks and divide by the number of school days. The curriculum is designed for those who have the attention span of a nervous chipmunk.

Part of the appeal of EM is that schools can have very mixed ability classes and not worry about forcing everyone to achieve mastery at each step. Then, magically it seems, mastery is somehow achieved later on. I have been told that EM is designed for differentiated instruction. The faster kids can work towards mastery sooner and the next time through the loop teachers can give them enrichment topics. Right. They can say whatever they want. However, in my son’s class, the teacher had to slow down to achieve any sort of mastery and many of the later units were skipped. You can’t just blame these problems on teacher training. I have heard some teachers call Everyday Math “All The Time Math”.

As Mr. Dewey says, Singapore math tries to ensure mastery at each step of the way. The topics are well-developed and it’s easier for a teacher to enforce mastery. This also means that the next time you see the material, they don’t have to review very much and they apply the previously-learned skills in more complex problems. It’s not a spiral (circle?) for mastery like in EM. It’s a spiral for growth. Besides, Singapore Math sets higher expecations for knowledge, mastery, and understanding.

Catherine,

While EM may feel like it is teaching math better than traditional texts, it is in no way as conducive to quality math learning as Singapore math.

The level of conceptual understanding and skill mastery developed by the very child friendly program in the Sinapore math is unparalleled by any US math program.

Having seen children both move seemless from Singapore elementary math to symbolic (Algebra and above) and struggle in Algebra after EM, there is no comparison.

The psuedo math taught in EM in no way compares to the great conceptual development seen in Singapore math.

I’m a parent of two children who’ve been through the K-5 EM program – but definitely part of no Singapore Math posse. While it may work for some children, the spiraling curriculum was, if I remember correctly, soundly thrashed by the National Math Advisory Panel earlier this year.

While DCTeacherChic may love EM, I’ve met many teachers who loathe it. Their complaints: they can’t get through the entire curriculum in the time they have; their students are frustrated by having to guess which method to use and problems that ask them to do things they’ve never even seen before; and they have parents emailing them in utter frustration at the randomness (and weirdness) of the Homelinks.

Ironically, we now live in Singapore, and our (now high school) kids go to the American School here. This school also uses EM (with a boat-load of supplementation), but it is facing a rising chorus of complaints from parents who are seeing their children struggle with basic computation AND with applying math to everyday situations.

There’s no gimmick or magic to the Singapore Math Curriculum. It’s logical, teaches to mastery, and uses models and hands-on tools to help students build on the foundations of math they’re gaining. And the best thing: the Singaporean kids LOVE math because they’re successful.

I gain nothing from saying any of this — other than the satisfaction of knowing that maybe someday other kids won’t have to slog through EM because people like John Dewey (and to a much lesser extent, me and parents like me) spoke out.

The “posse” tag is just a debating trick.

Another angle is to claim that schools just need better teacher training. You could say that about any curriculum, even Singapore Math. Apparently, traditional math was bad because of the curriculum, but Everyday Math is just poorly implemented.

“And the best thing: the Singaporean kids LOVE math because they’re successful.”

Great comment!

Kids practice scales on the piano and the fingering has to be perfect. You don’t let kids sit at the piano and figure out their own fingering. This is a basic skill that has to be automatic and there is way too much work to do. There might be five ways to do the fingering, but it’s not the time to let the kids figure it out. Once they reach an advanced level, they might want to experiment with different fingering. It will be more meaningful and provide much more understanding at that stage.

After scales comes arpeggios, finger exercises, and etudes. These are tools for understanding, and the skills have to be fast and automatic. There is no way to understand a Beethoven sonata without mastery of these tools. It is impractical and impossible to understand everything along the way, and you are not limited in understanding if you use only one fingering for scales.

Math is the same way. Don’t get stuck on “understanding” five ways of multiplication when a proper understanding is only possible when one gets to algebra. Don’t get stuck with a pie chart understanding of fractions when a proper (abstract) understanding is still far away. At this stage, mastery of some efficient technique is much more important. Learn that technique and get going.

Understanding is not a top-down process for many subjects. There are many layers of understanding and Everyday Math is stuck on the conceptual level. To get to a higher (abstract) level of understanding, kids need mastery of basic tools, not some pie chart understanding of a laundry list of different methods.

Math is all about using basic skills to solve more complex problems. The fact that you might use only one method for a basic skill does not mean that you can’t creatively mix and match these skills to solve complex problems.

Also, math is not some sort of Zen-like process where kids have to discover solution techniques. Math is the opposite of that. It provides methods that reduce the doubt and guessing. That’s the purpose of math. Draw a picture, define your variables, define your equations, make sure that m=n, and then turn the crank. Let the math provide you with the understanding. Guess and check is anti-math.

Here’s a novel thought.

How about asking public school parents which curricula they prefer. Some will choose Singapore Math, some will choose Saxon, some will opt for Connecting Math Concepts.

Some parents will choose Everyday Math, and they should have it.

Ditto for teachers. Teachers who prefer teaching Singapore, Saxon, CMC, etc. may elect to choose the curriculum that works best for them.

And here’s a second question: how is it that constructivist math advocates simply assume that student “understanding” will soar when curriculum specialists impose on classroom teachers a curriculum that is “not easy to teach”?

There is a reason why the public — including teachers — now ranks its local public schools below the local post office. [see: The 2008 Education Next-PEPG Survey of Public Opinion By William G. Howell, Martin R. West and Paul E. Peterson Education Next Fall 2008] The top-down, authoritarian structure of public schools, where the views of neither parents nor teachers (nor taxpayers) matter a whit, will do that to an institution.

As to the Singapore “posse,” we are well past the posse stage. This is war, ma’am.

Math wars.

“It’s a common rationalization that all EM needs is better teacher training.”

Right!

Blame the teachers.

Or the parents.

Or, heck.

Blame ’em both.

http://thefrustratedteacher.blogspot.com/2008/09/everyday-math-stiil-sucks-even-more.html

EDM is awful if you are using it to teach children.

Again, Singapore Math might be really great. It will be hard to convince me that EDM is fatally flawed given my personal success with it (I’ve also watched it fail in other classrooms, but I’ve never been convinced that that failure was a result of the curriculum). But if EDM does “suck,” as the frustrated teacher says, it is not because it does not require mastery at specific times, does not have a textbook, does enforce that mastery or doesn’t include enough practice. I haven’t seen any really good data about EDM and success in Algebra, but a negative correlation there would obviously be a major strike against the curriculum.

Just to hit on a few things that got added over the weekend:

“Does EM have a way to enforce mastery of specific skills? How do they define the level of mastery that is required? How is it tested and when? What are the consequences if kids don’t achieve mastery? How does a teacher fix the problems?”

EDM includes a comprehensive assessment system, including (but not limited to) scored tests and quizzes. If kids don’t achieve mastery of a secure skill, there are “reteaching” activities included in each lesson. No, that’s not a perfect fix, but no curriculum can achieve perfect results for every student simply be declaring it to be so. Teachers will always have to deal with remedial instruction for students who come into their classroom unprepared or don’t master material in the alloted time, regardless of the curriculum.

“Open the workbook to any page and the topic might look fine, but count the few problems that the student has to do. Then look ahead a few pages and you will see that the kids are off to another topic.”

In a typical EM lesson, only a small part of instruction and practice is driven by the Student Journal. Most of the practice and instruction comes from other activities (these might include guided practice on slates or the board, or mental math) and the EM games, which involve repeated practice of skills and lots of computation.

EDM is a strategy-full curriculum that can be overwhelming for students, teachers, and parents. It is rigorous in its content, but I do agree that achieving mastery in areas that are state standards for the grade level is not accomplished by reading the scripted and prescriptive teacher’s manual. If the discussion of the mathematical concepts is done properly, and the in-class practice is done to achieve mastery, it CAN be accomplished.

Having personally taught EDM at two grade levels, and having previously taught Math Investigations at three different levels (elementary), it is a significantly better program. What I think that opponents to EDM miss is that a traditional program like many of us were taught with does not encourage and instill mathematical THINKING, rather it fosters FORMULAIC MEMORIZATION, which is achieved (based on brain studies) by simple repetition and visual explanation, and is not effective and efficient learning. The brain rquires multiple areas of the brain to be neuroconnected in order for learning and “mastery” to occur.

My students who use a “traditional” method of computation, do not understand that in 15, the 1 digit is not a “1” but a ten. Therefore, they may be able to complete the problem, but they do not understand the numerical substance of their answer, and cannot necessarily distinguish if the answer is correct or logical. I think most of us would agree that math is logic. The partial sums and products that EDM teaches are taught to help students understand the method you mind needs to do in order to use the “traditional” method. This creates a mental model in which the brain can draw from to use, successfully, the traditional methods and formulas. It uses a concrete example in memory to allow the student to understand the abstract concept that is math. A student can memorize formula after formula and use them correctly on the day it is taught, but unless a student knows when and why a particular procedure should be used, the brain will not access, confidently, the correct strategy.

I don’t honestly believe that any ONE program is everything that every student needs. Every math program needs to be tempered with teacher knowledge of student abilities and gaps. Simple rote repetition is not the answer. However, using EDM as scripted with no attention paid to student needs is not the answer either.

I think if teachers do not know to explain place value in conjunction with addition algorithms, they ought to find other work.

Why is it that we professionals need these superfluous curricular materials? Give me a stick and some rocks and I can teach kids math. I don’t need the extra materials. Why? Because I know how to teach!

We should spend less time evaluating curricular materials and spend more time talking about how to teach concepts. Staff need to develop, and SD is not the way to achieve it!

Have you seen my scores?

“Again, Singapore Math might be really great.”

But not enough to get you to compare them side-by-side?

“…given my personal success with it …”

Compared to what? How do you define success?

“If kids don’t achieve mastery of a secure skill, there are “reteaching” activities included in each lesson.”

I assume you’re talking about the self-reteaching Math Boxes. What is the teacher expected to do? Math Boxes are a shotgun approach to fixing problems.

“Teachers will always have to deal with remedial instruction for students who come into their classroom unprepared or don’t master material in the alloted time, regardless of the curriculum. ”

Yes, but EM puts off this point off until it becomes a big issue. The “secure” dates are months or years from the first introduction. EM doesn’t even begin to keep all of the kids on the same mastery page. It allows kids to slip along without mastery on purpose. Math Boxes don’t fix the problems and teachers can’t possibly diagnose and remediate all of the problems. My son’s fifth grade teacher tried to do that and didn’t get to 35% of the material.

EM is all about differentiating instruction. They just never make it whole again. It is useless!

“If the discussion of the mathematical concepts is done properly, and the in-class practice is done to achieve mastery, it CAN be accomplished.”

I CAN do that without a textbook and using chalk and a blackboard. That’s not a basis for selecting a curriculum.

“..and having previously taught Math Investigations at three different levels (elementary), it is a significantly better program.”

Better than Investigations? Well, that’s a nice kick in the head. EM is better than the pathetic MathLand our school used to use. Why am I not happy? Absolute is important, not relative.

“What I think that opponents to EDM miss is that a traditional program like many of us were taught with does not encourage and instill mathematical THINKING, rather it fosters FORMULAIC MEMORIZATION, which is achieved (based on brain studies) by simple repetition and visual explanation, and is not effective and efficient learning.”

Ack! Gag me with a spoon. You think wrong. Speaking of rote memorization … and strawmen …, this is classic ed school speak. Your problem statement is wrong and your solution is wrong.

“I think most of us would agree that math is logic.”

What’s the highest level of math you have taken?

“It uses a concrete example in memory to allow the student to understand the abstract concept that is math.”

Ack! Part 2. Right, and all EM students can explain why the Lattice Method works. In your dreams.

“I don’t honestly believe that any ONE program is everything that every student needs.”

What a cop-out.

SteveH: No, I was talking about the reteaching section of each lesson plan, not the math boxes (located in the teacher’s edition and often supplemented by reproducibles in the Math Masters book). I can’t compare EM and Singapore Math side by side because I don’t have access to all of the materials. While you don’t seem to mind assuming things about the curriculum based on limited interactions with it, I wouldn’t want to do the same thing to Singapore Math.

TFT: Yes, we’d expect any good teacher to teach place value when teaching addition. The EM algorithms just make it easier to do that, and force children to adhere to the actual value of the numbers. In addition it’s pretty easy to deal with place value, since the traditional algorithm makes sense (for example, when you add 25+17, you add 7 and 5, leave the 2 in the ones column, and carry the ten to the tens column).

But in multiplication, for example, we start doing all kinds of weird things in the traditional algorithm. To multiply 460*25, first you multiply through by 5. Yes, you can explain to a child that you’re really doing (5*0)+(5*60)+(5*400) without having them actually do that like EM requires. But then we “put a zero.” You’d have to then explain that as multiplying your sub-answer by 10, so that you can divide the multiplier(20) by ten and treat it as a 2, as you then go on to do (carrying 1,000 and putting it in the 100s column, for example).

I had a lot more success using the Partial Products algorithm, and I was grateful that someone had come up with it. Even if we could put a great teacher in every classroom, it doesn’t make sense for them to reinvent the wheel independently.

“…a traditional program like many of us were taught with does not encourage and instill mathematical THINKING, rather it fosters FORMULAIC MEMORIZATION, which is achieved (based on brain studies) by simple repetition and visual explanation, and is not effective and efficient learning. The brain rquires multiple areas of the brain to be neuroconnected in order for learning and “mastery” to occur.”

Show me an example of a traditional program–name the name–and give me an example of how it relies solely on formulaic memorization. Have you looked at Saxon Math, or Sadlier Oxford? Or Singapore, which after all is based on fairly traditional methods? Place value is taught quite well in Saxon, Sadlier Oxford, and Singapore. They certainly teach that the 1 in 15 equals 10. If a student fails to learn that the 1 in 15 is a ten, the algorithmic procedure is still in place so that they can at least add and subtract efficiently and correctly.

I was taught in the traditional method in the 50’s and 60’s and ended up majoring in math. I know many others in the sciences and engineering and math who were educated in the same way. Such a statement is pure balderdash. Show me the numbers of students who were failed by traditional math, and give me years and test scores.

As far as the brain requiring multiple areas to be neuroconnected, please consider the article by Dan Willingham in American Educator, located at http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/winter2002/CogSci.html.

One of the recommendations he makes in the article is the following:

“Appreciate the importance of students’ growing knowledge, even if it’s inflexible: Don’t be reluctant to build students’ factual knowledge base. Some facts end up in memory without any meaning, and other facts have meanings that are quite inflexible, but that doesn’t mean that teachers should minimize the teaching of facts in the curriculum. “Fact” is not synonymous with rote knowledge or with inflexible knowledge. Knowing more facts makes many cognitive functions (e.g., comprehension, problem solving) operate more efficiently. If we minimize the learning of facts out of fear that they will be absorbed as rote knowledge, we are truly throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

“No, I was talking about the reteaching section of each lesson plan, not the math boxes ..”

Each lesson plan (of each unit?) has a reteaching section? how does this work? Is this covering the material in the current unit? How are you assessing the students? What do the other students (who have already mastered the material) do while you are reteaching? How does this tie in with the Math Boxes in the student workbook? I suppose that since EM is designed around covering the same material each time through the loop, it’s all about reteaching. Perhaps a better question is not about reteaching, but how does a teacher assess and remediate problems at “secure” checkpoints? According to the chart, several secure checkpoints could arise during one unit. A teacher would have to reteach the material in the current unit and remediate problems due to the secure deadline.

“While you don’t seem to mind assuming things about the curriculum based on limited interactions with it, ..”

I have five years of interaction with it. Maybe you’re talking about something that the teacher is supposed to do that I’ve never seen. I would like to know specifically how EM ensures mastery when all I have ever seen is slip and slide.

I agree that EM seems eerily reminiscent of “whole language” back when. We teachers need to be less concerned with self-esteem, and more concerned with education!

EM concerns itself with too many things. It is the most confusing, circular, spiraling, time intensive nonsense I have ever experienced.

And, they want my kids to sit there for an hour while I teach a lesson that is only partial anyway because we will spiral back to it later. WTF???? I just don’t get it.

At least we’re talking about math, right morons?

I think that last statement came of wrong. I am calling us, me, we, morons because that what if feels like. Not that you all on this thread are morons. hard to teach and respond at the same time…..

SteveH:

Yes, each lesson includes a reteaching section. I think your opinion of EM might change if you had a chance to read the teacher’s edition and see all of the materials, including what’s in the Math Masters book. As far as when or how you’d hit that reteaching, I’m sure it depends on the teacher. Myself, I might use an informal assessment during a lesson to identify students who are struggling with a particular concept, then address that group in any number of ways. It might involve pulling that group to work with me while other groups are doing more complicated projects or an EM game. It might involve modifying a game, targeting those kids with more material during independent work, pulling them after school or referring parents or tutors to that material.

Since you’ve apparently seen other curricula that “ensure mastery,” how do they do it? No curriculum can prevent the difficulties that come with teaching students who master material at different rates. I think EM provides reasonable tools for doing so.

Ms. Cullen: I think it is important that you tell us whether you are posting in your capacity as Fordham Fellow of Education Sector.

Does Education Sector support Everyday Math?

If Ms. Cullen is indeed posting in her capacity as a Fordham Fellow of Education Sector, this raises a number of issues.

First: does Education Sector endorse Everyday Math?

Second: does Education Sector take the position that “my personal success” is a valid measure of a math program’s effectiveness? If so, is Education Sector contemplating a shift in its position on NCLB and accountability measures?

Third: what is Education Sector’s position vis a vis disciplinary specialists? When mathematicians tell us that Everyday Math and its sister programs are

abysmal, does Education Sector believe that one teacher’s “personal success” trumps a mathematician’s knowledge of mathematics?

And, finally, what is Education Sector’s position on the personal testimony of parents whose children struggled, suffered, and failed using Everyday Math. A great deal of this testimony is now available for policy analysts to read.

Does it matter that so many children have suffered and so many parents have born witness?

“I think your opinion of EM might change if you had a chance to read the teacher’s edition and see all of the materials, including what’s in the Math Masters book.”

I did see the teacher’s edition (shortly) for the new edition of EM (sixth grade). My reaction was how on earth do they think all of that could get done? I’m sure I could use EM effectively if I had the same kids each year and did some major editing. But if I had that chance, I would use a different curriculum.

“It might involve pulling that group to work with me while other groups are doing more complicated projects or an EM game. ”

Yuck! This is not an efficient model of teaching and it’s all based on the idea that you can’t somehow keep all of the kids on the same page. While you’re helping a few kids, the others are fooling around or are getting further ahead of those you are helping.

“It might involve modifying a game, targeting those kids with more material during independent work, pulling them after school or referring parents or tutors to that material.”

“Independent work”? “After school”? “Tutors”?

That won’t go over well with parents. EM creates this situation with delayed mastery expectations and little practice, and then off-loads the problem onto kids and parents.

Other curricula reduce this problem by covering material that all can understand and master at the time it’s introduced. Everyone is together and class time is not wasted with reteaching and games.

“No curriculum can prevent the difficulties that come with teaching students who master material at different rates.”

This is just a bunch of malarkey. If kids learn at different rates in the same class, they will get further apart as the years pass by. Who would ever think this is a proper way to teach? This just proves my point that EM is designed to appeal to schools who like full inclusion. Social goals trump academic goals. They create the problem and then complain that it can’t be fixed.

This model creates many more cracks for kids to fall through. As I’ve said elsewhere, if you wait long enough, you can blame it on the kids. And if you try hard enough, they will believe you.

That’s it in a nutshell! Well said!

I happen to have the Teacher’s Lesson Guide for Fifth Grade Vol. 2 by my side. I don’t have the Math Masters. Section 8.5 is on the area model for fraction multiplication. The reteaching suggested is “Students read about multiplying fractions and then solve problems involving multiplication of fractions.” The reading is in the Student Reference Book. The SRB is not too bad, generally, and for multiplication of fractions, both the workbook and the reference book do a credible job. That said, there is still the issue of pacing, the spending of a LOT of time folding paper, and so forth. There is also the issue of pacing; why introducing multiplying fractions by a whole number AFTER fractions multiplied by fractions? Learning whole number x fraction first helps build to fraction x fraction. But Ms Cullen admits that EM’s spiral pacing may be off. And it is. And this is one of the BETTER chapters. So you have a three ring circus of kids getting it, kids not getting it with the teacher having to “adjust the activity” (teachers are to suggest they think in terms of the areas of rectangles, which by the way Singapore does after the paper folding exercises), then if all else fails, haul out the math masters and SRB and have the kid read what he or she missed.

For the record, my experience with EM is from my daughter’s exposure to it at her school, like Steve H’s. Except her school adopted it when she was in 3rd grade and her 3rd grade teacher, being a 30 year veteran, knew enough to keep teaching out of the old textbooks. So the damage didn’t start in until 4th grade.

You speak to my dilemma John Dewey. My district has adopted EM, and I do not want to use it (have you seen my scores?!). But, if I don’t, my principal will ding me on my evaluation.

Administrations have a need for this to work; they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they promised it would work, so they are stuck. Any teacher not showing they are using the curriculum will be in lots of trouble.

My students will suffer from my having to use a crappy curriculum. Did I mention my scores? They are high because I teach math without the materials. I pick and choose, make up my own, make my own worksheets, and on and on. We don’t need no stinking EM, at least I don’t.

“referring parents or tutors to that material”

Speaking of tutors: in my own small town (roughly 1950 students K-12), district math teachers charge $80 to $125/hour to tutor district math students.

They seem to do a very good business.

My district has adopted EM, and I do not want to use it (have you seen my scores?!).I have had horror stories from teachers in your situation.

These are teachers whose students do far better than all other students in the school, and who are being written up for insubordination & pushed out of their jobs.

For the record, this is why I’m not particularly enamored of the concept of merit pay. I have seen that compliance is often a far more highly valued quality than competence.

I’m not against merit pay, necessarily. In most situations I would be for it.

I just don’t see, offhand, how and why merit pay laws are going to result in merit being rewarded, especially seeing as how parents will have no input whatsoever.

You described me all right, CJ! My principal hates me because I question the efficacy of all the NCLB nonsense.

Teachers need to take back the schools!

“Teachers need to take back the schools!”

If you have time, I’d love to hear more.

(I’m pro-NCLB, btw….but, yeah, huge quantities of nonsense are being foisted upon kids & teachers in the name of it….huge)

Did teachers used to have more power?

(Did parents ever have any?)

We are swimming in administrators and consultants. It’s unreal. The other night, during a board meeting, one of the superintendents referred to the teachers as “the students.”

It was a meaningful slip. She’d been talking about all the many consultants and professional developments being overseen by consultants, etc. She’d been talking about extensive efforts to teach the teachers.

Hello Math Peeps,

While I still believe that Everyday Math can work, and I don’t for one second believe that any curriculum can magically make every child master material at the same rate, I think I’m done arguing about it here. For the record, when I said I might refer the material to tutors I meant to tutors my students already had via different programs. When I said “independent work,” I meant a short period after lunch that I used for independent “seat work.” That was a time that I typically targeted certain students for reinforcement (in other subjects too, not just math). You can’t blame the need for remedial teaching on EM, either. I was going to have to do remedial math no matter what curriculum I had, because none of my students entered my classroom on grade level (and no, they didn’t come from an EM classroom).

One important point before I go: I have posted here in my capacity as myself, a former teacher. My views are in no way associated with Education Sector or Fordham. As far as I know, neither shop takes a position on math curricula anyway. I’ll bet Andy is just confused about why none of these comments relate to his original post. I guess we only need a tangential reason to get into math wars…

All the best,

Catherine

“While I still believe that Everyday Math can work,..”

What is the probability of “can”?

“I don’t for one second believe that any curriculum can magically make every child master material at the same rate”

Then separate the kids by ability or try a lot harder to keep them at the same level.

“…while other groups are doing more complicated projects or an EM game.”

Sounds like class time to me.

“I was going to have to do remedial math no matter what curriculum I had, because none of my students entered my classroom on grade level (and no, they didn’t come from an EM classroom). ”

That’s a nice indictment of the school. This is not about you. This is about assumptions, school policies, and curricula. The goal isn’t to make the best of a bad situation. The goal is to fix the underlying problem. Don’t allow kids into class unless they can handle grade level material. Don’t select a curriculum that is designed to avoid solving very bad policies.