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Topic: CSM Math Meltdown Part III
Replies: 1   Last Post: May 30, 2000 4:11 PM

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by way of Gene Klotz

Posts: 47
Registered: 12/4/04
Re: CSM Math Meltdown Part III
Posted: May 30, 2000 4:11 PM
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Thanks for the URL for the last in the series by the Christian Science

Re < [I think this one is mostly smoke, mirrors, and snake-oil. I think
it's Tom
Romberg's MiC, Mathematics in Context, but I haven't had time to check more

I would hope that we, in our various jobs endeavoring to educate ourselves
and others, try to instill in them a healthy skepticism toward everything
they encounter, and not only certain approaches that we personally


Patsy Wang-Iverson
Mid-Atlantic Eisenhower Consortium (
Research for Better Schools
444 N. Third Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123-4107
vox: 215.574.9300 x264
fax: 215.574.0133

Wayne Bishop
<wbishop@calstatela To: AMTE <>
.edu> cc:
Sent by: Subject: CSM Math Meltdown Part III

05/30/00 10:33 AM
Please respond to

Changing America's path to reform

Marjorie Coeyman (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


It may be a sign of the future, tucked inside an
inner-city New Jersey classroom.

US and Japanese educators and researchers ring the
walls as a class homes in on pi. What they're after:
signs that a lesson orchestrated to a Japanese score is
getting through to kids.

[I think this one is mostly smoke, mirrors, and snake-oil. I think it's
Romberg's MiC, Mathematics in Context, but I haven't had time to check more

Puerto Rico closes the gap

After the island changed its math program,
public school students leaped ahead of
private-school peers on tests.

Marjorie Coeyman (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


For all the debate about overhauling math education in
the US, there have been few actual gains in student
achievement. That's why news of a program in Puerto
Rico has drawn attention from those interested in math

In 1992, the island launched an initiative in its public
schools, aiming to close a 70-point gap between
public school students and their private-school
counterparts on standardized tests. Educators
expected modest improvement, but got a lot more.


Grade-school math is not so

Gail Russell Chaddock (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


If you're wondering why your kids aren't picking up
how to divide fractions, it could be that their teachers
don't quite get it, either.

That's the message from "Knowing and Teaching
Elementary Mathematics" (Lawrence Erlbaum), a
book that is becoming a stealth hit for math junkies on
both sides of the "math wars," and a must read for
anyone interested in solving the problems of public
In France, an assumption that
math is important

Gail Russell Chaddock (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


Euclid would feel right at home in a math class in Paris.
The geometry problems on the blackboard would
look familiar to the third-century B.C. Greek
mathematician, as would the method of work:
methodical, clear, and anchored in the language of

Professional tutoring firms boom as parents
worry about 'fuzzy' math.

We're off to see the tutor

Mark Clayton (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Move over ballet, soccer practice, and little-league
baseball. One of America's fastest-growing
after-school rituals is piling kids into the car to go get
tutored in math.

More challenge, not less, turns
kids onto math

Marjorie Coeyman (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


William Johntz was casting about for ways to engage
inner-city remedial students in math. Finally, it hit him:
Give them harder material.

The year was 1963. But the counterintuitive approach
that the mathematician, psychologist, and math teacher
set in motion during his lunch hours in Berkeley, Calif.,
is going strong four decades later.


And of course ....

Saxon math: practice, practice
Gail Russell Chaddock (
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
You'd be hard pressed to find anyone neutral about Saxon Math. For many
graduates of teacher education programs, it's the incarnation of "drill and
kill" - devoutly to be avoided.
But don't tell that to parents storming school boards and state
legislatures to
get Saxon texts into schools. They're still wondering why their
can't figure 10 percent of 100 without the aid of a calculator, and are
convinced Saxon will get classrooms back to basics - or sanity.

The heart of the Saxon approach is the conviction that understanding
mathematics is a skill that can be learned through practice. You'll find
problems in a Saxon textbook, and lots of them. Students are urged to work
problem quickly and accurately. The curriculum, used in many US schools, is
viewed as out of step with current reform plans that stress group work and
unconventional approaches to problem solving.

A mind for math
For Saxon president Frank Wang, getting good at mathematics was the answer
to a
personal crisis. In 1970, a doctor and school officials came to the
that he had "neurological impairment" and could not be educated. This
was a great blow to his parents, recent Chinese immigrants to the US.

Wang had his own solution: He noticed that what counted for intelligent in
school was an ability to do mathematics. This was the key to convincing
officials that he had a mind worth educating, he reasoned.
"I didn't want to live out this prophecy," he says. "I really wanted to
to the doctors that I had intellectual capacity. And getting good in
mathematics looked like the way to do it."
He began by studying past New York State Regents exams in mathematics -
quietly, on his own time, one question at a time. It was tough at first,
but he
just continued working problems until he understood the principle, then
on to another topic.

Finally, he told his eighth-grade algebra teacher that he already knew all
material in the course. The teacher sent him to the principal, who sat him
with an old Regent's exam (he'd already studied) to test the boast. Wang
a 96.

'It just came to me'
"He asked me how I had learned all of this. I shrugged my shoulders and
'I don't know. It just came to me.' I outright lied, but it was such a
delicious feeling. All of a sudden people's thoughts of me changed from a
disabled child to someone with potential," he says.
Wang met Saxon founder John Saxon after his family moved to Norman, Okla.,
where his father took up a position as professor of mathematics at the
university. Saxon needed a research assistant, and 16-year-old Wang

"He just struck me as a very eccentric fellow, but someone with a very
and powerful sense of mission. He had very grandiose plans at that time. He
thought that he had a better way of teaching mathematics, and the world
know about it," says Wang.

Saxon, once dubbed "the angry man of mathematics," was a retired Air Force
pilot who flew 55 missions in Korea and later taught electrical engineering
the US Air Force Academy. Brash, outspoken, and never one to dodge a fight,
started his own publishing company to challenge the math orthodoxy of the

Smaller is better
Saxon's concern wasn't that math books were too full of pictures, chatter,
not enough problem-solving. (That came later.) In the early 1980s, Saxon
that children should not be expected to learn math in big thematic
chapters. He
argued that math needed to be taught in smaller increments, with lots of
practice and reviewing.

It turns out, that's exactly how Wang had taught himself mathematics. In
end, the youngster hired to punch papers and do errands contributed so much
the book that Saxon acknowledged him in the preface - and later invited him
take over his company.
"The Saxon pedagogy was incremental development: Teach in small pieces,
continual review of those increments, and frequent cumulative testing.
would be no asking: Is this going to be on the test? Every Saxon test was
cumulative, and every test gave kids a chance to redeem themselves," Wang

In 1992, Saxon offered to donate his program free to seven Oklahoma City
elementary schools. A district follow-up found Saxon students outscored a
control group of non-Saxon students in every math category on the Iowa Test
Basic Skills. Asked to cite weaknesses of the plan, some teachers said that
lessons were too time-consuming.

Much of the evidence in support of the Saxon method is anecdotal, but
compelling enough to have forged a strong following among some school
administrators and parent groups.
Test scores at Falconer Elementary School in Chicago, for instance, went up
dramatically that the central office suspected its students were cheating.
Students retook the test and scored at the same level. (76.9 percent of its
third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders scored at or above national norms on the
Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Prior to the use of Saxon only about a third
at that level.) Another example: Saxon students at Riviera Elementary
School in
Kelseyville, Calif., one of the state's poorest districts, now outscore
students in affluent Laguna Beach schools.

Behind the wheel
John Saxon was one of the first to oppose the recommendation of the
Council of Teachers of Mathematics to integrate calculators into math
The 1989 NCTM standards that urged students to "construct their own
understanding" gave Saxon textbooks a new target.

"John Saxon used to say that understanding more often than not follows
rather than precedes it," Wang says. "If I'm going to teach you how to
drive, I
don't lecture you on the theory of the internal-combustion engine. I get
behind the wheel of the car and drive around the block."

He adds: "We're not saying we're against critical thinking. But we feel
creativity comes from a well-prepared mind. What we want to give every
child in
America is the ability to work to develop a well-prepared mind."

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