Widespread access to posts such as this will be less frequent with the impending demise of the AMTE listserve. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Just maintain the status quo (except pay teachers more to do it).
The following was sent to me this morning from the Mountain View Voice. I would post the website access but it's a weekly newspaper and their postings run a week or so behind (http://www.mv-voice.com/). It is a summary of the presentation made on Tuesday in support of continuing with the district's MathLand, or a different curriculum consistent with Dr. Parker's presentation, and in support of avoiding the CA standards. The decision is to be made next Thursday, I believe. How much of this is underway around California would be speculative but it's still a nice indication of how our tax dollars are being spent.
One minor error of fact in this lady's critique, it is not that the "Singapore Math program had been translated into English"; since academic education is conducted in English, no translation of the materials was necessary.
Guest Opinion, Mountain View Voice, August 25, 2000
District Parents Were Poorly Served by Expert's Math Presentation
The Mountain View administration chose Dr. Ruth Parker to speak to its teachers and parents about math curriculum and textbooks for Mountain View schools. Parker is quite an interesting character who freely mentions the bad press she is getting all over America, and laughs at her detractors. I guess I am one of them because I join the ranks of university professors and educators all over the country who vehemently disagree with her conclusions.
Parker spoke for three hours, and as I see it, she made three major points. For her first one, she spent a very large amount of time asking the audience to do math problems. Her point was to show that some of us got the answers wrong and others got it right, but we all figured out different ways to approach the problems. IÃÂll admit that I have always been good in math so I could do all the problems in my head, quickly, and the ÃÂtraditionalÃÂ way. Ruth's estimations and pictorials and subtractions followed by additions followed by estimations----when it was really only a multiplication problem, was no help to a math buff like me.
But a really good teacher in an elementary school classroom will use a variety of methods to reach children, regardless of a districtÃÂs textbook choice. As a math tutor in our local Mountain View elementary school last school year, I used beans, beads, graph paper, colored paper, markers, pens, pencils, tests, textbooks, oral repetition, paper clips and numerous drawings to help a student learn. I wasnÃÂt special, I used common sense. To hear Parker talk about it, very few math programs and teachers utilize such common senseÃÂand thatÃÂs why sheÃÂs going around the country sharing her zeal.
Another major point made by Parker is that we donÃÂt need our children to practice any ÃÂpencil and paper mathÃÂ and we ÃÂdonÃÂt need to teach standard procedures.ÃÂ
I take this to mean that Parker decries practice----of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions. In my view math is about discovery AND practice. It is very difficult for a third grader to memorize his or her multiplication tables without pencil and paper practice.
That gets us to Parker'sÃÂs next point: ÃÂstandardized tests are not important.ÃÂ As a caveat, I will say that I would love to live in RuthÃÂs utopian world where everyone, no matter one's abilities, had enough to eat, enough medical coverage, retirement, employment and housing. Unfortunately, hers is a socialistÃÂs dream because in our capitalist country, we compete. And we compete to get into colleges and universities by virtue of our standardized test scores. The University of California admits the top 12.5% of graduating seniors. Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth requires elementary children to be in the top 97th percentile on a standardized test before allowing them to take another test for admission.
It is true that standardized tests might not be important to a family where children have no college aspirations. But I think it is important for the Mountain View community to offer all of its children the opportunity to compete for a University of California education. ParkerÃÂs almost religious fervor to ÃÂget off this test-driven madnessÃÂ should take her to Sacramento and Washington to try to change the status quo. It should not take her into our community advocating a math curriculum that will keep many of our children from the university.
Mountain View children are not faring well at the high school level compared to their peers from Los Altos. A disproportionate number of Mountain View students are not college bound and do not place as well as Los Altos children in upper level math classes, honors and A.P. classes. This is true for children of all ethnicities entering the high schools. Compare Los Altos 7th graders SAT-9 math scores at a whopping 93rd percentile to Mountain View 7th graderÃÂs 57th percentile.
Unlike Parker, I do not blame our teachers or our students. I blame our math program. Our children deserve an equivalent program and the same opportunities for a math education as children living in Los Altos. Mountain View children deserve to succeed equally at the high school level. We should end the two tier system by offering Mountain View children an equivalent program to Los Altos.
This takes me to what Parker did not say, but which is underlying her entire talk. California recently adopted rigorous and challenging math standards, and state monies exist to buy textbooks that align with those standards.
These math standards (our math standards, because we DO live in California) have received critical acclaim from mathematicians and educators from all over the world. Los Altos aligns with these standards and piloted textbooks that follow them. In stark contrast, Mountain View administrators want to ignore the standards and not pilot nor adopt state approved textbooks. Based on her comments on Tuesday, Parker seems to shares this view.
Last year at a school board meeting, Kathy Humphries, the district math mentor, made a presentation to the school board advocating the Mountain View position. In support of this view, she passed out an article showing how well children from Singapore did in international math competitions, and she stated that Mountain View should have a rich, in-depth program like Singapore. She didnÃÂt know that the official Singapore Math program had been translated into English and is available in the United States.
So, my question to Parker at Tuesday's meeting was: What did she think of Singapore math? In essence, she said that what was good for Singapore might not be so good for us because, after all, they are different over there. Her response was very offensive to the women at my table who are not Americans but raising their children in this country. These women, and other Mountain View families like them, have sent their children to foreign and international schools all over the world.
One women at my table was very, very upset because she perceived prejudice on ParkerÃÂs part. So, I stood up and pointed out to Parker that here in Silicon Valley (sheÃÂs from Washington state) many of us are international and expect our children to be able to fit in anywhere in the world. I told her how her comments had offended the women at my table. She apologized, but even in her apology, it didnÃÂt appear that she really understood what was so offensive about her view of children and families from Singapore and Asia. We (and all of us were of European ancestry) do not think that our children would have any difficulty with an Asian style math program.
Ironically, last year or so, I corresponded with John Hoven, President of the Gifted Program at Montgomery County School District in Maryland, right outside of Washington, D.C. His district was piloting Singapore math, which through his own study he found compared favorably to the California Math Content Standards. No wonder Los Altos is doing so well.