[Note: I just received the following letter written by Bill Jacob, a professor of mathematics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, that was sent to the Curriculum Commission and the State Board of Education in California. Prof. Jacob is very close to the mathematics education situation in California. With his permission, I am forwarding it.]
The recently released draft of the (California) Framework can be seen at
Yvonne Larsen President, California State Board of Education 721 Capitol Mall Sacramento, California, 94244-2720
Dear Mrs. Larsen,
In its 1996 Program Advisory, the State Board of Education offered a promising plan to put K-12 mathematics education on a solid foundation by calling for educators to "balance basic skills, problem solving, and conceptual understanding." This plan enjoyed wide-spread support, and I publicly expressed my hope that implementing balance would bring progress and consensus. Sadly the draft of the Mathematics Framework that was posted September 17 on the web completely abandons balance in favor of a one-sided approach.
The introductory chapters of the Framework draft still proudly proclaim "balance" as a primary objective. But examination of the details reveal a complete failure to follow through. For example, the "Grade-level Considerations" (chapter 5) only lists sequential skill acquisition in K-7. It reduces problem solving to executing routine algorithms, and treats rote application of procedure as conceptual understanding. Inspection of its Grade 3 "Elaboration" reveals nine paragraphs, each only describing symbolic manipulation of numbers. It refers to applying an already learned division algorithm as solving a "problem"- a far cry from the accepted notion of resolving a new or perplexing situation. Only once in these nine paragraphs is there any use of the word "understanding" and that is in the context of "teaching arithmetic facts" such as "multiples of whole numbers", where it goes on to say "This is a skill that ...". Nowhere in this elaboration is there any indication of how students might use or demonstrate conceptual understanding. This draft also eliminates the chapter on the "Strands" which indicated how different mathematical ideas are connected, further showing how it undervalues mathematical thinking. This Framework's one-sided approach is especially prevalent in the sections which will play a crucial role in driving policy, such as the "Instructional Materials Criteria" (in chapter 11), rendering moot any claims it would bring balance to California education.
Therefore I am urging that the Curriculum Commission and the State Board of Education reject the September 17 draft as not meeting the needs of California's students. Since its bias is so deeply rooted in the writing of the recent authors, it cannot be remedied by minor changes of wording. The only responsible course of action is for the document to be returned to the Commission for a complete rewrite, with explicit instructions to collaborate with a new group of advisors who are truly dedicated to producing a balanced document. If this isn't done, California's K-12 students will be short-changed in the years to come.
Bill Jacob Professor of Mathematics University of California, Santa Barbara firstname.lastname@example.org
cc Superintendent Delaine Eastin Members of the Curriculum Commission, c/o Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resourc -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: JBECKER@SIU.EDU