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Topic: Draft California Mathematics Framework - A Reaction
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Draft California Mathematics Framework - A Reaction
Posted: Oct 4, 1998 4:31 PM
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[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

September 21, 1998

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

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

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)

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