Search All of the Math Forum:
Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by
NCTM or The Math Forum.



Responses to the WSJ Editorial  Everyday Math
Posted:
Jan 15, 2000 8:52 PM


**************************************************** From the Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2000. Thanks to several people for bringing these letters to our attention. ****************************************************
Letters to the Editor

The new programs are not "horrifyingly short on basics." My child is in the second grade of a California public school, and she is being taught by a very talented and dedicated teacher, who uses one of the curriculum textbooks you vilify. My child is learning her mathematics facts, her 2+2's very well, and she can explain all her answers in writing. She is also having fun while learning. Once in awhile, she uses a calculator, not as a substitute for computing, but for exploring large numbers.
Not everyone in California agrees with the retrograde curriculum policies recently adopted by the State Board of Education. And the policies are not law; they are voluntary. "Resourcerich families, too, one suspects, will find ways to compensate for what trendy schools omit," you write. My wife and I both have graduate degrees; we would probably meet the "resourcerich" criteria. Our school is not "trendy." The teachers are using materials that are effective.
John Jekabson Berkeley, Calif.

It is not in the least surprising that 200 mathematicians and scientists, including four Nobel Prize and two Fields Medal winners, deplore the teaching reforms embodied in the Connected Math and Everyday Math curricula, as pointed out in your Jan. 4 editorial. They represent precisely the infinitesimal minority of the population who (a) demonstrably learned math best the old way, and (b) are deeply professionally invested in those teaching methods whose sole goal is to reproduce their own scholarly selves and not incidentally to create yet another generation of innumerate mathphobes out of the rest of us. The interesting question is why these experts persist in believing that their own personal learning experiences (all of them, you can be sure, leaped at warpspeed over those rote blackboard drills) have any relevance whatsoever to the task of teaching for understanding in today's schools.
Douglas T. Shapiro (M.A., Mathematics) Brooklyn, N.Y.

Our New Math Adds Up to Success
Your Jan. 4 editorial "Math Wars" and the Jan. 7 Letters to the Editor criticized Everyday Mathematics, the elementary curriculum from the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP). We would like to clarify some details about this curriculum.
Everyday Mathematics is built on decades of research in mathematics education, teaches much more mathematics than conventional programs, and has been extensively field tested and revised by many fine teachers over many years. And it is highly effective, as has been demonstrated in student achievement studies over more than 10 years. The program emphasizes memorizing basic arithmetic facts and using them both in paper and pencil computation and in mental arithmetic. It then applies computation in realworld situations, data analysis, algebra, measurement, and geometry. It does not focus on building "selfesteem," except insofar as knowing a lot of mathematics builds selfesteem. The "If math were a color" exercise you cited as an example of an absence of serious content comes at the end of the first unit in fifth grade. That unit is about number theory, including factoring, divisibility, figurate numbers, and an indepth investigation of prime and composite numbers. The color exercise is designed as a brief bit of reflection after an intensive first two weeks of school.
In a special report on science and mathematics education in the January 2000 issue of Popular Science, Lauren Resnick, former president of the American Educational Research Association, is quoted: "The National Science Foundationfunded program Everyday Mathematics, which also stresses understanding of concepts, produced a marked change in the performance of Pittsburgh elementary and middle schoolers, with a three to fourtime improvement in grades, especially for AfricanAmerican students."
These remarkable results are not unique. In 1998, six of the 10 topscoring schools on the Pennsylvania state test used Everyday Mathematics. In 1999, four of the 10 topscoring schools in Massachusetts used the program. And 12 of the 25 topscoring Chicagoarea schools on the 1999 thirdgrade Illinois Standards Achievement Test used it. More than half of the elementary school districts in the First in the World Consortium of highachieving schools outside the city of Chicago also use Everyday Mathematics.
MAX BELL, PH.D. Professor Emeritus of Education, University of Chicago Director, UCSMP Elementary Materials Component Chicago
(The letter is also signed by Andy Isaacs, D.A., director, UCSMP Everyday Mathematics Center; James McBride, Ph.D., director, UCSMP K6 Revisions; and Zalman Usiskin, Ph.D., director, University of Chicago School Mathematics Project.) ****************************************************
Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 629014610 USA Fax: (618) 4534244 Phone: (618) 4534241 (office) (618) 4578903 (home) Email: jbecker@siu.edu
mailto://jbecker@siu.edu



