Investigations Math Poll Results - The California Failure
If you've been reading this sequence of pages, you are aware that I attended
a community meeting in the Spring of 2005 with our school district. Something
I have just learned blows a hole in another of the school districts representations.
I was curious about a statement that was made after a visitor brought up the
point that schools in California tried to implement Investigations
and then concluded it was dragging them down so they dumped it. The individual
speaking for the school district at this meeting said that in California, they
had only used Investigations Math for a year or two and it was showing promising
results but they didn't have a full implementation of it. They never gave it
a fair test. Those were
What I have learned, is that those words are completely false. Whether he
was just ignorant of the facts or deliberately made those statements is unknown
to me but here's the real story.
Not only did California implement Investigations and Mathland and other curriculum
in this same genre of "fuzzy math," they ran it for over 7 years. From before
1992 to 1998 California ran
test scores drop. At California State University remedial math
course enrollments went from 25% in 1992 for college freshmen, to over 50%
of the student freshman population in 1999 (see
study). That shows
a completely different picture
The following clip is from an article in the Los Angeles Times in 1999 written
by two math professors (one from Stanford and the other from CSUN and on the
in CA) (See
L.A.'S MATH PROGRAM JUST DOESN'T ADD UP)
"LASI has promoted an experimental K-6 math curriculum,
to Investigation's Math and roughly the same program], which has no
textbooks for students. Its manual for teachers tells them not
the standard algorithms of arithmetic to children. In other words, children
are not taught the traditional procedures for addition, subtraction, multiplication
and division. Nowhere in any of these K-6 materials is the usual way to
multiply two numbers, like 35 times 76, ever explained...
Mathland and IMP are not the only questionable programs implemented by LASI
in Los Angeles schools. All of LASI's recommendations are problematic. The
heavy emphasis on calculators is particularly damaging. This often results
in students needing their calculators for even the most rudimentary figuring.
It is our view that calculators should be used sparingly in grades 6-12 and
not at all in grades K-5. The base 10 structure of our number system together
with the standard arithmetic algorithms carry the seeds of algebra. Depriving
children of mastery of arithmetic closes doors to more advanced mathematics
courses in ways that district staff members do not seem to understand.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education
show that success in secondary school algebra is the single greatest predictor
of success in college--not
just for engineering and science majors, but for majors in all fields."
Did you catch that? Algebra is the SINGLE GREATEST PREDICTOR OF SUCCESS IN
COLLEGE FOR ALL FIELDS. When one district dropped this Investigations Math's
program, it was reported (same
"Sacramento Unified School District abandoned the faddish LASI-style curricula
for its multiethnic students and increased its first and second grade SAT-9
test scores by more than 16 percentile points this year."
From a news release by the HOLD (Honest Open Logical Debate) group in California
that began fighting this fuzzy math program, the following information describes
the true results of the "early success" some people quote when dealing
with this program (see Parents'
Math Group Says Test Results Distorted)
The California Department of Education released the scores on the 1994 California
Learning Assessment System (CLAS) test Apr. 3, and, said HOLD steering
committee member Bill Evers, Palo Alto school district officials are "already making
misleading and wrongheaded comparisons." Evers referred to a statement
of Associate Superintendent Barbara Liddell, who [San Jose Mercury News,
4/5/95] had compared the percentages of Palo Alto eighth-graders in the
top CLAS rank
in 1993 (1%) and 1994 (24%)...
But, Evers noted, such comparisons are "completely invalid -- district
officials simply don't know how to read the results." The state Department
of Education says that because the test has been changed and the grading
procedure has been changed: "Comparisons between 1993 and 1994 CLAS
test results should not be made." [Calif. Dept. of Ed., news release
When district officials make comparisons between 1993 and 1994 'proficiency level'
numbers, according HOLD member Zeev Wurman, they "must not forget" to
tell the public that in 1994 the grading criteria for mathematics were "significantly
lowered. It became especially easier to get a high grade. To take a metaphor
from the high jump or the hurdles, the state of California has 'lowered the bar.'"
The statewide percentages for reading and writing
essentially did not change between 1993 and 1994, but the math scores in
the highest CLAS rank (6) changed
from 0.03% in 1993 to 3% in 1994, a hundredfold increase. Similarly in the
second CLAS rank (5) the numbers increased statewide by a factor of two to
five at various year-level grades. "Such astronomical improvements within
a year," Wurman says, "can only come by artificial means. Concluding,
as the district does, that these results show children ascending to higher
levels of achievement is wrong."
Did you see that? The individuals responsible
for the program took the opportunity to change top ranking percentiles
and thus artificially boosted
of ONE HUNDRED. By 1997, the ELM exam (Entry Level Math) used in California
showed a statewide average failure rate of 55%, with the school districts
using Mathland at a failure rate of 78% (link).
Without solid math facts gained in younger grades, the children will not do
as well in algebra. The reason is you have to be able to quickly compute with
math facts when you do algebra problems (try 2x + y = 10, y = 4. Can you do
it in your head?). If you can't do algebra, you are less likely to succeed
in ANY field, not just
from our schools unless you are in the most advanced math and science classes.
So when our school district officials say California didn't give this program
a fair shake, don't believe one word of it. The program was a disaster and
California math students went from tops in the nation to 3rd lowest. That's
where Alpine School District is taking our children.
However, California has since recognized their problem
and done an about face. According to a Fordham
Foundation report entitled "The State of State Math Standards" California
now has the number 1 curriculum in the nation and their test scores are coming
up. Utah has gone from a "B" to "D" grade for our curriculum
and we're ranked 35th in the nation for our math
For a list of California's now approved top-notch math curriculum coursework,
which by the way includes Saxon math, go to this
site, then click on Adopted Report.
To try and improve your child's math knowledge, be sure to check out the Extra
feature on supplementing your child's education.
I have added an article by Wayne Bishop, PhD, Cal State Department of Mathematics where he studied California schools that adopted Saxon math when they were forced to drop Investigations math and he charts the improvement in math scores for the schools. It is a remarkable study showing incredible improvements across the board from low socio-economic schools (SES) as well as in high SES schools. Click below to view this Word document:
Four Years of California Mathematics Progress
This document is a quick summary of how California's standards were weakened, parents got involved with professionals, standards were raised, the state is moving up and in time will regain it's place as one of our top mathematical states.
Investigations Math Menu
** Most important pages to read (all have value but if you will only read
a few pages make it these)
* Very important