Weekly Math Updates

January 10, 2006

Hello Petition Signers,

Math Tutors

Before I get started into the school board meeting, let me just mention I have posted the tutors page on my website.  It shows who is tutoring in traditional math in case any of you are interested in finding a tutor.  So far I only know of one and she is an outspoken critic of the constructivist math programs.  If you know of others, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.


Petition Progress

As of tonight we have 4.6% of the children in Alpine School District represented on the petition.  That's 897 families and 2,475 children in those homes.  I estimate that we need 75 more families with an average of 3 children each in the district in order to hit 5%.  That's a very magic number for us because as a landmark, more media will pick up our story and start publicizing what's going on.  I'd like to thank a couple of you that have gone out this week and signed up several new families by going door to door.  It's been great weather for being outside and those signups really help.  We just need 75 more this month to hit 5%.  It's easier than you think to spread the word, so many people are upset about these programs.

January School Board Meeting (1/10/06)

I attended the school board meeting Tuesday night in Alpine District.  For new petition signers that didn't get the email last week, I had been asked about a week and a half ago by one of the board members to open-mindedly review a report that was online that showed how great Investigations math was.  I took up the challenge and spent over 10 hours during the last week and a half researching and contacting people associated with the study.  I then presented the findings to the board.

Unfortunately (for the board), the study was quite flawed with the major flaw being that TERC (the group that created and publishes Investigations Math) being the creator and funder of the study.  They designed the test and helped administer it and fund the website the study is published on.  I'm certain you will be shocked to learn that Investigations math is shown to increase math scores across all boundaries for all students tested.  Dr. Jim Milgram of Stanford said of this study, it is akin to the tobacco company studies of the 50's and 60's telling everyone "smoking is safe, we've tested it."

I'm attaching the emails (read them on this page)I received from Dr. Milgram and Sandra Stotsky (who was the assistant commissioner of education in Massachusetts when this study was performed there in 2000).  They are very enlightening emails and I encourage you to read them.  Dr. Milgram is on the advisory board of NASA and says that these programs have been around for decades and if they were effective, NASA, IBM and others would be actively looking for high schoolers that went through these programs.  He also said it's generally acknowledged that no valid study has ever been performed to show the effectiveness of these programs.  More on this in a minute.

Besides presenting this material, I challenged the board to 3 things:

1) Don't ever let someone from the district contradict me after I leave and then not tell me about it (which happened in either October or November) and not give me a chance to respond.

2) They've acknowledged that teachers are now able to teach anywhere on the spectrum that they think the students need to learn from Investigations to Traditional math, so now put your money where your mouth is and fund teacher choice of curriculum (the statement giving teachers authority to teach without fear of reprimand was read in November at the board meeting and the direct result of my October visit to the board). http://www.oaknorton.com/ASD%20November%20Board%20Meeting%20Statement.doc

3) A challenge to find JUST ONE VALID INDEPENDENT STUDY by the end of January that shows these constructivist programs are on par or better than traditional programs.  If they find one I agreed to publish it on my website and email it to all of you.  I didn't make them promise to drop the programs if they couldn't find one, but hopefully it will make some people think about what's happening as they try to find an untainted study.  Of course I'll keep you posted on this.

I will get all of this onto the website in the next few days, but I want to give you a few choice clips from Dr. Milgram's review of Connected Math.  I gave each member of the board a copy of this document and asked them to read it.


Page 1 of 22:
If one visits the web site of the program (Connected Math), http://www.math.msu.edu/cmp/Index.html, one finds two preprints, presumably using rigorous methodology and statistical analysis, that are advertised as showing the benefits of CMP. Unfortunately, as we see in the appendix to this report, both studies are fatally flawed and deceptively presented. Additionally, at the website one will find a strong endorsement of the program by the AAAC. They grade it as one of the most effective programs for teaching middle school mathematics Unfortunately, this too must be taken with a grain of salt, as is also discussed in the appendix. In fact, it is generally acknowledged that there are no reputable studies showing that any of the NSF developed mathematics programs actually benefit students in testable ways.

Leaving aside these issues, we turn to the program itself.”

(Oak comment: What a sense of humor he has!  Then he proceeds to closely examine the three grade levels for connected math and skillfully show this curriculum as one of the worst available.)

Page 2 of 22: “Overall, the program seems to be very incomplete, and I would judge that it is aimed at underachieving students rather than normal or higher achieving students. In itself this is not a problem unless, as is the case, the program is advertised as being designed for all students. In fact, as indicated, there is no reputable research at all which supports this.”

Page 20 of 22:

“There is a second paper extolling CMP at the CMP website by Reys, et.al. In this paper the statistics are done well but the "control group" is not realistic. The paper looks at three programs: CMP, another similar program, and a "control group" that consists of teachers who seem to share the same philosophy as the developers of CMP but are teaching without the assistance of any books or course materials. In other words the control group consists of teachers who are just winging it.

Unfortunately, this kind of statistical analysis, poorly done and misleading, appears to be very common in research on NSF funded programs, and the errors all seem to be in the direction most favorable to the programs.”


That's it for this week.  Next week's update will include what not to have a talking Barbie say about math. :)

Oak Norton


Copyright 2005-06, All Rights Reserved