Weekly Math Updates

January 24, 2006

Hi all,

    Another great week with some progress made.  Good things are happening.  More than ever we need your support to get more people on the petition, not just in Alpine, but from around Utah.  There are a few positive signs coming out of ASD, but along with our goal of replacing constructivist math in Alpine, we need to see it happen across the state and ensure we have high math standards for all our children in Utah. 

Letter to Herald Editor by BYU PhD, Jeffrey Humpherys

This short letter makes an excellent point on why memorization has a place in mathematics.


John Stossel's 20/20 Education Report "Stupid in America"

If you missed the excellent piece of work on the education community by John Stossel on 20/20 a week ago, go to this page and watch the short video clips and read the report.  When the video window comes up, there's two other short clips you need to watch on the popup screen that go along with the piece.  See how an Oakland school went from last place to first on limited funds and how students abroad view American students math skills.


A Saxon Story from a charter school petition signer in Logan, UT.  (please note this child obviously has an aptitude for math and I'm sure not all second graders in Saxon from K-2 can perform this kind of math, but it's very encouraging to note that at least these concepts are covered by second grade and that this child has excellent comprehension)

I was sitting at Sunday dinner when Jacob, my second grader, asks in a wistful sort of way, "Dad, what's three squared?" 
"Nine," I answered, "Now you tell me, what's five squared?"  I was happy that he answered correctly.  "Okay," I said, "what's nine squared?" 
This time I was thrilled that he got the answer right.  "Hmm... what's the square root of sixteen?" 
"Four", he answered. 
"What's the square root of nine?" I asked. 
"Three", he said. 
"Okay, so what's the square root of ten?" I queried. 
He thought for a minute, then he said, "It doesn't have one." 
Just as I was ready to announce that there was indeed a square root of ten, Caleb, my fourth grader, jumped in and said, "Yeah, it does." 
Jacob then said, "Actually I haven't learned that yet, but if it did have one, it would be between three and four." 
Now I was  somewhat amazed.  Then Jacob asked, "What's one hundred to the hundredth power?" 
"Ten thousand," I said (for a split second I thought I was right thinking of one hundred squared).
Then he dropped the bomb when he looked at me inquisitively and said, "Wouldn't there be at least 200 zeros in the answer?"

Legislative Section

I considered sending this next week, but I don't see why I should delay it.  The below items need your attention.  They affect not just Alpine District, but the whole state of Utah in big ways.  I would like to request that you take this week to write a letter to your state senator and representative regarding these items as appropriate to reject or support them as outlined below.  If you don't know your state officers, you can look them up at www.utah.gov or at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/officials/?lvl=L (if you can't tell from the Utah.gov site).  I have attached a sample letter you may customize to save timeYour actions may help decide the fate of millions of Utahns.  You can make a difference by sending this letter.

Legislative Update #1-REJECT

    Governor Huntsman just proposed a $16 million training budget for teachers in grades 4-6 to help them better teach the Utah state math core.  The problem in Utah IS THE CORE!!!  The core is so weak that my kindergartener can do a 4th grade problem off the state utips website and programs like Investigations are legitimized in our schools because they meet these standards.  If we had a content based core that said by X grade a student should know Q, R & S concepts and teach them for comprehension, we would easily be far ahead of where we're currently at.  I highly encourage you to write your local representative and state senator and ask them not to support Governor Huntsman's plan until the state core is revised with real math standards written by mathematicians that know math and comprehend what students need to know by the time they hit college.

    Amazingly as I was looking at this analysis on Utah (http://www.achieve.org/en_US/interactive/stateProfile_content.html), I found that Utah is the #2 state behind California with the largest percentage of 8th graders to take Algebra.  However, the proficiency of our 8th graders drops to #23 in the country based on their level of comprehension.

    What is to be done?  Content-based standards and a rigorous curriculum.

Legislative Update #2--H.B. 77 School District Boundaries-SUPPORT

Representative David Cox, a bold supporter of our situation as you've read in the paper, is introducing legislation that would limit the size of school districts to 30,000 students causing our district to split as well as other giant bureaucratic school districts in the state and bring accountability closer to home.  David has done significant research on this topic and you can read about it here:


David's Bill text is here:


Legislative Update #3--H.J.R. 11 Resolution Urging Congresss to Repeal No Child Left Behind-SUPPORT

Representative David Cox is also introducing a bill to repeal the NCLB (pron: Ni-kol-bee for short) act which tramples states rights and injects the federal government where it doesn't belong...our local schools.  Read the text of the bill to see what it covers and why.


Legislative Update #4---S.B. 156  Legislative Direction Relating to United States Senators--17th Amendment--Critical Off-Topic Issue-SUPPORT

It's always risky discussing something off-topic.  Just about every time I do, someone asks to be removed from the list and the math battle is my first priority.  I hope this isn't one of those times though, because this topic is critical to your personal freedom.  There is a bill being sponsored in Utah which will help overcome the negative effects of the unconstitutional 17th amendment.  Rather than explain it here, please check out this page on my site.  This bill by Senator Stephenson is a good start.


Till next week,

Oak Norton


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