Weekly Math Updates

February 15, 2006

This Week's Contents:
  • Board Meeting
  • News Clippings
  • Site Updates
  • Comic

Board Meeting

Hi all,
    Fairly short update this week and I promise to get back on a weekly email unless there's something really pressing.  We had three good articles in the news this week.  The Deseret News article details the school board meeting Tuesday night.  At the meeting, two petition signers showed up and presented excellent thoughts to the board.  I must say I'm extremely thankful they came.  Laura Hancock from the Deseret News showed up for the first time since I've been going, and for another first, people showed up in support of Investigations math.  Three teachers and a parent all showed up singing the praises of Investigations math.  If the two petition signers hadn't come, it would have been a 4 to 1 ratio of comments in favor of the program on a night the press came to report.  I know many of you have said you'd like to come to a board meeting and share your story.  It does have an impact.  Please speak up and share your stories with your children's teachers, principal, and the school board.  It would be wonderful if some teachers from the district came and spoke against the program at a board meeting too.  You may be able to influence some teachers to do that.  Sharing concerns about the program won't get a teacher fired like some feared it could a few years ago.  It's a different district now than it was even a year ago.  They are feeling a lot of pressure and I've received emails from teachers that Investigations materials are being put away and traditional materials are coming out to prepare the kids for upcoming state exams.  Good things are happening.  Details of my comments are below.

News Clippings
Salt Lake Tribune-"Indifference to math skills part of the problem"

Deseret News-"Parents voice their views on Alpine math"

Provo Daily Herald-"Provo district seeks math balance"

Site Updates

    My presentation to the board focused on 3 things.  First is the article I have previously linked to called the "10 Myths About Math Education and Why You Shouldn't Believe Them."  If you didn't read it, it's excellent and shows the fallacies of fuzzy math by listing studies opposing the so-called benefits of the programs.


    Next I spoke about the IOWA test math scores.  The district ranges from 9% below national average to 11% above national average in the different areas tested.  Computation was the one area that was under national average at every grade level.  You can see the details here:


    Then I addressed the "brain-drain" the district is experiencing through Charter schools.  I'm not attempting to provide a scientifically sound analysis of this, but charter schools are getting top students from the district.  It shows because their CRT level 4 math mastery is 30% higher than the district in some cases and at some grade levels the charters have no children in levels 1 and 2 (the lowest math mastery levels).  It's a direct result of the district's math program and I emphasized that continuing in this direction will cause the district to trend downward every year as the best students are pulled out by their parents for a stronger program.  Here's the graphs and data if you want to see them:


    Lastly, I gave the board a solution.  I have been corresponding with some of the top mathematicians in our country at prestigious universities and asked them for their top curriculum picks.  I was surprised at the united voice they had around the top two picks.  Singapore math was number one, but the problem with it is a lack of teacher materials translated into English.  So to run it you have to have really strong math teachers which is very rare in elementary school levels.  The number two pick, which becomes number one when you have a lack of strong math teachers, is Saxon.  I mentioned to the board that the Deseret News ran an article two weeks ago that said Utah has to hire 44,000 new teachers over the next ten years.  That's a terrifying proposition and I spoke as persuasively as I could for the need to put a solid core program into place as the primary curriculum and if it had weaknesses, supplement from that point.  Saxon has excellent teacher materials and some have referred to it as teacher-proof, not because teachers with experience can't use the skills they have used for years, but because it keeps everyone on track to cover the appropriate material, in the appropriate order, so that kids build layers upon their core math knowledge.  It's the strongest foundation from which to start.  The third pick (for your curiosity) degraded and some said Sadlier-Oxford and others some French and Russian programs.  Personally, I am all for adopting Saxon K-8 in our district for its strength of standards, and it would help unite charter school students coming back into the district after 6 or 8 years of being in the charter school.  The students in both schools would have covered the same materials during that time.


Here's a laugh for the week sent to me by one of the petition signers.

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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