Weekly Math Updates

September 13, 2006


  • The Death of Constructivism
  • ASD's Legacy
  • Teacher Comment
  • Tim Osborne-School Board Candidate
  • Dual Enrollment Summary
  • Free Capitalist Invitation--I'm Speaking and You're Invited
  • Engineer Writes School Board
  • Media Articles
  • Star Trek--Taking Us Where No Classroom Has Gone Before (MATH RELATED BONUS)
  • Weekly Comic

The Death of Constructivism

After the HUGE news in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the NCTM "Standards-Based" myth should finally find a nice grave to crawl into. If only the teachers and administrators could understand the major reversal in philosophy that occurred yesterday, they would understand that Constructivism was just given a solid kick in the pants and told to go home, lock yourself in your room, do not pass go, do not collect $200 (million) from any more school districts, and do us all a favor with the noose we conveniently left in your room (I am not an advocate of suicide but I will make this one exception).

Please, please, please print and deliver or email a link to the WSJ article to your principal, teachers, PTA president, and community council members and let them know Constructivism is dead and we should all be considering Singapore math as one of the replacement programs. This is a powerful article and should get everyone considering the use of Singapore math which is the very best program available and will produce superior students that can both compute and comprehend math. Further, we should stay as far away from Investigations version 2 as possible. It will not meet these new standards.

For your convenience in printing or emailing, click here for a copy of the article on my website:

ASD's Legacy

After last week's update with several parent comments including one whose 8th and 10th graders who were having difficulty with multiplication tables, I got this email from another parent.

        Regarding  the  parent  whose  child  couldn't  do  multiplication  tables;   My  ninth grader,  Nathaniel,  is  an  after  school  tutor  in  his  school's,  Oak  Canyon  Jr. High,   math lab.   Yesterday,  he  reported  watching  a  seventh  grader  using  long  division  to find  the answer  to 24/2.  He  was  helping  another  seventh grader  who  asked  him  the  question,  "What is  eight  times  three?". 

        The  first highest priority  of  public  education  should  be  the  teaching  of  reading, writing  and  math.  In  my  opinion,  the  abc's  of  math  are  plus,  minus, times and  divide  1 - 12.  Just like you  can't read  without knowing  the  letters,  you can't  multiply  two  and  three  digit  numbers,  add  fractions  or  do  algebra       without  knowing  the  basic  times  tables.   A  student  who  makes it  to the  seventh  grade  without  knowing  the  basics,  hates  math  and  is  afraid  of  math.  That  student  will  avoid math  classes  and  avoid  careers  like  computer science,  engineering,  accounting  or business  management  that require  a  lot  of  math.   What a  tragedy.   Bright,  intelligent  children  think  that  they  are  dumb  because  they  were  never required  to memorize the  times  tables  IN  THE THIRD  GRADE. 

        When the  investigations  circus  came  to  our  school,  Northridge  Elementary,  I talked  to the proponents after the meeting  and  was  told  (among  other  things),   "Rote memorization of  times tables is  ok,  investigations  is  slightly  better, but  under  no  circumstances can  the two  be mixed  because that will  confuse the  children  and  they  won't  understand  either  method." 

        After  that  meeting, I  went  to the Alphabet  Station,  748  S.  State  St. in  Orem,  and bought  flash  cards.  Since  then,  I  have  drilled  my  kids  for  5-10    minutes  a  night.   The  result  is  that  my  seven  year  old  son,  Jonathan,  knows  his  times  tables  1 through  12.   In  his  third  grade class on Tuesday,  his  teacher handed  out a math  worksheet (plus and  minus)  and then  began  calling the  children  back individually  to read  with her  so she  could  assess their   reading  skills.   Unfortunately,  she was  being  constantly interrupted  by  kids  asking math questions,  and  she  couldn't listen  to  any  reading.   So  she  finally  said, "If  you  have  any  math  questions,  ask Jonathan.".   My son,  Jonathan,  had  finished  his  math  worksheet  in  about  90  seconds  and  was  sitting  around  bored.  Last  school  year  as  an  eighth grader, my  son  Nathaniel  got  the second  highest  score  in  Utah  County on  the Utah  State  Math  Contest  and  won  first place in the  Utah  County Math Counts  competition.   My  fifth grader,  Elizabeth,  is also at the  top  of  her  class  in  math  at  Northridge elementary. 

        I  mention  that  because  all  that I do  at home  is flash  cards for  5 - 10 minutes  a  day.   Plus,  minus,  times and  divide 1 - 12.  I  don't think a  parent needs to  spend  an  hour a  night  on math.   My  children  love math.   They  don't  think  that math is boring  or hard  and don't  dread  spending  a  few  minutes in  the  evening  on flash  cards.   My  heart  goes out to the parents  and children who are  struggling and behind;  Those that hate  math  and are  afraid  of it.  Their whole lives  will likely  be  affected  by the fact  that they didn't learn their times tables  etc. in  the third  grade. 

        I  agree  with  the  teacher's  comment that the  primary  responsibility  for  the  education  of  a  child falls  to  the parent.  It  would  be  nice  to  have  the  schools  help  out  a  little  but  clearly,  if  a  seventh  grader doesn't  know  that  eight  times  three  equals twenty-four, something  has  failed.   I  appreciate  your    efforts trying to get  rid  of  the 'junk'  math  in  the ASD,  but  my  approach has  always  been,  that it  doesn't  matter  what  the  schools  are  doing,  MY  kids  will  know their  times tables.  I  wrote  you  this note, to  offer a possible  solution for  those parents who see  their children falling  behind  and  are  frustrated and don't  know  what  to do.

Robert Merrill

I am personally grateful for the teachers who shut their doors and taught the times tables when the district told them not to. They remind me of the highest quality of U.S. Marines who think before acting...you don't shoot innocent people just because your commanding officer gave you a direct order. You have to know when to disobey orders and stand for what's right. Whistleblowers often face the wrath of their company for standing up for something at great personal cost. There are quite a few of these types of people in our district who bear the title "teacher" and stood up against a system they knew to be wrong. It's painfully obvious how wrong the district got it when you read stories like the one above and from last week. For the district to get something so basic, so wrong, is unconscionable. Alpine's legacy is set. They have permanently disabled thousands of children for life. For those still in the system, I hope it's not too late but they need some serious remediation.

Teacher Comment

I received this email from a teacher in Draper who said I could use her name. She was taught constructivism in her education classes in college but has had a change of heart since then.

I was doing a bit of research via internet about  Project Follow Through and found your site. I find it very interesting and a  breath of fresh air. I am a professional educator in a public charter school.  Our school is data-driven and utilizes Direct Instruction all day long and  specifically in skill acquisition classes. I was unsure of how it would work when I first interviewed for the position. I was a newly graduated  professional and had been taught in college that Direct Instruction is the ineffectual drill-and-kill method. The way to go, they said, is  constructivism! We learned how to teach absolutely everything using  constructivism methods. During my student teaching, I was unsatisfied with the constructivism method and began inserting some DI techniques even though I was  not familiar with nor trained in DI. I am now trained in Direct Instruction. I  use Direct Instruction programs for teaching skill acquisition. I use Direct Instruction techniques for everything else. I feel successful because I know  through weekly, monthly, and yearly data that it works. I track every student  on a daily basis and see it work. If you had asked me in May of 2005 for my  opinion of Direct Instruction I would have regurgitated a few phrases from my  college classes. My views have changed dramatically. I am in full support of  Direct Instruction!
--Deb Lovendahl

Tim Osborne-School Board Candidate

Tim Osborn (a supporter of our movement) is running against Keith Swain for the school board. He could use all the campaign contributions we can send his way. Please make a donation today. He also said he's happy to speak with anyone and that I could publish his phone number.

Tim Osborn
712 N. 200 W.
American Fork, UT 84003
(801)492-4436 Home

Dual Enrollment Summary

I have created a summary page of all the dual enrollment information including comments from you about how some of you are handling the situation for mid-day classes. For the whole scoop, click here.

Free Capitalist Meeting--I'm Speaking and You're Invited

If you've never heard about the Free Capitalist organization, it's an organization that believes in the constitution and making positive changes in society. They meet weekly in local chapter meetings and I have been invited to speak to their group this Thursday the 14th in Pleasant Grove from 7-8 PM. If any of you are interested in meeting me and checking out this organization I'd like to invite you to attend. The location for the meeting this week is the Utah Auto Sales building located at 17 N. State in Lindon.

If you can't make it this Thursday, I will be speaking to the Provo chapter on the 21st of this month at the FranklinSquires building at 85 East Bay Blvd. in Provo (use the Southeast entrance). This meeting will also be from 7-8 PM. Here's a link to the about page of the Free Capitalist organization.


Engineer Writes School Board

This is one of the best letters I've found simply because it pulls the best research together in one place. This would be a good resource to share with teachers and anyone that wants to have "non-flawed" :) research available to review.


Media Articles

As you know, the Wall Street Journal has picked up our story thanks to a contact in a high place who I am grateful chose to contact us. As you read, big things are coming. This is the national news I mentioned a few weeks ago would be coming on the focal points. I don't know all the ramifications yet, but as I learn them I'll pass them on.

These next two articles are from "John Dewey", the anonymous individual taking math coursework in college. I have previously linked to his first two articles and these are just as enlightening in how teachers are being indoctrinated in constructivism in their training. The teachers are big on NCTM standards and defend the lack of core items presented to children in the classrooms.



Star Trek--Taking Us Where No Classroom Has Gone Before (MATH RELATED BONUS)


Inspiring millions of children to grow up and dream of becoming Scotty the wonder-engineer, and millions more to painfully apply clothes-pins to create pointed Vulcan ears, Star Trek, The Original Series, returns this week running digitally remastered episodes with updated graphics and effects where possible, and enhanced audio as well. They're trying to stay very faithful to the original series look and feel but putting in updated CGI and effects to eliminate some of the velveeta (cheesy) look from the cutting-edge 60's special effects studio work. The first episode is Balance of Terror, one of the great classic episodes between the Federation and Romulans.

Let me just say for the record, this episode shows Kirk at his finest and in my book he clearly beats Picard as captain of the Enterprise almost solely for being the only academy student to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru simulator...

Start watching this Saturday the 16th (KUWB for locals) when the newly revamped show starts airing.

Let me further say regarding Star Trek, that after watching the first season of Babylon 5, I had to quit watching DS9 and Voyager (which were airing new episodes) as they were so pathetic compared to the story arc contained in the Babylon 5 sci-fi show. Excellent stories, excellent writing and acting, and the strictest attention to physics. Babylon 5 is the all time best sci-fi show...just an opinion, from someone that's watched them all.

Weekly Comic

Dedicated to NCTM...May you rest in peace.

Archive: http://www.oaknorton.com/weaponsofmathdestruction.cfm

Till next week,

Oak Norton


Copyright 2005-06, All Rights Reserved