Weekly Math Updates

November 1, 2006


  • Tim Osborne, ASD Board Candidate
  • Cedar Hills Survey
  • Parent Comment on Fairness of Bond
  • Media Articles (mostly Bond related)
  • Homework, the Aftermath Part 2
  • Weekly Comic

Tim Osborne, ASD Board Candidate

In Tolkein's masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf motivates the captains of Gondor before the battle of Pelinor Fields with these words which stir the soul.

 "Yet it is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."

Thomas Paine, one of our founding fathers and one whose pen stirred the souls of men into action all across our country during the conflict, wrote these words in the first of a series of articles entitled, "The Crisis."

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

This week is our crisis.  Will you be the summer soldier and sunshine patriot who only fights for what you believe when it's convenient?  You have the opportunity to uproot the evil in the fields and prepare the soil so that your children who follow may have clean earth to till.  If you live in Alpine School District, we must have YOUR help this week.  Tim Osborne needs to win by a huge margin to send the right message.  Decide NOW to set aside a few hours this week and go get a packet of fliers and a marked map to distribute them to residents of American Fork.  If you live inside ASD's boundaries, please come volunteer.  This is the ONLY CANDIDATE that is running that will bring a sea change to the school board. Here's what YOU need to do.  I will be doing it as well.

Stop by Tim Osborne's home in American Fork after 2 PM any day this week and pick up a packet of fliers and a map of an area to canvas with your stack.  His address is 712 N. 200 W. in American Fork. THEN GET OUT AND TAPE FLIERS TO DOORS BY SATURDAY AT THE LATEST.  Tim's phone numbers are h/492-4436 and w/(801)973-0177.  I'd be shocked if more than a couple of you had an actual real conflict that would prevent you from spending a couple of hours some time helping out.  If you have kids in charter school, this still benefits you.  None of us know which child that might be helped by a better education may someday discover the scientific wonder of the world. Certainly the contributions we individually make can't be measured by objective standards.  You never know who you're helping when you selflessly sacrifice for others. Please, reach inside and help out. We all know we feel better when we've done something good and this is one of those opportunities to make a real difference. Don't let the rainy day patriots get all the glory (though let's hope for good weather :)).

Cedar Hills Survey

I can hear Richard Dawson shout, "Survey says?"

As I emailed out last week in a mid-week alert, Cedar Hills recently ran a survey that showed 50% of their residents hate Investigations math. The district has to be smarting from that one...kind of puts a hole in their lame "parents love it" excuse. Only 17% of the parents said they loved it making roughly a 3 to 1 ratio. I also have to wonder if the math selection committee at the district level is comprised of parents that represent this ratio. I told the school board a year ago in one board meeting that only a tiny fraction of the district has heard of me or our petition and if each person that signed the petition were to count for multiple people in the district, we'd be closer to 40% or so that hated the program. I guess my fuzzy estimation was off a bit, but not letting pride get the best of me, I'll apologize to the district the next time I see them. :)

If you want to see the official Cedar Hills survey, go here:

The press article that went with the story is here:
Survey: Math Program Doesn't Add Up

Oohhhhhh, and last but not least, I can't help but comment that the top sport picked in Cedar Hills was SOCCER, thus proving the intelligence of the resident's of that city in reaching their conclusion on Investigations math.

Parent Comment on Fairness of Bond

Well, I knew making a comment about the bond would possibly divide this list a bit and I want you to know my first priority is to improve math in ASD and Utah and eventually our nation. There's an awful lot of good people working toward those goals. I wanted to share a comment I got from a parent who lives in the North part of ASD and my response back to her (although I'm sure I will step on more toes here and perhaps even get a fact or two incorrect).

Oak,  What about the fact that all of the other cities have already helped Orem pay for all of their schools.  I would say that it is about time the northern Utah county cities get some of the of the aid our way.  I grew up in Orem and now live in Lehi and I can surely tell you that your schools in Orem have not been neglected as badly as Lehi or some of the other school in northern Utah county.  Orem has an obligation to help out other cities just as we have done for Orem.
- Cathy

Hi Cathy,

    I live in Highland so I can appreciate what you're suggesting that fair is fair.  However, how many thousands of people are moving into the North area that have never paid for Orem schools.  We have a whole new economic base and one of the things that's happened is Lehi is enticing businesses with freebie tax prospects like Cabela's and Micron which got to avoid paying certain taxes in exchange for moving in.  Cedar Hills built a loser golf course rather than let stores move in to form a tax base because they wanted to preserve their lifestyle.  The bottom line is everyone is making stupid decisions because they can.  There's no individual accountability because we're a big bloated district.  We need to fracture the district and force people to take personal responsibility for what happens in their own new districts.  Plus, the ASD leadership is a mess.  Under their guidance we now have high schoolers that need remediation before they even get to college and there we're approaching 70% rates.  So do I want to raise my property taxes to pay for more schools on the North end without Orem's help?  It's not the right question in my mind.  I should be asking how much is better education worth to my child.  We would also build more cost efficient schools if we were smaller.  No more monuments with a beautiful front and then hauling trailers in because it was a misguided calculation (Freedom Elem--must have used Investigations math to calculate square footage).  So, while I appreciate what you're saying, I sincerely hope that not passing the bond causes the breakup of this district and a fracturing of the leadership such that we all have better local control of our children's education.  Regardless of any of this, I recognize the bond is important to many people and math has always been the key focus of what I've been involved in.  So whether or not you agree on the bond, I hope you will help Tim out and support splitting the district as soon as possible.



Media Articles

Here's the week's major stories on the bond issue and the links to them with some brief comments (have I ever been brief?).

Alpine tactics faulted in campaign complaint
It appears that a major complaint has been filed against Alpine's willful violations of campaigning for the bond. The complaint asks for immediate equal time to advertise across the district, and criminal prosecution of the leadership who encouraged promotion of the bond. Some people are saying it was just a mistake and they've apologized and shouldn't be punished for their actions, but people should be held accountable for their actions, especially when they've been through bonding before and have legal counsel to advise them. Of course it may be too late to let an opposition voice be heard at this late stage so the election results may have been permanently tainted by ASD's promotion of the bond with our tax dollars, and then not presenting an opposing view.

Claims filed against Alpine district

District vehicle was misused for politics

"Mortensen said the district wants to do the right thing. 'We're seeking to make amends for anything we did that was out of line and are more than happy to cooperate.'"

I wonder if a student gets in a fight and then apologizes if they will still get detention? Perhaps there's a new standard being developed for students in ASD???

For more information about the complaint, you can get it at:
You can also download the complaint or flyer and pass them out to people or forward them.

Homework, the Aftermath Part 2

It's a good thing I'm a hardwood or I'd be pretty sore getting taken to the woodshed so often lately. Yet another parent takes me to task for printing Orson Scott Card's article on reducing/eliminating homework. Let me just preface this with I know specifically targeted homework can be useful, but I would like to see worthless assignments given for the sake of assigning something, eliminated. I had plenty of those growing up which I dutifully ignored as a teenager. They had no bearing on anything of value in my life at the time and I look back and realize they've not really affected the rest of my life either. Then there are the homework assignments I *should* have done which...well, you know where that's leading. So here's an email and writeup telling me where I've gone astray. I've removed the person's name as she didn't really say to publish it, though I'd guess she wouldn't mind. For those of you that aren't LDS (Mormons), you'll just have to appreciate that it's a church with high expectations of people in terms of morality, study, and devotion and thus the writer's comments below.


I have always enjoyed your e-mail, and as a charter school founder and parent of 6 kids. I thank you profoundly for the work you are doing for our kids educations. It is so needed.

Please read my attached response to Mr. Card's article, and consider sending it to your readers as my personal response. I object quite strongly to his views, and think that you may as well if you consider the implications of what he is proposing.


[name removed]

Views on Homework Article:

Please don't get me started on that "wonderful" article. It was referred to by Oak Norton, whom I think (along with Orson Scott Card) is way off on this one. This argument sounds like some kids got together and bribed Mr. Card so that he could confuse the parents out there who actually have expectations for their kids!

First of all there are some major logical flaws with it.

For example, why is there this arbitrary line drawn in the sand that "homework" is stifling to kids. What if some people said that "school" was stifling to kids. Don't laugh I know people who have said this- and then "homeschool" their kids with the "let the child lead the way and learn what he wants to today" approach. A few years ago this was a strong belief within the homeschool movement. Guess what happened with many of these kids- they "wanted" to learn how to play Nintendo games, wake up at 10 a.m., goof off for the entire day etc. Most families tried this for a year or two and saw what a disaster it was. Some families, unfortunately, doggedly continued with this approach- even insisting their kids would learn to read when they wanted to- and their kids were not able to go to college or pursue other goals. The parents closed options for their kids. Some of these families I knew personally growing up. The parents felt that they were actually better parents than others because they weren't "stifling" their kids, but instead letting them pursue their own interest. (Charlotte Mason was one proponent of this.)

I happen to think that it is best not to assign homework to kids on weekends, and especially not over holiday breaks,  but I am not arrogant enough to assume that parents who feel differently are "stifling" their kids.

So who is Orson Scott Card (ok I know he is a brilliant writer) or anyone else for that matter to decide that the line is drawn at 6 hours per day for kids in school and then 5 minutes more school work than that and they are stifled? Hello??

Is it not remotely possible that parents might know what amounts of homework their kids can handle, and might be able to find schools (ok those of us who think more homework is good have to start charter schools) that match that desire.

Next I am going to be hearing that having my kids weed outside is stifling, or folding laundry, or doing dishes, or practicing their musical instruments, or how about sitting through 3 boring hours of church each Sunday. THAT'S STIFLING! Just ask my 14 year old.

Along those lines, if we really think that homework is stifling for kids and don't want them to have any PLEASE send them to your local school- you have LOTS of options- don't try to take away the few left for those of us who feel differently.

Finally, what are kids doing with this extra time when they aren't assigned the so called stifling homework. Well-- look at the statistics on hours spent watching television and you  have a good idea. The average kid watches 6 hours per day in the last study I heard. Are you really going to tell me that that activity is better for kids? If we lived in a world where most mothers with young kids were home and actually read to their kids, or took them on walks or did other creative, ingenious activities with the extra time this gave kids it would be a different story to me, but, frankly, we don't.

Why do you think the LDS church recently started the Faith in God program for kids 8-12? Why do you think it suggests regular family scripture study or family home evening? Because it helps parents get motivated and moving, as well as giving them ideas, to teach their kids the gospel when there is a specific program with guidelines, structure, recommendations and goals. I think homework is the same idea.

If parents said, "Oh, Johnny, I am glad you're home from school, how about we go build a telescope together tonight, I know you have been wanting to do that?" then we wouldn't need homework, but parents don't do this (those who would probably homeschool in the first place). We (and I include me) need a few more incentives to consistently teach, work with, love, spend time with and nurture our children- all of which can happen while doing homework. Otherwise we plunk them in front of tv to get them out of our hair while we try to do other "important" and often pressing things.

I think if we consider the history of our human race we can also see flaws in the argument. Kids in the past were required, generally speaking, to work MANY more hours than they are today. Yet rates of teen suicide, sexual promiscuity and a host of other social ailments were much lower. I believe that part of this is because kids feel better about themselves when they are accomplishing things, learning and (heaven forbid) working hard.

I continue with an example from my own life. My mother first learned about homeschool when I was in 6th grade. I was attending American Heritage at the time which is fairly academically challenging. I BEGGED my mom to please, please homeschool me because I wanted to learn more, I wanted to spend more time on schoolwork and felt like I was being held back by my class. I realize that I am strange, but I don't think that I am so strange that there aren't at least some other kids like me out there who actually find satisfaction in homework (OK not junk homework, but real homework) and the learning that it entails. 

I would refer people to a recent article in Newsweek where statistics showed that more than 50% of the kids in this nation have ZERO activities outside of school, and that another significant portion have only 1-4 hours per week. This fear that kids are all over-scheduled and stressed is valid in some segments of the population, but not in the majority of the country. You would be hard pressed to convince me that the kids in this country that have no outside school activities are actually better adjusted than those who have some (or less "stifled.") I would venture to guess that most of them are latch-key kids with working moms who cause the statistics on hours spent in front of the tv to be so high. Would it really be so horrid to assign them homework?

Sometimes I wonder if it is possible that parents are opposed to homework because it means more work and accountability for them. I by no means believe that all parents opposed to homework fall into this category, and lest I sound hypocritical, I will withhold judgment as I am asking them to do with their assertion that homework "stifles" kids.

For me the key to homework success is parent INVOLVEMENT, in the younger grades. You can't just send your child off to do their homework. You do it with them, making certain that they understand it. Then it becomes a very effective one-on-one tutoring opportunity. Research indicates that a young child learns best from their mother- here is a mother's chance to teach her child. What a tragedy to miss it!

Even in grades 4-6 a parent must be heavily involved in their child's homework- teaching them concepts, for example, that they didn't understand thoroughly in their math class that day. If a parent does this consistently they catch any confusion on the part of the child before it becomes a problem for them. I have these experiences daily with my kids (I am thinking particularly of my 6th grader) as I help him understand concepts that he may be confused about from math class. A parent catches these quickly as they work with and correct their child's homework. It is not some menial task- it is fundamentally important to their child's success in school.

Another aspect about this article that I hate is that Mr. Card sets up a ridiculous straw man and then knocks it down to make himself look brilliant. I mean, come on, does any thinking human being really believe that there are schools all across the country assigning so much homework that kids never get weekends off, never get holidays, just work and work and work with no breaks. Comparing our current situation with schools to the times of child labor is beyond ridiculous and shows a profound lack of education in history, or an amazing disrespect for the situations that children truly lived in during the 1800’s.

Finally, a response to Mr. Cards arguments about repetition. Anyone who believes in traditional math, for example Saxon math, has to believe profoundly in the value of repetition. Saxon Math’s success is founded on repetition. Children are taught concepts in a lesson, and then those are tested, refined and strengthened through literally WEEKS of repetitive math problems that re-enforce the concept in different situations. This is demonstrated by the fact that each problem shows underneath it in which lesson this concept was taught. Children’s abilities to understand the concept are strengthened through using various math problems repetitively teaching the same concept.

Any LDS member is also aware of the value of repetition. Why do we take the Sacrament over and over, or attend the temple, or read the Book of Mormon? Each time we repeat things we learn more because we bring more to that process.

Finally, I heard the author of the book Mr. Card uses as the basis of his argument interviewed recently on the Diane Rheem show on NPR. I am a tolerant person, who enjoys hearing opposing points of view, as any conservative who listens to NPR regularly has to be. However, not eve I could tolerate the views this man expressed. When Mr. Card says he is “fuzzy” he is not kidding. This man is one of the most liberal educators I have ever heard. He believes that we shouldn’t give kids grades because it “hurts their self esteem.” To even consider that he has a good idea of how to educate kids is laughable. His opposition to homework fits perfectly in his very liberal, touchy-feely, make kids feel good by never correcting them, agenda. Believe me he would be the first to support Alpine School District’s ridiculous math program. It would fit perfectly with his education views.

Please, trust parents to know and love their kids enough to make this decision for them, and then choose schools and environments and activities appropriately.

[name removed]

Weekly Comic

Archive: http://www.weaponsofmathdestruction.com

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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