Weekly Math Updates

May 9, 2007


  • Orem
  • Connected and Interactive Math
  • "They Have Overcome"
  • Media Articles
  • More Books
  • Weekly Comic

Hi all,

Here's an interesting quote for the week:

Under a proper social system, a private individual is legally
free to take any action he pleases (so long as he does not violate
the rights of others), while a government official is bound by law
in his every official act. A private individual may do anything
except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may
do nothing except that which is legally permitted.

- Ayn Rand
Essays on Liberty, vol 11, p106-7


I had a great conversation this week with Orem's Mayor Washburn. After the fiasco of Mr. Henshaw's comments labelling parents as extremists, Orem's leadership really needed to hear a "Mr. Harvey-esque" "rest of the story". He will now be much more cautious at accepting statements from the district at face value. The most troubling thing he told me though was that he'd only received 3-4 emails regarding splitting off from ASD. I neglected to ask if that was 3-4 emails from this recent event or from last year when I know many of you were in full break-away mode. I know many of you are tired of this fight (as am I), but perseverance is the key to success.

Connected and Interactive Math

I received an email from a parent last week who was responding to the horrible programs still in use in the upper half of grades, Connected and Interactive math. Those programs need replaced as well as Investigations did and we need to start pressuring folks to do that, but at the same time with new state standards coming out for those grades, we should have additional help to use to get rid of them. However, as we saw with the Saxon issue, the district isn't above a little "slight of hand" in squashing a good program and advancing their own agenda. That issue isn't over for the district yet and they will be held accountable for it.

At this moment the very best thing you can do to help is to call up the middle school principal where your child goes or will eventually go and ask the principal if Connected Math has been removed from the school the same way Investigations has been removed from elementaries. If he/she says no, ask why not? Do the same for high schools asking about Interactive math's demise. Please at least make sure your kids aren't in any class that uses those curricula. If you've never taken the time to understand those programs and what's wrong with them, you just have to read this page and follow the links to get an understanding of the situation. The biggest issue with them is the utter lack of content.

How About Grades 6-12 Connected and Interactive Math?

"They Have Overcome"

Last week I linked to a couple of articles about an extraordinary principal, Nancy Ichinaga. While doing a bit more reading on her, I found this publication from the Pacific Research Institute called "They Have Overcome: High-Poverty, High-Performing Schools in California." Nancy's school is one of the case studies included. 100% of students were on free or reduced lunch, 53% Hispanic, 45% African American, 2% Pacific Islanders. As I mentioned last week, when Nancy inherited this school, 95% of students were illiterate and they were scoring at the 3rd percentile in reading. Four years later they were scoring at the 50th percentile after using strong curricula from SRA's Open Court reading and Saxon math. I haven't read this whole thing since it's about 60 pages, but you should browse through it. Here's a clip from Nancy's school's experience.

Moreover, Bennett-Kew teachers enjoy using direct-instruction methods. Success breeds enjoyment. Because the curriculum and the teaching method have resulted in high student achievement, teachers can teach at grade level instead of having to provide a lot of frustrating remedial instruction. According to Ms. Fong: “If you’re a second-grade teacher you can teach the second-grade curriculum. You’ll get kids that are ready to read on the second grade level.”

Results speak for themselves, but it is driven by people committed to excellence. That's the rare quality in a system without competition. It exists, but it isn't driven to the top in the same way competitive businesses and shareholder value drive excellence in the corporate world. The excuses we hear about why certain kids aren't performing at the level of other children just don't stack up when held to the candle of Nancy Ichinaga's attitude and performance.

Media Articles

Beam It Down From the Web, Scotty (NY Times)
I've said it before and I'll say it again, it's a Star Trek world we live in. The author of this article did goof when he said "It's not quite the transporter of Star Trek". He should have said replicator. 3-d printers are coming faster than you know. Within a few years you may be able to buy one for your home and print out just about anything you need (small scale) that's inedible.

Identify the Traits That Define a 'No Excuses' School by Johathan Butcher and Krista Kafer
This is an interesting article on KIPP schools. The defining characteristics of a "No Excuses" school were identified as follows:

  • The principal is free from bureaucratic meddling.
  • The school sets measurable goals.
  • "Master" teachers assume leadership roles among the faculty.
  • Regular testing leads to continuous achievement.
  • Student achievement helps maintain discipline.
  • The school sets up contracts with parents to "make the home the center of learning."
  • Teachers and students work longer than the traditional school day.

More Books

Last week I bought the new Fablehaven book and finished it up in a few days. It's rare I go through a book that fast but it's a good one. If you haven't read Fablehaven, they're every bit as good as Harry Potter, though not as long which makes them less attractive if you're into the whole "DANG it's less than 4,000 pages " thing. I don't plan on doing many book reviews here but I've really enjoyed the Harry Potter, Eragon, Fablehaven, and Levin Thumps series'. I'm guessing there's probably a person or two on this list that hasn't read Harry Potter (though for whatever reason I can't imagine). I hadn't read Eragon till last year (disappointed at so many changes in the movie) and then I read Eldest (sequel) and it was a much better book and really leaves you wondering what will happen in the last book (due hopefully this year). Levin Thumps is also awaiting book three and the first two were very unique. Imagine a world where your dream state is a real world that you can only get to by freak accident like stepping on a crack when it's 58 degrees out and there's a full moon :). Anyway, if you're looking for a good book to read, I've enjoyed all of these a lot. Here's links if you want any:

Levin Thumps
Harry Potter 7 (has anyone NOT pre-ordered this???)

Weekly Comic

Archive: http://www.weaponsofmathdestruction.com

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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