Weekly Math Updates

January 23 , 2008


  • Provo School District SHOCKER
  • Follow Up Letter from Missouri
  • Fantastic Video on District Tactics (5:41)
  • Diebold Survey of Legislators
  • The Last Lecture (just watch it)

Provo School District SHOCKER

Just below is a copy of a letter I sent to state school board members Monday night.  It contains perhaps some of the best explanations for what happened in Alpine School District several years ago when they implemented Investigations math.  I also want to alert you to an error in the letter.  Originally I thought it was representatives from the fuzzy math company telling the district how they needed to implement the program but it turns out it was actually Provo district officials.  That's even more horrifying that they were the ones telling everyone the only way this program would work.  The list below is amazing.


Dear State School Board Members and Officials,

Thank you for the attention you have given the math education issue in the past.  I wanted to bring a couple of things to your attention.

First, a mathematics professor attended a meeting held at Westridge Elementary on April 19, 2006 where representatives of "Growing with Mathematics" (GWM) were discussing strategies to implement the program in Provo school district.   This program is philosophically very similar to Investigations Math, except it does include the standard algorithms, but introduced in later levels than more traditional programs (and world-class nations) would introduce them.   This professor recently shared his notes with me as to things that were said by representatives of the GWM company.  This seems extremely similar to what we've seen in ASD where we know at least four schools confiscated textbooks from teachers when the district implemented the Investigations program all at once.  Here are his notes and I can only hope you are as stunned and outraged by this as I was.

What do the numeracy coordinators say about the GWM program?

These statements are taken from a meeting held at Westridge Elementary on April 19, 2006.

  1. This program is different, not like anything you've ever seen before.
  2. Some teachers will hate it.
  3. We should not pilot the program because that shows fear.
  4. The first year will be rough.
  5. This is a tough program to implement because it requires change.
  6. We already know it is a good program.
  7. A pilot year opens the world for grumbling and complaining.
  8. This program is about training kids to act and speak in certain ways.
  9. We should get rid of the old math books so that teachers will have to use the new program.
  10. We have been trained and are ready to run this program.
  11. This program is about using the language of mathematics.  If I want to calculate, I can get a calculator.
  12. If we all do it, then the resistance will have a hard time mobilizing.  It is easier to overcome resistance if we all do it.
  13. This fits well with the literacy program.
  14. This program meets the needs of all the students.
  15. Provo teachers don’t have enough math content knowledge to teach using the traditional method

This is an amazing display of arrogance and ignorance.   Unfortunately, point 15 is becoming increasingly true thanks to education colleges churning out constructivist teachers that don't have content knowledge.  Constructivist programs like GWM perpetuate upon themselves guaranteeing a steady supply of unqualified math teachers.  I am more than amazed that members of the Provo School District and Board could sit through this and not be outraged.

I also received this email from a woman at the University of Missouri just last week which may shed light on how these programs have been introduced to our local districts through universities receiving grant money to implement constructivist classroom philosophies.

 "Coincidentally our district began the switch to  Investigations and  Integrated math when the math education department of the University received NSF grants to do research on schools who offer these curricula.  Prior to the University getting these grants, we had traditional math.  The district denies it had anything to do with the grants the University received, but we don't buy it. The district is also only sharing performance data with the public dating to the beginning of the time when the new math curricula were integrated.  If a person searched for data prior to that time it is very obvious that the math program has suffered.  There is a traditional algebra track available beginning in 8th grade which is what we insisted our son be placed.  However, when I asked the teacher why she was not requiring my son to show his work, which is a vital part of algebra, this was her reply:

' I am afraid that there has been some confusion with my students regarding showing their work. I have expressed to them that I do not require them to show their work on problems as simple as 2+2, but would like to see their work on multi-step problems. However, because the district follows a "discovery math" policy, I am also asked to let students arrive at an answer any way that they can. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. It will definitely be discussed in class today! ' 

So the traditional algebra track our district has is only an illusion." 



Next, I wanted to share with you a segment from a book that someone just shared with me.  It's called "Super Crunchers" (click to open chapter) and it's written by a statistician who argues that in the face of overwhelming data that shows a consistent pattern, we cannot ignore what it says.  One of the chapters in his book deals with education issues and how nearly the entire educational establishment has wholesale ignored Project Follow-Through, the largest and most expensive education study in history.  The reason it is ignored is because it conclusively proved the failures of constructivism and the merits of direct instruction (for example Investigations vs. Saxon math).   I have attached the chapter that deals with this topic and I beg you to read it or at least the few pages from 159-166.   The success commented on in Arundel, Maryland on page 163 was caused by Saxon math. 

The real cause of the decline in Utah schools can be directly attributed to constructivism and weak standards.  Most of our education colleges are churning out new teachers indoctrinated in constructivism who perpetuate the lies that discovery learning is the way to go in teaching children.  As the author of this book points out, the largest study ever performed showed the more solid the foundation of direct instruction taught skills, the MORE creative and self-confident children were as they progressed because they had the skills to help them figure out ever-increasingly challenging problems  (ex. the genius of Singapore math).  Teachers gripe about programs like Saxon not matching their teaching style but the effectiveness of such programs cannot be dismissed.  Here's a graph from the study: http://www.oaknorton.com/imathresults34.cfm

Please read the attached chapter and consider this... who is doing any real research?  It's parents.  This is why there are so many charter schools because irate parents find out what works and then want it for their kids.  It's time to pull at the root of the problem instead of dealing with the upper branches.   It's time to raise the standards for colleges of education and ensure that students graduate knowing subject matter and being tested on it, and not just pedagogy.


Oak Norton


Follow Up Letter from Missouri

After sending this letter off to the state board and to various other officials, I received another letter from Jen (quoted above) at the University of Missouri.

I thought you might be interested in some of the work the University has been doing and where we get our suspicion that the implementation of the fuzzy math curriculum is directly related to these research grants MU has been awarded by the NSF.  My son began kindergarten in 1999.  I have friends with older kids in the district who said when their kids were in the younger grades, they did not have such math.  Eventually they implemented investigation, connected and integrated math  district wide.  My son's school was the second in the district to implement investigations math.  It was in first grade that I started noticing odd math worksheets coming home and when I started learning more about the fuzzy math.  Now 8 years later, I am still learning more and that our district is not alone.  Anyway, in our investigative work, we came across some of this information on the web.  We are trying to see if there is some kind of money trail that goes to the district from the university - we are not sure we can dig that deep without being accidentally run down by a car!  I watch too many conspiracy movies!  Anyway, it has been a slow process, but we keep chipping away and the board of education knows we are not going away.  I think you will find the information below interesting and the timing of the initial grant and the implementation of fuzzy math in our district too coincidental.  Although they claim that we were already using these curricula and the university chose our district as a subject because of this - I dont buy it.  They never asked us if we wanted to let our kids be guinea pigs either - their rationalization is that the children are not the subjects - is it the teachers. Plus when they do their data reports, they only use the data from the time these curricula were implement, not prior.  But we looked it up and saw significant decrease in performance from before until now. 




This is an amazing coincidence that the University of Missouri got a grant to study the same three programs Alpine School District did.  Rumors have gone around for years that ASD received a grant to implement these programs but they have always denied it.  Rumors have been swirling around BYU that they may have received a grant to do this very thing with ASD and it makes sense after what I sent out a week ago that several BYU employees are on ASD's payroll as district consultants.  More to come on this...


Fantastic Video on District Tactics (5:41)

I found this on YouTube on a link from a new sister site involved in this fight.  It's video footage of parents speaking at a board meeting and the standard lame statements board members make to defend fuzzy math with the greatest of all statements at the end. Where do these talking points come from?


Clicking through to the person that posted this video you'll find his statements to the board which are spot on:



Diebold Survey of Legislators

Monday morning I set up a special page on my website and sent a letter to every state legislator to inquire how they felt about Diebold voting machines.  That letter and the list can be found on this page of my site if you are interested.  I will be asking for your help in contacting the legislators that don't respond and just asking them 2 simple questions.

1) Would you be comfortable with election results that were 10% wrong? (Yes or No) (see page below for some New Hampshire results using Diebold equipment)

2) Which of these options is your preferred election tool?

    a) Stick with Diebold (current system)
    b) Drop Diebold and use optical scan sheets (electronically assisted voting that produces a paper ballot that is turned in and scanned like an SAT exam)
    c) Drop Diebold and use paper ballots (old school punch style or shading)

Here's the webpage:



The Last Lecture (just watch it)



Till next time,

Oak Norton

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