Weekly Math Updates

March 11, 2009

  • Saxon study shows big gains over SWAF and Investigations
  • ASD again promotes fuzzy math to teachers
  • ASD attempts to shame teachers into compliance
  • I.O.U.S.A. the Movie
  • Obama's Pros and Cons (Charters and Offending our Greatest Ally)
  • Great Videos-Inspirational, and Humorous
  • Atlas Shrugged Sales Trend (fascinating)
  • How an idea become a bill becomes a law


Howdy folks,

Saxon Scores Big


Well we finally have a large-scale federal study of commercial math programs performed that compares SFAW, Investigations, Saxon, and Math Expressions.  Not that this is a shock to any readers of this newsletter, but when all was said and done:

"Student math achievement was significantly higher in schools assigned to Math Expressions and Saxon, than in schools assigned to Investigations and SFAW. Average HLM-adjusted spring math achievement of Math Expressions and Saxon students was 0.30 standard deviations higher than Investigations students, and 0.24 standard deviations higher than SFAW students. For a student at the 50th percentile in math achievement, these effects mean that the student’s percentile rank would be 9 to 12 points higher if the school used Math Expressions or Saxon, instead of Investigations or SFAW."

This study only examined first grade but will be followed up in the future by additional reports that cover subsequent years.

ASD again promotes fuzzy math to teachers

I previously sent out information regarding the district's math newsletter and how it was promoting "balanced" math, the code name for fuzzy math. The district continues to push this philosophy and now they're getting more aggressive.  In the March 2009 "Math Messenger", ASD says:

"Research has shown that if students recognize that success results from their ability as well as a high degree of effort, they are likely to believe that they can do the mathematics if they try. So, what can a teacher do help their students realize this? Students in traditional classrooms are lead to believe that speed of computation, correctness of answers, and accuracy in following their teachers’ example are valued. Not all students see this as attainable. However, in inquiry-oriented classrooms students are less inclined to believe that conforming to the “teacher’s way” leads to success. Rather they define success as “ working hard to understand mathematics.” Attitudes developed in inquiry-oriented classrooms contribute to increased student performance on conceptual and non-routine tasks.

ASD's statement shows a reference to: Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 30, 65-88.

So, traditional classrooms are defined by the district as valuing a child's ability to follow the teacher's example...  Yeah, right.

Not to contradict the district or anything, but the National Math Advisory Panel report contains these little tidbits they may want to consider about student achievement (oh and there's nothing in the report about the vast benefits of inquiry-based learning, FYI).

http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/mathpanel/report/final-report.pdf (pg 20)

14) Children’s goals and beliefs about learning are related to their mathematics performance. Experimental studies have demonstrated that changing children’s beliefs from a focus on ability to a focus on effort increases their engagement in mathematics learning, which in turn improves mathematics outcomes: When children believe that their efforts to learn make them “smarter,” they show greater persistence in mathematics learning. Related research demonstrates that the engagement and sense of efficacy of African-American and Hispanic students in mathematical learning contexts not only tends to be lower than that of white and Asian students but also that it can be significantly increased.

Teachers and other educational leaders should consistently help students and parents to understand that an increased emphasis on the importance of effort is related to improved mathematics performance. This is a critical point because much of the public’s self-evident resignation about mathematics education (together with the common tendencies to dismiss
weak achievement and to give up early) seems rooted in the erroneous idea that success is largely a matter of inherent talent or ability, not effort.

Note to ASD: Effort trumps talent. Practice trumps thinking.

How does ASD push this attitude toward teachers?  By shaming them into compliance.

ASD attempts to shame teachers into compliance

After sending out the math newsletter, Alpine sent this out to their teachers.

Blue Whale vs. Sardines

The blue whale is the largest mammal on earth. In fact, it takes 2-3 minutes for it to turn 180°. Because it moves so slowly when changing directions, the blue whale has often been compared to schools. It takes schools quite a while to turn things around, or make changes.

A school of sardines on the other hand, which is comparable in mass to a blue whale, can change direction almost instanteously. If you take a careful look at a school of sardines, you’ll notice that although the fish all seem to be swimming in the same direction, there is another group that is swimming in the opposite direction. This group, which consists of about 15-20 percent, causes enough friction and discomfort that the rest of the school turns and goes with them- almost instanteously.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had enough truly committed teachers in our buildings that we could get the rest of the teachers in the building to use best teaching practices too?

Unwittingly I think Alpine proves the point. they are trying to tell their teachers to comply and use constructivist teaching in the classroom, but what they're really doing is announcing to their teachers that if just a handful will resist and continue to use traditional math, you can't make a difference in turning your school around! Thank you ASD for this encouragement to the heroic teachers who have put their neck on the line and continued to teach real math to our children.

ACTION ITEM: I am not sure the school board even knows the district folks did this.  I encourage you to send letters to the board asking them to find out who sent this out and fire the individuals responsible.  I also encourage you to send notes to your children's teachers asking them to continue to incorporate strong math skills and traditional math in the classroom.

I.O.U.S.A. The Movie

I think I sent out information about this movie a long time ago. There is a full-length movie version but this link will take you to a 30 minute version which should be sufficient to give you an idea of the vast financial problem our country is facing. The film was produced by the former comptroller (head accountant) of the United States and I highly recommend that you watch this film.



Obama's Pros and Cons (Charters and Offending our Greatest Ally)

I'd like to thank those of you you took the time to write your legislator about the charter school bill. Just this week President Obama said we needed to continue to grow charter schools.   This is a big positive and hopefully legislators will continue to support charters.

Unfortunately, this week President Obama created a very difficult situation with our ally Great Britain. If you haven't heard about this, don't be surprised because the media isn't reporting it. Here's a link to get the full story and then if you would like to write the British Embassy and apologize on behalf of America, here's the address as well. Really, I'm not kidding about sending them a letter...


British Embassy
3100 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington DC 20008


Great Videos-Inspirational, and Humorous

This first video is just under two minutes in length and is about our innate desire to create.


The next video is a satire of the British education system, or are they really talking about America???



Atlas Shrugged Sales Trend (fascinating)

Mark Perry, a great guy with a great blog, has a really cool couple of charts at the top of his site right now. Go take a look at how Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged has sold over the last few years with notes about current events next to the spikes.


Then scroll down Mark's site and see some of the other fascinating charts.


How an idea become a bill becomes a law

I was asked by someone this past week about how a bill becomes law in Utah. I'll try to do a better job in the future, but for now here's a quick link.




Oak Norton







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