One of TERC Investigations many shortfalls is the fact that it just doesn’t teach division well. In fact, it barely teaches division at all. The division materials covered in 5th grade are all largely supplemental. Long division, by the way, is covered in a single 75 minute class. PWCS must be extremely thankful that calculators are allowed on the SOL exam in 5th grade.

Over the weekend we began hearing reports of an interesting letter sent home to parents of PWCS 5th grade students. The letter states the following:

Parents,

Today your child took the attached assessment on basic division facts. They were given 2 minutes to complete as may problems as they could. After 2 minutes, I had them switch to a pen and complete the remaining problems. Please talk with your child about how they did. I would like you to discuss where there are strengths and weaknesses in your child’s division. Please develop a plan for improvement with your child below.

I_________________________(child’s name), with the support of my parents, plan to

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________.

to learn my basic division facts.

Student Signature_________________________________

Parents Signature_________________________________

Please return this completed form on XXXX

Know what? Division facts (like 81 / 9) are basic core competencies our children should have acquired and mastered in 3rd grade – according to the state standards of learning and the PWCS curriculum. It is inexcusable for any child to still be struggling with his or her division facts in 5th grade.

This ought to be warning sign to any parents with children in PWCS or any school district that follows TERC Investigations. After close to 6 years of TERC your child will not be able to complete the simple arithmatic expected of a 3rd grader. If you want your children to be able to complete a college level mathematics class, or even remotely envision a future in a math dependent field for them, then you need to hire a math tutor or start teaching math at home.

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October 19, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Good write-up of a serious deficiency.

You need to send it to the newspapers and the TV news.

October 20, 2009 at 4:58 am

“Please develop a plan for improvement with your child below…”

Kinda like parents have been saying for the last 3 years – PWCS has stopped teaching math in elementary school…but expects parents to make up for the program’s failings at home.

Dumbing down mathematics education is no way to close achievement gaps.

If your child is one of those who doesn’t know math facts…by 5th grade…thank a teacher – a PWCS math teacher!

October 26, 2009 at 6:30 pm

In the interest of full disclosure, the referenced letter was sent home to children in “general population” 5th grade math classes at Ashland Elementary School. It went home to all parents in these classes on October 16th. Interestingly it did not go home to parents of 5th graders in Ashland’s SIGNET class. For SIGNET at Ashland, the 5th graders are segregated in a separate classroom where they are apparently not having to follow the same “Investigations Math” program pacing. It’s somewhat of a “separate but equal(?)” apartheid program within the elementary school.

October 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

I have to admit that I found the statement that practice and drill on basic math facts was now being encouraged as “necessary” rather amazing because just one short year ago PWCS officials insisted that “drill and kill” and rote memorization of math facts was detrimental to student learning.

I find the hypocrisy amazing!!!

October 30, 2009 at 5:12 pm

There is a big difference between teachers and PWC officials.

Most teachers have never thought that kids don’t need to practice math facts and know them thoroughly.

I must admit I’m a little shocked that some posters don’t think it’s their job as a parent to teach and reinforce skills at home.

I know that when I was a kid 30 years ago, we practiced math facts at home EVERY NIGHT.

October 31, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Anon – I agree with you 100%. There is a huge difference between our teachers and the PWCS officials.

Many teachers I know have been quietly pushing math facts with their students and supplementing lessons with additional practice, and I applaud each and every one of them. But far too many are fearful of school administrators who have the power to fire them and make their lives miserable, and are just doing as they’re told. I don’t blame those teachers, because I’m not sure I’d be willing to risk my career over a math program. I just really wish there was a way to give those teachers the protection they need to teach the material the way they know it needs to be taught, without fear of reprisal.

I also agree that parents should be teaching and reinforcing skills at home. I know I do.

What I find interesting is that for the past several years, representatives of the PWCS math department have been claiming that rote memorization of math facts and practice and repetition of learned processes was bad. That it would undermine student’s developing number sense and awareness of place value.

Many years ago, under the old program, parents were told to create flash cards and practice facts with their children at home. I can distinctly remember the miserable month reviewing times tables.

We’ve never had that with Investigations. District officials said Investigations would free parents and teachers from having to drill their kids 0n math facts. We were even told that drilling on math facts would be harmful to our kids.

Now, four years down the road, and the same schools which steadfastly refused to supplement beyond the core Investigations program because that would be harmful, are scrambling to teach their students content they should have mastered in 3rd grade. That 360 degree turn is something of a shock to those of us who have been told explicitly that we were hurting our kids if we drilled them on their math facts.

November 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm

To “Anon” regarding a 30 October response.

I think you’ll find that many parents are actively engaged in reinforcing math skills at home and I’m in complete agreement that it’s crucial that parents do just that.

The difference between that very important link in the parent-teacher-student triangle and what parents are now realizing under “Investigations Math” is that the basic foundational skills simply aren’t included in the curriculum. Good on those teachers who’ve deviated from the PWCS central administration “script” to actually teach math but the fact remains that PWCS is in the process of realizing that in the end under a K-5 Investigations curriculum children simply don’t know and can’t do the math their peers taught using texts that support traditional learning and the Virginia SOLs do.

It’s not a matter of whether or not parents help or reinforce at home – it’s really a matter of what children are allowed to learn in school. That learning is directly related to the curriculum, the materials that support that curriculum, and the classroom teacher (reinforced by parents or other family members or guardians at home).

Math Investigations is the worst program for teaching math to the Virginia standards of learning for K-4 of all texts reviewed and approved for use in Va public schools. And for 5th grade it is so devoid of mathematical content that VDOE recommended it not be used in Virginia Public Schools! So it’s no wonder parents are upset with PWCS.

Children tend not to learn that which they are not taught, and the fact is that there is so much that is not taught in Math Investigations that there’s little chance of parents “catching their kids up” at home.

By 5th grade, the damage has been done. Where does a parent of a 5th grader begin to teach basic concepts and operations that most children taught with real textbooks and learned in 2nd grade…but were not taught or emphasized at all under the “discovery” games of Investigations?

While some teachers are indeed doing their level best to teach real math out of sight of the central administration and “get around” the deficiencies of “Investigations Math” many simply are not and it’s the children who suffer. Simple double digit subtraction, manipulation of fractions using lowest common denominators, mastery of math facts, long division — they’re down-played and not taught. Look at PWCS’ SDMT scores under Math Investigations – dismal. Look at the declining PWCS elementary math SOL rankings compared to the other 132 Va Public Schools divisions — nose diving thanks to Investigations Math!

So if you’re one of those teachers who’s working to catch kids up despite the deficiencies of the PWCS administration — thank you from the bottom of my heart. Keep up the good work!

But please understand the tremendous frustration of parents who’ve been told for going on 4 years how superior the “Investigations Math” is to regular old real mathematics…only to find that despite years of “A’s” in math on report cards their 5th graders have no command of basic mathematics.

Cheers, and again, thanks for standing up for those PWCS teachers who are trying to teach math against formidable ideological goals of administration staff.