Last night the school board approved Math Connects for use as the primary instructional resource for grades K – 8. The board amended the textbook adoption committee’s recommendation in selecting Connects.

Regular readers of this site know that we originally formed to oppose Math Investigations, which PWCS had mandated in all of our elementary schools. Those readers will also know that we’ve had little success in our fight with the school division and have faced open derision from school officials and former school board members over our stand.

We are very happy with this decision by the school board. Math Connects, in our opinions, is a good text. It is more teacher directed and robust than enVisions, especially in computation and number sense. Having the same text from kindergarten to 8th grade will make the move between elementary school and middle school much easier.

The transition will not be easy. We have a group of kids who have never been taught the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and long division who will be using a text that assumes they are fluent with them. We have a group of kids who haven’t mastered their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts who will be moving to a text that assumes they’ve mastered them. We have a group of kids who are accustomed to doing a handful of problems, at the most, who will be moving to a text that expects them to be able to crank through 15 – 20 problems with ease. Transition will not be easy.

But we think it will be the right thing for our children and commend our school board for making this tough vote.

We’ll have more on this topic later.

The Teach Math Right Team.

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February 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Fantastic to see the school board standing up for the children.

For the last five years or so, the schools have been denying there was a problem while quietly backfilling to get the kids through the SOLs.

The pass rates have suffered compared to the state, especially pass advanced.

Let’s hope they implement with the new school year in all grades; the current guinea pigs need help to recover.

The only ones regretting this action will be the private tutors…

February 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Transition won’t be easy. The gaps between what Investigations covers at a grade level and what Connects expects from that grade level from a computational standpoint are vast, and the chasm grows with each grade level.

The standard algorithms for addition and subtraction are one example. Investigations doesn’t teach these to mastery, but Connects introduces them in 2nd grade and simply expands on that knowledge base with larger numbers in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. That means parents with kids in 2nd grade or higher will need to teach the standard algorithms for addition AND subtraction to their children before next year starts.

Transition will not be easy.

February 23, 2012 at 11:39 pm

It is sad to see that the math instruction will be diminished now that the school is choosing counter to the recommendation of the committee and 25 years of educational research and the top researchers in the field. Actually I am sad to see Investigation, which is research based, to go with a program built for a textbook company with no research backing. It is a sad day when a small vocal ignorant minority change public policy. Seems to me that learning for understanding and fluency will be replaced with rules based math course which got us to be one of the lower ranked math countries in the world.

February 24, 2012 at 9:39 am

Your claim that Investigations is research-based is misleading at best. Textbook companies have routinely “done research” on their products in which the experiments have been extremely biased to produce results to help sell the books. When studied by an independent group (not by the publisher or a group funded by the publisher as was the case with early Investigations “research”), Investigations was shown to be less effective than the other textbooks at teaching math in the early grades. The survey of school systems that had adopted Math Investigations (and the publisher claimed they were evidence of the program’s success) showed a majority had dumped it and the percentage likely would have been higher had not many of the schools still been receiving grant money to use it. Investigations was designed around the failed philosophy that concepts were what mattered in math education, not arithmetic fluency. Our children are failing against students internationally because other countries know that both are essential. The US has suffered since the 1989 NCTM standards dramatically altered math instruction in this country and it won’t recover overnight. But doing more of the same is not the answer. I’m glad that PWC has chosen a more fundamentally sound math program for our elementary students for the next several years.

February 24, 2012 at 9:05 am

Really? I thought it was the ignorant, majority educraps who got us into this mess in the first place – follow the money!

February 24, 2012 at 9:31 am

“Small vocal minority”? Excuse me. Last time I looked there were more than 1600 signatures protesting Investigations. “Top researchers in the field”? Excuse me? Are you talking about Fenema, Carpenter, and Kamii? Are you calling their work research? As for Math Connects not based on research, it is based on a traditional approach to teaching which has been going on for centuries. I suppose you will next respond that the traditional method failed thousands of students, and the people who like it are those for whom it worked, or it only worked for smart people, or any of the other bromides that passes for intelligent comment at school board meetings. Do you think parents are really that stupid? Talk to the teachers in high schools who have to try to teach algebra to the casualties of Investigations and programs like Connected Math. I mean the ones who didn’t have opportunity to learn real math via tutors, Sylvan, or their parents.

February 24, 2012 at 12:24 pm

No One – I’m not sure if you’ve taken the time to actually review the materials, but Math Connects is absolutely NOT a “rules based math course”. It is more teacher directed in computation than Investigations, and expects students to learn the standard algorithms to mastery, starting with the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction in 2nd grade, but calling it a “rules based math course” is patently false. Geometry, Measurement, Statistics, Probability, and Algebra are all inquiry based in Connects. Those units do have more individual practice problems than our students have become accustomed, but I think that’s a good thing. Doing a handful of problems, even if they take all day to complete, simply isn’t sufficient for mastery especially when those problems are done almost exclusively as group activities.

One of the primary reasons I supported Connects is because it was so much more than enVisions or Investigations in its core program. In every unit it pushed students further and provided the appropriate level of practice necessary for students to master operations and concepts. In every unit in Connects students are expected to do more than just a handful of problems on their own, in addition to participating in group activities, and many of those problems and activities will challenge them to apply what they’ve learned to unusual situations.

enVisions just doesn’t do that, not to the breadth and depth that Connects does, and enVisions materials for advanced learners are sorely lacking. One of enVisions strengths is its on-line manipulatives, which are exceptional, but we don’t have interactive white boards in every classroom and many of our students don’t have access to computers at home. So that strength ends up as a weakness as one of the features that makes enVisions OK is something a large percentage of our schools and students won’t be able to access. While enVisions is inquiry-based, it is significantly more teacher directed in computation than Investigations.

While the ratings were close in the committee, in my opinion Connects is just a better program than enVisions because of the depth of instruction and challenge it affords to students.