MATH WARS – 2012 edition
There is a battle raging in this country over the best way to teach Mathematics. It has been raging for decades. On one side are people who refer to themselves as “reformers”, who claim that their way is the best and boast studies and research that they claim demonstrate that their way of teaching is the only way. On the other side are the “traditionalists”, who claim that they way is the best and boast studies and research that they claim demonstrate that their way of teaching is the only way. Caught in between are legions of teachers who just want to do what’s right for their students and lost children.
The founders of this group and its contributors tend to be “traditionalists”. We actually think that kids do need to learn their math facts to rote and that the standard algorithms are helpful and not dangerous. We don’t discount understanding of concepts, we simply believe that computational fluency and conceptual understanding can not and should not be separated. We believe that calculators in the hands of children outside of high school Mathematics courses are bad. In today’s era, that makes us radicals.
The math wars are still raging in PWCS, though much more quietly now. The pacing guides and planning calendars for grades 3 – 5 for the 2012 – 2013 school year have been prepared and are posted to the PWCS web site. PWCS has decided to implement Math Connects, the new math textbook, in grades 3 – 8 in the 2012 – 2013 school year. Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade will begin using Math Connects in the 2013 – 2014 school year.
The choice of Math Connects was made by the PWC School Board against the recommendation of the Math textbook adoption committee. Several of our members were on the textbook adoption committee and we applaud the school board making that decision.
There is an old adage about winning the battle but losing the war. That adage may apply here.
With one approved textbook for grade 3, that being Math Connects, over 30% of the instructional days list Math Investigations as the instructional resource. Not a supplement that you might use for additional exercises after the day’s lesson was completed or to clarify a confusing concept – oh no. On those days instruction will come from Math Investigations. This is primarily in Computation and Number Sense. The 90% of the first unit in 3rd grade, which lasts 19 days, are Math Investigations only days. In Measurement, Geometry, Statistics, and Algebra, the instruction is almost entirely from Math Connects. Those units combined are roughly 1/4 of the academic year. The remaining 3/4 is Computation and Number Sense.
Forth grade follows a similar pattern, albeit with fewer Math Investigations days. Fifth grade lists Math Connects, the approved instructional resource, alongside Math Investigations and something called IMPACT Math, with no guidance as to which lessons for which texts are to be completed in which sequence.
Lesson pacing in grades 3 & 4 has teachers hopping from one text to anther, frequently in the middle of a chapter. So a teacher will do a few units of the chapter on addition and subtraction from Math Connects for 3 – 4 days, then do several units from Math Investigations for 3 – 4 days, and then hop back to Math Connects, but not necessarily where they left off. Sometimes chapters are fully completed, while other times only parts of chapters are completed.
Ignoring the bouncing around, I can’t help but wonder how much all of this cost. Math Investigations students use consumable workbooks for classwork and homework instead of a hardback textbook. Those workbooks cost $12 per student. Math Connects has a hardback student textbook that costs over $60 per book. Did PWCS purchase both the hardback Math Connects books and the Math Investigations student workbooks for children in grades 3, 4, and 5? With roughly 7,000 students per grade level, the Math Investigations workbooks would cost roughly $252,000 for grades 3 – 5, for a resource that has not been recommended by the VA DOE and is no longer the approved primary resource in PWCS.
Math Connects was recommended by the VA DOE for content alignment with the VA SOLS with only 1 or 2 limited items, so the Math Investigations lessons aren’t there to cover for content gaps in the program. A supplemental resource isn’t something you use for 90% of the instruction in one content strand (Number Sense). A supplemental resource is something you use to boost your primary resource, not in lieu of it.
So it seems the math wars are still quite active in PWCS – just in a more subtle and sneaky way.
The articles and links below are reports we produced prior to August 2012 when the war against Math Investigations was being fought openly.
*********Archived Pages and articles on PWCS Math Wars
Lies, Lies, and More Lies
The truth about the success of the PWC math program seems to be difficult to come by. School board members and PWCS staff have developed a nasty habit of distorting and misrepresenting the facts. Check out Lies, Lies, and More Lies to learn how the truth is in short supply in the PWC School System.
Evidence Against Investigations
Confused about all the fuss and wondering where to look for information? Check out the Evidence Against TERC Investigations page to learn more.
Defending the Pro-Real Math Parents
The parents leading the fight for choice in PWC schools have been accused, repeatedly, of misrepresenting the facts. Check out the Defending the Teach Math Right Team page to read about how we’ve never misrepresented the facts, just presented an alternate viewpoint.
Middle School Mathematics
The Evidence Against Connected Math
It pains me to have to write this, but while Connected Math, Investigations middle school cousin, is not currently approved for use in middle schools by either PWCS or the state, we have been hearing rumors that it is quietly being implemented as a supplemental textbook before the first wave of Investigations students rises to Middle School in the fall of 2010.
Check out the Evidence Against Connected Math Page to learn about how horrible this program is and to organize to keep it out of our Middle Schools.